www.nettime.org
Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> Encompassing the movement
wade tillett on Wed, 13 Mar 2002 13:24:17 +0100 (CET)


[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Encompassing the movement


Encompassing the movement.

Containment. Filtering. Mediation.



A reversal occurred at the New York City World Economic Forum
Protests.  The protestors were no longer a decentralized mass covering
a city, attempting to breach a fortress of the elites. After all, it
was always those big ugly fences, the perimeter defense, that made it
look like those on the inside really did have something to hide.  The
prior decentralization of the protestors throughout a city had made
the protests seem democratic, representative of the masses attempting
to breach a closed inner circle of power-mongers, an enclosed elite
attacking a citizen uprising. The violence of the fences and teargas
and nightsticks exposed a real brutality behind the elites huddling
over their new plans of exploitation. Quebec was turned into a
fortress. The WTO ran to Qatar. But here, the strategy inverted. Here
it was the protestors who were contained, in a massive
military-police-media trap. Here, in New York City, the heart of
capitalism, the elites turned the strategy, the structure inside
out. Now, in a stroke of (psy-op) genius, it was the protestors who
were the infiltrators into an otherwise peaceful city. Now it was the
protestors that must be contained, not the elites that must be
defended. A new defensive strategy emerged, the strategy of the
security state (now visible and expanding): a strategy of
encompassment.

Encompassment is the combined stratagem of endocolonization: an empty
structure of universal mediation divides and distributes, filters and
contains.  Encompassment is the military/info/economic/media(ted)
space in which all people participate only as the representational
images allotted to them, and always as intruders. The spatial
structure is inverted. All space is claimed. All movements are
encompassed. The perimeter of defense turns itself inside
out. Containment is now a universal stratagem. Each and all are
contained within a structure, within a space that claims all space. No
one escapes the satellites, the helicopters, the police, the cameras,
and the dual blade of privilege. No, in fact, each and every one is
contained, isolated through the filter, and communicates through the
mediation of the power structure. In other words, a power structure
claims all aspects of space through a series of overlapping
transparent, semi-transparent and opaque apparatus of containment:
empty structures, filters. These filters serve the essential function
of appropriating space by dividing it, by doling out certain spaces to
certain individuals, by dispensing privilege. This empty structure of
universal appropriation, of objectification and commodification, of
division and distribution, in fact simultaneously creates BOTH the
overlapping spaces of privilege AND the all-encompassing space from
which they are carved. Between the divisions of privilege lies the
empty structure of power. This is the essential aspect of an
all-encompassing system of power:

The structure which divides and contains is the same structure that
connects and 'empowers', the empty structure of mediation, space.



Containment (Inverting defense.)

Containment inverts space. Containment claims the entire environment,
the entire earth, the entire media-sphere. The structure of
containment claims all space through a reverse legitimization, the
limited spaces created refer back to the infinite empty structure of
space that created them. Containment creates the fuzzy, variable
bounded utopias, in which individuals may act 'freely' - in that they
are blinded to its limits, as the limits exist not as walls, but as a
series of overlapping mediated filters, fading to a supposed infinite
horizon. Bounded spaces refer back to an all-encompassing space to
avoid the exposure of their limits. Similarly, the space of
encompassment refers to the bounded spaces when its hegemony,
homogeneity, and depth is exposed.  Containment isolates
action. Containment surrounds, divides and innoculates. Containment is
the first step of filtering. The dissenters are separated from the
non-dissenters. The citizens are separated from the consumers. The
first spatial division is crucial. To construct a defensive wall
around oneself automatically limits oneself, defines oneself, and
gives the exterior environ to those outside. This is absolutely
unacceptable to the elite for a few reasons: one, everyone must be
appropriated and vested into the system in order to compel
subjugation, (re)production, consumption. Two, the appearance of an
exterior indicates an alternative. Three, an exterior makes the
restricted interior appear undemocratic. The fence, after all, appears
much too harsh.

The strategy became apparent as we marched out onto the street. The
protesters were limited to one lane of traffic through most of the
march, contained by a human fence of police.  We were kept in a long
linear formation, thereby keeping the ratio of protestors to police to
a manageable number, and making direct communication and crowd emotion
difficult. Instead of creating a perimeter zone of defense,
necessarily defendable at all points on the perimeter, protestors were
always contained WITHIN a linear moving progression surrounded on all
sides by police. This is not to say there was not a defense of the
perimeter, there was. (For example, after leaving our pen, we chanted
from the closest blockaded street we could find to the remaining
penned-in protesters, and immediately had about thirty more cops
dispatched to our area.)  But the overall strategy was that protestors
were herded rather than allowed free range. By making the protestors
appear as contained infiltrators, as opposed to citizens, the entire
protest was framed as a security issue. (Or was it the other way
around? The protest was a security issue and therefore the protestors
must be contained? This circular rhetoric of justification easily spun
onto television screens everywhere.)

Almost the entire length of the parade route, the police stood
shoulder to shoulder - a (robotic) human wall. 'Someday you will be
replaced by real robots' someone shouted. When the police moved, they
moved in numbers, always in formation. The entire police force acted
as choreographed military units. If seen from the low-flying chopper
above our heads, you could easily distinguish the strategy, unfolding
underneath you like it did on the maps and plans drafted
earlier. Broad strokes and lines and movements made following a logic
from above. This was not at all a police operation, but a military
operation. Any autonomy afforded to individual police officers in a
normal street-scene was removed. The police were robotic soldiers
forming human walls and vectors. They remained silent, except to bark
an occasional rebuke. The massive police force that formed a barricade
of bullet-proof wrapped flesh corralled protestors into a long linear
powerless formation that went where the police told them to go. The
police were in control.



Filter (Profiling)

The parade was frozen in place. Formations of police charged through
the crowd at specific points, cutting the long linear parade line into
numerous sections a block long. In this way, the mass was divided into
manageable sections, surrounded on all sides by police. The parade was
partitioned and dismantled long before any rally could occur. The
police controlled the parade, and then they killed it before it could
turn into anything else. The protestors were instructed that the only
exit was behind us. We were allowed to leave the pens single file at
one rear corner of each of the pens and exit the assembly through
blockaded side streets. At certain points, no one was allowed to
leave.

Perhaps we could assume that this emulates a broader strategy in
dealing with dissent: dissenters are encouraged out into the open (and
those found elsewhere are without support or witness), dissenters are
led in certain directions and in certain formations (an offensive
containment rather than a perimeter defense), dissenters are segmented
and compartmentalized. Within each segment, the dissenters are told to
leave immediately, to disperse into the mediated structure. A certain
tension and intimidation encourages each to leave. After a significant
number of each segment are weeded out by leaving of their 'free will',
certain segments are combined and the process begins again. In this
way, a sort of sieve or filter is created. The end
compartmentalization being into the city buses (borrowed for use here)
and paddy wagons and then jail cells, and further, if necessary,
solitary confinement.

(The anti-terrorist operation seems to follow a similar operation:
more intense, more brutal, more thought-out. Encourage tips (for
citizenship). Identify profiles. Demand registration. Zoom in. Contain
(based on some visa violation or something). Release one-by-one. Keep
those contained isolated. Torture (sensory deprivation, solitary
confinement...), encourage tips, contain...(loop))

We cannot rely on the image of the fence. There is no singular fence,
there are only levels, filters, containment apparatus, seemingly
transparent windows of mediation. A series of levels of access and
appropriation (filters) are much more adequate for control than a
defined fence. Instead of a restricted interior, a power-structure
prefers a hierarchical system of inclusion, mediated between levels in
order to capture and direct the lines of flight back inward.



Mediation (Visibility)

This containment was also facilitated by the protestors in their
willingness to converge all the parades into one, hoping to keep a
permitted peaceful march that would show large numbers. And, after
seeing the coverage, we can see this was quite naive. CNN said there
were 2000 protestors. ABC cancelled their documentary because of a
lack of violence. Media coverage emphasized non-violence as the result
of the police. (However, the vast majority of protestors were keenly
aware that even a perception of violence at that point in time could
sink the movement, at least as far as media coverage was concerned.)

In this moment of the image, where the world trade center collapse was
looped ad infinitum, it was quite possible that an image of violence
could be used to construct the link: anti-globalization =
terrorism. The 'protestor equals terrorist' equation was ready to be
applied, previously framed both in the media, and by the structure of
police containment. We did not give them that raw image. And yet, the
image that emerged through that corporate media filter, was not one of
questioning why so many people were there (it wasn't so many according
to them), nor was it one of relief that protestors had not resorted to
violence. Instead, it was one of victory: anti-globalization
innoculated. The movement was successfully reduced to a mediated
visibility.

This was a moment where the movement chose to play by the rules: the
rules of the police, the rules of the media. And it is not surprising
that those rules were changed, subverted and spun back on us as we
were following them. The permitted march to the rally: altered,
subverted, and aborted. The media coverage on a massive non-violent
protest: altered, subverted, and aborted. After all, was it not these
exact strategies that we were here to protest in the first place. Had
we forgot?

The WEF itself has followed a strategy of appropriation and
containment. Strategically inviting certain critics to the table, in
order to appropriate key sectors of the movement, appear democratic,
and suggest 'free' trade arguments for the problems brought up. But
never is too much opposition allowed, rather, it is a token of
opposition in order to legitimate, never to upset the power
structure. Always keeping the numbers of dissenters in a ratio and
formation to allow the appearance of free speech, but the
impossibility of free action.

On the interior, dissent is included and appropriated, contained
within a system of simulated democracy and dialogue. The most visible
lines of flight are appropriated, channeled back in, subverted,
chopped up, controlled, and used to fuel a moral media image. The
strategy of containment is one of inclusion in such a way that each is
isolated and controlled within the larger structure. The constructed
environ within the WEF is to appear as infinite and without limits to
those within it. One is encouraged to be blind to their own
appropriation, their own privilege, their own commodification, their
own subversion.

Said another way, the 2/2/2 NYCWEF protest was the perfect example of
simulated democracy. Within the encompassing police/privilege
apparatus, action is contained, communication segmented, the mass
cellularized, and between all divisions, all is mediated. All occurs
within the empty structure of mediation: space.



The im-mediate

But freedom, despite what we have been told, has very little to do
with space. In fact, space is entirely a concept of the empty
structures. Space is a supposedly neutral, invisible all-encompassing
medium that simultaneously divides and connects. The vast utopic
spaces of security and freedom are in fact the gargantuan mediated
expanses of the empty structures.

"Ultimately, the violent state and the corporate power doesn't know
how to fight the non-violent people's movement. So, if not today,
tomorrow we are going to win. Its not just enron that collapsed, you
know? But even these kind of empty structures which are trying to
change our cultures, not just sections or structures - as I believe
it, are not sustainable in themselves." (Medha Patkar, interviewed on
Democracy-Now.)

We have too long lived within the empty structures. We reject the
empty structures of transcendence. We reject the plan. We reject the
secure, limited and commodified utopias sold to us. There is no
freedom without (from) risk. There is no freedom without (from)
responsibility. We are building individual ethics. We are building
individual responsibility. We do not anticipate a revolution of force,
we live within and (re)create innummerable forces. We act
im-mediately, we create im-mediately, a multi-pronged involution of
individual powers, of particular actions, of innumerable forces, of
constant self-re-creation from the inside-out never from the
outside-in. We live within the particular, within the moment, within
the action. For this is the great hope of building a new movement of
freedom: within the un-mediated, within the im-mediate, we are our own
creation.

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo {AT} bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} bbs.thing.net