autonome a.f.r.i.k.a.-gruppe on Tue, 17 Feb 1998 00:28:53 +0100 (MET)

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<nettime> What about Communication Guerilla?

Here comes Luther Blissett, Sonja Bruenzels & The Conspirators:

A Message about Communication Guerrilla (CG) out of the deeper German

This message is directed to those who are fed up with repressive politics
at their doorsteps, who are not frustrated enough to give up a critical
position and a perspective of political intervention, and who also refuse
to believe that left politics need to be boring, old-fashioned and always
very very serious. It also addresses those who are interested in artistic
expression, using all kinds of materials including the internet to bend
the rules of normality. 

It is sent by some provincial communication guerrillas as an invitation to
participate, criticise, renew and develop a way of doing politics which
expresses the bloody seriousness of reality in a form that doesn't send the
more hedonistic parts of ourselves immediately to sleep. Of course, this is
a contradiction in itself: How can you be witty in a situation of
increasing racism, state-control and decline of the welfare state, to name
only a few. On the other hand, even Karl Marx didn't postulate boredom as
revolutionary. (Neither is fun as an end in itself, anyway.)

The starting point for our reflections around CG was a trivial insight from
our own politics: information and political education are completely
useless if nobody is interested. After years of distributing leaflets and
brochures about all kinds of disgraces, of organising informative talks and
publishing texts, we don't see how all this by itself could lead to social
change. After all, it doesn't really make sense to take on the attitude of
a primary school-teacher while the kids have become skinheads.

This insight lead to a fundamental critique of the traditional left wing
concept of politics, which is fed by 18th century enlightenment: If you
bring the truth to the masses, distribute the withheld news and information
and unveil the distortions of bourgeois media, then everything will be
alright. Today's critics of "information society" often lament about an
"information overkill" making it impossible to distinguish right from
wrong. But since the declaration of Postmodernism it has become rather
complicated to insist on The One And Only Truth. And if there is such a
thing, it doesn't matter. Isn't the true problem of "information society"
that correct facts and information, even if they are commonplace, bear no

Everybody knows that the Ozone belt is fading away.
Everybody knows that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting

To us, who believe in Communism, it is hard to understand why this
knowledge doesn't lead to fundamental changes - but it definitely doesn't.
Reflections on the interrelations between the reception of information,
knowledge and the options to act within a social context have tackled how
information becomes meaningful and how it then becomes relevant. These
theories have shown that information by itself has neither meaning nor
consequences - both are created only through the active reception and
through the scope of action of the audience. But this basic banality has
far too rarely been taken into consideration within the framework of
leftist politics.

Communication Guerrilla fundamentally relies on the concept of the active
and creative audience. We understand it as a form of political
communication which doesn't focus on arguments and facts like most
leaflets, brochures, slogans or banners. In it's own way, it inhabits a
militant political position. But other than more traditional militant
positions (stone meets shop window), it doesn't aim to destroy the codes
and signs of power and control, but to distort their meanings. In the
present situation - no mass movement, New Labour, etc etc -, this might be
a more effective means of counteracting the omnipotent prattling of power.
Communication Guerrilla does not intend to interrupt or destroy the
dominant channels of communication, but to detourn and subvert the messages

But what's new about all this? After all, there have been the Berlin
Dadaists, the Italian Indiani Metropolitani, the Situationists. The roots
of communication guerrilla can be traced back to legendary characters like
the Austrian soldier Svejk and Till Eulenspiegel, the wise fool. Walking in
the footsteps of the avant gardes of earlier times, Communication Guerrilla
does not attempt to boast about the invention of a new politics. Rather, it
wants to re-establish a concept of politics, that doesn't just look at
what's being said, but is focusing on how it is being said. Because
clearly, it is not enough to confront the dominant ideology with our own
truths. What is needed is a practical, material critique of the very
structures of communication.

To make it quite clear: Communication Guerrilla isn't meant to replace a
rational critique of dominant politics and hegemonic culture. It doesn't
substitute counter-information, but creates additional possibilities for
intervention. But also, it shouldn't be understood as the topping on the
cake, a mere addition to the hard work of enlightenment.

Our reflections refer to western societies of late capitalism not ruled
through violent coercion, but through consent and repressive tolerance.
They are shaped by a certain degree of political freedom. Sometimes,
however, these forms of politics have also been used under repressive

The bourgeois system takes it's strength - beyond other things - from the
ability to include critique. A government needs an opposition, every
opinion needs to be balanced with another one, the concept of
representative democracy relies on the fiction of equal exchange. Every
criticism which doesn't fundamentally shatter the legitimacy of the ruling
system, tends to become part of it. Since western societies are based on
the discourse of rationality, a fundamental critique of their symbolic
order may be more powerfully expressed through the non-verbal, paradoxical,

Communication Guerrilla is trying to intervene without getting absorbed by
the dominant discourse. We are looking for ways to get involved in
situations and at the same time to refuse any constructive participation.

Power relations have a tendency to appear normal, even natural and
certainly inevitable. They are inscribed into the rules of everyday life.
Communication Guerrilla wants to create those short and shimmering moments
of confusion and distortion, moments that tell us that everything could be
completely different. A fragmented utopia as a seed of change.

In its search for seeds of subversion, Communication Guerrilla tries to
take up contradictions which are hidden in seemingly normal, everyday
situations. It attempts to distort normality by addressing those unspoken
desires that are usually silenced by omnipresent rules of conduct, rules
that define the socially acceptable modes of behaviour as well as the
'normal' ways of communication and interpretation. To give just a simple
example: Most people will say that it is not okay to dodge paying the fare,
even if there is a widespread feeling that public transport is
over-expensive. If, however, some Communication Guerrillas at the occasion
of an important public event like the funeral of Lady Di manage to
distribute fake announcements announcing that for the purpose of
participating, public transport will be free, the possibility of reducing
today's expenses may tempt even those who doubt the authenticity of the

Communication Guerrilla attacks the power-relations that are inscribed into
the social organisation of space and time, into rules and manners, into the
order of public conduct and discourse. Everywhere in this 'Cultural
Grammar' of a society there are legitimations and naturalisations of power
and inequality. Communication Guerrilla uses the knowledge of a 'Cultural
Grammar' accessible to everybody in order to cause irritations by
distorting the rules of normality: It is precisely this kind of irritations
that put into question seemingly natural aspects of social life by making
the hidden power relations visible and offering the possibility to
deconstruct them.

Obviously this game of bending the rules of Cultural Grammar works best
where these rules are most rigid, most firmly established. This is the
reason why many Communication Guerrillas feel strange affection towards
living in the backwoods of late capitalist society. In the field of
communication, this causes an inclination towards the use and abuse of
Outdated Media, such as billboards, printed books and newspapers,
face-to-face, messages-in-a-bottle, official announcements, etc. And
indeed: even the fabulous Hakim Bey has recently advocated the use of
Outdated Media as media of subversion (Hakim Bey, Outdated Media, In:
Running Idle, New York 1995 (?). Unfortunately, there is no German
translation yet, while the English Original is difficult to get. As a
Reference, we have only the recent Italian edition: A Ruota Libera,
Castelvecchi, Bologna 1996.)

It is hardly astonishing that Communication Guerrillas don't believe the
hype of the Internet as a virtual space of freedom beyond state and
corporate control. We are afraid that the still existing opportunities of
free interchange, the lines of information transmission beyond police
control, and the corners of the Net which are governed by potlach economy
and not by commercialism, will fade away. The aesthetics of the internet
will not be dictated by cyberpunks but by myriads of middle-class wankers
exhibiting on corporate-sponsored homepages their home-sweet-homes, their
sweet-little-darlings and garden gnomes.

Of course, we appreciate the ideas like the absolute absence of state
control, no-copyright, the free production of ideas and goods, the free
flow of information and people across all borders, as they are expressed by
the Californian net-ideology of freedom-and-adventure: Liberalism leading
us directly into hyperspace. But we also know that real neo-liberalism is
not exactly like this, but rather: freedom for the markets, control for the

Increasing attempts to police the net, to establish state and corporate
control will, paradoxically, make the net more interesting for
Communication Guerrillas: Possibly, even those of us who until now not even
own a PC will get Wired then. Fakes and false rumours inside and outside
the Net may help to counteract state control - after all, the internet is
an ideal area for producing rumours and fakes. And, of course, where
technological knowledge is available there are innumerable opportunities to
fake or hijack domains and homepages, to spoil and distort the flux of
information. But the fascination of those possibilities should not lead to
a technocentric narrowing of the field of vision. The mythical figure of
the Hacker represents a guerrilla directed towards the manipulation of
technology - but to which end? The Hacker gets temporary control of a line
of communication - but the use most hackers make of it is rather poor (see
the Hacker Museum,

In a quite different sense, Communication Guerrilla is fascinated by
possibilities offered by the Internet: Beyond its reality, THE NET is also
an urban myth, and perhaps the strongest and most vital of all. The NET is
the mythical place where the future of our society can already be seen.
Paradoxically, this gift of prophecy attributed to the net gives
credibility to any information circulated there. They are believed in the
"real world" because they come from the realm of virtuality, and not in
spite of this.

In the German backwoods, there has been a long-lasting game called The
Invention of CHAOS Days. It was, in fact, rather simple: Someone put a note
in the Net telling that, on day D, all the punks of Germany would unite in
the town of XY to transform it into a heap of rubble. The announcement was
made, a few leaflets (let's say a dozen) were distributed to the usual
suspects. That very day, processions of media hacks of all kinds
encountered hosts of riot squads from all over Germany on their way to XY:
Once again the forces of public order were on their way to protect our
civilisation against the powers of the dark. The most astonishing about
this little game is that it worked dozens of times: Obviously for the
guardians of public order and public discourse THE NET is a source of
secret knowledge too fascinating to be ignored.

We do not mention in detail the innumerable occasions when journalists,
state officials, secret services etc. were taken in by false rumours
circulating in the net - for example, the major german press agency dpa who
fell for the homepage of a fake corporation offering human clones,
including replicas of Claudia Schiffer and Sylvester Stallone.

The net is a nice playground for Communication Guerrillas. But we, out
there in the backwoods, are telling you: don't forget to walk and talk your
way through the jungle of the streets, to visit the devastated landscapes
of outdated media, to see and feel the space and the power and the rule of
capitalism. Such that you shall never forget what the hell all this
prankstering is good for.


Take a look on the website of the autonomous a.f.r.i.k.a.-group, where you
can find also the Archive of Communication Guerrilla (there are also some
texts in English and Dutch). If you want to participate in the building of
the archive, send your stories and examples or your reflections to:

You can read more in german about Communication Guerrilla in this  book:
autonome a.f.r.i.k.a.-gruppe/Luther Blissett/Sonja Bruenzels:
Handbuch der Kommunikationsguerilla.
ISBN 3-922611-64-8 Verlag Libertaere Assoziation

appr. 240 pages, DM 29,80,-/sFr 27,50/219 S

Verlag Liberaere Assoziation, Lindenallee 72,
D-20259 Hamburg, Tel./Fax: 0049 40 4393666
Verlag der Buchlaeden, Schwarze Risse, Gneisenaustrasse 2a,
D-10961 Berlin, Tel.: 0049 30 6928779, fax: 0049 30 6919463

The authors hope to find some day a publisher for translating the most
important parts of the book in english. Contact:

Some remarks about the third edition of the book:
At the moment the book is sold out. There are a lot of difficulties because
of the cover, which is a camouflage of a famous german do it
yourself-carbook. The editior of the Handbook was obliged by the militarist
and Nazi-Wehrmacht-Books selling Motorbuch-Verlag to change the cover. So
they are preparing a new one. Look at the old one:

To inform yourself about the outcoming of the third edition and how to get
a copy, e-maiL to:

"Ist die beste Subversion nicht die, die Codes zu entstellen, statt sie zu
zerstoeren?" (Roland Barthes u.a. im Handbuch der Kommunikationsguerilla)

contact autonome a.f.r.i.k.a.-gruppe:


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