Blog Soviets

Having been excluded in various small but cumulative ways from the academy (after about 15 years labor in it as a contracted lecturer), I find myself in the position where I distrust and cannot always afford to buy books in my fields of interest, and also have restricted access to library resources. This could be worrying and has been for a while, but now I am not so sure I should be worried. Every limitation capitalism imposes can also be an opening. Over the last few years I have used almost exclusively online freely available sources for information in my writing. I have even found that I am tending to trust these sources more than those you traditionally have to pay for. Why?

Because the traditional media (including publishing) seems too tied to corporate business and various states and their close intermixture that they are inevitably tainted with the bias and bigotry that goes with 'being bought' (I am thinking of Egyptian State TV as a recent extreme example that is just the tip of the iceberg). The internet based new media and social media that now exists marks the opportunity to have an interactive news media that includes the voice of the ordinary people at the forefront, and it is a strong voice (as we've seen in Tunisia and Egypt) that is often more reliable and undoubtedly  of better quality than the customary sources, and indeed is reflecting back onto them and making them change, as we speak, forcing a more radical dialogue (AlJazeera TV too).

There is without doubt a retrograde tendency to try to stifle the internet, fence it, and channel it in certain directions, to remove the 'soviet' nature of blogs and tweets for instance. But this seems to have been unsuccessful so far because it is so unpopular and people are so good at subverting these attempts. Nevertheless the traditional media forms do seem to be able to maintain this idea in peoples minds that they can legitimate information and the news, even news blogs. So there is now a definite struggle for this idea of legitimacy and in the filtering powers, i.e. censorship. Watching a televised debate on the new media on AlJazeera an apparent 'guru' of this movement was adamant that the filters of the new media were essentially the same and not any better than the traditional. Given that he was the writer of traditional books being sold for traditional money through a big publisher you can see there is some self interest in maintaining this position, whether sincere or not. The panel sat on a stage that separated the 'gurus' from the audience, the people, who were students who were in a very nice way allowed to ask questions. It was peculiar to see all the old relations of power being upheld even while discussing their apparent downfall. And the same is true of the global philosopher-star Zizek, the 'Elvis of Cultural Theory', his position as an antagonistic figure to the establishment seems obvious at first sight and he is indeed witty, likeable and progressive, yet he is a bankable commodity with high status in the traditional academic 'western' world, and is it really possible to be both? One wonders what these critics position would be if revolution took place in their heartlands. There are few mentions of the big recent protests in Serbia or Wisconsin in these kinds of narratives, and they are content to wield the traditional humanist ticket, the stressing of universal values and freedom of speech, as long as it is they who have the power to disseminate and legitimise that speech, even on 'the left'.

During the ousting of President Mubarak in the Egyptian Revolution, it became obvious that 'legitimacy' as such was in question, and it applied not just to Egypt but to every kind of democracy that was dysfunctional, including the 'western' one and its academy. The absence of such 'leaders' (and I must use the inverted commas) in the Egyptian Revolution for the protesters was a constant irritation and surprise to all the media commentators, but a sheer joy to behold. It meant that the peoples committees had the real power and they were more truly democratic than anything else in existence. The media, even the great AlJazeera, wanted to bottle and personify the struggle in an individualist way, but were beautifully unable to, I hope this continues.

Brecht has said all this before, and his little text seems to snowball in importance every minute. See:

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