TOTW: Connectivity

This week, I've been thinking about how different it must have been when the connections between anarchists were not so internet based, but were based on face-to-face interactions, phone calls, letters, letters sections etc. In the ten years I've been connecting to other anarchists, it's been mostly through emails, web forums, and IRC. I say this with some regret.

I attend book fairs once or twice a year, of course, and reading groups every month or so, and on occasion, when forced, I even attend meetings. But my day-to-day connections to other anarchists are digital. Have I been missing out? If so, what have I been missing out on? What are the benefits of connecting 'IRL'? What might be the challenges? Is it really as preferable to connecting online as I'm implying? Are there good things to be said about digital connections? After all, without anarchists on the internet, would a euro anarcho like me have ever even heard of a certain publisher of dangerous books from SF?

To those who've been around longer than I have - have you found yourself moving away from face-to-face interactions and letters sections etc as time has marched on, or have you held fast to your pre-internet ways? If you've fought the internet tide, how did you do it? How are you even reading this?

What will connectivity look like a year or two from now? A decade? What will it look like for the next generation of anarchists, the ones whose births are being livestreamed on social media at this very moment?

Send your comments freepost to PO BOX 1312...

There are 31 Comments

> After all, without anarchists on the internet, would a euro anarcho like me have ever even heard of a certain publisher of dangerous books from SF?

I'm in NA and I feel the same. Despite A!'s sterling efforts to take the LBC show on the road, without the internet it's likely that my anarchist ideas would be almost exclusively informed by the AK and PM catalogues.

I think connections IRL and online are both exceedingly important, my biggest issue isn't really with email or irc, but with some of the Really Popular™️ networks of connections we rely on; not necessarily as anarchists but in general.

I think the internet is important, from an anarchist perspective, because it is a fundamental part of the global communication network. And if we don't maintain our own connections to digitally stay in touch with one another, we may find eventually the only available methods to do so are via monolithic datamining companies. The internet needs a little chaos!

But aside from that, these long distance connections also provide an unparalleled ability for ideas to cross pollenate - something vital to living in the present rather than the past.

The internet is a tool, it's not necessarily the most important one, but I think it's a valuable asset. I just wish I'd had more success on the IRL side; but we're very good at working out of sight by nature.

When I was heavily invested in the zine world (in my 30's, referring to late 90's early 2000's) it was actually quite easy to connect with publishers around the world. "Zine review zines" often extended beyond cut-n-paste punk stuff to include publishers of independent anarchist literature (not just AK or bigger outfits) from all over the place. You'd get an idea of what is out there, an address, and an invitation to write and engage in dialogue. The only differences would be speed and quality of relationships/connections made. Internet is faster, but opportunities for relationship building are weaker and more superficial. (In my experience.) Oh yeah, and international postage rates were waayy cheaper.

"these long distance connections also provide an unparalleled ability for ideas to cross pollenate - something vital to living in the present rather than the past."

that is one of very few things i see as a positive about long distance, digital communication.

being largely utilitarian, i see the internet, like phone and snail mail, as nothing more than tools for communication, to be used when it makes sense.

particularly for anarchists, or anybody desiring to act in ways that are considered illegal (or even just undesirable) by those in power, when communication is involved, trust is a huge issue. gaining the trust of another individual, without face to face interaction, is next to impossible, at least for me.

so for me, using these mediated communication tools is fine and dandy when it makes sense. with the understanding that ANY such communication is at risk of being observed by others. but if all or most of the people that i considered "allies" were folks i had only ever communicated with via those tools, i would seriously rethink my life. because...

a) i could never really (deeply) trust someone i have never had interactions with in real life.

b) although i am largely an introverted loner, i do desire relations in my life, and those relations could never be fully realized if limited solely to mediated communications.

generally speaking, i think there is a massive generation gap - not just among self described anarchists - that manifests related to the ever increasing incursion of technological tools and techniques into everyone's lives. as someone that remembers a world without cellphones and the internet, when i see how these newer tools have been entrenched in the lives of those that know of no existence without them, it makes me sad. i feel like lived experience is being replaced by virtually lived experience, and it is largely being welcomed.

i'm ready for all the "ok boomer!" comments, have at it.

Nah I think you're right about being over-reliant. I think it gets a bit 'old man yells at cloud' when someone decries technology in general - and it is a bit easy to say 'smartphone bad'. However at the same time our relations to (and through) technology should always be eyed critically and with suspicion - as you suggest yourself.

I think the problem is that in urban environments people's relationships are being atomised; we're more productive if our social desires can be sated remotely. All that unecessary travelling and having fun could be spent making more money!

And you're bang on about trust imo.

agree with 2:45 that without the internet i probably wouldn't know about LBC. i'm from NA. i think i discovered it while searching something about tiqqun and the book LBC put out of preliminary materials came up. started looking at the catalog and i was into it.

lately i've been on IRC less often. IRC was a way for me to skip work while at work. now i'm at home and i do other stuff. this is a good time to reevaluate what i actually need out of the internet. hm...

without the internet, lbc either would not exist, or would have a more difficult time obtaining some/most of the material they publish. so yes, there is no question that more ideas have been made available to more people, with the internet. of course that knife cuts in all directions, so the perceived "value" is completely subjective.

i am of the opinion that the so-called "progress" of humanity is questionable at best. but like the state and economy, the internet is here and ubiquitous, so i will use it for my purposes when i find it appropriate. personally, i find the anarchist library to be the most useful collection of information/writings to be shared among those with anarchist affinities. the user experience is usable at best, but i still find myself perusing the library far more often than any time i spend relating with others online.

If i had excellent neighbors, and all we knew was quarantine and martial law and we weren’t allowed outside, and one of them threw a cup tied to a string to my window, and the spent the rest of days and nights getting to know each other, sharing our life etc, than i might be inclined to say that cups and strings are pretty awesome.

The reality is cups and string are shit, it’s my neighbors who are awesome, and the situation which gets in the way of our face-to-face shoulder-to-shoulder hand-in-hand interaction is also shit.

If it wasn’t for the internet I would not have had access to books, music etc, and not have “met” awesome people.
As anarchists we value each other in our affinities, but if it wasn’t for the shitty status quo, then the people around us wouldn’t be that bad if they weren’t indoctrinated defenders and reproducers of it.

The internet can be cut off, then all the sudden you are cut from the world. You can be blocked, ghosted, cancelled. All this is nothing if you have a real life, but for those who don’t, the internet is a little faucet of social life simulation and it’s dripping into a little hamster cage with a hamster wheel and forces beyond their control are in charge of what drips and how much and for how long and it can only drip as long as THE EARTH IS RAPED FOR RARE EARTH MINERALS AND FOR FUELS AND MATERIALS AND FACTORIES CHURN OUT COMPONENTS AND HEAPS OF TOXIC TRASH ARE PILED AND

The internet and computers is transhumanism.

"All this is nothing if you have a real life,"

bingo. to those who do most/all of their "socializing" online, i ask:

what is "real life" to you?

That’s just one of the many semantic and material inaccuracies of my previous statement. As you rightly point out, it’s not the realness what’s in dispute. The simulacrum is true.

There is an infinitude of layers of interactions between two organisms (and even more complex if you see each organism as a fucking dividual conundrum like that humdrum ausonia) which get stripped down and reduced, greatly impoverished, when turned into text.

Tech’s response is “just you wait!” as they attempt to replicate and simulate more and more aspects as grotesque caricatures most learn to adapt to and some even prefer because it’s what they know best from the start.

Let’s put babies into robotic teats and nurse them with Teletubies and quell their need for attention and affection with touchscreens. All of these are real, material culture, what can be more real, more solid than that!

So yes, you’re right it’s not about what is real life or not. Everyday technoshithole is real life.

Now, some people sit together in proximity, they share meals and conversations, look at each others facial expressions, smell each other, give occasional pats on the back. Some greet each other with kisses, or hugs, or handshakes,. You hear the tone of their voice when they speak. Did you know people are very detailed and different and particular in the way they do each of these little things? When each person laughs it’s not “lol” each one has a very different laugh, sometimes the laugh in itself is funny and worth the interaction.

Need I go on? Fucking matrix makers of today, jot this shit down and get it right! The internet is real, it’s the only thing that matters!

As another example of the things that are lost, speaking of tone again, you will not know by reading what I meant or what it meant to me what I just said. You didn’t see the vein on forehead pop, you didn’t see my fist tighten, you didn’t see speak through gritted teeth with the most sarcasm and disdain I could muster, you didn’t hear my voice tremble, you didn’t see me cry.

You would be right to point out that this is a problem with text in general. But back then there weren’t million of shut-ins living off the thrill of some pen pals. The internet is not in a vacuum. It’s inseparable from this whole world-economy culture that allows, encourages and normalizes this lifestyle, this way of management of production and consumption and reproduction of daily life.

Outside of our little home cubicles we wear our formalities that make interactions pleasant and expedient, work and exchange, leisure outside of the home cubicle is a luxury, better save the money and time and pop a video on youtube, read something off t@l, chat some peeps on the irc.

If this advanced stage of hellworld did not have the internet, people would be unmanageable with their boredom. Not enough free public spaces to gather and be idle and leisurely. Loitering and homelessness is a crime. The internet in a way is a maneuver to seize public space.

Look at quarantine right now. it wouldn’t go as smoothly is people weren’t so content with their internet entertainment, and even still their climbing walls. Imagine if there was no internet.

I guess people wouldn't be able to take it, of course, they be like "fuck off I'm not accepting to live in prison 'til further notice". And the cops wouldn't be able to manage that, due to being overwhelmed by millions of law breakers, so they'd, at worst, go after the lower hanging fruits.

Shut down data networks? While this could have interesting turnouts, it's also likely you'll get demonized more than you could imagine, for taking away people's "lives". But hey... fell free to try that, maybe it'd get better results than my fatalism tells you. And maybe the ppl demonizing you today will be thanking you later, and releasing you from jail?

"Overwhelmed by millions of lawbreakers"
When, where, this never happened, ever, Where do you read history, from comics. ITS NEVER HAPPENED, SHEEPLE DOMINATE THE DEMOGRAPHICS.

"would a euro anarcho like me have ever even heard of a certain publisher of dangerous books from SF?"

Yes, you would have. I grew up without the internet, and I knew of all kinds of obscure shit because we had things you don't have now, or not as much of. In the '80s, Left Bank Books was the North American distributor of most anarchist lit. Their catalog was full of stuff from other countries. They copublished books with the British Rebel Press. You could call them on the phone to talk to them. You could order a book by sending a check in the mail. It took like 3 days longer than ordering it on the internet. A hundred years ago, anarchists were probably MORE internationalist. People like Bakunin, Kropotkin, Malatesta, Goldman, Galleani, traveled often for the purpose of speaking events. London's Freedom newspaper was full of anarchist news from other countries. The anarchist scene was far larger back then. All without the stupid internet.

Carrier pigeons were used by the Spanish anarchists at the front to send urgent requests for food and ammunition. Just saying, and maybe that's why they lost.

Sure you fucking idiot. All they had to do was invent the internet, stupid them.
Now all we gotta do is civ harder to come out through the ass of utopia like a techno-shit-nugget.

...or exquisite venom!?

Makes me wonder how the squats were during the pre-internet days.

The anarcho-squat milieus have mostly collapsed during the spread of the internet worldwide, tho not sure if that was directly related. A parallel, with the onslaught of the global neoliberal regime, with its new techocracy of repression and urban redevelopment.

For sure, having no such thing as the internet around makes actual solidarity take a more f2f shape. A struggle like the ZAD, while being aided by internet comms, was largely based in irl networks across France and beyond. If, say, you're one person or a very tiny group starting an occupation in a city where this practice doesn't exist, you just can't count on the internet to attract new buddies to your place... that'd be way too dumb and would get you evicted after a few hours. That's why the few people doing that, well they just don't out anything about it on the net. As far as this is not "our" internet, it's always a weapon that can be turned against us.

> London's Freedom newspaper was full of anarchist news from other countries

But weren't Freedom notorious gatekeepers? Would they really have been reporting on individualists, nihilists etc? Or would they just have been pushing the same anarcho-Marxism that they're still pushing today?

> Bakunin, Kropotkin, Malatesta, Goldman, Galleani, traveled often for the purpose of speaking events

Did any of those make it to the frozen north of Scotland? Let's imagine there's no internet for a moment: would the travelling anarchist speaker who made it to your town be Bob Black, or David Graeber?

Your comment is more in agreement with OP's point than you think. Without the internet, you'd only hear from the most mainstream, most popular, most Freedom-approved anarchists. There'd be zero space for someone like LBC.

I changed his nappies as a volunteer and not a contracted worker, so there!

> I knew about Bob Black before I knew about the internet.

Do you live in rural Ireland? Seems unlikely that pre-internet you would have heard of him, or any US anarchist beyond the most famous handful, if you did.

Thank you for remembering that I exist. I would simply hate to be forgotten. Or remembered for the wrong things. LOL

-- Bob Black (pig ffffucker and inventor of Ireland)

Bob Black was infamous within the Discordian and Subgenius circles before the internet. It's how I heard about him, word of mouth on his antics.

Funny enough, Aragorn traveled around doing events far more than pretty much any more mainstream US anarchist.

he continued to believe in infoshops and punk venues and have energy for f2f interactions long after most people (ramsey, etc) had lost the energy or will.

that you just can't get over the internet, of course it's more desirable, and waaay more dangerous. You can't contract a virus through the internet unless you are one of those 5G conspiracy theorists or a computer.

The way I look at internet, phone, and mail connectivity is they are all just more devoid of content, even though the internet itself has tons and tons of data, so it's in a way better than any library you would find in real life, but beyond that, it's worse in every other aspect...and an enormous rallying ground for sheeples. There was never a better way to socially engineer people's opinions.

Plus theres the oogles who are all insta and twitter famous. They stan Ted K but never log off.

Well, what goes for anarchists in the 19th century, one could learn a lot. I will here merely talk of some europeans.
In Europe, a lot of anarchists were vagabonding and in London there was a big anarchist exile community. One of the main efforts of these decent people was smuggling periodicals to europe, to spread them in the countries of their origin.
If you watch these periodicals, you sometimes wonder, how much publicity there was about the movement. You can follow the anarchist movement really well through this periodicals and get a feeling about there discussions, there reference points in social struggles and also gossip.
A lot of anarchists also made their oddyssee to the USA. Even this periodicals were still smuggled or sent to europe, though there was building an own exile milieu and some became less connected or at least oriented to europe.
Now for sure the post mail has its disadvantages.
Thats also why there was some campaigns and attacks against the post when they opened the letters. But especially, people learned to encrypt - by hand.
Even also often anarchist periodicals of that time contained crypted messages, which were only comprehensible for the respective receiver.
So this is how it looked like and how it still could look like.
Fuck the internet! People were able to communicate also without!

Okay.. when are you Bread Bookers gonna accept the fact that there was also an history in between 100 years ago and the Millenial times?

I completely disagree, neighbours are a X-tian social construct and should be avoided. And freakin cups and string communication sux.

Are you doing it right? There has to be tension on the string.

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