TOTW: let's try this again, on criticism

First off, I really like good criticism. To me it a sign of someone paying attention and thinking something through. Of course, really, a good compliment can be that too, but even thoughtful, articulate compliments have to get through the fog of "people are just nice," "it's only acceptable to say something kind," etc., so they're more likely to miss that sweet spot of good feedback, when the person receiving it has to step back and think about things (at least a little) differently.

Secondly, if we're criticizing something, we're by definition caring about it. Not caring about something usually means avoiding it, rather than hating on it. All the people who, over the years, have complained about how terrible anews is (especially when they're complaining about the option for anonymous comments), when *they're on anews, complaining anonymously* are not making the point they think they're trying to make.

Here at anews (well, everywhere online of course, but perhaps especially for moderators), we get lots of empty signifiers. Lots of "this is stupid," "this is shit," "you're terrible," and so on. Perhaps talking about us, perhaps about a story that has been put up, perhaps about another poster... none of it means anything without some kind of explanation. And explanation isn't just using more words to say that something is shit, or that you would do it differently. It's expressing that a. you understand the goal of the thing you're responding to, and b. it is either a bad goal (which you can explain why), and/or a bad tactic or strategy for getting to the goal. This requires the person posting to do some thinking before they criticize.

So this week the TOTW challenge is to recount...
what's your favorite thing to criticize intelligently? What's your favorite bit of criticism? What's a story about good criticism that lingers for you? When did you give or receive criticism and there was a surprisingly positive outcome?

There are 48 Comments

i used to go to a reading group that was housed in a place where a lot of wingnuts also spent time. the reading group was open to newcomers, and occasionally a wingnut would decide that it was not sufficient to quietly spectate this different kind of wingnuttiness, and that they should participate in the conversation.
my tendency (i had a lot of experience with SSI recipients of various sorts) was to shut these folks down as quickly as possible. the two most anarchist-experienced voices in the room, however, would listen to these folks and try to get something out of what they were saying that was relevant to the conversation and the group. that didn't always work, but it did a lot more often, and was also funnier, than i would've ever expected.
part of this story is the idea of responding to someone's good intentions, even if their words get in their own way.
does that count as criticism of me, or of the wingnuts? or both?
let's go with both. :)
your turn!

signed, thecollective .4

My oh my... Apparently you weren't "intelligent" enough to get the basics of why those other anarchists were open to discussion with these lower-class people.

The ELI5 explanation: language is a barrier, while at the same time a conduct. For some people it's the first for others it's the latter.

In a stratified society (yeah, negate class or strata as much as you'd like... they're still present all over the place, more than ever) it ain't just an etiquette of ethic or cultural background, but more importantly of social status, which has more weight than these other two, since you now got people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds across different social strata.

So what made you socialize with these "friends" you got from the reading groups? Because, first and foremost, of etiquette. Cultural referents rhetoric, post-grad level vocabulary, etc. You're speaking through the lingo of the average phenomenology or deleuzian erudite? Impressive! But that's also the trade of sophisticated, privileged upscale groupings. It's upper-caste. You won't get just any rando from the poor suburban's understanding what you're talking about; you're more likely to be derided as an irrelevant hipster pedant or a schizo (both assumptions that yet may be accurate! haha), no matter how there's always a possibility.

The parallel between social stratification and dialects is well-known when it comes to South Korea, but we always have a clearer analysis of a society from viewed from the outside, as per Bill Hagström's "Gamer-Pawn" theory, duh. So some anarchist interlocutors are aware that ideas, even if arising from language, can also be limited in their inter-cultural communication by language. How would it be for a non-english speaking person to be addressing some ideas with your group? About the same.

someone said "your mom is a fallacy"
and i realized they were so right...

And perhaps you could also tell us about your experience with trust fund kids, or how did it compare with SSI recipients? Coz that's where I was getting at.

If member 4 is who I think it is, HE is the wingnut, HE is the one who reads from obscure 19th century writers, He is the snob who refuses to drink the whiskey or sm9ke the joint we pass around, HE has regular employment, HE has a girlfriend.who wont it meat, HE is a vegan, HE can't maintain a coherent conversation about football or baseball.

Yes. Good to know, member 7. But your smug sarcasm yet again falls FLAT.

What's your favorite thing to criticize intelligently?

The intelligence is all mine it seems because I can never know what anyone really takes home. I love to critique/play with conceit; whether it's democracy, reformism, workerism, politics, advertising, consumerism, militarism, hoarding, housing, socialism. farming, religiosity, sex, etc. Though there is always jeopardy in the specificity, as I'm easily tranquilized by intrigue and boredom.

What's your favorite bit of criticism?

To muddy the filtered waters above, I enjoy nuanced antagonism—it's like poetry, or a psychogeography.

What's a story about good criticism that lingers for you?

For lingering criticisms, I have bittersweet ones which continue to shape my life and revolve around love, white-knighting and suicide. As for good, I remember forgetting being criticized for a thousand things I couldn't give a shit about.

When did you give or receive criticism and there was a surprisingly positive outcome?

Other than the bittersweets alluded to above, on the one-to-one level I am almost always surprised when I am engaged. I thrive in anticipating many of the things I could be criticized for and encourage feeling instead, with positivity coming from a conceit in both yours and my awakening/catharsis. I don't work very hard at any of this since coming to recognize better the quid pro quo of rationalization, although I am happy to fall into the same trap laid for me.

if i accept the premise that critique takes the form of either expressing why something is a bad goal or expressing that its a bad strategy to get the goal, i find myself doing the former much more than the latter. i wish anarchists would engage more in the former too, i think a lot of anarchists have bad goals - not in the long term, as in the abolition of the state, but in the sort term, as in break windows in the same place on the same day every year. it seems that goals, once they are settled on, take a lot more time and effort to do any questioning of, or have that questioning gain any purchase. another example: we're currently exiting a several year period in which no platforming baddies became a goal so desirable that it became very difficult to do any questioning of whether or not it was a good goal, unless you happened to be in the company of some friends who already pretty much agreed with you that it was a bad goal. in the meantime, the strategies and tactics to achieve this have only gotten refined. if no platforming baddies has started now to fall out of favor as the most desirable goal, its only because the people doing it are finally starting to tire, not because of any critique.
no platforming and more broken windows are only the tip of the iceberg for bad and/or useless goals for anarchists. we have so much baggage left to lose! the world changes a lot faster than the milieu does, and i'm inclined to think that this type of critique is the sort of thing that accelerates changes in the milieu, but i'm really starting to get carried away.
the last thing i'll add is that it might be more desireable to, rather than express why a certain goal is bad, to engage in critique in a sort of inquiring mode and actually find out why something is bad

"but in the sort term, as in break windows in the same place on the same day every year"

DUDE! We've been trying to form a religion, here. Could you spare us from that criticism for a while so we can perform our rituals of criticial metaphysics? Thanks!

The Imaginary Party

I prefer to call it feedback whether positive, neutral,, or negative. One of the things that Sir Paul McCartney said that he missed with John Lennon gone was the honest feedback.And for artists and humans honest feedback can be tough to take because our ego created mind worlds and self-deceptions about themselves.
Better to live without expectations of what society and others expect of us.
Being in the hierarchy as a manager is tough because you get feedback from both sides. Set a framework to say I believe in you
and these are my suggestions to help you succeed and grow helps set expectations
I give you credit doing a show each week given limited time and energy and a changing world. Have faith you are doing the right thing,with your projects. I come back because I like your take on the news and anarchist topics
I would love to be a fly on the wall where you and JZ have a dialogue. He seems to takes your comments about him (the usual show) to heart.
Time to head into the corporate world where your numbers begin any criticism by mgt.

attentat: yea, that article was about how much time people spend talking about something that they say they don't want to be part of, right? it's talking about the criticism-is-support thing, i think?

feedback: that word is definitely more neutral and would certainly get around some rhetorical snarls at least for a time, until feedback started to get a negative connotation too.
i'm the "your mom" anon, and that example was both a joke and serious. i appreciate liminal d's examples though.
ps: and it's always interesting what questions people don't want to (can't?) answer on these totws...

Why don't you just do yourself a big favor and be done with it all, stop abstracting, and become a nihilist?!

how do we determine "benefits"? everyone in that clip was jerky, including afaict malkovitch's character, except maybe the guy who called jerome's pic "machine-like". and even he was self-righteous, so...
but all of the people in that room have the potential to go away from that actual conflict thinking more about it because it was harsh, which is the point of the teacher's insistence, presumably.
obviously usually we *don't* go away and think about it, which is i guess what this totw is trying to get at, ig uess?

anarchists love criticism, the problem is that criticism needs a reference point, and reference points very quickly become authorities in this post-stirner landscape...

Should be kept in check by active forms of cynicism and sincerity in regards to value and judgement. Without those two things holding it in check it develops its own discursive apparatus.

My favorite thing to criticize is defeatist attitudes. I get a real power-trip from inspiring others to pursue their objectives. I think that I'm good at it, because I empathize with apprehensive people trying to do creative work. I am not speaking to those who "take up a lot of space" or could really "move back" in a conversation. I am speaking to those who are shy and nervous.

I don't want to tell people that "everything you do will be exactly how you want it!" Because that's a lie. More, I want to help them access the environment for perceived threats. I ask questions such as "what are the consequences of a faux-pas or a false start?" (Because I don't want to throw people to the wolves if I'm worried about them.) I also encourage them to understand that change is okay by sharing my own goofs or mistakes and pointing them to people I trust to criticize their work delicately.

On criticizing delicately: I wish I could put this is into precise words. (Perhaps emotional intelligence is partially learned and partially an aptitude.) I can't please everyone with my manner of criticism. Some people like criticism neat (like a whiskey). Some people like a soft-drink.

Before I criticize, I access my own goals. Am I trying to encourage this person or to shut them down? I'm not moralizing either way. A sharp retort can cut through a lot of bullshit. And encouraging anything and everything because "you're a nice person" is slimy. But, on the flip-side, a sharp retort can silence a crowd (fear of shame) and an encouraging critique (one in which goals are mutually understood) can really fuel a person's mojo. (I'm sorry I wrote mojo.)

The best critiques I've ever received were private and about intimate parts of my behavior. I was told that I don't appreciate my impact on others - that I ghost people who miss me. I am working on this. I matter to people. Who would have thought?


that’s nice!

I want to have you as a friend IRL! But my area is full of careless shut-ins who're very insecure with their interpersonal relations and for whom encouraging others is a kind of madness. I think Kanadians need more Muhricans in their lives.

i want friends like you two too, but internet makes us talk to people who are far away while ignoring those who are near : (

it generally works well to avoid criticizing someone's character or "who they are", the intent generally should be aimed at what they are doing or saying or theories. "Who you are" is always a dumb ego game, we're all just a bunch of stupid confused monkeys anyway. If you avoid the ego part you might as well even avoid the "delicacy", just say what you want to say, even if you end up being a dickhole you'll probably figure it out later on and know how to correct it...or not. There's nothing shameful about dieing in a world of constant change, yes you might die, you will then know what its like to die, you will forget that you ever lived. Beautiful, right? Not a suicide encouragement, just a risk taking encouragement.

Forever and Again: Necessary Conditions for “Quantum Immortality” and its Practical Implications

You can download this short paper without logging in and it's an epub which is sweet.

Agreed, ad hominem causes more problems than it solves.

What's your favorite bit of criticism?

The kind that’s funny and playful, that can be a poetic form of mocking, with plays on words and meanings. It needs a zinger or a punchline every other line.

It it’s boring, you come out of it feeling like you’ve lost some life, if it’s fun, regardless of its faults, at least you had a good time.

taking a critical look at how official policing began right through to the common use of apps for reporting crime. Reeves shows how social responsibility has been hi-jacked through accessible writing with plenty of references. It is useful to read this in order to have the 'answers' at hand when challenged on anarchy not being viable due to everyday criminality and how to deal with it being often a question that's raised. This is not a ACABs but addressing the structural problems. Of course policing rarely takes place at the financialisation level of the great and the good with their tax havens and transfer pricing etc; this book doesn't look at 'white collar' criminality.

Am I like a supergenius or are you just a dolt with a scholar's robot consciousness for the fact that I never needed to go through a book by some academic -who also happens to be another cheerleader of Heidegger?- to realize the exact same totalitarian power dynamic, two years back? Or maybe there's a middle ground... that you half-consciously keep relying on recognized authors to validate what's already in your mind? But that is still a heavily-authoritarian pattern.

I dream of getting across any contemporary academic author who brings ANY original idea or critique that's relevant to anarchy.

I don't know the book but there's lots of radical sociology of crime, some of it anarchist in origin. "Crime" is a weird kind of amalgam concept which includes so many different things that it's impossible to "solve" without disaggregating. There's a whole statist/neocon narrative which "explains" all crimes through moral disorder and breakdown of authority and it's impossible to rebut that on the same scale, even though it's easy to disprove. We can, however, show that punishment doesn't stop "crime", that it often increases "crime"/deviance, that most "crime" has social origins, that "crime" is rare or nonexistent in at least some small-scale anarchist societies, and that policing/punishment etc do more harm than "crime" anyway (e.g. compare number of arrests to number of private abductions). More precisely, we're dealing with a huge mixture of resource-use conflicts, effects of social inequality, survival strategies of the poor, illicit attempts at upward social mobility in a stratified economy, alienation and discontent among young people, feuds among largely atomised individuals (e.g. neighbours), unsanctioned forms of social control, forms of resistance (conscious or unconscious), expressions of unmet needs, disavowed dirty tricks by the powerful, and psychological "acting-out". The problem is, that most of the public have a lot invested in the sadistic channelling of unsatisfied desires through the endless purge of "criminals" and folk devils. Even this doesn't entirely foreclose anarchism since the same drives can be expressed in vigilantism. But we really need to replace the law/crime metaphor where one person violates a general norm, with a desire/dispute/conflict metaphor (a la Nietzsche, Stirner etc) where two or more people harm each other because they want different things, and this requires unpacking the sadistic drives. Unfortunately the sadistic drives are distorted forms of primary drives which are denied expression, so we need ways to reactivate and express the primary drives before this will work.

I wish more had come out of his discourse. While high school is an important isolate to focus on, what's needed is a transcendental critique of education as such. This will be rigorous and if done right it will be one of the greatest critiques of all time but it needs to be done. I'd like to think I'm in the first few steps of a thousand mile journey of doing this with the punchline being my concept of Neotenous Knowledge.

The education critique goes with the critique of work and you can structurally go after it in a similar way to how Bob Black goes after work. If work is forced labour for the sake of quantified production then education is impersonal learning for the sake of quantified knowledge. Neotenous Knowledge is my equivalent to Bob Black's productive play. As WY correctly says, there's a dearth for this type of discourse, part of the reason being that the left LOVES education. Leftists are to education what rightists are to work. Beyond that ideological bird for anarchy play and neoteny.

There exists now the peer-matching network that Illich predicted in Deschooling Society 1971

" The user would identify himself by name and address and describe the activity for which he sought a peer. A computer would send him back the names and addresses of all those who had inserted the same description. It is amazing that such a simple utility has never been used on a broad scale for publicly valued activity."

Now the 8 year olds are texting and organizing their own parties and scooter around at 20 km/hr.
8 yr olds are picking fruit and vegetables.
10 yr olds are repairing bicycle tires.
12 yr olds are operating electric tractors
All in an interrelated learning environment without the institutionalized education structure.
Now the popcorn, sitting back and watching school strikes and student walk-offs.

And knowledge control apparatuses that back it up. It was never anything other then this going way back to the reproduction of scribers. Philosophy was actually a break away development that developed on the margins. At it's most potent Stirnerian levels it is knowledge and will as one. Willed knowledge is not and can never be education. Neotenous knowledge is the sum total effect of it all. There can also be adult specific learning to but that would be the more marginal esoteric stuff. It's the reverse of 'kids going out to play' phenomena. Adult knowledge would be adults going off to their own room and doing more acute types of learning. It would no longer be about curtailing the youngns however for the sake of some quantified knowledge control integrated totality divorced from will and child like spontaneity.

The adult instructor walks into a crowd of kids and speaks thus ----
Will you permit me to just say that you own this field we stand on, and we will call it "Evolution Field". Occasionally, aged and wornout people such as myself, whose only quality which excedes yours is experience, because let's face it, socalled wisdom is a myth, tradition and custom are frozen pieces of historical nostalgia only relevent to a moment in time when my generation was in control of its contextual reality. It would only be pompous and arrogant to claim any ownership on anything beyond the age of 30, let all the museums, legal codes and institutional structures of my generation's social paradigm decay and fall into disuse. Rather, let us have fun learning to share resources and conserving energy and the environment, we have enough knowledge to cease these ridiculous trade wars which have raged for 3 thousand years (Remember Jericho?)
Okay, so enjoy, and if you need any instructions look on the data bank. -----
Hobbles away to slow clapping, laughter, whistles, chanting etc.

and it made me laugh as well. I love the guy ballerina dancer waxing power ranger. When I read anarchist propaghanda sometimes i imagine some cheesy league of badasses, grasping to name any but you know the kind, the furious four or some hilarious garbage like that. I still occasionally pick up some of my political/philosophical books cuz they do help me break out of my usual thought patterns unless they're the only things i read, then it just becomes a thought pattern within itself.

i look forward to reading that whole issue when im in a better mood for it

"A Question of Spirit " by Faith Stealer touched me deeply, like I had read it 15 yrs ago in the mists of time past, like a Krishnamurti dirge!

First problem: a lot of the generation coming up don't seem to know how to construct or follow a reasoned argument. They're used to rapid cycles of positive or negative feedback. The meme resonates or it doesn't. They upvote or they post an insult. This makes any kind of conversation difficult. It might take the form of, “this is shit”. Or finding some excuse why it's racist or liberal or whatever. Or finding one little point of bad grammar, argument that sounds a bit like something reactionary, citing someone with a dodgy background, and using this to summarily dismiss. At some point someone needs to explain to this generation why logic and facts are important, and why arguments are sometimes worth taking seriously even if they're not perfect.

Second problem: everyone has shit lives now, and our networks, movements, milieus, whatever are in tatters. Everyone has a lot of surplus emotional distress which can't find its proper outlet and gets brought to any/every discussion. Some people come to online discussions looking for someone to yell at or be snarky with. Some come looking for someone to irritate or tear down. It's a classical example of this:

Third problem: the idea of “triggers” is overused by idpols, but they're real (Reich calls them “emotional plague reactions”). And they're not limited to idpols with standard idpol triggers. A lot of people carry emotional aversions from previous contact with particular tendencies or positions – ancaps, ancoms, idpols, liberals, primmies, nihilists, whatever. Or aversions to particular types of discourse which are socially quite common, and not necessarily absent in anarchist spaces. This person you don't know telling you to shut up or grow up or toughen up or not be so macho, laying down the law on what's acceptable or moral or properly anarchist, belittling something you hold dear or upholding something that's hurt you, reminds you a bit too much of a teacher, cop, judge, boss, parent, abusive ex, or someone you had a huge fight with in the local scene... right off it's fight-flight and people will flame one another.

I'm not sure what the way out is. I think the most productive discussions happen in small-scale groups of people who know each other. This is as true online as offline. There's ways to construct spaces where people engage more with detailed arguments, it might be worth trying to create these quite formulaically – there's suggestions in Postman and Weingartner's work. I agree with the point about engaging with arguments not people. We need other outlets for distress though. Not sure what to do about triggers. I don't think it's possible to ban triggers the way idpols want to, because they're too diverse. I also don't think it's possible for everyone to always suppress the fight-flight reaction the way psychiatrists want us to. Best advice is probably to learn to recognise when it's happening (with self or others). unrelated to your valuable contribution. Thank you for it.

i could not agree more, fellow brilliant chap.

back in my day we construct and followed reasoned arguments up hill, both ways, in the wintertime while having proper cuppas prepared at both destinations.

kids these days, with their feelings will never fix the world like we have fixed the world!


the trolling comments of this forum often crack me up, but the problem is that "cheerio!" as a form of applause sounds like something a rich person would say, not an old person. Like, "cheerio good lad!" or something, unless i misinterpreted the joke.

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