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[- Agitprop as tactical media
By joerabie, Section guest host history
Posted on Sun Oct 12th, 2003 at 12:36:03 AM EURODISCORDIA TIME
The subject for the coming week is Agitprop, which is the design and delivery of subversive messages. Internet is an ideal medium for Agitprop, as it allows us to bypass establishment media to reach people, affordably, and in total independence. Moreover, the unique possibilities offered by interactive media allow one to develop new paradigms of expression...

[editor's note, by amy]: Discordia welcomes Joe Rabie as our first in a series of guest hosts who will lead a discussion in the guest host's corner on an area of their interest.


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To start this discussion on Agitprop I invite you to visit work that I have been doing on online, interactive demonstrations. Go to the following links for descriptions of two projects (and links to the sites themselves)...

--> Enfants d'Immigrés
--> The Over My Dead Body project

Do you think that a virtual demonstration is relevant as an act of protest? Is it complementary to real demonstrations, or is it a "cop out" insofar as it allows people to be armchair protestors? This has been a constant disclaimer relative to this work. (Note that "Enfants d'Immigrés" started in a real demonstration; and that "Over My Dead Body" has paralleled real demos - it provided downloads to antiwar posters and an as yet [unfinished] album of Geneva G8 photos - currently visible at

Go HERE for a few words on Agitprop...

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Agitprop as tactical media | 10 comments
[new] no dichotomy between armchairs and streets (Avg. Score: none / Raters: 0) (#7)
by geraldraunig on Thu Oct 16th, 2003 at 12:00:38 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME
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here is just one historical example that virtual resistance is more than "complementary to real demonstrations". quite parallel to seattle 99 resistance actions emerged in austria against the upcoming government with joerg haider's freedom party. in these days one could experience the intertwined contexts of the virtual and the real both on the sides of power and resistance: for the people on the streets web, radio and sms became important for announcements but also certain practices of art sabotage and media guerilla were developped. here is a link to a respective chapter of a book i wrote on the aesthetics of these resistance actions, unfortunately only in german. g.

[new] To Agit or not to Prop (Avg. Score: none / Raters: 0) (#3)
by joerabie on Tue Oct 14th, 2003 at 03:45:53 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME
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(hi Ryan, I'm really happy that you have joined this discussion) - concerning the "subversive" nature of Agitprop and whether the term is appropriate, this indeed raises some questions in my mind... The first Soviet Agitprop was made in approval of the state by the state. So it was hardly subversive. The meaning of the term has evolved since towards the definition that I sketched previously. In terms of its present global meaning my opinion is that it is a valid term.

Concerning being "subversive", the gallery examples are not subversive. Subversion is measured in terms of the danger (real or perceived) that those in power attribute to contestation, and the means that they use to neutralise it (counter argument, litigation, death squad).

[new] props to the agit (Avg. Score: none / Raters: 0) (#2)
by ryangriffis on Tue Oct 14th, 2003 at 06:14:46 AM EURODISCORDIA TIME
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i don't get here very much, but thought i'd chime in to this discussion, as i think i've actually emailed with joe about this before not too long ago - hi Joe.
anyway, i'm just wondering if maybe agit-prop is a less-than-useful term/construct. it seems to always necessitate being "outside" of what's being criticized/agitated, and honestly, i'm not sure what isn't agit-prop these days. but i does appear that the more effective agit-prop (whatever it is) comes from the "right" and usually doesn't look like agit-prop (though it sure smells like it).
i'm putting this very crudely, and most certainly US-centricly, but i do think it's important to question concepts of the subversive.
i saw the artist Mel Chin talk a while ago about his work with the GALA committee, a group of artists and students working in Georgiaand California. They collaborated with the producers of Melrose Place to place "critical objects" into the space of the show, like a mailbag/gun hybrid and condom covered sheets, in very inconspicuous ways. anyway, people were saying, "great! how subversive!" and Chin replied, "No! this is not being subversive, this is responding to and creating new forms of culture - not subverting something to destroy it." (this is all heavy paraphrasing of course)
but i think of the Yesmen's work as something along these lines. i'm not sure what it means to call it subversive, but it is a renegotiation of culture.
as for the "armchair activist" debate, it's a strange thing that for some reason, we think people have to earn the right to have a political voice by risking physical safety or something. voting is considered a political act, yet we don't ask people to earn the right to practice that. would we call online voting "armchair politics"? certainly, DDoS attacks are a form of political "speech," as is a physical sit, that must be part of a larger campaign to be effective.
granted, it wouldn't hurt people (in the US at least) to get outside, socialize and get some exercise, but that's beside the point.
do these seem like appropriate questions in relation to virtual activism?

[new] cop-outs and big guns (Avg. Score: none / Raters: 0) (#1)
by amy on Tue Oct 14th, 2003 at 01:58:00 AM EURODISCORDIA TIME
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Just some brief thoughts: a frequent criticism of virtual demonstrations, as you've pointed out, is the "armchair protestor" effect. But what are the effects of the protest in either case? I find these can vary a lot, depending on the type of protest and the situation. For example, FloodNet has been used in a variety of protests, from the Mexican government to the Etoys corporation. Floodnet allows the armchair protestors to take action against the target's webserver - potentially interfering with the site's operation, and acting as a not-so-virtual sit-in. In the case of an e-commerce site, this can directly affect business and/or stock prices. In the case of an attack against a public relations website, its main usefulness can be in generating media attention for an issue. Floodnet actions have had a lot of success in this regard; the disadvantage being that labels of "cracker", "script-kiddie", are often applied to floodnetters. Then again, negative labels are certainly applied to street protesters as well.

While the internet may not seem to be a "real" place, what goes on there - business and public relations - is very real. And there are millions of eyeballs there. That the internet offers dissenters an opportunity to protest at this scale should not be dismissed. You might be protesting from your armchair, but the Big Guys are dishing out the Big Propaganda and Big Hassles from their armchairs too - it's a big playground, why leave it to the bullies?

# begin amy's sig
-- Discordia is nice.
# end amy's sig

  • Tactical Media by joerabie, 10/15/2003 03:19:09 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME (none / 0)
Agitprop as tactical media | 10 comments

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