One important tool which defines modern activism is the use of social media for organizing and building solidarity. While social media does little unless paired with “meatspace” direct action, it can be a powerful tool for motivating people, reporting on live events, and building intersectionality. When arrests first occurred at Occupy Austin, we heard from activists in Egypt who had staged an impromptu protest at the US Embassy.
Between times of “rupture,” social media becomes even more crucial for strengthening solidarity and relating about core issues. This can be seen in recent, vital discussions on Twitter over race, feminism, and the meaning and origins of Occupy. Likewise, more people are using social media and the Internet to educate themselves about politics and current events. To close our conversation, I asked Scott Crow how he thought social media was changing our political conversations.
Kit O’Connell, Firedoglake: The word ‘anarchy’ or ‘socialism’ used to be these hot button words that could be used to turn people off. You used those words and people’s minds closed down. The mainstream media and the politicians use this constantly. “Obama’s a socialist!” But it doesn’t seem to be working anymore. People are less likely to believe you. Why do you think that’s happening?
Scott Crow: Because people are smart. And they can see that it’s propaganda. Even if they don’t have a ‘political analysis’ they can see that it’s total bullshit. And — can I say bullshit?
FDL: Yeah. You’re not going on the radio!
SC: I think you’re totally right. The thing is — with words like that — I can’t speak to socialism because it did get such a bad rap. But anarchy was always assumed to be chaos and bombthrowing. Because anarchy is the largest set of ideas in ascension in social justice movements — nationally, in the US, Canada, Mexico, even Europe — more than Communism (big C Communism). The New York Times and CNN, they can’t ignore it anymore. Sure, anarchists are out in the streets in black bloc throwing tear gas canisters back when they get shot at them, but they are also at the front lines of disaster relief, they’re at the front lines of occupying and reclaiming spaces that should be the commons — you can’t deny that. You can’t knock it off to a fringe element and people can see that clearly. We’re in an anarchist renaissance — there’s more anarchist literature produced in the last 14 years than there had been in the previous 50 or 60 years in the United States and even internationally.
Anarchy went underground. People stopped talking about it. They started to hide in other organizations. It reemerged in the 60′s but still at the fringes. But now there’s a huge body of work — more books have come out, more articles are written now. And the Interwebs help with that because it is an open platform to talk about things, because if you’re in Idaho or you’re in Texas or you’re in New York, you can be connected and hear people share ideas.
FDL: That leads into the intersectionality that’s happening. That’s not a new concept obviously but the Internet seems to promote it. In my view, when Occupy worked was when it was its most intersectional. That’s also when there was the most pushback against it from the media, from people who just wanted it to be the Democratic answer to the Tea Party.
SC: But that tension’s always there. There’s always groups trying to pilfer off of you, trying to suck like vampires. The labor unions, the Democrats, they’re always trying to do that. There’s a long history of that. Used to be Communists who’d try to control it.
FDL: But intersectionality seems like a key to growing any kind of movement right now.
SC: Absolutely. That’s the thing that attracted me to anarchy originally. I came to it late in my life. I came to it in my late twenties … but anarchy was one of the only political philosophies that seemed to embrace intersectionality and connecting the struggles. That it was important what was happening in prisons, in the environment, with animals, rape culture, what happened outwardly but also inwardly — how do we treat each other? While a lot of movements are about converting people to their party, their line, their nonprofit.
You bring up a point that needs to be reiterated. I think the Interwebs is very conducive to that. It’s almost like a cacophony — where you can see something about animal liberation and then something about prisons right below it in your news feed. And you say, ‘Oh yeah, those are both important.’
FDL: And on the ground, doing the work it can seem really obvious. How is Palestine linked to Capitalism? Because Capitalism props that occupation up. But then it becomes time to regurgitate that into a sound bite and that’s where it starts to break down.
I’m a journalist, so maybe I shouldn’t say this, but maybe that’s not so necessary. We don’t always have to make our messages packageable for the media.
SC: And I think the Interwebs opens up a space for that. I’ve done interviews recently — it used to be you just got the quote, you got the sound bite, but I’ve done interviews now that are 10 or 15 or 20,000 words. I really like that kind of news because I want to digest news. I’m not saying everything has to be belabored, it’s fine to have a Top Ten Reasons to Do Something.
FDL: The listicle.
SC: Yeah, the ‘listicle,’ thank you. But I do like that I can find really in depth articles now that maybe appeared only rarely before in Rolling Stone or Esquire.
FDL: There’s no print limit. We can have these long conversations.
FDL: Tell me about what you’re working on now.
SC: My first book, Black Flags & Windmills, is going to be reissued in a second edition in August this year on the ninth anniversary of Katrina and the founding of Common Ground Collective. It’ll be revised and expanded, so I fixed the things I didn’t like the first time and I’ve added a lot more content so I’ve added about 150 pages. That’ll be reissued from PM Press.
I’m also working on two other books right now. One of them is an anthology I’m editing and contributing to called Setting Sights, which is about the theory and practice of armed self-defense. It’s not a call for arms but just the thinking about it, the historical precedence, showing why we might do it. It’s a collection of essays from people who might have engaged in it or what people think about it.
And the third book I’m working on, which won’t see the light of day until 2015, is a book called Standing On the Edge Of Potential, which is about the politics of possibility. How we might move our movements from a politics of opposition to a politics of possibility. How instead of trying to correct the past, we try to create futures that are the futures we want and all the ways we might do that.
That’s what I’m working on, then I’m meeting with good folks like yourselves and having good conversations in between.
Not that exciting is it? Used to be I’m going down to this lockdown or this action, I’m not doing that anymore.
FDL: You’re tired of going to jail?
SC: Jail I don’t even mind, at all. Actually I like jail, I organize in jail. It has to be something.
FDL: It’s got to be a big moment.
Thanks again to Scott Crow for a great conversation.
Photo by Ann Harkness released under a Creative Commons license.