Encompassing the movement

wade tillett on Wed, 13 Mar 2002 13:24:17 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Encompassing the movement

Encompassing the movement. Containment. Filtering. Mediation. A reversal occurred at the New York City World Economic Forum Protests. The protestors were no longer a decentralized mass covering a city, attempting to breach a fortress of the elites. After all, it was always those big ugly fences, the perimeter defense, that made it look like those on the inside really did have something to hide. The prior decentralization of the protestors throughout a city had made the protests seem democratic, representative of the masses attempting to breach a closed inner circle of power-mongers, an enclosed elite attacking a citizen uprising. The violence of the fences and teargas and nightsticks exposed a real brutality behind the elites huddling over their new plans of exploitation. Quebec was turned into a fortress. The WTO ran to Qatar. But here, the strategy inverted. Here it was the protestors who were contained, in a massive military-police-media trap. Here, in New York City, the heart of capitalism, the elites turned the strategy, the structure inside out. Now, in a stroke of (psy-op) genius, it was the protestors who were the infiltrators into an otherwise peaceful city. Now it was the protestors that must be contained, not the elites that must be defended. A new defensive strategy emerged, the strategy of the security state (now visible and expanding): a strategy of encompassment. Encompassment is the combined stratagem of endocolonization: an empty structure of universal mediation divides and distributes, filters and contains. Encompassment is the military/info/economic/media(ted) space in which all people participate only as the representational images allotted to them, and always as intruders. The spatial structure is inverted. All space is claimed. All movements are encompassed. The perimeter of defense turns itself inside out. Containment is now a universal stratagem. Each and all are contained within a structure, within a space that claims all space. No one escapes the satellites, the helicopters, the police, the cameras, and the dual blade of privilege. No, in fact, each and every one is contained, isolated through the filter, and communicates through the mediation of the power structure. In other words, a power structure claims all aspects of space through a series of overlapping transparent, semi-transparent and opaque apparatus of containment: empty structures, filters. These filters serve the essential function of appropriating space by dividing it, by doling out certain spaces to certain individuals, by dispensing privilege. This empty structure of universal appropriation, of objectification and commodification, of division and distribution, in fact simultaneously creates BOTH the overlapping spaces of privilege AND the all-encompassing space from which they are carved. Between the divisions of privilege lies the empty structure of power. This is the essential aspect of an all-encompassing system of power: The structure which divides and contains is the same structure that connects and ’empowers’, the empty structure of mediation, space. Containment (Inverting defense.) Containment inverts space. Containment claims the entire environment, the entire earth, the entire media-sphere. The structure of containment claims all space through a reverse legitimization, the limited spaces created refer back to the infinite empty structure of space that created them. Containment creates the fuzzy, variable bounded utopias, in which individuals may act ‘freely’ – in that they are blinded to its limits, as the limits exist not as walls, but as a series of overlapping mediated filters, fading to a supposed infinite horizon. Bounded spaces refer back to an all-encompassing space to avoid the exposure of their limits. Similarly, the space of encompassment refers to the bounded spaces when its hegemony, homogeneity, and depth is exposed. Containment isolates action. Containment surrounds, divides and innoculates. Containment is the first step of filtering. The dissenters are separated from the non-dissenters. The citizens are separated from the consumers. The first spatial division is crucial. To construct a defensive wall around oneself automatically limits oneself, defines oneself, and gives the exterior environ to those outside. This is absolutely unacceptable to the elite for a few reasons: one, everyone must be appropriated and vested into the system in order to compel subjugation, (re)production, consumption. Two, the appearance of an exterior indicates an alternative. Three, an exterior makes the restricted interior appear undemocratic. The fence, after all, appears much too harsh. The strategy became apparent as we marched out onto the street. The protesters were limited to one lane of traffic through most of the march, contained by a human fence of police. We were kept in a long linear formation, thereby keeping the ratio of protestors to police to a manageable number, and making direct communication and crowd emotion difficult. Instead of creating a perimeter zone of defense, necessarily defendable at all points on the perimeter, protestors were always contained WITHIN a linear moving progression surrounded on all sides by police. This is not to say there was not a defense of the perimeter, there was. (For example, after leaving our pen, we chanted from the closest blockaded street we could find to the remaining penned-in protesters, and immediately had about thirty more cops dispatched to our area.) But the overall strategy was that protestors were herded rather than allowed free range. By making the protestors appear as contained infiltrators, as opposed to citizens, the entire protest was framed as a security issue. (Or was it the other way around? The protest was a security issue and therefore the protestors must be contained? This circular rhetoric of justification easily spun onto television screens everywhere.) Almost the entire length of the parade route, the police stood shoulder to shoulder – a (robotic) human wall. ‘Someday you will be replaced by real robots’ someone shouted. When the police moved, they moved in numbers, always in formation. The entire police force acted as choreographed military units. If seen from the low-flying chopper above our heads, you could easily distinguish the strategy, unfolding underneath you like it did on the maps and plans drafted earlier. Broad strokes and lines and movements made following a logic from above. This was not at all a police operation, but a military operation. Any autonomy afforded to individual police officers in a normal street-scene was removed. The police were robotic soldiers forming human walls and vectors. They remained silent, except to bark an occasional rebuke. The massive police force that formed a barricade of bullet-proof wrapped flesh corralled protestors into a long linear powerless formation that went where the police told them to go. The police were in control. Filter (Profiling) The parade was frozen in place. Formations of police charged through the crowd at specific points, cutting the long linear parade line into numerous sections a block long. In this way, the mass was divided into manageable sections, surrounded on all sides by police. The parade was partitioned and dismantled long before any rally could occur. The police controlled the parade, and then they killed it before it could turn into anything else. The protestors were instructed that the only exit was behind us. We were allowed to leave the pens single file at one rear corner of each of the pens and exit the assembly through blockaded side streets. At certain points, no one was allowed to leave. Perhaps we could assume that this emulates a broader strategy in dealing with dissent: dissenters are encouraged out into the open (and those found elsewhere are without support or witness), dissenters are led in certain directions and in certain formations (an offensive containment rather than a perimeter defense), dissenters are segmented and compartmentalized. Within each segment, the dissenters are told to leave immediately, to disperse into the mediated structure. A certain tension and intimidation encourages each to leave. After a significant number of each segment are weeded out by leaving of their ‘free will’, certain segments are combined and the process begins again. In this way, a sort of sieve or filter is created. The end compartmentalization being into the city buses (borrowed for use here) and paddy wagons and then jail cells, and further, if necessary, solitary confinement. (The anti-terrorist operation seems to follow a similar operation: more intense, more brutal, more thought-out. Encourage tips (for citizenship). Identify profiles. Demand registration. Zoom in. Contain (based on some visa violation or something). Release one-by-one. Keep those contained isolated. Torture (sensory deprivation, solitary confinement…), encourage tips, contain…(loop)) We cannot rely on the image of the fence. There is no singular fence, there are only levels, filters, containment apparatus, seemingly transparent windows of mediation. A series of levels of access and appropriation (filters) are much more adequate for control than a defined fence. Instead of a restricted interior, a power-structure prefers a hierarchical system of inclusion, mediated between levels in order to capture and direct the lines of flight back inward. Mediation (Visibility) This containment was also facilitated by the protestors in their willingness to converge all the parades into one, hoping to keep a permitted peaceful march that would show large numbers. And, after seeing the coverage, we can see this was quite naive. CNN said there were 2000 protestors. ABC cancelled their documentary because of a lack of violence. Media coverage emphasized non-violence as the result of the police. (However, the vast majority of protestors were keenly aware that even a perception of violence at that point in time could sink the movement, at least as far as media coverage was concerned.) In this moment of the image, where the world trade center collapse was looped ad infinitum, it was quite possible that an image of violence could be used to construct the link: anti-globalization = terrorism. The ‘protestor equals terrorist’ equation was ready to be applied, previously framed both in the media, and by the structure of police containment. We did not give them that raw image. And yet, the image that emerged through that corporate media filter, was not one of questioning why so many people were there (it wasn’t so many according to them), nor was it one of relief that protestors had not resorted to violence. Instead, it was one of victory: anti-globalization innoculated. The movement was successfully reduced to a mediated visibility. This was a moment where the movement chose to play by the rules: the rules of the police, the rules of the media. And it is not surprising that those rules were changed, subverted and spun back on us as we were following them. The permitted march to the rally: altered, subverted, and aborted. The media coverage on a massive non-violent protest: altered, subverted, and aborted. After all, was it not these exact strategies that we were here to protest in the first place. Had we forgot? The WEF itself has followed a strategy of appropriation and containment. Strategically inviting certain critics to the table, in order to appropriate key sectors of the movement, appear democratic, and suggest ‘free’ trade arguments for the problems brought up. But never is too much opposition allowed, rather, it is a token of opposition in order to legitimate, never to upset the power structure. Always keeping the numbers of dissenters in a ratio and formation to allow the appearance of free speech, but the impossibility of free action. On the interior, dissent is included and appropriated, contained within a system of simulated democracy and dialogue. The most visible lines of flight are appropriated, channeled back in, subverted, chopped up, controlled, and used to fuel a moral media image. The strategy of containment is one of inclusion in such a way that each is isolated and controlled within the larger structure. The constructed environ within the WEF is to appear as infinite and without limits to those within it. One is encouraged to be blind to their own appropriation, their own privilege, their own commodification, their own subversion. Said another way, the 2/2/2 NYCWEF protest was the perfect example of simulated democracy. Within the encompassing police/privilege apparatus, action is contained, communication segmented, the mass cellularized, and between all divisions, all is mediated. All occurs within the empty structure of mediation: space. The im-mediate But freedom, despite what we have been told, has very little to do with space. In fact, space is entirely a concept of the empty structures. Space is a supposedly neutral, invisible all-encompassing medium that simultaneously divides and connects. The vast utopic spaces of security and freedom are in fact the gargantuan mediated expanses of the empty structures. “Ultimately, the violent state and the corporate power doesn’t know how to fight the non-violent people’s movement. So, if not today, tomorrow we are going to win. Its not just enron that collapsed, you know? But even these kind of empty structures which are trying to change our cultures, not just sections or structures – as I believe it, are not sustainable in themselves.” (Medha Patkar, interviewed on Democracy-Now.) We have too long lived within the empty structures. We reject the empty structures of transcendence. We reject the plan. We reject the secure, limited and commodified utopias sold to us. There is no freedom without (from) risk. There is no freedom without (from) responsibility. We are building individual ethics. We are building individual responsibility. We do not anticipate a revolution of force, we live within and (re)create innummerable forces. We act im-mediately, we create im-mediately, a multi-pronged involution of individual powers, of particular actions, of innumerable forces, of constant self-re-creation from the inside-out never from the outside-in. We live within the particular, within the moment, within the action. For this is the great hope of building a new movement of freedom: within the un-mediated, within the im-mediate, we are our own creation. # distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission # <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism, # collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets # more info: majordomo@bbs.thing.net and “info nettime-l” in the msg body # archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime@bbs.thing.net