[-empyre-] Minor Simulations, Major Disturbances

akroker akroker at uvic.ca
Tue Apr 13 17:08:35 EST 2010


Following from the terrific interventions today, I thought I might offer
this beginning theorization of the ineluctable destiny of tactical media
in creating strange convergences in contemporary power, namely between
technocratic liberalism and atavistic conservatism in that nervous
breakthrough to the future that is California:

-Arthur Kroker

Minor Simulations, Major Disturbances

In an American empire culture marked by wild swings between  technocratic
liberalism and atavistic convervatism,  any attempt to introduce a third
political term (minor simulations, Transborder Immigrant Tool,  Electronic
Disturbances) into popular debate will definitely be met with powerful
reaction-formations. In the case of atavistic conservatism, southern
California is its homeland, from the bunkered suburbs of Orange County to
the increasingly ‘hardened’ borderlands of San Diego. For technocratic
liberalism confronted by a domestic  crisis of economic over-indebtedness
and a global crisis of cultural delegitimation,  the ‘markers’ of
political sovereignty must be reaffirmed. Since tactical media are
necessarily all about transgressing borders, destabilizing the big
‘markers’ of power, economy, gender, sexuality and race,  and disturbing
the hegemonic status of national borders,  it is to be expected that the
deployment of tactical media will do the political impossible, namely
unite the supposedly clashing politics of technocratic liberalism and
atavistic conservatism  in a common political project of saving the honor
of the name of (the American homeland).

The always strong, always recidivist, reaction-formations directed against
Bang.Lab’s Transborder  Immigrant Tool by Tea Party activists,  roaming
border posses of white vigilantes, security state officials, and now
University of California authorities, this new combination of technocratic
liberalism and atavistic conservatism under the sunny skies of Southern
California, is not really understandable without taking into account that
there are actually two Transborder Immigrant Tools projects taking place.
First, there is the Transborder project with its provision of innovative, 
repurposed cell phones to vulnerable,  exposed, desperate immigrants  from
Mexico and many countries south. Here the question is: should the
political sovereignty of borders trump basic human rights to water, 
safety, and shelter? That the question of human rights is dangerous from
the point of view of the state is clearly illustrated by the fact that
American policing authorities have immediately  resorted to a rhetoric of
hysteria in critiquing the Transborder Immigrant Tool, suddenly speaking
of the potential (mis)uses of this device by terrorists and drug-runners.
However,  there’s another Transborder project running, namely the tactical
deployment by Bang.Lab of ‘minor simulations’ against the authoritative
borderlands of UCSD. While the University of California educational 
system might be shamed into supporting repurposed cell phone networks on
behalf of immigrants, it is equally quick to support its own  logistics of
academic sovereignty.  As UC student and faculty critiques now circulating
as part of “Communiques from Occupied California” illustrate, the borders
of power in the UC system are very much under general assault by a diverse
activist coalition.  By running minor simulations intended to re-imagine
other alternative futures for education,  tactical media literally
disappears the (rhetorical) differences between technocratic liberalism
(UCSD) and atavistic conservatism (posses of Tea Party activists). Here,
the two sides of American empire, previously rhetorically separated  but
both necessary parts of the twisted strands of power,  combine in a
fateful rejection of that which they both commonly fear—minor simulations
with very real potential for creating major political disturbances.
Disrupt the binary logic of the borderlands, undermine the strict logic of
inclusions/exclusions necessary to maintain state sovereignty,  re-imagine
other alternatives,  insist that all borders be rethought in terms of
contingency, paradox, and complexity,  and what results is literally a big
bang in logic of empire.

So then, the question: Now that the strategies of tactical media have
successfully generated a big bang in the theory of American (empire)
governance,  now that atavistic conservatism and technocratic liberalism
have found common cause in suppressing both the politics of minor
simulations and the resistance art of the Transborder project, what are
appropriate tactics to resist this newest iteration of empire power. After
all, when atavistic conservatism and technocratic liberalism combine
something definitely new emerges, namely augmented empire. Augmented
empire? That’s technocratic liberalism with such rationalist excess in
defending its academic boundaries from networked simulations that it flips
into its opposite state—a dangerous form of liberal realpolitic animated
by atavistic emotions running the psychological gambit from bureaucratic
defensiveness to panic anger. Fully alert to the threat posed to
previously impervious borders by minor simulations such as the Transborder
Immigrant Tool, atavistic conservatism  suddenly goes repressively
liberal, justifying its attempt to shutdown the Transborder project  in
terms of “responsible academic research.” Of course, when that does not
work, atavistic conservatism  always  keeps in reserve other activist
strategies ranging from congressional denunciations to very real death

As always, utopia is the bright angel of history.

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