[-empyre-] Premediation and Social Justice (3): The Question of Violence

Richard Grusin rgrusin at gmail.com
Thu Dec 11 06:24:26 EST 2014

5. To rephrase the question Tim posed to me about resistant uses of new media platforms, how can political protest and other forms of resistance deploy premediation against the violence of the state and corporate media?  And to return to the broader question of the month's discussion, how does social media help or hinder the pursuit of social justice?  

6. To take the latter question first, it is interesting to track the ways in which various social media platforms, primarily but not exclusively FB and Twitter, work both to intensify and to forestall or defuse political protest or street actions.  Undoubtedly social media succeed not only in sharing and distributing information about injustices that are and have been occurring and about actions in response to those injustices. I daresay that a large proportion of the people protesting on the streets across the country were motivated by what they had read and seen online (including formal and informal print and televisual news sources) and learned of local actions through social media.  But as has been noted in regard to other recent moments of activism, sometimes sharing and liking and commenting work to take the place of getting one's body out on the street.  From my perspective, both of these occur. Sometimes social media activity spurs embodied action and sometimes it substitutes for it.  I know for me it has worked in both of these ways.

7. But what about deploying premediation to resist the violence of the state and its use of corporate media to premediate the futures that serves state and corporate power? Should that resistance employ tactical or strategic violence? There is a strong current among progressive media, politicians, and activists that violence never accomplishes anything, that demonstrations should be peaceful, protests non-violent. Meaningful change, this line of thought goes, only comes from working through the system and violent protest works against such change. I would strongly disagree with this for a number of reasons.  For one, as many people have been saying, sometimes the system needs to be shaken up; it is hard to imagine that the US government would have been moved to pass the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Act without the violent and non-violent protests of the 1960s. Furthermore it is sometimes necessary to fight force with force.  Given how much wealth and power is at stake in preserving the status quo, it is hard to imagine prompting meaningful change without the use of violence and the threat of escalating that violence.  But how would that work in our current environment?  


Richard Grusin
rgrusin at gmail.com

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