[-empyre-] Premediation and Social Justice (4): The Question of Violence (cont.)

Richard Grusin rgrusin at gmail.com
Thu Dec 11 06:32:37 EST 2014

8. In the aftermath of Occupy Wall Street, and especially in the current political situation on the streets, I have begun to rethink my sense of the role of violence in opposing injustice. In Ferguson (and now most recently in Berkeley and elsewhere) violence has been provoked mainly by our para-military police. In Ferguson, of course, the police made sure that the premediation of violence in the run-up to the decision, and the implications that such violence was endemic to the black community, served to reinforce the racist beliefs of the white community in Missouri and across the US. In other words the state security apparatus and corporate media have premediated and promoted violence and the racist stereotypes of (especially) young black men as violent menaces to society deserving of police brutality.  Although originary violence belongs to the state and the media, through clever strategies of premediation, not only in the media but through the establishment and maintenance of pre-existent formal structures of policing, courts, and prisons that premediate and thereby generate criminalized black bodies, the state and corporate media make it seem as if this juridical system of discipline and punishment responds to already existing violence rather than generating it.

9. To fight the injustice of this structural juridical premediation, I now believe, requires not only the premediation of social justice but the premediation of violence. As I have increasingly come to argue, we must think of media and mediation beyond the realms of communication and representation.  Protests and demonstrations must themselves be understood as forms of mediation which, as I suggested about Occupy Wall Street, not only are mediated by print, televisual, and networked media but are themselves mediating acts. Where Occupy Wall Street succeeded by premediating the actual occupation of Wall Street, it finally failed to grow and spread because it failed to premediate a more widespread and powerful future. Nonetheless, it offered a way to think about marches, protests, and demonstrations as themselves forms of mediation.

10. I want to suggest that the current widespread actions against racist state violence should also think about using premediation to continue the momentum and strengthen the movement. In recent weeks most actions have been announced online, but have occurred with little notice and mainly in reaction against recent past injustices. Instead, I would suggest that rather than continue in a position mainly of responding to unjust acts of state violence, the movement might use premediation to imagine large, widespread future protests that could eventually provoke enough fear and anxiety among state and corporate leaders that changes in the racist system of policing, convicting, and imprisoning black men will have to be made. I am surprised that there is not already a campaign premediating mass protests on MLK day, which is just over a month away.  A widespread social media campaign about, for example, a major march on Washington and coordinated protests across the country would generate an unprecedented amount of anxiety among corporate, state, and media leaders. This might be followed by a southern campaign over the winter and then some significant targeted dates across the country in the spring and summer. If some of these actions happened to involve violence against property and disruptions of business as usual, then the level of anticipatory fear and anxiety would only be intensified.  Of course, so would violent suppression of such actions by the para-military police or national guard. 

11. I am by no means suggesting anything like pitched battle. The resources of the state are massively disproportionate compared to even the most highly successful mass protests one could realistically imagine. Nor am I claiming any special wisdom that others with much more experience in these matters don't possess. But what I am suggesting is that violence should not be taken off the table.  Indeed some small and strategic acts of violence against property, or disruption of roads, networked service, and so forth, coupled with the premediation of more widespread future actions, could be a form through which premediation could be used for purposes of resistance through the very tactics of drumming up fear and anxiety that the state and corporate media have used in Iraq, the War Against Terror, Ferguson, and countless other events to paralyze the public and justify the use of state violence. Exactly how this might happen, and whether it could even work, is certainly beyond my expertise and best left to others more directly involved in these actions and with significantly more experience in organizing mass public actions. But since Tim wanted to know how premediation might be turned into a force of resistance, I thought I would at least take a crack at offering an answer. 

Richard Grusin
rgrusin at gmail.com

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