Archive for piracy

This is Just a Theater for the Media

Posted in Postmodern 2.0 with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2009 by Bonni Rambatan
The only winning move is not to play

The only winning move is not to play

Stay calm – Nothing will happen to TPB, us personally or file sharing what so ever. This is just a theater for the media.

That was Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi (a.k.a. Brokep)’s response to the conviction of The Pirate Bay. But of course, we won’t stay that calm, even if it is just a theater. Yes, hopefully it will be an epic win anyhow, but not only that — I hope it will also be an epic lost to such judgements in the future.

A quick recap of the news for those who haven’t heard. Five days ago The Pirate Bay was sentenced to a year in prison for its four defendants and some 3.5 billion USD in fines.

The sheer confidence of TPB guys upon that verdict astound me. It reminds me of the conviction of the communists of the olden days that they will finally win. Which has to do with a lot of things that I have been having in mind.

When I say communists, with the thought traditions I come from, I meant that fully as a compliment. It has been said often that the revolutionaries of today’s copyright laws are “modern-day communists”. Many defenders of copyright reformation — the supporters of Creative Commons, etc — would reject this idea. My guess is that they only know communism from its common abuses they have heard, the image of the gulag looming over them. But does not the very fact of them defending a right of a “common” whatsoever points to communist thinking?

Nor do I want to imply that pirates will become like the old communists — lost, defeated, only able to bathe in fantasmatic nostalgias of the past, the very term under which all its fights were conducted now terribly corrupted. If anything, the term “piracy” has gone through an entirely different set of fate: it began as a negative word for selfish bands of criminals, but today speak to adress heroes defending the rights of the common good, to tear down the walls of market oppression. If trajectory of terms mean anything, and we have known since structuralism that it means quite a lot, we should see something even bigger emerge from the pirates.

Between this and communism

Between this and communism?

So, does the idea of piracy mean anything for the idea of communism? Would we see, emerging from it in its totality, a global Event? They say that we are much closer to the end of the 19th century in terms of the unhealthy cynicism presented by most of the society today. One realm, however, stays incredibly strong, positive, even militant in its conviction, and there is no cynicism at all about its longevity, although (or perhaps especially because) it acts outside the state. This is the realm of the defense for the digital crowd, the commons of the posthuman era. Movements such as the very recent Blackout Europe, in fact, rings so much more bell of truth, of chance, and of undying faith in the strength of the commons than, say, the recent G 20 protest.

Indeed, in every place of today’s defense of physical political struggle, we always see an element of cynicism — we already know that the struggle will just be another lost, at best another media sensation. The Pirate Bay, on the other hand, claims that their struggle will be another win, that it is just the media masturbating themselves with a theater. In fact, I personally have never seen a struggle for a digital/Internet rights movement imbued with any dose of cynicism whatsoever.

Does this attitude, and more specifically does Brokep’s amazing confidence not point to a faithfulness of an Event, one that all Leftists today are supposed to need?

Some people I know suggest that communist conferences and otherwise Leftist ones should be taken to the streets and factories instead of being kept inside lavish college buildings. While I applaud the anti-bourgeois spirit of this kind of criticism, it also presents us with a false trap — the political spaces and topologies today is such that I remain a pessimist that doing conferences in factories would only confuse the problem further while making it look like enough of a sensation to do much more. My suggestion would be otherwise — why not do a communist conference in an exclusive cruise liner instead, so that when the conference achieves nothing, we are confronted right with that fact instead of an “academic” or even a “worker” sensation that we have done something significantly meaningful?

Perhaps we are just looking for political movements in the wrong places with the wrong issues. What Marxists need to remember today is that we are already posthumans. All that is solid has melt into air. What had been Marx’s future is our present. Boycott all media products — we have nothing to lose but our chains.

Hey, lets do a communist conference here!

Even doing a communist conference here won't matter

The Problem of Institutions

Posted in Postmodern 2.0 with tags , , , , , , on July 10, 2008 by Bonni Rambatan

Ideology, in the general sense of the way society works, can always be conceived as a problem of institutions. This view is simple, one which looks at cultural-societal structures and the ideologies that constitute them by analyzing what dominant institutions are at play in shaping the general world view of the day. In the past, we have had the church as the key institution in society. Afterwards we had political parties. Today, when virtually the majority says they could not care less about politics — many in an attempt to portray themselves as more “cool” and generally having more ability to enjoy life — we have corporations, that play just as large a role as the dominant institution. We can of course extrapolate this notion to include why an “ideology of cynicism” with its “superego to enjoy,” in Žižekian terms, works very well in the contemporary age of presupposed freedom, but that would start another discussion.

(One may also be tempted to continue this with a reading of corporations personified, as is done in the 2003 documentary The Corporation, the opening lines of which inspired this post, but I will not delve into that here, though I would agree this should have some significance.)

In a posthumanist-Marxist terms, that is to say in a future-oriented Leftist movement, then, the revolution problem becomes a problem of overthrowing the corporation from its current dominant state — not dismantling the entire system altogether, since such a vision continuously turns out to be an impossible task and renders itself as a project with an already presupposed loss, done for somewhat perverse masochistic pleasures. And after all, we did not have to dismantle the Catholic church altogether to make way for the Reformation. This gesture should in turn provide the Left with a bit more confidence — all we need to do is to start institutions that have appeal to the public that would eventually overthrow the corporate form as the dominant institution. It would again serve well to read Hegel at this point, as many good Marxists do.

Surprisingly this task gets even more simple. Already we have an institution that is growing in popularity, very much against the interest of corporations. Yes, you guessed it: the populist side of Web 2.0 — its P2P networks, free software movements, wiki systems, etc. Steal this Film provides a great documentary on this matter (though I doubt you still need more proof). And although they approved ACTA, I think the matter will continue to be a controversial polemic. As I mentioned in this post, the 21st-century subject needs a new institution, a new system other than global capitalism.

What is to be done? I will not be naive and suggest to continue the piracy and open source usage and so on — I know that we have so much more problems ahead of us — but understanding that we are in a moment of tension in which the Left can fully take advantage of should bring forth some hope and perhaps even a renewed sense of dualistic class (bourgeoisie vs proletariat becomes corporate vs pirates) needed for real social change. As the famous Friedmanite idea often quoted by Naomi Klein, in times of crisis, “the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around” — the best way to read this is not only to be prepared as Klein suggests, but also to produce better ideas ourselves. We have a world to win. Pirates of all countries, unite.