talkin loud and sayin nothin

they do it for the lulz

Like a dull knife: just ain’t cuttin
Just talkin’ loud and sayin’ nothin’
James Brown

Never mind what’s been selling
It’s what you’re buying
Fugazi “Blueprint

Aw Anonymous.
Anonymous, Anonymous, Anonymous

For the uninitiated (that blessed populace), 4chan‘s /b/ is, at a minimum, two things: the source of most of the memes that have dominated social media sites over the previous several years, and it is also the sweaty butthole of the internet. Anonymous is the name assigned to all participants on 4chan that do not enter a name in the field. And they are legion.

The internet is many things to many people, right. On the one side there is the internet that lays golden eggs and is the amniotic fluid that facilitates and nourishes the unencumbered transmission of multinational capitalism (dress it up with all the “Do No Evil” you want, Google). But the internet is also the realization of the libertarian dream: complete anonymity, I can respect your rights 99% of the time by ignoring you.

Hot or Not, People of Walmart, Something Awful, 4chan’s /b/ – they deliver a brand: shit talkers always be talkin’ shit (if you’ll pardon my French).

Lester Bangs

At least they are consistent in their talking. We can be thankful for the shit talkers and their consistent talking of shit and don’t need to feel threatened by it, to quote Lester Bangs as portrayed in Almost Famous, “Don’t worry: you’ll meet them again on the long road to the middle.”

Yeah, talkin’ trash is largely offensive. But how do we explain the joy of talking smack? Like Dave Attell put it, “you ever make fun of somebody so much it you wanna thank them for all the fun you had at their expense?” Humor has an emancipatory effect on us (read Cynthia Willett’s book on The Daily Show and the Colbert Report), it can show us parts of ourselves that we usually could not see, we can be momentarily disarmed and reconsider what we were so upset about.

If you listen to what the top academics of the day are saying, with the collapse of the Cold War dichotomy, the implosion of capitalism, the explosion of identity politics into a thousand shards, and the equivalent rise of fundamentalism in response to all this ambiguity; there is no plan that will save us (a utopian dream that the avant-garde tried to promote until the 70s) there’s not even “a” movement. It’s tempting to talk about an antiglobalization movement or an anticapitalist movement but there is no central tenet to the groups necessarily and the whole is not sustained by a core group of leaders. Contingency is the new organizing standard. This, too, is emancipatory in some respects – perhaps this contingency will mean that there won’t be Stalinist purges of the unfaithful (a problem for all revolutionary avant-garde groups of the last century).

The True Face of Anonymous

Serious stuff. So what’s with the snickering in the back of the room? What’s with the Rick Astley? What’s with these cat pictures? What’s with all that shit talk from Anonymous?

Anonymous, to be called a movement would suggest a certain structure that those participating just don’t really have or want. Anonymous is a tendency among netizens to collaborate, loosely, toward a fuzzy goal. Their war against Scientology (Project Chanology) gave Anonymous a certain gravity. But how does a highly rationalized and bureaucratized organization like the Church of Scientology fight against a contingent tendency whose only rule is to “do it for the lulz” (for the humor of it all)?

Previously I’ve suggested here that the dominant mode of political action today is simply pornographic: a ritual performance that is performed so as to inculcate in the viewer a sense that something has been satisfied. Arguably ritual is very much a central need within humanity, rituals promote solidarity among those involved in the community, rituals reinforce and reinvigorate community. Ritual action does not have to be solemn or based on any metaphysical truth, but ritual does require appropriation and at times re-envisioning in light of the contemporary context; this is called propriety, being proper to our circumstances. Ritual divorced from propriety is pornography.

While there may be an emancipatory tendency within the kind of political action taken by Anonymous, aren’t we really only seeing the latest manifestation of the terror of that project that began in the Enlightenment called Liberalism (which encompasses both sides of that ridiculous bifurcation called liberal and conservative)? There is an excellent response to this question on Encyclopedia Dramatica, your source for all things lulz, and it begins with that great John Donne poem, “any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” To this the response seems to be:

Adbusters wants you to know

I will tell you Anonymous’ motives.
Anonymous does because Anonymous can. It is neither the inherent dark side of every man, nor is it the glorious white knight of the will of the people. Anonymous does because they can. And they feel like it.
So do not shame yourself any longer, if you are at all confused. Put on the mask. Lose yourself. Welcome to the collective.
You are Anonymous.
You are Legion.
You do not forgive.
You do not forget.
And You do not matter.

This summer, Giorgio Agamben said something really interesting in relation to the Tarnac 9 in France. He’d been asked by a fellow classmate what he thought about The Coming Insurrection – should we receive it as a manifesto? He told us that he couldn’t speak of them directly because they are friends, but what we must really consider seriously is that today any political action undertaken outside of a parliamentary organization is considered to be terroristic action.

Anonymous is, so far, not seen as a terrorist organization and it’s probably because ultimately, shit talkers are really only good at only that, flapping their gums.

Re:PHOTO, Tynan on Tech, Glorious Noise, Encyclopedia Dramatica, Stickfigure Distro.



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13 responses to “talkin loud and sayin nothin

  1. Anonymous

    Shit shit shit – you talk about talking shit shit shit shit.

    Yet you praise digital contextualist art, where people take shit off the internet, recontextualize it (make it into new shit) and then shit it out.

    Shit shit shit shit

    What’s up with that?

    There is no face of anonymous, just like there is no face of the named.


    PS Eat shit.

    • Thanks for the love, A-mous!
      I don’t know what’s up with that.
      I guess that’s why I’m reading and writing about it with all y’all out there: hoping that in these dialogues we approach some more understanding of it all.
      What do you think about all this recontextualizing?
      In the Plains of North America the indigenous folk had this folkway of allowing for reappropriation: if you found something on the plains, it was yours to do with it as you might. But “finders keepers” was not protected by the kind of police state that the colonialists over-imposed onto the indigenous. Contesting someone’s claim to ownership often was resolved through the distribution of all materials among the concerned parties. Anonymous doesn’t seem to have this kind of egalitarianism in it. They do have an egalitarian streak, but it seems to be less about distributing the wealth and more about distributing the ill-will.
      Again, thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Banksy

    What’s up, Ben Affleck?

  3. HaydenDerk

    When people deal with Anonymous, they tend to do one of three things: analyze it from a critical point-of-view, romanticise it into something noble or disregard it as either evil or silliness. The big problem with Anonymous is that, really, anonymity is just too new for most people…they just can’t get enough of the “omg i can talk abut sex and no 1 will kno” and “rock against the government because I know nobody can single me out”. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got plenty of issues with…well, everybody and everything but that’s not really the point.

    It’s really easy to see, especially when looking at Anonymous, how childish people can get when they act like they want to and, on the flipside, how intelligent or destructive they can be. But it also shows that the idea of Anonymous or really any group as a collective society really breaks down to a “everybody under an extremely vague general concept with their own interpretation of both that and minor ideas”.

    • Thanks, Hayden, for reading and commenting!
      Yeah, I agree, it’s a really solid point you’re making: the idea that a collective can be thought of as possessing a kind of agency is really collapsing these days. Everyone is a potential pirate today. There’s a great article by Garapon talking about this, here.
      Basically, capitalism itself requires the fluid movement of money, resources, and people; national boundaries stop this. Thus the land has become increasingly more like the sea: Wal-Mart has dissolved the traditional time constraints that we live with because they have an inventory delivery system that is accurate to within minutes (read up on the truck delivery requirements they have it’s an amazing logistical feat), it used to be that a family would expect to buy pickles (as an example) on a weekly basis but in order to deliver everyday low prices now that family buys a year’s supply of pickles and thus the food that they eat has to be transformed into something that can withstand the expansion of its lifetime.
      Terra firma, time itself, is now becoming less restricted and more like the sea. Thus, capitalists, multinational companies, financiers, all are becoming more like the pirates that sailed the high seas of the age of European colonialism.

  4. Anonymous

    wow! i totally don’t remember leaving that first comment. wtf!? I am the homo sacer.

  5. rachel simhon

    Pirates galore. But of course not, not a terrorist organization. Notice that in all of the hysteria and outrage that unifies us in this collective sentiment, if you were to actually get a meeting of the shit-talkers together to take down the big bad man, they’d probably all just start talking shit against each other and it would turn into one big hyperventilating food fight where no one gave enough of a fuck to lead any substantive campaign, sort of why you don’t see buyer’s associations for junkies…..though that might just make for a great movie.

  6. Arin Mason

    “It’s really easy to see, especially when looking at Anonymous, how childish people can get when they act like they want to and, on the flip-side, how intelligent or destructive they can be. But it also shows that the idea of Anonymous or really any group as a collective society really breaks down to a “everybody under an extremely vague general concept with their own interpretation of both that and minor ideas”.

    I agree with the above-stated’s quote(excepting grammar and citation issues).

    The ideology is substantive; People are mediocre(at best) when it relates to critical inquiry.

    They are not propelled to ‘question the question itself’ nor to explore a re-framing and/or a re-conceptualizations or re-contextualization of the “conditions of possibility” under which we might imagine a better future for America, for the world, for Black people and people of color writ large, and for individuality in whatever form–as we extend beyond–to ultimately into determining the socius itself.

    We must acknowledge and address the potentiality of the performance of the spectacle, of the socially choreographic aspect of objectification, of the non-meta contextual ideology we subscribe to, of non-critical thinking, and of the intense and essential mediocrity of the quotidian.

    So, what is efficacious in this regard? What strikes can we make? What collective objectives will move a populace that is both overdetermined from without and within simulteanously? How will they ring true and extend into lived experience? Can art and performance help us realize these goals.

    I believe so, but I also believe in a vision that is determinedly anti-racist and is an active ideologically that is activelky anti-racist, as well as nuanced, emotively and philosophically-inflected and creatively driven.

    Hard to muster and hard to stand behind over the long-haul, but not impossible.
    Shared realities, imagined lives, fissured and fractured possibilities.
    These are actualities already; hence, why may I not imagine the next possible stepping place?

    It is a juncture of regard and recognitions, a rhythmic rhizome (if you will) the very ‘rupture’ that needs to happen to re-think America.

    Who are you Mr. Boshears? I think you are a smartie! I want more!

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