Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Forsaken By Adbusters (My response to that magazine's recent call for submissions.)

I have a long-standing love-hate relationship with Adbusters. Of course, while I've generally been a promoter and defender of that publication... the editorial staff has only deemed one simple letter worthy of publication out of of the many things I've submitted over the years. Now, I realize that my various submissions may have gotten lost in the shuffle, and I know that my work could sometimes use some refinement and editing. But aside from the instance surrounding that single letter... I've never merited a single word of encouragement from the editors. Hardly a pitiable sob story so far, I know, but please hear me out for just one more paragraph while I elaborate on the subtleties of this relationship as I see it.

At the simplest level I've been a subscriber over various periods since the 90's (while picking up many more issues at the newsstands). That earns me a delivery of the publication and a heartfelt “thank you,” at best. Fine, I accept that. Then, when I was released from my time at the lunatic asylum, Adbusters was kind enough to print my brief note describing that experience and the event which led to me being admitted there (an act of public self-immolation, at the mall, on the day after Thanksgiving). I appreciated the opportunity to clarify that experience and understand perfectly well that my regrettable action was neither well-conceived nor particularly endearing. I suppose surviving such an experience and being able to articulate anything about it is not enough to earn any sort of status as a non-commissioned freelance contributor. But I was never asking for the editorial staff to condone or support my specific actions, I simply feel like I might have a unique and relevant perspective which might be worthy of print. And these things alone are not really reflective of my unrequited support for Adbusters.

The thing is... not only have I generally been left out to dry by Adbusters, but that institution has indirectly cost me a cherished writing gig for OpEdNews.com! Having previously submitted many well-received (albeit mild) articles which had been promoted to the headline section of that site... I presumed the right to criticize a piece by Chris Hedges which had appeared in Adbusters. I was consequently insulted via email by the esteemed editor of that website and then barred from submitting anymore. It was never even suggested, in an editorial capacity, that I might tone down the critique. It goes without saying that Adbusters didn't print my critical response to Hedges. But the real issue brought to light here is the difficulty one has when trying to present any real criticism of leftist/radical/progressive icons. I see Adbusters as part of the establishment in this regard and running counter to any underlying theme which suggests they are open to criticism and willing to push radical dialogue. Sour grapes, I know. But Adbusters can publish a flawed piece which misrepresents many modern radicals and then any criticism of any such article is brushed under the rug. (As a final point along the lines of this aside... I'd challenge everyone reading this to put prominent progressives and radicals more on the spot and ask the likes of Chomsky/Hedges/Jensen/Greenwald... “Who has presented the most valid criticism of your positions and which of your positions do you personally have the most difficulty defending?) 

But I digress. More recently... I have been an early and consistent support of the occupy movement. When the initial announcement of the idea came via email I immediately posted it on Twitter. I then did a search for the #occupywallstreet hashtag on that site and no one had used it before me. I'm fairly certain that I was the first person to use the #occupywallstreet hashtag on Twitter.  I also made an early blog post on the subject before it all kicked off, and then two follow-up posts during the early days of the protest when it wasn't receiving much attention. And, as insignificant as those contributions may have been, I want to point out that I've been an active supporter of the movement from the start. I also went down to the local incarnation of #OWS many times.

Beyond that... I've been trying to challenge the status quo for much of my life. I've written, from a radical perspective, well-received analysis of many protests. For example, I had the top search results for an article about the "RNC protest" in 2008 while the event was happening. Currently, as I write this, I have a first page search result for “Google critique.” And it's simply a rarity for me to find someone who has created and distributed a broader variety of agit-prop (stickers, zines, leaflets, letters to the editor, et cetera). I was at the WTO protest in Seattle, a couple DNC protests, and have attended various anti-war protests and corporate walks of shame. Recently I was in Madison, Wisconsin as 100,000 people surrounded and occupied the capitol building.

Don't get me wrong though... I, too, often find autobiographical pieces like this one to be blustering, droll, and nearly insufferable. And, while it somewhat embarrasses me to spell these things out, I can't exactly put these things on an application at Wal-Mart or Goldman Sachs. For better and worse... I have somewhat sacrificed any personal chance at a typical, arguably safe and secure, mainstream consumeristic life. It hasn't been all bad, of course, but the path I've personally went down has been one of great hardship, stress, danger, inconvenience, pain, and suffering. I have all but literally been to hell and back. And yet... I continue to be insulted, slandered, spied upon, and generally misunderstood by polite society. This despite operating with relative anonymity and/or behind my nom de plume – Nihilo Zero.

Anyway, further concerning my pride and vanity, let me just say that you don't arrive at a major depressive episode and get diagnosed with dysthymia simply because of the pure admiration you have for yourself. So, while I will never attempt suicide again, I have led a life filled with many regrets and write this from a place of sincere humility. At this point I am an empty shell of half the man I used to be. I am scarred from head to toe, inside and out. I do still have some pride and a bit of dignity, but I also have many regrets and am truly sorry for many of the things I've done. My in-depth knowledge of pro wrestling sometimes embarrasses me. I am a real person.

So... what is really the motivation for writing this? Like most other things in life, that can't be summed up with simplicity. At the most superficial level I suppose I'd like some recognition for my contributions to radical discourse and my support for various radical struggles. I feel confident in standing behind anything I've written in my blog as being in favor of basic freedoms, environmental sustainability, and general issues of social justice. I feel I succeed at pushing the limits of political and philosophical discourse while writing from a fairly unique perspective. And I wonder if it's my lack of a formal education, my poor editing, or my pedestrian subject matter which prevents Adbusters from publishing my work?

But the recognition I seek is not purely for my ego (anonymous publication would also have been fine and was submitted with that possible condition). I often suspect that the government has a more complete picture of my activism than many of my closest friends (as I really don't carry on about it in person very much). And, because of that, I fear for my safety and freedom as the level of political intolerance today is arguably surpassing that of the McCarthy era. My relative anonymity and obscurity may actually make me an easier target than a more well-know author or activist. Of course... maybe the feds don't want me to be more widely read either?

In any case, it is my belief that the government is more of a threat to isolated activists than most believe. I have had overt tails for weeks on end, have probably been successfully seduced by the more charming variants of agents, and I likely exist today in an infiltrated cooperative community. I have been poisoned at a major protest with strong psychedelics and leaflets suggesting suicide have appeared on my doorstep (before I foolishly took that advice). I even wonder about the time, as a young radical in my mid 20's, when I was run down on my bicycle by a speeding snow plow (in 70 degree weather before the first snow of the season). It is almost impossible to imagine the depths of the villainous depravity to which agents of the state will stoop. The horror of your worst fears in these regards are probably just the tip of the iceberg in terms what's actually happening.

I'll acknowledge the possibility of having a touch of some justifiable paranoia, but that doesn't mean they are not after either or any of us. It's potentially that touch of paranoia which I also feel might justify seeing my writings published. At one level, it's part of pushing the envelope. At another... it's part of what makes me safe to other radicals and activists. This is because I assume that at least one of us is under heavy surveillance and absolutely do not want to be involved in the specifics of any illegal activities. I am only willing to discuss the generalities and theory unless I'm defending a particular action which I have had nothing to do with. You can take that for granted, but I'm not trying to take a leadership role in some leftist hierarchy and don't want the power to be involved with specific actions related to any such organization. I'm not trying to ingratiate myself in such a way and believe it's to my credit.

Pardon me for digressing somewhat again – I don't always do that – but I was trying to explain why I'd like to be published by Adbusters and why I feel worthy of the honor.

As I mentioned, I feel as though I've been consistent and ethical in regard to my blog. My focus can also be observed through my Twitter account (now mostly inactive) and by looking at my most successful posts on Reddit (where I also moderate the r/AnarchistNews subreddit). My writing has also been allowed to appear on the two most prominent anarchist news sites – news.infoshop.org & anarchistnews.org – and I feel if it's consistently been good enough for them, then it might be good enough for Adbusters. Additionally... I've felt ahead of the curve in some regards. While some noted the root causes of the Arab Spring after the fact... I know of no one else who was bold enough to make predictions about it a few months beforehand. My primer on activist security culture is probably the only such primer that many people have seen – and I feel it's comprehensiveness is to my credit. I've addressed a broad variety of topics from a radical perspective and feel that I've garnered some populist appeal in doing so. Are these not the sorts of things which Adbusters is looking to publish?

If it's my flawed personal character or my past which is making any editor hesitant... that's somewhat more understandable. I have a hard time coming to terms with the reckless and unwise actions of my youth. And, even if I were to meet myself today... I probably wouldn't show much tolerance. To say that I've often acted like a fool would be an understatement. But how many more decades must I be relegated to the margins and exist as a veritable pariah for mistakes which I admit, regret, have suffered for, and continue to live with on a daily basis?

My past actions and experiences have given me certain perspectives which I don't feel many bourgeois radicals and activists can fully appreciate. For example... certain radical groups and philosophers suggest losing control, going wild, taking big risks, and being bold. That's all fine and good, but where are they after the fact? They speak to a broad audience but, when action is taken, they then only stand behind their immediate friends and acquaintances – who are often merely milquetoast academics or formally trained artists who don't actually push the aforementioned limits. But one of my biggest flaws, ironically and arguably, is that I often counsel too much caution and prudence when it comes to young radicals contemplating some political action. This might surprise those who knew me fifteen years ago, but it's the truth. You don't go through what I've went through (with the debriding, the surgeries, and everything else) without losing some very rough edges. So, while I suggest to aggressive young radicals that they should take a measured and calculating approach (while considering all the potential repercussions upon their lives), others seem to generally advise hastiness and throwing cautiousness to the wind. But again... where are they after the fact? It should be clarified if only moral support (at best) will be offered after you make a hasty or serious decision. I only mention this because of what I've found in my own personal experience. More likely, after a challenging act of protest, there will remain the same old simple grudges and ideological or personal feuds – and you won't necessarily be in a better place to deal with these things after any particular action.

All of the above paragraphs, before this one, were written months ago – before I completely ran out of steam. My physical, social and economic situation has deteriorated even more since then. I've done little but survive in the pallid squalor of what amounts to my life. I've aggregated some news, posted some snarky comments on some forums, and have briefly interjected my opinion in some passing conversations, but mostly I've watched TV, played video games (League of Legends), drank a bit, gained some weight, and have generally wasted away doing nothing. I'd be remiss not to mention some epic games of peak-a-boo and the instance of a bat flying into my quarters, but those are simply brief respites in the process of my overall immiseration.

I'm inclined to finish writing this now because I've recently been seeing the call-out for submissions from Adbusters magazine. The most recent one today was in the form of an email with the header stating: “Adbusters is looking for fired-up, postcool creatives.” Well, I'll be damned if that doesn't sound something like me! Fired up? Yes, unfortunately, in a quite literal sense. Postcool? Well... I'm not sure if I was ever cool. And the request is from Adbusters! I'm sure I've generally worked for the cause of adbusting for many years now, despite certain consumeristic foibles. So... this is my submission. This is me responding to the call.

Now the question is, for me, whether or not this submission will be printed in Adbusters. I've had my words repackaged and reposted elsewhere on prominent websites by different people, but it almost seems like I mystically repel editors somehow – even if they really have no idea who I am, and even if they appreciate a watered down version of what I have to say when it's later presented by someone else. It almost has the feeling of a curse. And I know that I've taken an aggressive tone here with the title of this submission and the somewhat pathetically pompous picture I paint, but I don't know what other tone or tactic I've yet to try in attempting to get published! It's also not lost upon me that far more talented and committed individuals must also fall through the cracks despite their contributions to any sort of a counterculture. But, maybe, if I can sprout up like a proverbial weed in the crack of the sidewalk... others will too.

In a way... I'm writing this for everyone who has been marginalized, dismissed without a thought, and forsaken by those whom they'd expect otherwise. To be perfectly honest... I don't have much faith in this being published. And I don't really take it personally that Adbusters has refrained from publishing any of my more more poignant articles. At this point I'm not even exactly sure why I ever started writing this piece in the first place. I only know that, if it's published, it would be nice if it were printed in it's entirety (although I obviously can't be too picky about that). While submitting it I will concurrently post it on my blog & on some forums and then I will get back to living at the height of a shallow mundanity. I'll watch some wrestling, eat some junk food, dream some empty dreams, not get around to finishing any other projects, and keep on keepin' on. I only wish everyone else was doing better than me.

I think I might try to get more into Taoism.

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