Season Two Episode Four: Seattle & Other Gossip

Bellamy is back and I inadvertently used the wrong microphone (hence the static when I talk). This is kind of a catch up episode as August was a busy month and there was a lot to talk about. Gossip fans will love the deets on a number of silly things. Podcasts are the new zine.

Tick Tock

1:00 Discussion about Seattle (anarchist bookfair)
2:50 Providence (anarchist bookfair)
9:00 Eric McDavid
13:50 The incident in Portland
22:30 The puny king of crap mountain
24:30 The critique & searching for a response
27:00 Against the Fascist Creep is coming & ARR is a jerk
33:20 Listener feedback
48:00 JZ Which Side podcast
53:30 What is the etymology of squaw?
55:00 Butthurt Gillis

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19 September, 2016

21 thoughts on “Season Two Episode Four: Seattle & Other Gossip

  1. Hi folks,

    So for the record A! is mischaracterizing my critique of him as a social capitalist (acting in bad faith to build social connections and popularity within certain milieus or circles rather than sincerely explore ideas). I don’t know where he’s getting this whole thing about “drugs” from. The anarchist milieu as a whole has a bad case of social capitalism (many “communists” privately defining communism as the game of accumulating social capital rather than material capital) and many anarchists in my circles talk a lot about those dynamics and behaviors, which I guess include people who leverage popularity to get drugs so maybe I’ve mentioned that at some point. If A! wants to take general discussion on such matters as a cloaked personal crusade against him personally, I guess whatever, but that’s not the case. Although obviously I am not a fan.

    It’s a mistake to frame social capitalist behavior as playing to the largest possible audience. Clearly A! is not some conventional red anarchist, but local power — maneuvering so as to be strongly positioned in a small pond — can sometimes be far worse. Cult leaders for example are one form of social capitalist although their reach rarely stretches beyond their compound. (So it’s not a contradiction to be both “out of touch” and “cool” if folks were using both those terms, since flows of popularity or hipness are often out of touch with the broader population or cultural developments. Indeed it’s particularly cool in many circles to *be* out-of-touch.)

    Literally anyone who “does the work” or engages with the world to any degree builds social relationships and status, that alone is not some deplorable act, but there are perverse incentives and feedbacking dynamics that can emerge as a result and prove deeply constraining. Playing cheap laugh-lines that resonate well with an audience’s superficial read of things so as to avoid actually grappling with the content in good faith is an example of pure positioning. A! suggests he’s all about the ideas and that his wafting from position to position or language to language is just openminded inquiry. But it can also be read as largely opportunistic (especially when his positions change based on what is strategic to leverage in a given social context).

    A!’s characterization of his wording at that ’13 BASTARD — the response that deeply perturbed me and and persuaded me to treat him as a malicious persona — was clearly and trivially not about “not speaking to other people’s projects in a global way”. A!’s whole talk on anti-organizationalism was about taking his personal experiences in LBC and other projects and extracting more general takeaways. The poor young red kid in the audience (who sadly didn’t dress the right way or use the hippest words to the BASTARD crowd) asked about issues of power and privilege both reflecting systematic power structures AND the more situationally unique (because interpersonal dynamics of power don’t have to line up with Formal Oppression to be objectionable/unethical). The question was both directed at the specific example projects A! was using as a springboard AND to the more general takeaways. A! answered neither. And his specific language to me later was “I don’t care about power and privilege, those aren’t things I’m interested in.”

    A! gets broad criticism from around the anarchist milieu for leveraging power and positioning in fucked up ways, leading to a constant exodus of folk from his circles, and did so for many years before that BASTARD. His very cocky response at that conference made me re-evaluate this context and in particular the political ideologies or perspectives he’s struggled to normalize and popularize.

    There are a lot of people in the scene who gravitate towards radical milieus and projects as an arena to pursue power — often because they realize they’re too weak to cut it in other arenas like say as Gordon Gekkos in finance. Some do this as ideologues. Some do this as scene patriarchs. Some do this as traveler kid fuckbois. Some do this as organizational bureaucrats. In popular average-folk parlance this is often just referred to as “sociopathy” (don’t try to twist that to being merely just signifying anti-social). Since that particularly astonishingly frank and smirky exchange with me in 2013 it has been my read that A! is more this than not — to the point where it’s not worth engaging under the assumption of good faith — and that many of his political projects like “nihilist anarchism” are mostly about defanging anarchism’s antibodies to such.


    A!’s defenses of other scene patriarchs (like Kristian Williams in the Patriarchy In The Movement drama) who have totally different politics but who are likewise in some position of scene power threatened by the rabble of anarchism offer just one more piece of evidence. Thankfully even most PNW “nihilists” correctly understood the context of the “we will not be silent in the face of your violence” (and the calling of the cops on the kids protesting), despite the optics being particularly bad, and sided with the locals. (It’s constantly affirming to watch the bay area nihilists around A! so hostile to me side with the platformists, maoists and other nasty red bureaucrats in Portland for fear of some boogeyman social justice idpol menace that stands up to popular writers and figures perpetrating abusive shit or rushing to shield abusers / vilify or marginalize survivors.)

    • As an innocent bystander your description of how “social capital,” cults and seeking inner and outer power work struck me as…confused at best. A reflection on your own social skills at worst.

      Even the more well known cults had or have public personas or leaders devoted to a popular public face. And those cults that ended up being suicidal generally started out as “popular and open” before the leaders closed them off and pushed them into oblivion.

      Which is actually pretty important to understand if you want to critique certain sections of anarchist milieus that revolve around leaders who close off a continually shrinking group of people. Funny enough, those leaders are always declaring other people of having the social capital. Least in my experience.

    • As an innocent bystander your description of how “social capital,” cults and seeking inner and outer power work struck me as…confused at best. A reflection on your own social skills at worst.

      Even the more well known cults had or have public personas or leaders devoted to a popular public face. And those cults that ended up being suicidal generally started out as “popular and open” before the leaders closed them off and pushed them into oblivion.

      Which is actually pretty important to understand if you want to critique certain sections of anarchist milieus that revolve around leaders who close off a continually shrinking group of people. Funny enough, those leaders are always declaring other people of having the social capital. Least in my experience.

      • Excellent!
        I was confused at first and open to the Ideas of ‘social capital’ being pushed by A! – despite my lack of actually knowing A! at all. Until I looked into William Gillis’ blog/webpage/ideology etc.
        Fuck that!

        Markets… come on. Sounds like a bad Robert Heinlein novel!

        Trans humanism… Sounds like techno fascism to me. How about the matrix? Everyone living in a dream world of 1999 postmodern capitalism. Our minds are not spaces of liberation, just mirrors of the fucked up shit around us. Who dose the mining William?

        Usually I have experienced ‘social capitalists’ within the activist frame work — that of pushing a specific agenda along with judgmental self sacrifice. Maybe on a sports team.

        What ever I know neither Gillis or Aragorn!, but I can judge writing and speaking based on Ideas presented and critical analysis.

  2. Since my name was mentioned during the listener feedback portion of this episode, I would like to respond and try to clarify what I said in the comments section of the episode “Why are we so weak?” Bellamy said that egoism and nihilism are his “starting points”. I cannot say with certainty that I have an intellectual starting point. Perhaps it is domestication and alienation.I agree with Aragorn! that weakness goes beyond anarchist circles.I notice this condition nearly everywhere,but I am unable to explain it or to trace it’s origins.Since I posted my comments in the “Why are we so weak?” episode, I have been seeking to find the proximate origins of anarcho-nihilism. The following is from the 1988 edition of Fifth Estate. It is an article written by E.B.Maple and it has to with Zerzan’s “Agriculture “essay: ” “John will allow nothing of this world to be taken for granted nor to be part of a new one, producing a revolutionary nihilism which many find hard to swallow.” And this from “Why Primitivism “, a Zerzan essay written in 2002: “But if the progress of nihilism is identical to the nihilism of progress, whence comes the rupture,the caesura? How to pose a radical break from the totality of progress,technology,and modernity?” In the spirit of continuing dialogue, I will withdraw my comments about egoism and nihilism being “dead ends” and intellectual “deserts “. I am doing this not because I have become either an egoist or a nihilist. I am doing this because I can see elements of egoism and nihilism in the critique of civilization by anarcho-primitivists,with Zerzan still leading the charge for A/P. If nihilism means a gigantic NO! to the foundations of civilization-domestication and alienation-then I believe there is a lot to work with here.I still lean toward the Anarchy of John Zerzan and Kevin Tucker,but I do not understand why Zerzan continues to be puzzled by anarcho-nihilism.Did he not lay the intellectual foundations for nihilism?

    • Speaking as someone who doesn’t get, at all, how “nihilism means a gigantic NO! to the foundations of civilization-domestication and alienation”, could you explain more precisely what you mean? I’m closer to Zerzan’s view on this one.

      As I said on the most recent episode of my own podcast, I get how anarchist praxises springing from nihilism and egoism can be liberatory, but I don’t get how they are anticiv

      • Lone Raven, could you post a link to your own podcast please? It sounds interesting.

        I too would like to hear some informed discussion of nihilism. I found FRR helpful for understanding how egoism can be combined with anticiv.

        • I too would be interested in a link to Lone Raven’s podcast – as well as a little clarification on what he means by “Zerzan’s view” regarding nihilism and anti-civilization. I have my own critiques of nihilism but it is more derived from a sort of Deleuze/Stirner-inflected post-situationism than anything Zerzan has either written or spoken about. Unfortunately, however, I don’t have my own podcast in which I discuss these matters, so this comments section would have to suffice.

          • Hi Katla, Frederich. Thanks for the interest.

            My conversations with Osmia can be found at

            Zerzan’s view on nihilism appears (to me) to be very similar to mine.

            But first, let me say that I’ve heard people use ‘nihilism’ in two distinct ways.

            1. Civilisation cannot (and is not going to) be reformed or otherwise ‘saved’, so there is no point trying to enable collapse or prepare for it, one should instead entirely focus on one’s life and make the most of it (in ways that are sometimes vague or left entirely up to the individual) before you die.

            To me. this is pessimism. I also don’t think civilisation is very likely to transition into a future primitive, which is why for a few years now I’ve been focused mainly on exodus and ‘parallel polis’.

            2. A disavowal of all truth, meaning, morality, virtues, abstract values, and “anything outside oneself”.

            To me, this is what I think of when I think of nihilism, and frankly, I don’t see the appeal at all.

            Once one has committed oneself to what I call ‘ontological egoism’ (but am thinking of a better word cuz I want to drop the e-word altogether), and treats people as unique individuals, and stops treating spectres and essences as real at all, that is enough for me. That leaves me as clear-sighted as I could hope to be, it lets me better see the warm and goodness in people as well as not pulling wool over my eyes about the harsh and horrible shit that is everywhere. It invigorates and galvanises me in preparation for pursuing my goals, and it DOES NOT rule out my matching of my own path with wider goals like a future primitive being realised…somewhere.

            One last thing: I’m really a very open person and would be glad of any feedback, or overtures towards more personal communication. Adios 🙂

  3. Living in Portland, I am extremely disappointed in the anarchist community generally. Most of my friends have left because of various reasons and it seems that the people who are still around are just pacifist-socialists in disguise or some form of trans-humanist communists. At least that is how I feel on a bad day. I am sorry I missed Aragorn! last month. People talk a lot of shit but contribute nothing in the form of theory or action or whatever. It is easy to get on the internet and feel anonymous’…..mostly Portland is full of yuppie liberal socialists trying to cling to some idea of ‘alternative culture.

  4. Reply to Lone Raven: I did not say that nihilism is anti-civ. I said “if nihilism is anti-civ “. I am still trying to figure out what is it that nihilists are saying no to. Obviously, Zerzan is not a nihilist, and he is not an egoist. He is an anti-civ anarcho-primitivist.Again, I ask what is nihilism? What are its origins?

  5. More questions. Are there any nihilists who are not egoists? What is the relationship between nihilism and egoism? Do they offer a theory of social change? Is an egoist an individualist?

    • I am a non-egoist nihilist. The writings of Stirner cover the same kind of material that a lot of nihilists are interested in but I don’t think they are the same. The history of the kind of specifically anarchist nihilism I discuss comes from me, influenced by the SI, anti-civ thought, and other things articulated about 10 years ago in my two pamphlets taken together as Boom! (aka nihilism, anarchy, & the 21st century and nihilism: consequences). Probably what you calling a Theory of Social Change is discussed there.


      • Speaking as a non-nihilist egoist who nonetheless acknowledges an important role for nihilism to play in anarchist activity, I’d like to address your final question about whether an egoist is, in fact, an individualist. While I think it would be a stretch to say that there is a categorical distinction to be made between egoism and individualism, it would be just as problematic to say that they are synonymous with each other. While both tend to place ethical priority on the desires and preferences of “the Individual,” they differ on the ontological status that they each assign to this concept. While individualism (at least in the ‘classical’ sense) is more explicit in its tendency to take “the Individual” as a fixed and pre-constituted identity, egoism, at least as I have come to interpret it, tends to regard this identity as more open-ended and contingent – as always already in the process of creating itself. While there are certainly times when Stirner seems to venerate “the Ego” as an abstract ideal in the same sense as the more pious might venerate the name of “God” or “Mankind,” he also opens up the possibility of an entirely different interpretation. This is perhaps no more clearly stated than when he says in the concluding paragraphs of “The Ego and Its Own,”

        “They say of God, ‘Names name thee not.’ That holds good of me: no concept expresses me, nothing that is designated as my essence exhausts me; they are only names. Likewise they say of God that he is perfect and has no calling to strive after perfection. That too holds good of me alone.

        I am owner of my might, and I am so when I know myself as unique. In the unique one the owner himself returns into his creative nothing, of which he is born.”

        The salient point here is that this notion of the Ego as being “born” out of a “creative nothing” stands in stark contrast to the idea of the Individual as an ontological “a priori” in the same sense as the Cartesian “cogito” or the so-called “rational agent” found in Randian laissez-faire economic theory. Also, while Stirner himself never used the following terms, it seems to me that there is a definite affinity between his notion of “the Ego” as conceived in the above quote and Deleuze’s discussion of “becoming” and “individuation.” As a bit of an aside, it is worth mentioning that this latter term was borrowed from Gilbert Simondon, a 20th century French theorist who’s ideas rode the fault line between Philosophy and information theory, a branch of cybernetics that was only in the early stages of development during the Cold War era when people like John Nash and the Rand Corporation where first beginning to apply cybernetic theory to economics and military strategy. In such a changing historical and technological context, the question of how different types of subjectivities are produced and directed towards the reproduction of global capital becomes critically important. A more permeable and open-ended understanding of what it is to be “a Self” is one possible route for resisting this tendency of post-industrial capitalist civilization to colonize and co-opt all that it touches.

  6. Not sure if y’all saw/heard this episode of Anarchy Radio:

    At the 16 minute mark there’s a caller who basically tells JZ he’s a putz for being willfully ignorant when he talks about nihilism. It’s worth a listen just to keep in mind/on the record.

    There’s also the usual tedium of his misunderstanding of egoism throughout the show.

  7. every verse is a parabolic representation of some unique meaning, none can be squarely seen, all meaning is intangible, unreasonable. an author or agent can be no-thing but is perceived relatively by intuitive atonement . a nihilistic attitude is one cognizant of the masquerade, whether incarnated as social-movement-organization, legal rights or moralistic consent(it’s effect is pervasive through the mathematical realm). the concept of State and it’s current process -Civilization- with their Policy of Nature and Jobs are propped up and enforced upon our beautiful world by a generalized, popular respect for their moral veracity (God’s Will/Humane progress). how to become organized -how to thrive together- in a world of ubiquitous delusion where the relationship between source and destiny is denied while fruitless institutions are faithfully insisted upon? how,?; to start with nothing and, to end with nothing? to remain in the freedom of non-dual choice, to prevail with an unwieldy contentedness, even; to die knowing the company of a true-friend. does this approach not present an absolute, radical praxis in negation of hierarchical authority?; the pursuit of truth, friendship, love, indeed, the subjective creation of meaning over void. (is this nihilist?)

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