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Pirate politics: from accelerationism to escalationism?

In 2005, we arranged with Piratbyrån a May Day celebration. It was, if I remember it right, just at the time when Sweden was about to implement harsher copyright laws, and even politicians began to realize that the regulation of file-sharing activity was actually becoming political. The celebration, however, was not in a mood of sadness or protest, but rather a joyful affirmation of the openness of P2P networks. One of the slogans: “Welfare begins at 100 mbit”.
Accelerating digital communications and enabling access was fresh strategies which produced a kind of politics which did not fit into the Swedish party system. This accelerationism also enabled a certain political transversality and new alliances between hackers, artists and intellectuals, and it could quite easily be underpinned by a mainstream deleuzianism and/or benjaminism. All this while entertainment industries kept clinging on to the model of selling “units” (cd, dvd).

Now in 2010, we are tunneling communications. Well, we do not only dig tunnels – we also connect them to post-digital spaces – but we certainly do not call for accelerated communications any more. At least, acceleration has ceased completely to be politically interesting.

ChrisK recently summarized (my translation):

As matters stand now we must think in terms of cipherspace, the net’s tunnels of encrypted information. If the 00’s was the decade when cyberspace imploded and we finally stopped thinking the internet as a “virtual world”, then the 2010’s might be cipherspace+hackerspace.

Indeed, we have been talking about darknets at least since 2005. But for long, we tended to present darknets only as the less preferable alternative to open P2P-networks. If openness was associated with the famous “long tail”, we speculated that attacks on open sharing would not stop sharing but force it into smaller and darker networks of trust, which could limit access to the very mainstream of music and movie files. This theory probably still bears some truth, but seems to be just one tiny part of a larger complex. In the end, many of us use virtual private networks and access our IRC communities wia SSH on a daily basis.
Darknets for data do not need to use the internet infrastructure, but when they do, they have the character of an internet-in-the-internet. The most radically anonymous darknet experiments, like I2P, does not even have any gateways to the “ordinary” internet, but operates in tunnels underneath – slooowly.

It is Lovecraftian worm-ridden space that makes solidity the altruistic host of emergence.

Yes, this all resonates a lot with stuff that Reza Negarestani writes in Cyclonopedia about the “()hole complex”:

Nemat-space is an ultimate crawling machine: it is essentially cryptogenic and interconnecting with anonymous-until-Now.

There seems to be a logic of escalation inherent in the drive to tunnels, catacombs and holey space – be it in Tora Bora, Iran, Arizona or I2P.

To do yet another quick historical comparison. In 2006, ChrisK warned that the planned wiretapping laws would only escalate encryption and tunneling – which, in its turn, will surely provoke legislators to attack darknets, and so on, as a positive feedback loop out of control. In 2010 ChrisK instructs how to actually build these tunnels. I do not see this as paradoxical, neither as reducible to one singular tactics, but rather as something that we could maybe talk about as “escalationism”.
To a certain degree, we can see parallells between the nether and the ether. Matthew Fuller once wrote, about pirate radio:

Mutual escalation of competing technologies, of legislation and its object, of the appropriation of locations for studios and for transmitter sites, produces its own mutational field in the composition of the machinic phylum of radio – /…/ but the result is in excess of what had previously been legislated against. It is now harder to locate and capture a radio station connected in this way to a transmitter than it was before the legislation was introduced.

After reading the treatise on the ()hole complex included in Cyclonopedia, however, one becomes quite certain that the escalations of the nether (tunnels and darknets) are something quite different, not to say quite more cthulhian.

According to the archeological law of contemporary military doctrines and Freudian psychoanalysis, for every inconsistency or anomaly on the ground, there is a buried schizoid consistency: to reach the schizoid consistency, a paranoid consistency or a plane of paranoia must first be traversed.

We can not be “for” or “against” darknets – not even in the sense that one, maybe, can be “for” or “against” free and open P2P networks. That’s why I look forward to applying Reza Negarestanis genuinely weird theory of the ()hole complex – which is partly a fundamentally reworked version of Deleuze & Guattari’s treatise on nomadology and the war machine – on current darknet dynamics.

In late 2008, K-punk and some other British bloggers critically discussed a certain (deleuzian) political strategy of “accelerationism“, a discussion involed several references back to Nick Land (whose presence in Cyclonopedia is again rather obvious).
Once upon a time, in the days of the CCRU, Nick Land and Sadie Plant wrote a text called “cyberpositive“, where they attacked Norbert Wiener‘s kind of cybernetics.

His propaganda against positive feedback – quantizing it as amplification within an invariable metric – has been highly influential, establishing a cybernetics of stability fortified against the future. There is no space in such a theory for anything truly cyberpositive, subtle or intelligent beyond the objectivity required for human comprehension. Nevertheless, beyond the event horizon of human science, even the investigation of self-stabilizing or cybernegative objects is inevitably enveloped by exploratory or cyberpositive processes.

Nick Land wrote, in another text from many years ago:

Positive feedback is the elementary diagram for self-regenerating circuitry, cumulative interaction, auto-catalysis, self-reinforcing processes, escalation, schismogenesis, self-organization, compressive series, deutero-learning, chain-reaction, vicious circles, and cybergenics. Such processes resist historical intelligibility, since they obsolesce every possible analogue for anticipated change.

This cascade of concepts can obviously not be a manifesto for escalationism, but can possibly stimulate some further reflection on how it might be thought. Then we can also remember how the theory of path dependency, within political science, has also been defined as a case of positive feedback. In most cases it would be quite silly to believe in any simpel possibility to counter positive feedback (escalation) with negative feedback (stabilization), especially if we are actually talking about internet protocols.

For now, I will have to leave open the question about how escalationism differs from accelerationism. No doubt, this goes beyond a simple issue of emergent versus linear dynamics. While acceleration might be thought of as a means to an end (or even an end in itself), escalations are rarely sought for and usually thought of as culminating in some kind of “war”.
However, we could say that escalationism does not have escalation as its object, any more than the war machine has war as its object. It might even have more to do with preventing the most disastrous escalations. One way to do it might be to let the escalation happen before it becomes disastrous. But it is in the nature of escalationism that there is no subject that can judge the right timing, before the whole thing has escalated into something else.

(Just some very preliminary thoughts. It might develop to something, it might not.)

29 Comments (Open | Close)

29 Comments To "Pirate politics: from accelerationism to escalationism?"

#1 Comment By Marcus On January 13, 2010 @ 8:02 am

Very interesting, indeed!

One trail of thought to analulz further might be if tunnelling could be seen as a (penetrating) Warmachine using State-processes around its edges, to claim a (non)territory, to defend a smooth space. Usually we talk about the State appropriating Warmachines, not the other way around…

In swedish: Efter ett hastigt besök i Säve-bunkern med några av våra gemensamma vänner slängde jag ner några lika hastiga tankar om bunkrar [1] (Otto vB har byggt på efter det). Texten borde byggas om och ut, och vemsomhelst är välkommen att göra så, men: Det kanske finns ett släktskap mellan bunkern och tunneln som kan vara värt att utforska?

#2 Comment By monki On January 13, 2010 @ 9:01 am

02:45 + tellurian | monki: In this soggy mess, tunnels are dug more easily, even though they may collapse without warning. #tunnel()

Tunnels can be seen as an undesired phenonema when viewed as a dialectic between the unconnected tunnel and the connected open sphere. This is what, as you say, we warned against from Piratbyrån. That file-sharing would exist in the same quantity as before even if it was driven underground, but that the index would be disconnected and we would have islands that could not communicate with each other.

From 2006, Piratbyrån in brno:
“The alternative to p2p piracy is not No Piracy, but person2person piracy. […] This will not mean less piracy, but less pluralism in that is shared with more limited sources of information. You being restricted to the archives of your personal network of friends. […] It wouldn’t cut the head of piracy, as anti-pirate pyramid theories suggest, but its tail”.

I’m trying to grasp the shift that I think has occured now, when the surface seems empty and meaningless and the tunnels are no longer isolated islands, but form connected societies of different forms of tunnels, with paths, infrastructure, information and people going between them.

At transmediale 2009, Piratbyrån is instead talking about ablishing the open, flat and empty ocean in favour of the richness and complexity of the forest. Perhaps it is worth to look at the relation between cave-based and jungle-based insurgencies. In the desert you have tunnels/holey or you have the flat surface (and god as the third level, as cyclonopedia has it as the twist on D&Gs war machine). But in the jungle you have tunnels, you have open fields, but also the semi-smooth, greyzone space of the jungle.

Perhaps escalatory tunneling is inherent to desert environments?

#3 Comment By rasmus On January 13, 2010 @ 9:13 am

Marcus: Bunkers, tunnels, caves, catacombs and tiny pores can all be thought with the same concepts, I think.

Monki: Exactly, this is what I’m aiming at. In the post above I intentionally left out a large plot-hole, namely what happened in between 2005 and 2010, which was of course a lot.
One thing amongst many was, for example, when we came out from a tunnel with our bus on the other side of the Alps, and squatted the Fortezza and its catacombs (with lasers)…

#4 Comment By mlowdi On January 13, 2010 @ 10:41 am

And let’s not forget that both Mt. Cheyenne and the Urals were dug out and tunnelled through during an era of escalation that also gave birth to cybernetics. The escalation in terms of nuclear arsenal and spying capabilities aside, the Cold War escalated tunneling practices (and decentralisation.) Flying command-and-control centers, decentralised networks, cryptography, camouflage… I’m not saying this is comparable to the escalation that’s taking place on (under, around, inbetween) the internets right now, but for me it certainly hints at the idea that escalation can be seen as a burrowing activity.
Reconnecting to monki’s comment, I believe the jungle can be seen as a nominally flat structure of tunnels (as well as, of course, the tunnels/clearings/trees triad.) For the jungle insurgent the hidden and temporary paths for all intents and purposes _is_ a network of tunnels. (Compare to the US using Agent Orange in Vietnam to de-leaf the jungle — opening the tunnels to aerial surveillance.) This I believe _can_ be seen as a parallel to what goes on in the darknet building, especially with I2P and other kinds of path-hiding routing protocols. Building temporary paths out of a semi-smooth space of possible paths, perhaps.

Not really sure what I’m getting at here I’m afraid. Possibly just the notion that tunnels and escalation somehow seems to follow each other.

#5 Comment By chrisk On January 13, 2010 @ 12:57 pm

Indeed there are tunnels dug out by the State, and there are tunnels that are rhizomatic.

During the peak of the Cold War Sweden and many other states built monstrous tunnels for military purposes. On the other hand tunnels are built for drug traffic and migration across borders. There are tunnels, and there are Tunnels. Major and minor ones.

On the internet, I would estimate that most tunnels are actually Tunnels. Corporate encryption via banking, VPN etc. are probably the largest tunnel diggers on the internet.

However, that may change dramatically if p2p/f2f traffic goes under the radar, especially if implemented as default settings in bittorrent clients etc. Peers in swarms know how to get data flowing.

#6 Comment By monki On January 13, 2010 @ 1:02 pm

mlowdi: great input on the jungle! Jungle paths are temporary paths in a semi-smooth space as you say. Perhaps new tunneling technology allows one to use the underground as if it was a jungle.

Yes, the cold war burrowing is very evident here in Gothenburg in places like Sävebunkern.

I’m thinking as the rise of the drone planes as a very specific technique for areas that has been “de-leafed”/smoothed/flattned (good term for this). Afghanistan, flatlands, drones watching and recording every surface. Military on the ground try to “surface” enemies, by interaction and (poor) efforts of trust-building with locals.

Possibilities of tunneling here is both actual tunnels/caves in moutains, out of reach for the drones and cloaking, acting as any local, which resembles internet tunneling.

#7 Comment By chrisk On January 13, 2010 @ 1:07 pm

Monki: The relationship between caves and drones needs to be understood, for sure.

#8 Pingback By Nya bottar i nätverken at blay.se On January 13, 2010 @ 2:16 pm

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#9 Comment By Marcus On January 13, 2010 @ 2:26 pm

Of course the military loves tunnels!

Tunnelling is precisely increasing the surface of a body while decreasing its volume. Adding surface is obviously very useful to anyone: It adds space that can be utilized (and territorialized), for car- and subway-traffic, for storage, any kind of passage and communication etc; it kan also establish a highspeed-path through a slowspeed-medium. But access to the tunnel is also limited to certain points, easily defended, and it is protected from both insight and intrusion.

Perhaps one can understand the different problems through this description.

#10 Comment By chrisk On January 13, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

Submarines are fleet in being. They are also variable tunnels in smooth space, and may occupy territories without the holy significations of the Law and the State.

The drones attempt at overcoding the Tora-Bora tunnels, but the sky-vision is optical, wheras tunnelling is a haptic becoming-mole. Surfacing from a tunnel is always a hazard, you may reveal your position or IP-number. Exit nodes in Tor or i2p are heavily monitored as soon as they are detected. Thus, surface-points need to be either fortified, hidden or always changing.

#11 Comment By krs On January 13, 2010 @ 2:54 pm

I do not agree that the acceleration and bandwidth now is irrelevant as they are one of the prerequisite for the acceptance of tunneling. A tunnels theoretical max effectivity in protecting a given data stream in a fixed speed is linear to the bandwidth used for the tunnel.

The development of acceptance of tunneling is closely tied to the development of bandwidth to such a degree that the two are not to be seen as individual metrics. Asking for more tunneling is in more or less equivalent to ask for more bandwidth for the same set of data.

#12 Comment By chrisk On January 13, 2010 @ 2:59 pm

krs: I agree here too. However, an even more important factor for mass tunnelling is the large scale deployment of ipv6. Tunnel surfaceing on possibly millions of locations.

But yes, if heavy philes are to make it in for example i2p, bandwidth is an issue.

Maybe we have to go for the combination snearkernet+ciphernet. I like hard drives!

#13 Comment By rasmus On January 13, 2010 @ 3:04 pm

Yes, tunnel exits are vulnerable, but especially in the desert.
But in urban areas, they are easily hidden inside buildings. In border regions like Gaza/Egypt or Arizona/Mexico, it is not certain that the exit points that are the main vulnerability.

Another strategy, mentioned in the article about Iran’s tunneling (linked above) is to build lots of fake exit points. Could this be employed for digital tunnels as well?

By the way, I just have to mention one name of an infamous burrower, which no theory of holey space can avoid altogether: Joseph Fritzl. (Whose deeds also are parallelled in the issue of child pornography on the net, as a major nexus of escalationary dynamics.)

#14 Comment By rasmus On January 13, 2010 @ 3:09 pm

krs + chrisk: I certainly do not say that bandwidth is now irrelevant, definitely not. Rather, we now tend to use higher bandwidth for onion routing and other techniques for dissolving the individual user, while the earlier “accelerationism” tended to strife for a sense of acceleration in the individual experience.
(I’m sure this could be reformulated in a much better way. Do you get my idea here?)

#15 Comment By mlowdi On January 13, 2010 @ 4:00 pm

Marcus + chrisk certainly have a point in the relation between tunnels and surfacing. The entrances/exits (ports/pores) are both difficult and easy to defend over IP as well as afk. Combined with the sneakernet idea, wouldn’t it be possible to construct a darknet with a limited-access policy where the “keys” are distributed via sneakernet? I’m thinking thumb drives and massive key lengths. Of course there are security issues as keys can be copied etc and I’m not really sure how to combat this, or if it’s even desirable to combat slightly randomized and pirated key dissemination.

Also, I like the idea of “ordering” sneakernet data. Extending file sharing into the post-digital domain. Would it be possible to build an online app to help coordinate sneakernets?

Re rasmus: traffic masking with IPv6 and pretty high bandwidth could possibly be arranged through having participants exchange padding data as well as actual meaningful data (insert ideas about deniable encryption here). In this manner the network would be easy to identify but actually difficult to eavesdrop on. Like tunnels with fake exits. We know they’re there, but not where they lead or what they carry. Of course this is an issue of bandwidth and cpu cycles.

(I’m intrigued by the idea of a submarine as a tunnel-in-being! If I’m not mistaken different types of submarines and even individual ships can be identified by the specific sonar signature they produce as they cut a temporary tunnel through the ocean. This probably holds significance somehow.)

#16 Comment By rasmus On January 13, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

#17 Comment By chrisk On January 13, 2010 @ 4:38 pm

mlowdi: Indeed. Submarines ping, just like computers. However, they navigate with bearings, vectors, sonar wheras the internet navigates with protocols. They occupy different milieus. However, with large enoug f2f decentralisation, even the internet becomes avast ciphersea.

#18 Pingback By Pop culture and tunnels at blay.se On January 19, 2010 @ 12:42 pm

[…] Copyriot describes the atmosphere (Please read that post and the comments on it…): This accelerationism also enabled a certain political transversality and new alliances between hackers, artists and intellectuals, and it could quite easily be underpinned by a mainstream deleuzianism and/or benjaminism. […]

#19 Pingback By Intensifier — Tunneled cipherspace / Burrow internet On January 21, 2010 @ 1:08 am

[…] Gothenburg and Moscow. Jönköping based philosopher macdeleuzian comments this development at Copyriot: Tunnelling is precisely increasing the surface of a body while decreasing its volume. Adding […]

#20 Pingback By Tunnlar, Google och Kina « Luchini On January 27, 2010 @ 3:14 pm

[…] Fleischer klargör den nuvarande tunneltendensen: År 2006 varnade ChrisK att övervakningslagarna skulle eskalera medborgarnas privata kryptering […]

#21 Comment By Mats Henricson On January 31, 2010 @ 11:40 pm

Jag tror detta inlägg är ett enda avancerat prematurt april-skämt. Så många slumpmässigt ihopkopplade begrepp och bisarra blog-länkar kan inte vara något annat. Förmodligen ett lyckat försök att totalt förvirra alla andra akademiker som rör sig inom samma område. Deras huvuden kommer att explodera, ett efter ett, i ett försök att klistra ihop mening i detta sammelsurium.

Bra jobbat!

#22 Comment By rasmus On February 1, 2010 @ 1:09 am

Mats Henricson, jag vet inte om du kommenterar de 3-4 kommentarer som ligger ovanför den du just postade. Där kan du nämligen se exempel på hur andra akademiker spann vidare på inlägget ovan.

Förresten, Mats. Om du innerligt avskyr slumpmässig ihopkoppling och bisarra länkar tror jag du gör bäst i att leta dig till ett annat hörn av nätet.

#23 Pingback By COPYRIOT | Pessimismen är inte optimismens motsats On February 7, 2010 @ 3:24 pm

[…] Pirate politics: from accelerationism to escalationism? […]

#24 Pingback By Intensifier — Creating a fractal cipherspace; part I – tunnel existence On March 13, 2010 @ 9:58 pm

[…] Thursday I talked about cipherspace and resistance, and the last few months we have talked about tunnels, darknets and worlds gone underground. Also, a bureau has been commissioned by […]

#25 Comment By R On March 28, 2010 @ 5:57 am

Intriguing discussion and sorry for the belated comment. Whilst escalationism circumvents the teleonomic instrumentality — as you are suggesting — by confounding the line between pre-mature and late emergence as the result of its non-linear / stochastic model of dynamism, I think like accelerationism it, in the same manner, develops a hegemonic function that can be absorbed by the more complex modes of capital remobilization. In this sense, another question or tactic should complement the question of dynamism: under what unilateral conditions can the hegemonic function of escalation and the teleonomic proclivity of acceleration be continuously and spontaneously deflected and twisted into modes of dynamism with elements of perpetual anti-axiomatic surprise (speculative terror)?

Anyway, sorry for the perfunctory comment.

#26 Pingback By Fighting the 3D Reptiles at blay.se On March 31, 2010 @ 12:30 pm

[…] There used to be a time when being for the internet was enough, because everyone else was so far behind. That our opposition was against the internet, stuck in analog ways of thinking and so on. Your own position could just be one of “pro-internet” and that was fine. No need to think more about what that meant. […]

#27 Pingback By Accelerationism III: Eskalationism, pirateri och den absoluta horisonten för mänskligheten at blay On September 17, 2010 @ 4:41 pm

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#28 Pingback By Tunnlar, Google och Kina » Jonas Andersson On October 26, 2011 @ 1:24 pm

[…] Fleischer klargör den nuvarande tunneltendensen: År 2006 varnade ChrisK att övervakningslagarna skulle eskalera medborgarnas privata kryptering […]

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[…] Fleischer, R. (2010, January 13). COPYRIOT | Pirate politics: from accelerationism  to escalationism? Retrieved August 3, 2011, from [3] […]