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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.)

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