Critical Mediations: A Manifesto
This essay is drawn from an analysis based on the political system and media structures of the “United States of America.” However, it’s important to understand that domination knows no borders; it only aims to create them. Critical Mediations desires to foster international solidarity against oppressive forces, and to perpetuate growth amongst those who believe in utilizing media as a tool against our rulers for the growth of international power of all oppressed people.
Introduction to Critical Mediations
The media landscape is difficult to navigate and it is obvious that many voices are left out of mainstream discourse. For many it feels as though we are incapable of finding the potential to escape from pre-determined concepts and history. Each and every generation is plagued by this predicament – it worsens as each stage of neoliberalism unfolds. As struggles become co-opted into forms of mainstream political representation, oppressive power appears in new forms, and acquires new language. This focus on language is crucial – the language that social and economic forces of production uses rapidly outgrows the movements we align ourselves with and the strategies we use to fight in our everyday lives. Our language constricts our ability to communicate something genuinely new and an acceptance of normative historical, political and social narratives halts our transformation before it even begins. Nonetheless, the political subcultures and pockets of resistance that we have created in a radical tradition seek to challenge normative narratives, but have fallen into tricky areas themselves. Our language has yet to evolve in order to address the complex political terrain we tread and new ideas have yet to break into our collective imaginations. Marxist, anarchist, socialist, progressive, and even democrat….what are these terms and what do they signify? Critical Mediations (CM) identifies with the revolutionary tradition and its history, but reinventing the revolutionary wheel is counterrevolutionary. CM as a network is neither Marxist nor anarchist. We are familiar with the potential these ideas hold, but we seek fluidity and the ability to break definitions. We are not democrats and reject the sham that is Liberal philosophy and the idea of politics as usual. The previous attempts of mass communism serve as the best propaganda for the rightwing to exploit. It is time to distance ourselves from romanticizing previous attempts of transformative societies. It only plays into the tactics of disinformation that authoritarians put forth to diminish the growth of solidarity in society. This alienates potential friends – the possible conversations we could have to build affinity are crushed.
We still must study and be well versed in revolutionary theories and histories. However, our ideas are worthless if they exist in subcultural vacuums and if they never grow outside of our movements or the language we speak internally. There is nothing to be gained by clinging to just these, to a symbolic register (hammer and sickles, circle A’s, roses, etc.) that is reified into static dogma – we seek to keep the very best of the theory and praxis of the past whilst always recreating and reworking theory in the light of new material conditions and new praxis. The language of anti-capitalism must be rewritten and reimagined. Our struggles for liberation have to intersect; we must fight white supremacy, patriarchy, imperialism, global capitalism, and every institution of domination together. Ideologies and representation must be critically examined and the content that we create must constantly be put under scrutiny (including this text). CM exists to create new revolutionary language and to breathe life into new movements. We believe that new movements begin with establishing a theoretical framework and forming networks that distribute this information effectively. This is why we are a media network and a think tank of content creators and theorists developing a new transformative language. New language allows us to connect through the stories of our own struggles rather than ideology. This allows us to organize, speaking a language that destroys the confusion created by ideological purity and normative narratives. This must be accomplished inside media landscapes (digital information networks) and in real life (physical networks of people).
The lack of theoretical framework and philosophies in mainstream media content is harmful to the continuation of social discourse – it also maintains a way for the right to achieve the necessary consent to protect and secure their political and cultural hegemony. Rightwing media pundits champion themselves as modern day political philosophers who break down the complex world of politics for eager listeners. Many of us know that their claims are false, but we need to build our own rhetorical strategies to empower individuals, instead of just laughing off rightwing content. We must develop a habit of studying texts that present us with material that is ethically opposed to our ideas, we must engage with material that is the antithesis to our ideas and we must hear how certain rhetoric against us is presented. While being well versed in revolutionary theory is crucial, so is the ability to understand the history, theory, and rhetorical strategies of those who seek to undermine any positive transformation in society. To examine the rhetoric of our enemies and to examine their strategies of disinformation—this is a gift that our opposition has unknowingly handed to us. Modern conservatism was grounded and strategized through media networks. In the digital age, hyperreal media landscapes are large networks of media interacting and engaging in informational dialogue, thereby influencing the way society understands political discourse. Mass information materializes both in and outside of virtual realities (television, radio, and internet), extending beyond its simulated roots and influencing our realities. CM believes in creating networks of communication that will bring together elements of the left and every anti-authoritarian to create a platform where diverse critical media can grow. This is how we learn from our enemies and it is how we learn from the past. Old political constructions are crumbling before our very eyes. The electoral representation of the two-party system in the United States is a walking corpse—it can no longer serve to pacify us in this stage of capitalism. We are witnessing the “polarization” of political ideologies because we have arrived at the point in which we must acknowledge class struggle or let nationalism and elites steal the voice of this struggle. They won’t only steal our voices – they’ll take lives in the process of gaining power. It is important to understand that all forms of identity intersect in struggle; we must become accomplices to one another, we must challenge all authoritarians, and we must oppose all false hierarchies.
The Future Has Been Cancelled…We Still Have To Live Now
As the Italian revolutionary Antonio Gramsci sought to engage the failures of his era’s revolution and to carve a path for new emancipatory ideas, we also must find our way out of the truisms and histories that dictate our current strategies. We are not calling for the revolution or an insurrectionary moment that will somehow spontaneously arrive. Mass movements will only grow once the infrastructure is there to reinforce them. Let us steer towards the end of the political realities we grew up knowing and the inescapable realisms they traps us in. This is the time for media to become not only our defensive tactic but our offensive strategy. Current mainstream media platforms will never give the left its voice and academic journals will never escape the towers of academia. In its current form, the strategy of the left is not effective in reaching most of the people that are alienated by rigid narratives of history. Because of this, the subcultural signifiers of the left will forever be associated with an imagery of totalitarianism. We must make an active attempt to reestablish ourselves and to shatter the images that the right has created of a “broad left”, a message perpetuated to confuse listeners and stifle oppositional growth. The liberals and progressives that accept capitalist dogma are not part of the left and they never will be. This distinction must be made to stop further co-optations of emancipatory politics by “humanitarian” disguised capitalists. Sadly, so many of the working class truly believe the messages of media pundits such as Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Herman Cain, Ben Shapiro, and all of the opportunists who aim to benefit from subjugation in society. Neither party is capable of eradicating the conflicts in the world. Taking into account the importance of revolutionary history, we must resist the urge to fall into subcultural political traps and the alluring glow of organizing short lived movements through social media. We know that the smokescreen of virtual autonomy and choice perpetuates the force of capitalism and its protocol. Liberalism and conservatism both want the same outcomes and serve to create complacency. The spectacle that mainstream media thrives on serves these ideologies well. We believe in hi-jacking the spectacle and creating a force of media that will have no choice but to propel itself into the mainstream—with this media force, a new political reality will uncover itself, as new voices rise to speak.
We must be critical of our content and we must be skillful when critiquing authoritarians and capitalists. Our content must be focused on offering explanations for complex ideas and philosophies, and they must offer answers that are reachable. Critiques of media and cultural products are one aspect of this project (they are encouraged) but that’s only a fragment of what we need to accomplish. We have to be willing to challenge our own understanding of ideas and provide strategies that engage everyone. This is a difficult task when we have been split into political categories and identities, and silenced by propaganda put forth by figures of opposition. This opposition is in the form of the far right, the centrists, and even the so called “progressives.” We are very much aware of what is against us. However, we have seen that the power of media is a double-edged sword – it has transformed lives, created new possibilities, and simultaneously perpetuated confusion and disinformation. We have dedicated academic institutions to study its effects, history, theories, and strategies—we are still learning just how powerful media and rapidly growing technology are. Media platforms have enabled various leftist groups to organize discrete events and actions, but our energy needs to expand beyond the constraints of subcultural organizing and focus on building sustainable, inclusive leftist networks for larger movements. We need to harness the potential of media as a tool for liberation in this current moment. Throughout the early 20th century, the Frankfurt School accomplished some of the most important studies in post-industrial society and established the foundations of the theoretical approaches that the left still continually draws from. CM is greatly influenced by these ideas and aims to continue in the tradition of critical theory. The terrain has changed; we must adapt and continue building where many great minds left off. Media, culture, and society are interlocked and constantly evolving. Mainstream language has changed, and yet we haven’t figured out our language to respond to these changes. In the future, we hope to see these ideas and newly formulated language extend beyond CM and influence the next manifestation of the left. We are not interested in being the vanguard of a revolutionary moment; we are building off of long-existing ideas. We desire to grow “organic intellectuals”, as Gramsci famously termed, and to influence all factors of culture and create the conditions necessary for emancipation. Most importantly, we believe that everyone has this capability and should be included in the long fight ahead.
The next wave of economic and social consequences of global capitalism is approaching. We are caught between now and the beginning of where new forms of consciousness and new solidarities are possible. The representatives of the elite have failed and will continue to fail to deliver their promises. When this happens and the masses turn against them, we must be ready, organized, and accessible to everyone looking for answers. We carry optimism and the belief that most people want to seek freedom, even if the word itself is convoluted and shrouded in nationalism and historical equivocations. We need to bring together content creators, academics, and activists to build networks rooted in theory alongside praxis. Every role in media is valuable for this long-term project: podcasters, writers, journalists, audio engineers, musicians, graphic artists, translators, web designers, videographers, as well as anyone who wants to learn these skills—we must all act as teachers to one another and build our relationships with this in mind. Let us connect our lives and become aware of each other’s stories and what we see. This is a project that involves all ages, all genders/sexes, all races, and all identities that aim to be a voice in this fight for mass transformation and liberation. We must create new language to speak of new revolutions and to destroy the predictable and reactionary tendencies that we have in ourselves. Critical Mediations is calling to create something new, something that could only exist now, in this moment, and something worth fighting for.