To read later but here's a quote from the piece that sums up the NCRI
"the NCRI are basically tracking people and ideas and then giving that information to “the cops.” You’ll note, of course, that what qualifies as extremism, manipulation, hate, and deception are not defined."
Last fall the NCRI published a report entitled: Network-Enabled Anarchy: How Militant Anarcho-Socialist Networks Use Social Media to Instigate Widespread Violence Against Political Opponents and Law Enforcement.
So yeah me & my friends are extremists
Firstly, let me say that the scope of these comments do not include conceptual critiques of Ross's work; I have plenty of those, and am working on a piece with a friend outlining some of those issues. The article linked at the beginning of this thread lays out a lot of similar criticisms.
There are clear positional issues with this. But, we have to be specific about what we are problematizing and how.
The claim in some pieces is that the Network Contagion Institute has people from CIA, DHS, etc working there; that is false. The people that work there are FORMER members of intelligence agencies and academics, but they are not current members of intel branches. This positions the work of the NCI completely within academia, and specifically within a form of academia that has inherent relations to the State; in this case Ross is a geography professor.
As a former academic myself I can definitively say that the distance between any academic institution and the State is minimal. This exists in the form of direct funding, in some cases, but also grants, the former occupations of faculty, the political connections of trustees, etc.
The State, and politicians, on the other hand utilize academic work to justify policies, many of which have horrendous consequences in everyday life.
This then allows us to identify a few issues, some of which Ross needs to be accountable for, and some of which require more nuanced approaches. The first issue, as was identified, is positional. This institute does influence State policy, directly, and was used to attempt to justify repression against anarchist groups this past Fall, with politicians using their reports as grounding to justify police action.
That is a HUGE problem!
In response to this Ross has said that he would never engage in work that targets the "left", but this points to a second problem; the inability to control impact. When working in academia one is generating output in the form of papers, reports, etc.
These are then distributed through books, at conferences, online, and are thrown into the world, along lines of influence.
In this, and this is inherent in writing in general, one loses control over diffusion and impact, allowing that to be determined by readers. That does not mean, however, that we cannot structure our writing to attempt to shape impact, and that involves style and the form of release.
In taking a position at this institute, the lines of diffusion are clear, and they lead directly to the national security apparatus.
The third issue is one of the university as a whole, and what academic careers require. To maintain an academic career, which Ross is clearly doing here, one needs to become comfortable with the connections between the university and the State, and the role of the university in State activity.
This often means taking on roles which involve ethically questionable elements. This is partially why I left, personally.
So, what we really have here is a struggling academic taking a role at a highly problematic institute which distributes work directly to the national security apparatus, and that Ross has taken a position there. In that scenario there is no way to make assurances about how one's work is going to be used; which is how he is justifying his employment there.
Even though the claims around this controversy are overblown and imprecise, there are also clear problems here which require accountability on the part of Ross, and an apology to everyone that has been harmed by this institute. That includes the whole anarchist milieu in the US, and specifically the YLF, It's Going Down and Crimethinc, all of which were directly targeted.
So, I can say with absolute certainty, that IGD addresses this on the yet to be released episode of the This is America podcast; it should be released in the next 3-5 days, so check your podcatchers. There will also be a written statement, likely a short one, which will address this as well.
I have not talked to Crimethinc people about this yet, so I'm not sure where they are at around this right now.
I think this is such a good point that people rarely strategize against while producing potentially cooptable knowledges. Gotta be a good smuggler when living in mordor.
I’d so like to see insurrectionary intellectual counterpower crystallize into new formations in my lifetime.
@tom_nomad @GenericMediaReference appreciate your clear headed approach and wholeheartedly agree with the slippery slope of academia. Also true that as far as we know there are no current state employees at the institute and that people should be precise when making their critiques That said there is a revolving door for intel operatives that takes them from state gigs and private gigs fairly fluidly so the lines are blurry and their political allegiances are definitely not with us.
@tom_nomad last things I'll say for now are that it's too bad that this was outed by the Grey Zone and not handled by our peeps. After all ARR has been public in his involvement with NCI for some time. The Grey Zone article was a poorly written sensationalist hit piece, but the bits of truth in there are undeniable.
@tom_nomad Finally & I feel kinda alone in this. We've seen some very visible anarchists peeps make some very public blunders as of late. I think it behooves their comrades to reach out and try to make them see the err of their ways a publicly apologize. When this fails to happen there should be a public response as a way to make sure people know that some of their choices are unacceptable. Yes it requires people getting their hands dirty but the message these choices send to newbies is terrible
@tom_nomad Of course nobody is perfect, and we all fuck up, but shit... sometimes we gotta remind peeps where the lines are, who are enemies are, and what we are ultimately fighting for, which is freedom for all and not for careers and clout for some
Absolutely! Sometimes, to build the community and world that we want, it is going to involve doing uncomfortable things, like discussing issues with friends, and being willing to cut people loose when necessary.
It sucks, but no one ever said that revolution was going to be fun
I think that's one o the real tragedies here. The sensationalism and conspiracy weaving on Grey Zone really prevented a clear problem from being revealed and discussed based on actual information, and not Max Blumenthal's grudge driven hyperbole.
In situations like this emotions run high, but nothing ever gets dealt with when we cannot identify the issue. Clear statements of issues are critical if we are to address things like this as a community.
If a link if found for the piece, please let me know. I have been doing a good amount of research in preparation for the piece about the issues with his conceptual frameworks, and how that has damaged anti-fascism. A good summation of that critique (which I am largely in agreement with) can be found here:
Great thread. Just want to shout out that geography is still one of the most radical disciplines in the angloamerican academy having even a classic anarchist canon (Kropotkin/Reclus)and recent resurge(Springer). The oscillation of prestige power n precarious state simping are deadly. But we can smuggle smartly. I’ve found geog and anthro really rep new waves of thought n praxis.
I’d also like to emphasize the think-tankness of Network Contagion Research Institute as a unique config of the security apparatus more so than directly similar to a public research university’s ties to the state. The flows of capital and power in the knowledge apparatus are multiple. Which is very often visible as resistance flourishes down the hall from counterinsurgency seminars. I think this primes academe as a place for direct conflict.
All I hope for, if people are going to go this route, is that they are more successful than my generation of insurrectionist academics were. Most of us have given up trying to leverage academia for mobilizing conflict at this point, and have left.
There are still routes of intervention in the academy, but those routes are closing fast due to the corporatization of the university.
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