A Pervert's Guide to Provocative Agents

"Police responses are not, in general, decided by individual police witnessing specific events, but by senior police and political leaders deciding how to deal with the protest as a whole. If the police attack protestors, it’s because they’ve decided to attack protestors, not because of anything the protestors did (this is also why worrying about police infiltrators is usually pointless; police may use provocateurs to stage-manage their intervention, but the form of their intervention is decided in advance and is independent of what either protestors or provocateurs do)."


By the way, small note on the pervy libidinal economy of the internet and the pre-selection of content...

... there is no way to google image search "agent provocateur" without receiving results that are almost entirely from luxury lingerie ads. 

Adding the word "police" calibrates the results to include the standard "use of circles to illustrate how you can, in fact, tell a cop by his shoes", but also to include a very Night Porter falange of lingerie models and a woman in bra and panties standing in front of a custom "Agent Provocateur" pink and black Police mini. 

 + "anarchist" gives the more familiar results....

while "+ communist" treats us to a first result of a champagne cork popping off.  At least it got something right.

+ "liberal" mainly shifts the optic toward the "non-West," plus the amping up of the spittle-rain of Tea Party hysteria.

But, more seriously: what "agent provocateur" truly indexes is the quintuple notion that

a) as Voyou notes, the fantasy that there is not already a state game plan in action, as if - notwithstanding the genuine, and vicious, decisions that get made on the ground on the basis of a general predisposition to treat people like that, such as the now-infamous of throwing of a flash-bang grenade into a crowd of people surrounding a man who would require brain surgery - the police were a neutral substance that responded solely on the basis of a catalyst such as "property destruction."

b) that there is a predetermined object - a "protest" - that already exists, that is capable of being "ruined."  The clusterfuck of predictable media condemnation and predictable "left" infighting over the minor chaos of Rome a couple weeks back entirely confirmed this: the discourse centered around the idea that there was a perfectly good demonstration and a few shits - "bad apples", of course, as if the harvest were ripe, untainted, yet subject to the transmission of decay - who went and spoiled this safe, edible, lovely thing.  What this implies, then, is a conception of a protest as something that "everyone" knows damn well how it should go: a set number of hours, the expected quantity of chants performed and flags waved, and a return home at the end, having put in a good day's work.  The echoes of labor time are far from incidental.  And who could blame some for wanting to ruin it?

c) conversely, that a situation itself neutral, undecided, not agitated but capable of being provoked.  A slim beam of contingency.

d) the correct assertion that there do exist, at times, agent provocateurs.

e) the incorrect notion that there are not amongst us who, God for-fucking-bid, might not wish to be provocative, that we might not want our days to end up exhausted, excited, confused, gutted as an abandoned building, taken over by something bigger than ourselves, blown away by how previous lines of adherence came apart, uncertain of what has or what may come to pass.  


Schizo Stroller said...

Re: the idea that for a protest to be legitimate the media and other critics know how it should be played.

I want to share a discourse game I played (its actually quite familiar), with regard to how 'we' play the game. The question of participation. One that I think has relevance to Occupy's methods, as much as I support the fact that they are doing 'something'.

I have been doing a fiar bit of training in mental health, receiving and giving.
When giving training one idea that we are 'taught' to do is in order to get people to feel like they are participating we do 'groundrules' and come to a consensus.

However over yars of this i have noticed something. The rules rarely vary. Hardly ever does someone drop in a clanger. We already know what goes in and what doesn't.

This rule is invariable whether I am giving the training or receiving it.

So one day with some fellow charity workers I tried playng a game. It's a simple game best known as 'Chinese Whispers'. (CAVEAT: I know some people object to the name but the importance here is the cultural significance of this name for it as a childhood game).

So i played it once using a random word (I had no idea how this would work but it did ultimately work as I suspected it would). As expected the word had changed by the end.

Then I played it again, this time the word was 'Chinese Whispers' itself. And yes the word(s) made it to the end of the line unadulterated.

There's an interesting book 'Participation: The New Tyranny' http://www.amazon.co.uk/Participation-New-Tyranny-Bill-Cooke/dp/1856497941

There's something that concerns me.

As do questions like 'how exactly does consensus allow difference?

In German the term 'Vestehen' means more literally 'mutual understanding' and so can allow respect for difference.

But I still have the nagging feeling that consensus politics is still an unexpurgated form of Christian alienated need for reassurance.

There is nothing wrong with reassurance it allows us to feel politically secure, but I'm concerned with it as a means without any other guiding idea.

It's still the Berlinian negative freedom, without a positive freedom, running the paradox to exclude positive freedom is a leviathanesque positive freedom that negates all others.

There is the issue that tolerance of the tolerant is easy. Intolerance of the intolerant may leave us blind but is human. And a demand that we be tolerant of the intolerant is not only asking the superhuman but raises questions on an anabaptist scale of an authoritarian refusal that is intolerant (see again above) of intolerance.

Without difference there is no contradiction. A sterilsation of the possibility of dialectics.

God i'm sounding either like a confsed Tory or sub-Zizek

I know i'm sniping from the sidelines I am concerned

Schizo Stroller

David K Wayne said...

"God i'm sounding either like a confsed Tory or sub-Zizek"

We've all been there, in our darkest moments...

Eric said...

True enough, we have all (most of us) been there.
This sounds to me to be yet another reason not to do things in groups larger than your circle of close friends, or family, or spontaneous gaggle of like-minded strangers & acquaintances.
But then I have always been suspicious of large groups of people. And my very small experience of groups that prioritize consensus has been somewhere between boredom, impatience, and the revulsion for totalitarianism. I realize that this stance toward groups trying to make change is not really helpful.
How about this: a creative idea for action occurs to you, you talk it over with some close friends and seek their help, they either to agree to help or give you good reasons why it is a bad idea, and the action either happens or it doesn't.
And otherwise, as a mode of living, either ignore, live outside of, or parasitize large powerful groups.
- A mostly unformed idea.

Anonymous said...

for the google result image with "agent provocateur" it is normal to find lingerie pic because AGENT PROVOCATEUR is a lingerie brand.