Tactical Media and Social Consciousness: A Help or Hinderance?

Having finished reading the second chapter of Raley’s book, I felt there was a pretty distinct tilt on the debate over illegal immigration. The argument surrounding the pros and cons of “migrants” goes well beyond the scope of what can be considered in a 400-word blog post. But what can be considered, and I think what must be examined, is just in what ways tactical media works to dissolve social binaries—and whether or not they should be.

Echoing popular anticolonial works like The Wretched of the Earth, Raley replicates Fanon’s warnings against errant nationalism. Argued as a re-enforcement of colonial dichotomies, Fanon believed that nationalism bounded citizens in the eternal binary of colonizer versus colonized, internal versus external. For any collective to identify itself as fully decolonized, it must thus reject the internalization of nationalism. For Raley, this argument is appropriated to a more contemporary setting: specifically the “border war” between the United States and Mexico.

Raley scaffolds her argument with Huntington’s assertion that to define the United States and Mexico as oppositional is flawed; the division of “Anglo” versus “Latino” is both “putatively archaic and primal” as it fails to recognize the globalizing trend of migration (37). And so long as these social binaries continue to be exerted, “migrants” will be eliminated from social consciousness. With the additional help of Judith Butler, Raley concludes that, as “de-realized” individuals, any acts of violence against these dehumanized migrants are invisible to the American public—as the famous adage says—out of sight, out of mind (39).

But to argue that tactical media cares about awakening social consciousness is a difficult pill to swallow. DDoS attacks on servers fly in the face of “hacktivism” and its genuine protest on internet censorship. By “violating the principle of free flow,” groups like SWARM prove to be shockingly contradictory to Raley’s argument (41). By shutting down sites, they do not improve American social consciousness so much as obscure it. Many of these activist movements, such as Tuesday Afternoon’s demand to terminate American borders, shows the efforts of tactical media are more symbolic than actual (47). Perhaps it is as Dominguez says:  as “permanent cultural resistance” that constantly changes with the times, tactical media doesn’t yet know entirely what it wants—except only to keep questioning (46).