Nerf Anarchy

By ignoring the more radical cases, Ferrell manages to gloss over the contemporary crisis in anarchism as it relates to social activism. Is violence against property a legitimate tactic, or the equivalent of violence against people, and thus anathema to an essentially pacifist movement? While the book may function as a kind of PR for the anarchist cause, it's unfortunate that it ignores what is debatably most exciting or repugnant about the current scene: the liberatory moment of the riot, the music of smashing windows.

Jeff Ferrell's commitment to lived experience fuels the book's rhetorical fire.
photo: Jeff Ferrell
Jeff Ferrell's commitment to lived experience fuels the book's rhetorical fire.

Ferrell's version is less smashing. When he quotes biker Beth Verdekal's description of Critical Mass, it might as well stand for his own version of resistance: a "perfect combination of do what you want to do but be a nice person." This is a far cry from the Situationist celebration of looting as insurrection, "a natural response to the society of abundance" in the wake of the Watts riots; instead of breaking glass, we get a Nerf anarchy which keeps the stakes of everyday life troublingly low.

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