Deterritorial Support Group
"The Deterritorial Support Group are an anonymous group of political bloggers, formed to produce propaganda for the “lulz” – an appropriation of a term used on the internet to express amusement specifically at funny web content. There is, however, nothing disarming about DSG’s work. Prior to last month’s March for the Alternative rally in London organised by the Trade Union Committee against public sector cuts, the DSG produced parodies of the TUC’s official posters." (http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/10260/1/deterritorial-support-group)
"They are deliberately vague on the specifics, but it becomes clear that DSG comprises around 10-20 members and affiliates, all graduates in their early to mid-20s, either on the dole, still studying or precariously employed – Pablo has been working as a cleaner. In a key piece written in February by Newsnight's economics editor (and DSG fan) Paul Mason, entitled 20 Reasons It's Kicking Off Everywhere, reason number one, linking everything from the Arab Spring to Greece to Millbank, was "a new sociological type: the graduate with no future". DSG are that group at its most well-read and radical – and they have nothing to lose but their student debt.
Visit their blog and, as with any good propaganda, their visuals strike you first: classic revolutionary aesthetics reimagined for the internet age. In bold red and black, accompanied by blownup images of the Twitter "retweet" symbol and Facebook thumbs-up icon, they declaim "STRIKE/OCCUPY/RETWEET" and "EDUCATE/AGITATE/LIKE". It's both tongue-in-cheek, and deadly serious. At the eruption of the student protests this time last year, says Pablo, "we saw a lot of awful propaganda, which didn't relate to what was going on. People are embarrassed about talking about Facebook and Twitter, because it relates to their everyday life, which is stupid – it's the way we share information. Fifty years ago they'd have been talking about occupying a TV or radio station."
DSG's posters around the large trade union protests on 26 March became notorious, taking the "March for the alternative" TUC branding and subverting it to provocative effect, turning the open-palmed TUC hands into raised middle fingers, suggesting that people "occupy", "kick off", or "fuck shit up for the alternative". The posters spread virally across the internet, and were plastered on lamp-posts and walls in London. The TUC were, Pablo feels, asking to be parodied. "Their campaign was non-confrontational almost to a comical degree." The aesthetic was "very consciously decodified, without any political affiliation whatsoever. Instead of primary colours it was teal and beige and turquoise." So DSG "recodified" the TUC posters in "traditional confrontational colours of the left", red and black.
"What separates us aesthetically," continues Pablo, "is that without the specific historical and economic conditions I live under, I don't feel would be involved in this sort of thing. These are times when you have to grab the opportunity." So what would they be doing, if they were born into another age? "Probably have a mortgage or something?" Nick says. "As cartoonish materialists, the material conditions own us." Indeed, they would never have started DSG were they not unemployed, poor, and fired up by the student protests of last winter – for them, the storming of Millbank represented a kind of "year zero". Indeed, Nick admits to voting Lib Dem in May 2010, and Pablo, with a chuckle, to being a former member. Over several hours they dispense praise for radical designers and propagandists such as Atelier Populaire, Grapus, The Designers Republic and Class War, and have harsh words for almost everyone else, including the Labour left ("2011's real utopians"), the Lib Dems ("trepanning on the brain of social democracy"), Adbusters ("hipsters are the abortion of the vanguard"), and the Trotskyist SWP ("how endearing to base your entire political outlook on a text written in 1921, under very specific conditions"). They seem equally in love with radical theorists such as Gilles Dauve, and lolcat pictures.
Their aims, they said earlier this year, are "full communism, with lulz as a transitional demand". Surely that was just a gag? "In the one hand it's completely honest," says Nick, "and on the other it's a joke in its own right, which is similar to a lot of the stuff that we do." (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/15/ikea-anarchists-derritorial-support-group)
By Dazed Digital:
"Dazed Digital: What is the DSG?
Deterritorial Support Group: DSG is an ultra-leftist propaganda machine formed at the end of 2010. Our aims are full communism with “lulz” as a transitional demand. Essentially, we aim to push capital into a position of “zugzwang”, whereby it is forced to play it's hand in full knowledge that regardless of which move is chosen, the outcome will be its systemic failure.
DD: You've attempted to spread some quite amusing rumours, such as Slavoj Zizek appearing with Lady Gaga, and so on. What do you hope to achieve by doing so? Deterritorial Support Group: We didn't spread any such rumour - we hijacked an existing meme with enormous potential. Internet memes originally functioned as a subject of the Internet hate machine - operating in a totally amoral fashion, where achieving “lulz” was the only aim. Within the past few years, memes have started to take on a totally different function, and what would have been perceived as a slightly pathetic bunch of bastards in the past are today global players in undermining international relations - namely in the complex interaction of Wikileaks with Anonymous, 4chan and other online hooligans.
There's no coherent analysis to be had of this at the moment. However “lulz” also demonstrate their potential as part of a policy of radical refusal to the demands of capital. When asked by liberals "Do you condone or condemn the violence of the Black Bloc?" We can only reply in unison "This cat is pushing a watermelon out of a lake. Your premise is invalid". They fucking hate that. So we saw the original Zizek/Gaga meme in that vein, and added to it for the “lulz”.
DD: The posters that you made spoofing the TUC's official images for the 'March for the Alternative' rally became an online phenomenon very quickly. Would you concede, however, that by dividing voices of dissent, your tactics might be counter-productive?
Deterritorial Support Group: We reject that a criticism of the TUC is a personal attack on its members. Imagine having politics so paranoid and parasitic that you had to conflate your bureaucratic structure with an entire economic class just to defend it? Voices of dissent exist within unions, no matter how many witch-hunts they conduct against heretical members. And when creating their images for the march, the TUC chose use imagery that was non-confrontational, apolitical and middle-of-the-road. The result was painful — two hands, palms outstretched in cynical, politically neutral colours, looking like a mugging victim desperately trying to defend their face.
This reflects how the TUC perceive their role, i.e. as the management of labour within a social partnership between state, labour and capital. It doesn't strike us as doing justice to the power that working-class people have — the power to withdraw our labour, to respond to this government’s attack on our class by making the country ungovernable. The question of whether an image can divide or unite 'voices of dissent' is an interesting one. For our images to divide such voices, it would be necessary that those voices were a coherent whole in the first place, and that the TUC's 'all together' branding effectively encompassed them – something we hope we just discredited.
Perhaps by broadening the scope of the original identity, we should seek remuneration from the TUC for our labour. We subscribe to an idea of Gerard Paris-Clavel's – that images can only become political once they are inserted into real struggles; it is not the responsibility of the image to authoritatively encompass, but to travel with us, reflect our positions and form visual environments in which we can organise towards communism. The IMF and the Bank of England have both warned that the west is potentially building towards a second global economic crisis." (http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/10260/1/deterritorial-support-group)