“Bash Back: If Democracy doesn’t work, try anarchy!”
“[Bash Back!] reflects the ways that mobs conducted themselves in the underworld. They are methods gangs use to control their turf. They are the wiles that the KGB used to suppress their enemies. But this is the United States of America…Revenge or retribution is not the American way. Is militant antagonism and vengeful aggression really the best Americans can offer to other Americans who oppose them? “
“A mob of gay terrorists”
“What troubles me so deeply, and should trouble all thinking Americans, is that there is a real, unbroken line between the jihadist savagery in Mumbai and the hedonistic, irresponsible, blindly selfish goals and tactics of our homegrown sexual jihadists.”
“Give me a FUCKING break! The Mormon Church and the Greek riots are totally unconnected!”
Through collections of essays, communiqués, narratives, images, and interviews, this anthology hopes to account for what Bash Back! was and what happened to it. We have included a number of actions, theories, and other essays that were not explicitly or implicitly related to Bash Back! as a name. In this context, if we do not recognize the actions of related tendencies and publications, then we fail to tell the complete history of Bash Back! as a network and as a tendency.
The term queer in this book is used both loosely and inclusively. We view queer as the blurring of sexual and gender identities. Queer is the refusal of fixed identities. It is a war on all identity. In line with the Bash Back! tendency, for the uses of this anthology queer is trans because the gender binary is inherently oppressive. More often than not, our use of the term queer is interchangeable with our use of trans, though that is not necessarily true of the way in which trans-whatever is used. We acknowledge that society ensures Queer is an oppressed identity. Anti-Queer oppression is the systematic violence encountered by people who fall outside of traditional sexual or gender categories. This terminology might be confusing, but it is likely that the content within this anthology will clear the air. Admittedly, it might create more confusion among our straight counterparts. With revolution complete and the black flag burned, the category of queer must too be destroyed.
Bash Back! was not just a group or organization, but a militant tendency on the part of queer individuals. While Bash Back! was occasionally public and campy, bashing back was more of an everyday evolutionary occurrence than any sort of activist entity. Most of what can be attributed to the Bash Back! period never made it onto the internet or into newspapers. Bashing back meant bar fights, outrunning lynch mobs, glamdalization, attacking the homes of heterosexist murderers, outright chaos, alleged lootings, theory discussions, self-defense tips, social gatherings, beat downs, the acquisition of large quantities of pepper spray, and attempts at sexual liberation. It was a temporary counter culture amongst friend groups and peers that called for nothing short of direct confrontation with the (mostly) straight, (mostly) white and always normative society: the ultimate queer propaganda by queer deed.
Those who keep up with academic queer theory will surely be aware of the self-described “anti-social turn” in Queer Theory. It seems that the newest trend within the queer academy is to focus on the queer negativity, to critique society, and to refuse traditional politics. At a time when society itself is falling apart, when unprecedented amounts of human beings are recognizing that they have NO FUTURE and are proceeding accordingly, we must call this academic trend by its name: recuperation.
Some idiot tries basing his thesis on the queer riots at the G20; Judith Butler delivers a speech at a conference at the New School about “queer anarchism”; Jack Halberstam seeks to valorize the negative and trace the anti-social turn; a class at the University of California is called ”criminal queer” (yet the instructor denounces the activity of insurrectionaries on that very campus)—one after another queer academics line up to jump on the negativity bandwagon. Each appropriates the activity of insurgents toward the ends of strengthening their own careers. They take anti-social activity and use it to reproduce the Academy as a central engine of society itself. This is the ultimate treason. In theorizing about the activity of Bash Back! it is my ambition to demonstrate real queer assaults upon the social order. In doing so, this collection should clearly expose those for whom negativity and revolt are mere matters of image.
Queer insurrection demands that each of us become a theoretician. More importantly, it demands that the anti-social turn, the turn against society, remains in the streets. Our revolt and our theory must be inseparable from our daily life. Toward this end, Bash Back! can be read as an attempt to expropriate queer theory from the Academy and put it toward the service of queer revolt; to dynamite the distinction between theory and life. For the sake of organizing this book, we split the texts between essays and communiques. To a large extent this is a false dichotomy that doesn’t accurately describe the activity of Bash Back!, which never recognized a distinction between its theorists and its combatants. Rather, it sought to queer this distinction and offer a praxis wherein theory is embodied in the very activity of those who theorize. A book that declares NO FUTURE offers only words. A riot that declares the same demonstrates a step toward insurrection.