Turning Love to Hate with Luisa Le Voguer Couyet

by Isis Menteth Wheelwright on 08 August 2022
Turning Love to Hate with Luisa Le Voguer Couyet
What does it mean to be an activist in an increasingly digital age?

Luisa Le Voguer Couvet is one busy woman. The founder of the collective hate, a zine and resource hub for left-wing activism with a prominent social media presence, she is also social media editor for thriving news organisation Novara Media, as well as studying for a Law Degree. She (somehow) found a moment to sit down with me to discuss zines, DIY culture and the future of activism in an internet age for MBR.

We started by talking about Luisa’s zine, hate. For those that don’t know, zines are small circulation, self-published mag- azines. Outside of an often cagey publishing industry, in practice zines act as little creative gems marked by unfiltered voices, which form the backbone of a vibrant DIY culture. hate have, through the diverse media of their contributors, examined themes of social justice, death, community solidarity, politics, pain and love. Their pages have coalesced a blueprint of voices that are testament to the creativity of South London.

IMW: How did hate zine come about?

LLVC: hate was co-founded by myself and my best friend Scarlett Carlos-Clarke in 2015, although I’ve always been interested in magazines and publications since I was a kid. When I was in my early 20s Scarlett helped me turn some drawings into something more substantial, she’s a photographer and at the time I was trying to write for magazines – neither of us were get- ting paid so we thought we may as well have our own, unedited voice if we weren’t making money from print.

IMW: hate has expanded to a community platform with a strong social media presence; for many it has become the go-to platform for finding resources and memes to soundtrack a politically turbulent time. How did this transition come about and how do you see it going forward?

LLVC: We were always very reluctant for hate to have an online presence. We wanted the physical zine to be this really tactile thing that people could treasure and return to at their own pace. Social media is the opposite of that. When Scarlett left in 2017 I had to take over the social channels as she’d mainly handled the digital side of things. I think it really exploded around 2019. Since the 2019 election I’ve seen a real difference in people outside my bubble of politically engaged friends. I think our government’s handling of the pandemic opened a lot of people’s eyes, coupled with the BLM movement that erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. It feels like people are a lot more receptive to political content which is great.

Going forward I’d like to be able to help channel some of this online awareness into IRL [in real life] action for hate’s community. I want the website to become like a millennial/gen Z Citizens Advice Bureau and I want to be able to spend more time using the social channels for sharing information on past social/direct action campaigns that have worked. I’m also keen to work on a new printed issue of hate – the last one was in 2019! Recently someone referred to hate as their favourite ‘meme page’ and the other day someone asked if hate was actually a zine (they only know hate from our Instagram page). It’s strange to me that this new following might only know hate in this way.

IMW: hate has been something created off the back of the intention of its contributors, outside of traditional institutions and financial profit. Why is do-it-yourself culture so important to you?

LLVC: Anything that rejects or subverts the mainstream has great potential to influence subcultures and wider culture in general. Mainstream arts and fashion culture is so saturated with brands and so dependent on capitalism and economic growth that it can’t offer us any alternative visions for the fu- ture, at a time when we desperately need them. I think young people are aware of this too, and it gives me so much hope to see people recognising this. DIY culture can be very liberating and as a result nourishing. People working within it, especially within the zine community, are doing so because they’re re- ally passionate about it. There’s no money in DIY culture but people are compelled to keep working away at their projects regardless. I think that in itself is a rejection of capitalism and the insidious rise and grind culture which tells us we must be hustling 24 hours a day.

IMW: With this in mind, in a society that often values capitalist accumulation above all else, how do you do activism and also pay the bills? Can activism ever be a job?

LLVC: I think it’s really hard to. I’m quite wary of any self-proclaimed #activists and I would never call myself an activist as I just don’t feel like I’m ‘active’ enough, whatever that means. During the first lockdown, and before I joined Novara Media [as its social media editor], I made the decision to start studying law with the intention of becoming a public law solicitor. I felt like hate wasn’t going far enough, and wanted to have some real world impact. Saying that, I do think social media can be used for good and the left as a whole could be a lot smarter about how they make it work for them. I think there is a space for online activism so long as audiences don’t equate the limits of ‘action’ with liking and sharing posts. To make a career from it I think individual activists have to be wary of brand partnerships, so crowdfunding and subscribers is a potential revenue source. Other routes into having a career in activism are probably through training or volunteering, though I know not everyone can afford these things or the time. It’s shit that it can often be inaccessible, I’m finding this now with legal volunteering. Public law firms want you to have loads of experience before they’ll consider you for a training contract, but the pay is terrible, if you’re even being paid.

IMW: In an increasingly online activist world, do you see social media as an integral part of your work?

LLVC: Social media plays a really large part in my life and it’s an essential means of communicating with people. If the right-wing establishment has the money and resources to manipulate and cheat, then the left needs to ensure we can compete in other ways. We can and should be using social media to reach people. I’ve been thinking about offering free Zoom calls or tips and workshops for left and activist campaigns on how to use social media. We should abolish the influencer industrial complex!

IMW: How do you stay hopeful in difficult times?

LLVC: I find it increasingly difficult to be honest. Keeping myself busy with work, studying, volunteering, etc. keeps me excited and hopeful in the short term. As I get older I do feel very torn about the idea of children and that’s becoming quite confusing. A few years ago I was like fuck it, I won’t have kids, don’t need to have kids, the climate crisis is terrifying. Now I wonder if getting older my body is like, ‘hello? Activate broodiness’.

Looking at the state of the world and the ramping up of austerity and cuts and new IPCC reports can be suffocating. I probably think about the climate crisis too much, but I feel trapped between wanting to know how bad things are so I can prepare myself or plot my escape, and feeling like all hope is lost and I should therefore just give up and buy loads of things and invest in some kind of individualistic, hedonistic nihilism before we all go up in flames.

I’m also aware that people in parts of the Global South are already on the sharp end of the crisis despite having contributed nothing toward it, it’s incredibly unjust. They don’t have the luxury of planning an escape – thanks in part to the Global North’s hostile immigration policies – or shielding themselves from the worst effects for as long as possible like I perhaps can in Northern Europe. I think an awareness of the inequalities in the world, globally and within the UK, keeps me angry enough to want to do something about it. I think hope can be found in anger and in feelings of pain; if you’re angry because you know things should be better then I think you have the capacity for hope, even if it feels futile at the time.