What is Hollywood, you ask, dear children? A quorum of whores babbling endlessly on about fucking while the bordello is razed for a penny arcade -- Paul Bern

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


It is generally believed that those who have displayed the greatest incapacity in matters of logic are precisely those who proclaim themselves revolutionaries. This unjustified reproach dates from an age when almost everyone thought with a minimum of logic, with the striking exception of cretins and militants; and in the case of the latter bad faith played its part, intentionally, because it was held to be effective. But today there is no escaping the fact that intense use of the spectacle has, as we should have expected, turned most of our contemporaries into ideologues, if only in fits and starts, bits and pieces. Absence of logic, that is to say, loss of the ability to perceive immediately what is important and what is insignificant or irrelevant, what is incompatible or, inversely, what could well be complementary; all that a particular consequence implies and at the same time all that it excludes -- high doses of this disease have been intentionally injected into the population by the spectacle's anaesthetists/resuscitators. Protesters have not been any more irrational than submissive people. It is simply that in the former one sees a more intense manifestation of the general irrationality, because while displaying their project, they have actually tried to carry out a practical operation -- even if it is only to read certain texts and show that they know what they mean. They have given themselves diverse obligations to dominate logic, even strategy, which is precisely the entire field of the deployment of the dialectical logic of conflicts; but, like everyone else, they are greatly deprived of the basic ability to orient themselves by the old, imperfect tools of formal logic. No one worries about them; and hardly anyone thinks about the others.


Thus it is not surprising that children should glibly start their education at an early age with the Absolute Knowledge of computer science; while they still do not know how to read, for reading demands making veritable judgments at every line; and is the only access to the vast areas of pre-spectacular human experience.

For your garden variety megalomaniac, poor Jules Assange seems to have only an elementary conception of propaganda. Ellul says that the texture and ground of propaganda is facts, facts and images like the ones Assange puts out there like sparkly lemmas. Drawing on the myth of Daniel Ellsberg and the hacker’s maxim that information wants to be free, he invokes this pretty fancy pants explanation of what he’s doing, which is playing bass for the Sex Pistols. Assange is literally a Theorist of Conspiracy, which he sees in the usual technocratic way as a NETWORK or a brain… of knowledge/power multiplied through a technological/electrical system. Foucault meets Tom Swift. But he’s not worried about Google or Facebook, naturally, he’s tilting at a far more worthy adversary: the 19th century corporatist nation state. How fucking punk rock, man!

Assange: We can deceive or blind a conspiracy by distorting or restricting the information available to it. We can reduce total conspiratorial power via unstructured attacks on links or through throttling and separating. A conspiracy suffciently engaged in this manner is no longer able to comprehend its environment and plan robust action.

Now leaving aside that intelligence gathering operations already are victims of their own data mining agendas -- remember “Nigerian Yellowcake”? it would seem that an outfit like wikileaks is superfluous. If the ambition is to set up as a sort of Switzerland of Information, affecting an anarchist neutrality and equal opportunity hatred for all power systems, it seems inevitable that wikileaks will soon become a godsend for all the bad guys: a turnstile for all sorts of orphan information that while being technically correct, doesn’t indicate the private agenda behind its revelation, that is, it doesn’t tell you what key to play the notes in, or the tempo, to finally make the music.

In the Spectacular everyone is reduced to the condition of the spy. That is, the omniscient who in truth knows only what he has been given to know, or more precisely what he desires to be the case. The visible “matter” gives way to the dark matter of the invisible, and that is where the real work begins. Espionage is a landscape of mirrors. Angleton. Paranoia. Espionage is like zen poetry -- both "sides" work in unison to create the meaning of events. The real work of spycraft happens in the paranoid mind. A garden of forking quantum paths -- each alternative at every step must be considered as true/false, until that ever deferred moment when it is specularized, crystalized eternally in the non-history of the era.

In these terms, it seems to me the idea of an anarchist spymaster is insane and absurd.  At best Assange is a propagandist who doesn’t really understand how to do it, and is, granted, an unstable and mesmerizing figure because of it. 

He promises some novelty, but he may not deliver it.

Someone who is happy to be taken into confidence is hardly likely to criticize it; nor to remark that in all the confidences, the principal part of reality will always be hidden from him. Thanks to the benevolent protection of the cheaters, he knows a few more of the cards, but they can be false; and he never knows the method that directs and explains the game. Thus he immediately identifies himself with the manipulators and scorns the ignorance which in fact he shares. Because the scraps of information offered to the familiars of a lying tyranny are normally infected with lies, manipulated and uncheckable. They are, however, pleased to get these scraps, for they feel themselves superior to those who know nothing. They only know better than the rest so as to better approve of domination and never to actually comprehend it. They constitute the privilege of first-class spectators: those who have the stupidity to believe they can understand something, not by making use of what is hidden from them, but by believing what is revealed to them!


The individual who has been marked by impoverished spectacular thought more deeply than by any other aspect of his experience puts himself at the service of the established order right from the start, even though subjectively he may have had quite the opposite intention. He will essentially follow the language of the spectacle, for it is the only one he is familiar with; the one in which he learned to speak. No doubt he would like to show himself as an enemy of its rhetoric; but he will use its syntax. This is one of the most important aspects of the success obtained by spectacular domination.

History's domain was the memorable, the totality of events whose consequences would be lastingly apparent. Inseparably, history was knowledge that must endure and aid in understanding, at least in part, what was to come: "a possession for all time," according to Thucydides. In this way history was the measure of genuine novelty; and those who sell novelty at any price have made the means of measuring it disappear. When the important makes itself socially recognized as what is instantaneous, and will still be the other and the same the instant afterwards, and will always replace another instantaneous importance, one can say that the means employed guarantee a sort of eternity of non-importance that speaks loudly.


For every imbecile who has advanced spectacularly, there are only the mediatics who can respond with a few respectful rectifications or remonstrations, and they are miserly, for besides their extreme ignorance, their personal and professional solidarity with the spectacle's general authority and the society it expresses, makes it their duty, and their pleasure, never to diverge from that authority whose majesty must not be damaged. It must not be forgotten that all mediatics, through wages and other rewards and recompenses, has a master, and sometimes to several; and that every one of them knows he is dispensable.


Nothing remains of the guaranteed relatively independent judgment of those who once made up the world of learning; of those, for example, who used to base their pride on their ability to verify, to come close to what one called an impartial history of facts, or at least to believe that such a history deserved to be known. There is no longer even any incontestable bibliographical truth, and the computerized catalogues of national libraries are well-equipped to better suppress the traces. It is disorienting to consider what it meant to be a judge, a doctor or a historian not so long ago, and to recall the imperative obligations they often recognized, within the limits of their competence: men resemble their times more than their fathers.

All sensible quotes from Debord’s Commentaires. Read the whole thing. Here:

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