Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord

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Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord

Postby admin » Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:13 pm

Comments on the Society of the Spectacle
by Guy Debord
Translated by Malcolm Imrie
First published by Editions Gerard Lebovici, 1988
This edition published by Verso 1990
© Editions Gerard Lebovici 1988
Translation © Malcolm Imrie 1990

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In memory of Girard Lebovici, ambushed and murdered in Paris on 5 March 1984 by persons still unknown

However desperate the situation and circumstances, do not despair. When there is everything to fear, be unafraid. When surrounded by dangers, fear none of them. When without resources, depend on resourcefulness. When surprised, take the enemy itself by surprise.

-- SUN TZU, The Art of War
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Re: Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord

Postby admin » Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:14 pm

I

THESE Comments are sure to be welcomed by fifty or sixty people; a large number given the times in which we live and the gravity of the matters under discussion. But then, of course, in some circles I am considered to be an authority. It must also be borne in mind that a good half of this interested elite will consist of people who devote themselves to maintaining the spectacular system of domination, and the other half of people who persist in doing quite the opposite. Having, then, to take account of readers who are both attentive and diversely influential, I obviously cannot speak with complete freedom. Above all, I must take care not to give too much information to just anybody.

Our unfortunate times thus compel me, once again, to write in a new way. Some elements will be intentionally omitted; and the plan will have to remain rather unclear. Readers will encounter certain decoys, like the very hallmark of the era. As long as certain pages are interpolated here and there, the overall meaning may appear, just as secret clauses have very often been added to whatever treaties may openly stipulate; just as some chemical agents only reveal their hidden properties when they are combined with others. However, in this brief work there will be only too many things which are, alas, easy to understand.
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Re: Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord

Postby admin » Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:14 pm

II

IN 1967, in a book entitled The Society of the Spectacle, I showed what the modern spectacle was already in essence: the autocratic reign of the market economy which had acceded to an irresponsible sovereignty, and the totality of new techniques of government which accompanied this reign. The disturbances of 1968, which in several countries lasted into the following years, having nowhere overthrown the existing organisation of the society from which it springs apparently spontaneously, the spectacle has thus continued to gather strength; that is, to spread to the furthest limits on all sides, while increasing its density in the centre. It has even learnt new defensive techniques, as powers under attack always do. When I began the critique of spectacular society, what was particularly noticed - given the period - was the revolutionary content that could be discovered in that critique; and it was naturally felt to be its most troublesome element. As to the spectacle itself, I was sometimes accused of having invented it out of thin air, and was always accused of indulging myself to excess in my evaluation of its depth and unity, and its real workings. I must admit that others who later published new books on the same subject demonstrated that it was quite possible to say less. All they had to do was to replace the totality and its movement by a single static detail on the surface of the phenomenon, with each author demonstrating his originality by choosing a different and all the less disturbing one. No one wanted to taint the scientific modesty of his personal interpretation by interposing reckless historical judgements.

Nonetheless, the society of the spectacle has continued to advance. It moves quickly for in 1967 it had barely forty years behind it; though it had used them to the full. And by its own development, which no one took the trouble to investigate, it has since shown with some astonishing achievements that it was effectively just what I said it was. Proving this point has more than academic value, because it is undoubtedly indispensable to have understood the spectacle's unity and articulation as an active force in order to examine the directions in which this force has since been able to travel. These questions are of great interest, for it is under such conditions that the next stage of social conflict will necessarily be played out. Since the spectacle today is certainly more powerful than it was before, what is it doing with this additional power? What point has it reached, that it had not reached previously? What, in short, are its present lines of advance? The vague feeling that there has been a rapid invasion which has forced people to lead their lives in an entirely different way is now widespread; but this is experienced rather like some inexplicable change in the climate, or in some other natural equilibrium, a change faced with which ignorance knows only that it has nothing to say. What is more, many see it as a civilising invasion, as something inevitable, and even want to collaborate. Such people would rather not know the precise purpose of this conquest, and how it is advancing.

I am going to outline certain practical consequences, still little known, of the spectacle's rapid extension over the last twenty years. I have no intention of entering into polemics on any aspect of this question; these are now too easy, and too useless. Nor will I try to convince. The present comments are not concerned with moralising. They do not propose what is desirable, or merely preferable. They simply record what is.
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Re: Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord

Postby admin » Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:14 pm

III

No ONE today can reasonably doubt the existence or the power of the spectacle; on the contrary, one might doubt whether it is reasonable to add anything on a question which experience has already settled in such draconian fashion. Le Monde of 19 September 1987 offered a felicitous illustration of the saying, 'If it exists, there's no need to talk about it', a fundamental law in these spectacular times which, at least in this respect, ensure there is no such thing as a backward country:

That modern society is a society of the spectacle now goes without saying. Indeed people will soon only be conspicuous by their reticence. One loses count of all the books describing a phenomenon which now marks all the industrialised nations yet equally spares none of the countries which has still to catch up. What is so droll, however, is that all the books which do analyse this phenomenon, usually to deplore it, cannot but join the spectacle if they're to get attention.


It is true that this spectacular critique of the spectacle, which is not only late but, even worse, seeks 'attention' on the same level, inevitably sticks to vain generalities or hypocritical regrets; just as futile as the clowns who parade their well-mannered disillusion in newspapers.

The empty debate on the spectacle - that is, on the activities of the world's owners - is thus organised by the spectacle itself: everything is said about the extensive means at its disposal, to ensure that nothing is said about their extensive deployment. Rather than talk of the spectacle, people often prefer to use the term 'media'. And by this they mean to describe a mere instrument, a kind of public service which with impartial 'professionalism' would facilitate the new wealth of mass communication through mass media - a form of communication which has at last attained a unilateral purity, whereby decisions already taken are presented for passive admiration. For what is communicated are orders; and with perfect harmony, those who give them are also those who tell us what they think of them.


Spectacular power, which is so fundamentally unitary, so concentrated by the very weight of things, and entirely despotic in spirit, frequently rails at the appearance in its realm of a spectacular politics, a spectacular justice, a spectacular medicine and all the other similarly surprising examples of 'media excess'. Thus the spectacle would be merely the excesses of the media, whose nature, unquestionably good since it facilitates communication, is sometimes driven to extremes.

Often enough society's bosses declare themselves ill-served by their media employees: more often they blame the spectators for the common, almost bestial manner in which they indulge in the media's delights. A virtually infinite number of supposed differences within the media thus serve to screen what is in fact the result of a spectacular convergence, pursued with remarkable tenacity. Just as the logic of the commodity reigns over capitalists' competing ambitions, and the logic of war always dominates the frequent modifications in weaponry, so the harsh logic of the spectacle controls the abundant diversity of media extravagances.

In all that has happened in the last twenty years, the most important change lies in the very continuity of the spectacle. This has nothing to do with the perfecting of its media instruments, which had already reached a highly advanced stage of development; it means quite simply that the spectacle's domination has succeeded in raising a whole generation moulded to its laws. The extraordinary new conditions in which this entire generation has effectively lived constitute a precise and comprehensive summary of all that, henceforth, the spectacle will forbid; and also all that it will permit.
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Re: Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord

Postby admin » Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:14 pm

IV

ON a theoretical level I only need add a single detail to my earlier formulations, albeit one which has far-reaching consequences. In 1967 I distinguished two rival and successive forms of spectacular power, the concentrated and the diffuse. Both of them floated above real society, as its goal and its lie. The former, favouring the ideology condensed around a dictatorial personality, had accomplished the totalitarian counter-revolution, fascist as well as Stalinist. The latter, driving wage-earners to apply their freedom of choice to the vast range of new commodities now on offer, had represented the Americanisation of the world, a process which in some respects frightened but also successfully seduced those countries where it had been possible to maintain traditional forms of bourgeois democracy. Since then a third form has been established, through the rational combination of these two, and on the basis of a general victory of the form which had showed itself stronger: the diffuse. This is the integrated spectacle, which has since tended to impose itself globally.

Whereas Russia and Germany were largely responsible for the formation of the concentrated spectacle, and the United States for the diffuse form, the integrated spectacle has been pioneered by France and Italy. The emergence of this new form is attributable to a number of shared historical features, namely, the important role of the Stalinist party and unions in political and intellectual life, a weak democratic tradition, the long monopoly of power enjoyed by a single party of government, and the need to eliminate an unexpected upsurge in revolutionary activity.

The integrated spectacle shows itself to be simultaneously concentrated and diffuse, and ever since the fruitful union of the two has learnt to employ both these qualities on a grander scale. Their former mode of application has changed considerably. As regards concentration, the controlling centre has now become occult never to be occupied by a known leader, or clear ideology. And on the diffuse side, the spectacle has never before put its mark to such a degree on almost the full range of socially produced behaviour and objects. For the final sense of the integrated spectacle is this - that it has integrated itself into reality to the same extent as it was describing it, and that it was reconstructing it as it was describing it. As a result, this reality no longer confronts the integrated spectacle as something alien. When the spectacle was concentrated, the greater part of surrounding society escaped it; when diffuse, a small part; today, no part. The spectacle has spread itself to the point where it now permeates all reality. It was easy to predict in theory what has been quickly and universally demonstrated by practical experience of economic reason's relentless accomplishments: that the globalisation of the false was also the falsification of the globe. Beyond a legacy of old books and old buildings, still of some significance but destined to continual reduction and, moreover, increasingly highlighted and classified to suit the spectacle's requirements, there remains nothing, in culture or in nature, which has not been transformed; and polluted, according to the means and interests of modern industry. Even genetics has become readily accessible to the dominant social forces.

Spectacular government, which now possesses all the means necessary to falsify the whole of production and perception, is the absolute master of memories just as it is the unfettered master of plans which will shape the most distant future. It reigns unchecked; it executes its summary judgements.

It is in these conditions that a parodic end of the division of labour suddenly appears, with carnivalesque gaiety; all the more welcome because it coincides with the generalised disappearance of all real ability. A financier can be a singer, a lawyer a police spy, a baker can parade his literary tastes, an actor can be president, a chef can philosophise on cookery techniques as if they were landmarks in universal history. Anyone can join the spectacle, in order publicly to adopt, or sometimes secretly practise, an entirely different activity from whatever specialism first made their name. Where 'media status' has acquired infinitely more importance than the value of anything one might actually be capable of doing, it is normal for this status to be readily transferable; for anyone, anywhere, to have the same right to the same kind of stardom. Most often these accelerated media particles pursue their own careers in the glow of statutorily guaranteed admiration. But it sometimes happens that the transition to the media provides the cover for several different enterprises, officially independent but in fact secretly linked by various ad hoc networks. With the result that occasionally the social division of labour, along with the readily foreseeable unity of its application, reappears in quite new forms: for example, one can now publish a novel in order to arrange an assassination. Such picturesque examples also go to show that one should never trust someone because of their job.

Yet the highest ambition of the integrated spectacle is still to turn secret agents into revolutionaries, and revolutionaries into secret agents.
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Re: Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord

Postby admin » Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:15 pm

V

THE society whose modernisation has reached the stage of the integrated spectacle is characterised by the combined effect of five principal features: incessant technological renewal; integration of state and economy; generalised secrecy; unanswerable lies; an eternal present.

Technological innovation has a long history, and is an essential component of capitalist society, sometimes described as industrial or post-industrial. But since its most recent acceleration (in the aftermath of the Second World War) it has greatly reinforced spectacular authority, by surrendering everybody to the mercy of specialists, to their calculations and to the judgements which always depend on them. The integration of state and economy is the most evident trend of the century; it is at the very least the motor of all recent economic developments. The defensive and offensive pact concluded between these two powers, economy and state, has provided them with the greatest common advantages in every field: each may be said to own the other; at any rate, it is absurd to oppose them, or to distinguish between their reasons and follies. This union, too, has proved to be highly favourable to the development of spectacular domination - indeed, the two have been indistinguishable from the very start. The other three features are direct effects of this domination, in its integrated stage.

Generalised secrecy stands behind the spectacle, as the decisive complement of all it displays and, in the last analysis, as its most vital operation.

The simple fact of being unanswerable has given what is false an entirely new quality. At a stroke it is truth which has almost everywhere ceased to exist or, at best, has been reduced to the status of pure hypothesis. Unanswerable lies have succeeded in eliminating public opinion, which first lost the ability to make itself heard and then very quickly dissolved altogether. This evidently has significant consequences for politics, the applied sciences, the legal system and the arts.

The manufacture of a present where fashion itself, from clothes to music, has come to a halt, which wants to forget the past and no longer seems to believe in a future, is achieved by the ceaseless circularity of information, always returning to the same short list of trivialities, passionately proclaimed as major discoveries. Meanwhile news of what is genuinely important, of what is actually changing, comes rarely, and then in fits and starts. It always concerns this world's apparent condemnation of its own existence, the stages in its programmed self-destruction.
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Re: Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord

Postby admin » Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:15 pm

VI

SPECTACULAR domination's first priority was to eradicate historical knowledge in general; beginning with just about all rational information and commentary on the most recent past. The evidence for this is so glaring it hardly needs further explanation. With consummate skill the spectacle organises ignorance of what is about to happen and, immediately afterwards, the forgetting of whatever has nonetheless been understood. The more important something is, the more it is hidden. Nothing in the last twenty years has been so thoroughly coated in obedient lies as the history of May 1968. Some useful lessons have indeed been learnt from certain demystifying studies of those days; these, however, remain state secrets.

In France, it is some ten years now since a president of the republic, long ago forgotten but at the time still basking on the spectacle's surface, naively expressed his delight at 'knowing that henceforth we will live in a world without memory, where images flow and merge, like reflections on the water'. Convenient indeed for those in business, and who know how to stay there. The end of history gives power a welcome break. Success is guaranteed in all its undertakings, or at least the rumour of success.

How drastically any absolute power will suppress history depends on the extent of its imperious interests or obligations, and especially on its practical capacity to execute its aims. Ts'in Che Hoang Ti had books burned, but he never managed to get rid of all of them. In our own century Stalin went further, yet despite the various accomplices he managed to find outside his empire's borders, there remained a vast area of the world beyond the reach of his police, where his schemes could be ridiculed. With its new techniques now adopted globally, the integrated spectacle has done much better. Ineptitude compels universal respect; it is no longer permitted to laugh at it. In any case, it has become impossible to show that one is laughing.

History's domain was the memorable, the totality of events whose consequences would be lastingly apparent. And thus, inseparably, history was knowledge that should endure and aid in understanding, at least in part, what was to come: 'an everlasting possession', according to Thucydides. In this way history was the measure of genuine novelty. It is in the interests of those who sell novelty at any price to eradicate the means of measuring it. When social significance is attributed only to what is immediate, and to what will be immediate immediately afterwards, always replacing another, identical, immediacy, it can be seen that the uses of the media guarantee a kind of eternity of noisy insignificance.

The precious advantage which the spectacle has acquired through the outlawing of history, from having driven the recent past into hiding, and from having made everyone forget the spirit of history within society, is above all the ability to cover its own tracks - to conceal the very progress of its recent world conquest. Its power already seems familiar, as if it had always been there. All usurpers have shared this aim: to make us forget that they have only just arrived.
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Re: Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord

Postby admin » Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:15 pm

VII

WITH the destruction of history, contemporary events themselves retreat into a remote and fabulous realm of unverifiable stories, uncheckable statistics, unlikely explanations and untenable reasoning. For every imbecility presented by the spectacle, there are only the media's professionals to give an answer, with a few respectful rectifications or remonstrations. And they are hardly extravagant, even with these, for besides their extreme ignorance, their personal and professional solidarity with the spectacle's overall authority and the society it expresses makes it their duty, and their pleasure, never to diverge from that authority whose majesty must not be threatened. It must not be forgotten that every media professional is bound by wages and other rewards and recompenses to a master, and sometimes to several; and that every one of them knows he is dispensable.

According to numbers from the media analyst Andrew Tyndall, of the 414 stories on Iraq broadcast on NBC, ABC, and CBS from last September to February, all but thirty-four originated at the White House, Pentagon, and State Department. So we end up with too much of the “official” truth.

-- Re-thinking Objectivity: In a world of spin, our awkward embrace of an ideal can make us passive recipients of the news, by Brent Cunningham


All experts serve the state and the media and only in that way do they achieve their status. Every expert follows his master, for all former possibilities for independence have been gradually reduced to nil by present society's mode of organisation. The most useful expert, of course, is the one who can lie. With their different motives, those who need experts are falsifiers and fools. Whenever individuals lose the capacity to see things for themselves, the expert is there to offer an absolute reassurance. Once there were experts in Etruscan art, and competent ones, for Etruscan art was not for sale. But a period which, for example, finds it profitable to fake by chemical means various famous wines, can only sell them if it has created wine experts able to con connoisseurs into admiring their new, more distinctive, flavours. Cervantes remarks that 'under a poor cloak you commonly find a good drinker'. Someone who knows his wine may often understand nothing about the rules of the nuclear industry; but spectacular power calculates that if one expert can make a fool of him with nuclear energy, another can easily do the same with wine. And it is well known, for example, that media meteorologists, forecasting temperature or rainfall for the next forty-eight hours, are severely limited in what they say by the obligation to maintain certain economic, touristic and regional balances, when so many people make so many journeys on so many roads, between so many equally desolate places; thus they can only try to make their names as entertainers.

One aspect of the disappearance of all objective historical knowledge can be seen in the way that individual reputations have become malleable and alterable at will by those who control all information: information which is gathered and also - an entirely different matter - information which is broadcast. Their ability to falsify is thus unlimited. Historical evidence which the spectacle does not need to know ceases to be evidence. When the only fame is that bestowed by the grace and favour of a spectacular Court, disgrace may swiftly follow. An anti-spectacular notoriety has become something extremely rare. I myself am one of the last people to retain one, having never had any other. But it has also become extraordinarily suspect. Society has officially declared itself to be spectacular. To be known outside spectacular relations is already to be known as an enemy of society.

A person's past can be entirely rewritten, radically altered, recreated in the manner of the Moscow trials - and without even having to bother with anything as clumsy as a trial. Killing comes cheaper these days. Those who run the spectacle, or their friends, surely have no lack of false witnesses, though they may be unskilled - and how could the spectators who witness the exploits of these false witnesses ever recognise their blunders? - or false documents, which are always highly effective. Thus it is no longer possible to believe anything about anyone that you have not learned for yourself, directly. But in fact false accusations are rarely necessary. Once one controls the mechanism which operates the only form of social verification to be fully and universally recognised, one can say what one likes. The spectacle proves its arguments simply by going round in circles: by coming back to the start, by repetition, by constant reaffirmation in the only space left where anything can be publicly affirmed, and believed, precisely because that is the only thing to which everyone is witness. Spectacular power can similarly deny whatever it likes, once, or three times over, and change the subject; knowing full well there is no danger of any riposte, in its own space or any other.

For the agora, the general community, has gone, along with communities restricted to intermediary bodies or to independent institutions, to salons or cafes, or to workers in a single company. There is no place left where people can discuss the realities which concern them, because they can never lastingly free themselves from the crushing presence of media discourse and of the various forces organised to relay it. Nothing remains of the relatively independent judgement of those who once made up the world of learning of those, for example, who used to base their self-respect on their ability to verify, to come close to 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 computerised catalogues of national libraries are well-equipped to remove any residual 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 obligations and imperatives they often accepted, within the limits of their competence: men resemble their times more than their fathers.

When the spectacle stops talking about something for three days, it is as if it did not exist. For it has then gone on to talk about something else, and it is that which henceforth, in short, exists. The practical consequences, as we see, are enormous.

We believe we know that in Greece history and democracy entered the world at the same time. We can prove that their disappearances have also been simultaneous.

To this list of the triumphs of power we should, however, add one result which has proved negative: once the running of a state involves a permanent and massive shortage of historical knowledge, that state can no longer be led strategically.
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Re: Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord

Postby admin » Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:15 pm

VIII

ONCE it attains the stage of the integrated spectacle, self-proclaimed democratic society seems to be generally accepted as the realisation of a fragile perfection. So that it must no longer be exposed to attacks, being fragile; and indeed is no longer open to attack, being perfect as no other society before it. It is a fragile society because it has great difficulty managing its dangerous technological expansion. But it is a perfect society for governing; and the proof is that all those who aspire to govern want to govern this one, in the same way, changing hardly a thing. For the first time in contemporary Europe no party or fraction of a party even tries to pretend that they wish to change anything significant. The commodity is beyond criticism: as a general system and even as the particular forms of junk which heads of industry choose to put on the market at any given time.

Wherever the spectacle has its dominion the only organised forces are those which want the spectacle. Thus no one can be the enemy of what exists, nor transgress the omerta which applies to everything. We have dispensed with that disturbing conception, which was dominant for over two hundred years, in which a society was open to criticism or transformation, reform or revolution. Not thanks to any new arguments, but quite simply because all argument has become useless. From this result we can estimate not universal happiness, but the redoubtable strength of tyranny's tentacles.

Never before has censorship been so perfect. Never before have those who are still led to believe, in a few countries, that they remain free citizens, been less entitled to make their opinions heard, wherever it is a matter of choices affecting their real lives. Never before has it been possible to lie to them so brazenly. The spectator is simply supposed to know nothing, and deserve nothing. Those who are always watching to see what happens next will never act: such must be the spectator's condition. People often cite the United States as an exception because there Nixon eventually came to grief with a series of denials whose clumsiness was too cynical: but this entirely local exception, for which there were some old historical causes, clearly no longer holds true, since Reagan has recently been able to do the same thing with impunity. Many things may be unauthorised; everything is permitted. Talk of scandal is thus archaic. The most profound summing-up of the period which the whole world entered shortly after Italy and the United States, can be found in the words of a senior Italian statesman, a member, simultaneously, of both the official government and the parallel government, P2, Potere Due: 'Once there were scandals, but not any more.'

In The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Marx described the state's encroachment upon Second Empire France, then blessed with half a million bureaucrats: '[Everything was] made a subject for governmental activity, whether it was a bridge, a schoolhouse, the communal property of a village community, or the railways, the national wealth and the national university of France.' The famous question of the funding of political parties was already being posed, for Marx noted that, 'The parties that strove in turn for mastery regarded possession of this immense state edifice as the main booty for the victor.' Yet this may nonetheless sound somewhat bucolic and out of date, at a time when the state's speculations involve new towns and motorways, channel tunnels and nuclear energy, oil wells and computers, the administration of banks and cultural centres, the modification of the 'audiovisual landscape' and secret arms exports, property speculation and pharmaceuticals, agribusiness and hospitals, military credits and the secret funds of the ever-expanding departments charged with running society's numerous defence services. But Marx unfortunately remains all too up to date when in the same book he describes this government, which 'rather than deciding by night and striking by day, decides by day and strikes by night'.
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Re: Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord

Postby admin » Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:15 pm

IX

SUCH a perfect democracy constructs its own inconceivable foe, terrorism. Its wish is to be judged by its enemies rather than by its results. The story of terrorism is written by the state and it is therefore highly instructive. The spectators must certainly never know everything about terrorism, but they must always know enough to convince them that, compared with terrorism, everything else must be acceptable, or in any case more rational and democratic.

The modernisation of repression has succeeded in perfecting - first in the Italian pilot-project under the name of pentiti - sworn professional accusers; a phenomenon first seen in the seventeenth century after the Fronde, when such people were called 'certificated witnesses'. This spectacular judicial progress has filled Italy's prisons with thousands of people condemned to do penance for a civil war which did not take place, a kind of mass armed insurrection which, by chance, never actually happened, a putsch woven of such stuff as dreams are made on.

It can be seen that interpretations of terrorism's mysteries appear to have brought about a symmetry between contradictory views, rather like two schools of philosophy adhering to absolutely incompatible metaphysical systems. Some would see terrorism as simply a number of acts of blatant manipulation on the part of the secret services; others would reproach the terrorists for their total lack of historical understanding. But a little historical logic should rapidly convince us that there is nothing contradictory in recognising that people who understand nothing of history can readily be manipulated; even more so than others. And it is much easier to lead someone to 'repent' when it can be shown that everything he thought he did freely was actually known in advance. It is an inevitable consequence of clandestine, military forms of organisation that a few infiltrators can activate, and eliminate, a lot of people. Criticism, when evaluating armed struggles, must sometimes analyse particular operations without being led astray by the general resemblance that will finally be imposed on all of them. We should expect, as a logical possibility, that the state's security services intend to use all the advantages they find in the realm of the spectacle, which has indeed been organised with that in mind for some considerable time: on the contrary, it is a difficulty in perceiving this which is astonishing, and rings false.

Judicial repression's present objective here, of course, is to generalise matters as fast as possible. What is important in this commodity is the packing, or the labelling: the price codes. One enemy of spectacular democracy is the same as another, just like spectacular democracies themselves. Thus there must be no right of asylum for terrorists, and even those who have not yet been accused of being terrorists can certainly become them, with extradition swiftly following. In November 1978, dealing with the case of a young print worker, Gabor Winter, wanted by the West German government mainly for having printed certain revolutionary leaflets, Mlle Nicole Pradain, acting on behalf of the Department of Public Prosecution in the Appeal Court of Paris, quickly showed that the 'political motives' which could be the only grounds for refusing extradition under the Franco-German agreement of 29 November 1951, could not be invoked:

Gabor Winter is a social criminal, not a political one. He refuses to accept social constraints. A true political criminal doesn't reject society. He attacks political structures and not, like Gabor Winter, social structures.


The notion of acceptable political crime only became recognised in Europe once the bourgeoisie had successfully attacked previous social structures. The nature of political crime could not be separated from the varied objectives of social critique. This was true for Blanqui, Varlin, Durruti. Nowadays there is a pretence of wishing to preserve a purely political crime, like some inexpensive luxury, a crime which doubtless no one will ever have the occasion to commit again, since no one is interested in the subject any more; except for the professional politicians themselves, whose crimes are rarely pursued, nor for that matter called political. All crimes and offences are effectively social. But of all social crimes, none must be seen as worse than the impertinent claim to still want to change something in a society which has so far been only too kind and patient; but has had enough of being blamed.

If, moreover, revolutionary leaders describe the United States as the scourge of the 20th century, the enemy of freedom-loving people, the perpetrator of imperialism, racism, colonialism, genocide, war, then they are not authentic democrats or, to put it mildly, friends. Groups which define themselves as enemies should be treated as enemies. The United States is not in fact a racist, colonial power, it does not practice genocide, it does not threaten world peace with expansionist activities. In the last decade especially we have practiced remarkable forbearance everywhere and undertaken the "unilateral restraints on defense spending" recommended by Brzezinski as appropriate for the technetronic era. We have also moved further, faster, in eliminating domestic racism than any multiracial society in the world or in history.

For these reasons and more, a posture of continuous self-abasement and apology vis-a-vis the Third World is neither morally necessary nor politically appropriate. No more is it necessary or appropriate to support vocal enemies of the United States because they invoke the rhetoric of popular liberation. It is not even necessary or appropriate for our leaders to forswear unilaterally the use of military force to counter military force. Liberal idealism need not be identical with masochism, and need not be incompatible with the defense of freedom and the national interest.


-- Dictators and Double Standards, by Jean J. Kirkpatrick
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