Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord

Gathered together in one place, for easy access, an agglomeration of writings and images relevant to the Rapeutation phenomenon.

Re: Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord

Postby admin » Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:16 pm

X

ACCORDING to the basic interests of the new system of domination, the dissolution of logic has been pursued by different, but mutually supportive, means. Some of these means involve the technology which the spectacle has tested and popularised; others are more linked to the mass psychology of submission.

At the technological level, when images chosen and constructed by someone else have everywhere become the individual's principal connection to the world he formerly observed for himself, it has certainly not been forgotten that these images can tolerate anything and everything; because within the same image all things can be juxtaposed without contradiction. The flow of images carries everything before it, and it is similarly someone else who controls at will this simplified summary of the sensible world; who decides where the flow will lead as well as the rhythm of what should be shown, like some perpetual, arbitrary surprise, leaving no time for reflection, and entirely independent of what the spectator might understand or think of it. In this concrete experience of permanent submission lies the psychological origin of such general acceptance of what is; an acceptance which comes to find in it, ipso facto, a sufficient value. Beyond what is strictly secret, spectacular discourse obviously silences anything it finds inconvenient. It isolates all it shows from its context, its past, its intentions and its consequences. It is thus completely illogical. Since no one may contradict it, it has the right to contradict itself, to correct its own past. The arrogant intention of its servants, when they have to put forward some new, and perhaps still more dishonest version of certain facts, is to harshly correct the ignorance and misinterpretations they attribute to their public, while the day before they themselves were busily disseminating the error, with their habitual assurance. Thus the spectacle's instruction and the spectators' ignorance are wrongly seen as antagonistic factors when in fact they give birth to each other. In the same way, the computer's binary language is an irresistible inducement to the continual and unreserved acceptance of what has been programmed according to the wishes of someone else and passes for the timeless source of a superior, impartial and total logic. Such progress, such speed, such breadth of vocabulary! Political? Social? Make your choice. You cannot have both. My own choice is inescapable. They are jeering at us, and we know whom these programs are for. Thus it is hardly surprising that children should enthusiastically start their education at an early age with the Absolute Knowledge of computer science; while they are still unable to read, for reading demands making judgements at every line; and is the only access to the wealth of pre-spectacular human experience. Conversation is almost dead, and soon so too will be those who knew how to speak.

The primary cause of the decadence of contemporary thought evidently lies in the fact that spectacular discourse leaves no room for any reply; while logic was only socially constructed through dialogue: Furthermore, when respect for those who speak through the spectacle is so widespread, when they are held to be rich, important, prestigious, to be authority itself, the spectators tend to want to be just as illogical as the spectacle, thereby proudly displaying an individual reflection of this authority. And finally, logic is not easy, and no one has tried to teach it. Drug addicts do not study logic; they no longer need it, nor are they capable of it. The spectator's laziness is shared by all intellectual functionaries and overnight specialists, all of whom do their best to conceal the narrow limits of their knowledge by the dogmatic repetition of arguments with illogical authority.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29337
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord

Postby admin » Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:16 pm

XI

IT IS generally believed that those who have displayed the greatest incapacity in matters of logic are self-proclaimed revolutionaries. This unjustified reproach dates from an age when almost everyone thought with some 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 absorption 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 immediately to perceive what is significant and what is insignificant or irrelevant; what is incompatible or 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. Rebels have certainly not been any more illogical than passive victims. It is simply that the former display a more intense manifestation of the generalised irrationality, because while parading their aims and programmes they have actually tried to carry out practical projects - even if it is only to read certain texts and show that they know what they mean. They have committed themselves to overcoming logic, even at the level of strategy, which is precisely the entire operational field of the dialectical logic of conflicts; but, like everyone else, they lack 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.

The individual who has been more deeply marked by this impoverished spectacular thought 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 be regarded as an enemy of its rhetoric; but he will use its syntax. This is one of the most important aspects of spectacular domination's success.

The swift disappearance of our former vocabulary is merely one moment in this process. It helps it along.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29337
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord

Postby admin » Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:16 pm

XII

THE erasure of the personality is the fatal accompaniment to an existence which is concretely submissive to the spectacle's rules, ever more removed from the possibility of authentic experience and thus from the discovery of individual preferences. Paradoxically, permanent self-denial is the price the individual pays for the tiniest bit of social status. Such an existence demands a fluid fidelity, a succession of continually disappointing commitments to false products. It is a matter of running hard to keep up with the inflation of devalued signs of life. Drugs help one to come to terms with this state of affairs, while madness allows one to escape from it.

In all sorts of business in this society, where the distribution of goods is centralised in such a way that it determines - both notoriously and secretly - the very definition of what could be desirable, it sometimes happens that certain people are attributed with knowledge, qualities, or even vices, all entirely imaginary, in order to explain the satisfactory development of particular enterprises. The only aim is to hide, or at least to disguise as far as possible, the working of various agreements which decide everything.


Yet despite its frequent intentions, and the redoubtable means at its disposal, to highlight the full stature of supposedly remarkable personalities, present society more often only succeeds in demonstrating quite the opposite, and not merely in what has today replaced the arts, or discussion of the arts. One total incompetent will collide with another; panic ensues and it is then simply a matter of who will fall apart first. A lawyer, for example, forgetting that he is supposed to represent one side in a trial, will be genuinely swayed by the arguments of his opposite number, even when these arguments are as hollow as his own. It can also happen that an innocent suspect temporarily confesses to a crime he did not commit simply because he is impressed by the logic of an informer who wants him to believe he is guilty (see the case of Dr Archambeau in Poitiers, in 1984).

MacLuhan himself, the spectacle's first apologist, who had seemed to be the most convinced imbecile of the century, changed his mind when he finally discovered in 1976 that 'the pressure of the mass media leads to irrationality', and that it was becoming urgent to modify their usage. The sage of Toronto had formerly spent several decades marvelling at the numerous freedoms created by a 'global village' instantly and effortlessly accessible to all. Villages, unlike towns, have always been ruled by conformism, isolation, petty surveillance, boredom and repetitive malicious gossip about the same families. Which is a precise enough description of the global spectacle's present vulgarity, in which it has become impossible to distinguish the Grimaldi-Monaco or Bourbon-Franco dynasties from those who succeeded the Stuarts. However, MacLuhan's ungrateful modern disciples are now trying to make people forget him, hoping to establish their own careers in media celebration of all these new freedoms to 'choose' at random from ephemera. And no doubt they will retract their claims even faster than the man who inspired them.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29337
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord

Postby admin » Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:16 pm

XIII

THE spectacle makes no secret of the fact that certain dangers surround the wonderful order it has established. Ocean pollution and the destruction of equatorial forests threaten oxygen renewal; the earth's ozone layer is menaced by industrial growth; nuclear radiation accumulates irreversibly. It merely concludes that none of these things matter. It will only talk about dates and measures. And on these alone, it is successfully reassuring - something which a pre-spectacular mind would have thought impossible.

Spectacular democracy approaches matters with great subtlety, very different from the straightforward brutality of the totalitarian diktat. It can keep the original name for something secretly changed (beer, beef or philosophers). And it can just as easily change the name when the thing itself has been secretly maintained. In England, for example, the nuclear waste reprocessing plant at Windscale was renamed Sellafield in order to allay the suspicions which were aroused by a disastrous fire in 1957, though this toponymic reprocessing did nothing to limit the rise in local mortality rates from cancer and leukaemia. The British government, as the population democratically learned thirty years later, had decided to suppress a report on the catastrophe which it judged, reasonably enough, would probably shake public confidence in nuclear power.

The nuclear industry, both military and civil, demands a far higher dose of secrecy than in other fields - which already have plenty, as we know. To make life - that is to say, lying - easier for the sages chosen by the system's masters, it has been found useful also to change measurements, to vary them according to a large number of criteria, and refine them, so as to be able to juggle as necessary with a range of figures which are hard to convert. Hence, to measure radioactivity levels, one can choose from a range of units of measurement: curies, becquerels, roentgens, rads alias centigrays, and rems, not forgetting the humble millirads, and sieverts which are worth 100 rems. It reminds one of the old subdivisions of British currency which foreigners found so confusing, back in the days when Sellafield was still called Windscale.

One can imagine the rigour and precision which would have been achieved in the nineteenth century by military history, and thus by theorists of strategy, if, so as not to give too much confidential information to neutral commentators or enemy historians, campaigns were invariably described in the following manner:

The preliminary phase involved a series of engagements in which, from our side, a strong advance force made up of four generals and the units under their command, met an enemy force of 13,000 bayonets. In the subsequent phase a fiercely disputed pitched battle developed, in which our entire army advanced, with 290 canons and a heavy cavalry of 18,000 sabres; the confronting enemy alignment comprised no less than 3,600 infantry lieutenants, 40 captains of hussars and 24 of cuirassiers. Following alternate advances and retreats on both sides, the battle can finally be seen as inconclusive. Our losses, somewhat lower than the average figure normally expected in combat of similar duration and intensity, were appreciably superior to those of the Greeks at Marathon, but remained inferior to those of the Prussians at Jena.


In this example, it is not impossible for a specialist to gather some vague idea of the forces engaged. But the conduct of operations remains securely concealed.

In June 1987, Pierre Bacher, deputy director of installations at Electricite de France, revealed the latest safety doctrine for nuclear power stations. By installing valves and filters it becomes much easier to avoid major catastrophes, like cracks or explosions in the reactors, which would affect a whole 'region'. Such catastrophes are produced by excessive containment. Whenever the plant looks like blowing, it is better to decompress gently, showering only a restricted area of a few kilometres, an area which on each occasion will be differently and haphazardly extended depending on the wind. He discloses that in the past two years discreet experiments carried out at Cadarache, in the Drome, 'clearly showed that waste - essentially gas - is infinitesimal, representing at worst one per cent of the radioactivity in the power station itself.' Thus a very moderate worst case: one per cent. Formerly, we were assured there was no risk at all, except in the case of accidents, which were logically impossible. The experience of the first few years changed this reasoning as follows: since accidents can always happen, what must be avoided is their reaching a catastrophic threshold, and that is easy. All that is necessary is to contaminate little by little, in moderation. Who would not agree that it is infinitely healthier to limit yourself to an intake of 140 centilitres of vodka per day for several years, rather than getting drunk right away like the Poles?


It is indeed unfortunate that human society should encounter such burning problems just when it has become materially impossible to make heard the least objection to the language of the commodity; just when power - quite rightly because it is shielded by the spectacle from any response to its piecemeal and delirious decisions and justifications - believes that it no longer needs to think; and indeed can no longer think. Would not even the staunchest democrat have preferred to have been given more intelligent masters?

At the international conference of experts held in Geneva in December 1986 the question was quite simply whether to introduce a worldwide ban on the production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the gases which have recently and rapidly started to destroy the thin layer of ozone which - as will be recalled - protects this planet against the harmful effects of solar rays. Daniel Verilhe, representing Elf-Aquitaine's chemicals subsidiary, and in this capacity part of a French delegation firmly opposed to any ban, made a sensible point: 'It will take at least three years to develop substitutes and the costs will be quadrupled.' As we know, this fugitive ozone layer, so high up, belongs to no one and has no market value. This industrial strategist could thus show his opponents the extent of their inexplicable disregard for economics: 'It is highly dangerous to base an industrial strategy on environmental imperatives.'

Those who long ago had embarked on a critique of political economy by defining it as 'the final denial of humanity' were not mistaken. This will be seen as its defining characteristic.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29337
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord

Postby admin » Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:17 pm

XIV

IT IS sometimes said that science today is subservient to the imperatives of profit, but that is nothing new. What is new is the way the economy has now come to declare open war on humanity, attacking not only our possibilities for living, but our chances of survival. It is here that science - renouncing the opposition to slavery that formed a significant part of its own history - has chosen to put itself at the service of spectacular domination. Until it got to this point, science possessed a relative autonomy. It knew how to understand its own portion of reality; and in this has made an immense contribution to increasing economic resources. When an all-powerful economy lost its reason - and that is precisely what defines these spectacular times - it suppressed the last vestiges of scientific autonomy, both in methodology and, by the same token, in the practical working conditions of its 'researchers'. No longer is science asked to understand the world, or to improve any part of it. It is asked instead to immediately justify everything that happens. As stupid in this field, which it exploits with the most ruinous disregard, as it is everywhere else, spectacular domination has cut down the vast tree of scientific knowledge in order to make itself a truncheon. To obey this ultimate social demand for a manifestly impossible justification, it is better not to be able to think at all, but rather to be well trained in the conveniences of spectacular language. And it is in such a career that the prostituted science of our despicable times has found its latest specialisation, with goodwill and alacrity.

The science of lying justifications naturally appeared with the first symptoms of bourgeois society's decadence, with the cancerous proliferation of those pseudo-sciences known as 'human'; yet modern medicine, for example, had once been able to pass as useful, and those who eradicated smallpox or leprosy were very different from those who contemptibly capitulated in the face of nuclear radiation or chemical farming. It can readily be seen, of course, that medicine today no longer has the right to defend public health against a pathogenic environment, for that would be to challenge the state, or at least the pharmaceuticals industry. But it is not only by its obligation to keep quiet that contemporary science acknowledges what it has become. It is also by its frequent and artless outbursts. In November 1985, professors Even and Andrieu at Laennec hospital announced that they had perhaps found an effective cure for Aids, following an experiment on four patients which had lasted a week. Two days later, the patients having died, several other doctors, whose research was not so far advanced, or who were perhaps jealous, expressed certain reservations as to the professors' precipitate haste in broadcasting what was merely the misleading appearance of victory - a few hours before the patients' condition finally deteriorated. Even and Andrieu defended themselves nonchalantly, arguing that 'after all, false hopes are better than no hope at all.' Their ignorance was too great for them to recognise this argument as a precise and complete disavowal of the spirit of science; as the one which had historically always served to endorse the profitable daydreams of charlatans and sorcerers, long before such people were put in charge of hospitals.

When official science has come to such a pass, like all the rest of the social spectacle that for all its materially modernised and enhanced presentation is merely reviving the ancient techniques of fairground mountebanks -
illusionists, barkers and stool-pigeons - it is not surprising to see a similar and widespread revival of the authority of seers and sects, of vacuum-packed Zen or Mormon theology. Ignorance, which has always served the authorities well, has also always been exploited by ingenious ventures on the fringes of the law. And what better moment than one where illiteracy has become so widespread? But this reality in its turn is denied by a new display of sorcery. From its inception, Unesco had adopted a very precise scientific definition of the illiteracy which it strove to combat in backward countries. When the same phenomenon was unexpectedly seen to be returning, but this time in the so-called advanced nations, rather in the way that the one who was waiting for Grouchy instead saw Blucher join the battle, it was simply a matter of calling in the Guard of experts; they carried the day with a single, unstoppable assault, replacing the word illiteracy by 'language difficulties': just as a 'false patriot' can sometimes arrive at an opportune moment to support a good national cause. And to ensure that the pertinence of this neologism was, between pedagogues, carved in stone, a new definition was quickly handed round, as if it had always been accepted - according to which, while the illiterate was, as we know, someone who had never learnt to read, those with language difficulties in the modern sense are on the contrary people who had learnt to read (and had even learnt better than before, coolly proposed the more gifted official theorists and historians of pedagogy), but who had by chance immediately forgotten again. This surprising explanation might have been more disturbing than reassuring, if, by deliberately missing the point, it had not skilfully sidestepped the first consequence which would have come to anyone's mind in more scientific eras. That is, the recognition that this new phenomenon had itself to be explained and combatted, since it had never been observed or even imagined anywhere before the recent progress of damaged thought, when analytical and practical decadence go hand in hand.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29337
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord

Postby admin » Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:17 pm

XV

MORE than a century ago, A.L. Sardou's Nouveau Dictionnaire des Synonymes Francais defined the nuances which must be grasped between: fallacious, deceptive, impostrous, inveigling, insidious, captious; and which taken together constitute today a kind of palette of colours with which to paint a portrait of the society of the spectacle. It was beyond the scope of his time, and his specialist experience, to distinguish with equal clarity the related, but very different, meanings of the perils normally expected to be faced by any group which practises subversion, following, for example, this progression: misguided, provoked, infiltrated, manipulated, taken over, subverted. Certainly these important nuances have never been appreciated by the doctrinaires of 'armed struggle'.

Fallacious [follacieux], from the Latin fallaciosus, adept at or accustomed to deception, full of deceit: the definition of this adjective is equivalent to the superlative of deceptive [trompeur]. That which deceives or leads into error in any way is deceptive: that which is done in order to deceive, abuse, lead into error by plan intended to deceive with artifice and misleading device most calculated to abuse, is fallacious. Deceptive is a generic and vague word; all forms of uncertain signs and appearance, are deceptive: fallacious denotes duplicity, deceit, studied imposture; sophistic speech, asseveration or reasoning is fallacious. The word has affinities with impostrous [imposteur], inveigling [seducteur], insidious [insidieux] and captious [captieux], but without equivalence. Impostrous denotes all forms of false appearance, or conspiracies to abuse or injure; for example, hypocrisy, calumny, etc. Inveigling expresses action calculated to take possession of someone, to lead them astray by artful and insinuating means. Insidious only indicates the act of placing traps and entrapping. Captious is restricted to the subtle act of taking by surprise and taking in. Fallacious encompasses most of these definitions.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29337
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord

Postby admin » Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:17 pm

XVI

THE relatively new concept of disinformation was recently imported from Russia, along with a number of other inventions useful in the running of modern states. It is openly employed by particular powers, or, consequently, by people who hold fragments of economic or political authority, in order to maintain what is established; and always in a counter-offensive role. Whatever can oppose a single official truth must necessarily be disinformation emanating from hostile or at least rival powers, and would have been intentionally and malevolently falsified. Disinformation would not be simple negation of a fact which suits the authorities, or the simple affirmation of a fact which does not suit them: that is called psychosis. Unlike the straightforward lie, disinformation must inevitably contain a degree of truth but one deliberately manipulated by an artful enemy. That is what makes it so attractive to the defenders of the dominant society. The power which speaks of disinformation does not believe itself to be absolutely faultless, but knows that it can attribute to any precise criticism the excessive insignificance which characterises disinformation; with the result that it will never have to admit to any particular fault.

In essence, disinformation would be a travesty of the truth. Whoever disseminates it is culpable, whoever believes it is stupid. But who precisely would this artful enemy be? In this case, it cannot be terrorism, which is in no danger of 'disinforming' anyone, since it is charged with ontologically representing the grossest and least acceptable error. Thanks to its etymology and to present memories of those limited confrontations which around mid-century briefly opposed East and West, concentrated spectacle and diffuse spectacle, the capitalism of today's integrated spectacle still pretends to believe that the capitalism of bureaucratic totalitarianism - sometimes even presented as the terrorists' base camp or inspiration - remains its fundamental enemy, despite the innumerable proofs of their profound alliance and solidarity. But actually all established powers, despite certain genuine local rivalries, and without ever wanting to spell it out, never forget what one of the rare German internationalists after the outbreak of the First World War managed to recall (on the side of subversion and without any great immediate success): 'The main enemy is within.' In the end, disinformation is the equivalent of what was represented in the nineteenth-century language of social war as 'dangerous passions'. It is all that is obscure and threatens to oppose the unprecedented happiness which we know this society offers to those who trust it, a happiness which greatly outweighs various insignificant risks and disappointments. And everyone who sees this happiness in the spectacle agrees that we should not grumble about its price; everyone else is a disinformer.

The other advantage derived from denouncing a particular instance of disinformation in this way is that it wards off any suspicion that the spectacle's global language might contain the same thing. With the most scientific assurance, the spectacle can identify the only place where disinformation could be found: in anything which can be said that might displease it.

It is doubtless by mistake - unless it be a deliberate decoy - that a project was recently set in motion in France to place a kind of official label on some parts of the media guaranteeing them 'free from disinformation'. This wounded certain media professionals, who still believe, or more modestly would still like it to be believed, that until now they had not actually been subject to censorship. But the concept of disinformation must never be used defensively, still less as part of a static defence, building a Great Wall or Maginot Line around an area supposedly out of bounds to disinformation. There must be disinformation, and it must be something fluid and potentially ubiquitous. Where the language of the spectacle is not under attack it would be foolish to defend it; and the concept would wear out very fast indeed if one were to try to defend it against all the evidence on points which ought on the contrary to be kept from public view. Moreover the authorities have no real need to guarantee that any particular information does not contain disinformation. Nor have they the means to do so: they are not respected to that extent, and would only draw down suspicion on the information concerned. The concept of disinformation is only valid for counter-attack. It must be kept in reserve, then rapidly thrown into the fray to drive back any truth which has managed to get through.

If occasionally a kind of unregulated disinformation threatens to appear, in the service of particular interests temporarily in conflict, and threatens to be believed, getting out of control and thus clashing with the concerted work of a less irresponsible disinformation, there is no reason to fear that the former involves other manipulators who are more subtle or more skilled: it is simply because disinformation now spreads in a world where there is no room for verification.

The confusionist concept of disinformation is pushed into the limelight immediately to refute, by its very name, any criticism that has failed to eliminate the diverse agencies of the organisation of silence. For example it could one day be said, should this seem desirable, that this text was an attempt to disinform about the spectacle; or indeed, since it is the same thing, that it was a piece of disinformation harmful to democracy.

Contrary to its spectacular definition, the practice of disinformation can only serve the state here and now, under its direct command, or at the initiative of those who uphold the same values. Disinformation is actually inherent in all existing information; and indeed is its main characteristic. It is only named where passivity must be maintained by intimidation. Where disinformation is named, it does not exist. Where it exists, it is not named.

When there were still conflicting ideologies, which claimed to be for or against some recognised aspect of reality, there were fanatics, and liars, but there were no 'disinformers'. When respect for the spectacular consensus, or at least a desire for spectacular kudos, prohibits any honest declaration of what someone is against, or equally what he wholeheartedly approves; and when at the same time he needs to disguise a part of what he is supposed to acknowledge because for one reason or another it is considered dangerous, then he employs disinformation; as if by blunder or negligence, or by pretended false reasoning. In political activity after 1968, for example, the incompetent recuperators known as 'pro-situs', became the first disinformers because they did their best to hide all practical manifestations which confirmed the critique they claimed to have adopted; and, without the slightest embarrassment at weakening its expression, never referred to anything or anyone, in order to suggest that they themselves had actually discovered something.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29337
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord

Postby admin » Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:17 pm

XVII

REVERSING Hegel's famous maxim, I noted as long ago as 1967 that 'in a world that has re ally been turned upside down, truth is a moment of falsehood'. In the intervening years, this principle has encroached upon each specific domain, without exception.

Thus in an era when contemporary art can no longer exist, it becomes difficult to judge classical art. Here as elsewhere, ignorance is only created in order to be exploited. As the meanings of history and taste are lost, networks of falsification are organised. It is only necessary to control the experts and auctioneers, which is easy enough, to arrange everything, since in this kind of business - and at the end of the day in every other kind - it is the sale which authenticates the value. Afterwards it is the collectors and museums, particularly in America, who, gorged on falsehood, will have an interest in upholding its good reputation, just as the International Monetary Fund maintains the fiction of a positive value in the huge debts of dozens of countries.

What is false creates taste, and reinforces itself by knowingly eliminating any possible reference to the authentic. And what is genuine is reconstructed as quickly as possible, to resemble the false. Being the richest and the most modern, the Americans have been the main dupes of this traffic in false art. And they are exactly the same people who pay for restoration work at Versailles or in the Sistine Chapel. This is why Michelangelo's frescoes will acquire the fresh, bright colours of a cartoon strip, and the genuine furniture at Versailles, the sparkling gilt which will make them resemble the fake Louis XIV suites imported by Texans at such great expense.

Feuerbach's judgement on the fact that his time preferred 'the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, fancy to reality', has been thoroughly vindicated by the century of the spectacle, and in several spheres where the nineteenth century preferred to keep its distance from what was already its fundamental nature: industrial capitalism. Thus it was that the bourgeoisie had widely disseminated the rigorous mentality of the museum, the original object, precise historical criticism, the authentic document. Today, however, the tendency to replace the real with the artificial is ubiquitous. In this regard, it is fortuitous that traffic pollution has necessitated the replacement of the Marly Horses in place de la Concorde, or the Roman statues in the doorway of Saint-Trophime in ArIes, by plastic replicas. Everything will be more beautiful than before, for the tourists' cameras.

The high point in this process has doubtless been reached by the Chinese bureaucracy's laughable fake of the vast terracotta industrial army of the First Emperor, which so many visiting statesmen have been taken to admire in situ. A clear demonstration, since it was possible to fool them so cruelly, that in all their hordes of advisors, there is not one single individual who knows about art history in China, or anywhere else - 'Your Excellency's computers have no data on this subject.' Such a confirmation of the fact that for the first time in history it is possible to govern without the slightest understanding of art or of what is authentic and what is impossible, could alone suffice to make us suppose that the credulous fools who run the economy and the administration will probably lead the world to some great catastrophe; if their actual practice had not already made that crystal clear.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29337
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord

Postby admin » Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:18 pm

XVIII

OUR society is built on secrecy, from the 'front' organisations which draw an impenetrable screen over the concentrated wealth of their members, to the 'official secrets' which allow the state a vast field of operation free from any legal constraint; from the often frightening secrets of shoddy production hidden by advertising, to the projections of an extrapolated future, in which domination alone reads off the likely progress of things whose existence it denies, calculating the responses it will mysteriously make. Some observations can be made on these matters.

There are ever more places in cities and in the countryside which remain inaccessible, that is to say protected and shielded from public gaze; which are out of bounds to the innocently curious, and well guarded against espionage. Without all being strictly military, they follow the military model in preventing any prying incursion by local people or passers-by; or even by the police, whose functions have long been reduced to mere surveillance and repression of the most commonplace forms of delinquency. Thus it was that when Aldo Moro was a prisoner of Potere Due he was held, not in a building which could not be found, but in one which could not be entered.

There are ever more people trained to act in secret; prepared and practised for that alone. There are special units armed with confidential archives, that is to say with secret data and analysis. There are others armed with a range of techniques for the exploitation and manipulation of these secrets. And finally there are the 'active' units, equipped with other means to simplify the problems in question.

The resources allocated to these specialists in surveillance and influence continue to increase, while general circumstances favour them more by the year. When, for example, the new conditions of integrated spectacular society have driven its critique into genuine clandestinity, not because it is in hiding but because it is hidden by the ponderous stage-management of diversionary thought, those who are nonetheless responsible for its surveillance, and in the end for its denial, can now employ traditional methods for operations in clandestine milieux: provocation, infiltration, and various forms of elimination of authentic critique in favour of a false one which will have been created for this purpose. When the spectacle's general imposture is enriched with recourse to a thousand individual impostures, uncertainty grows at every turn. An unexplained crime can also be called suicide, in prison as elsewhere; the collapse of logic allows trials and inquiries which soar into irrationality, and which are frequently falsified right from the start through absurd autopsies, performed by extraordinary experts.

We have long been accustomed to summary executions of all kinds of people. Known terrorists, or those considered as such. are openly fought with terrorist methods. Mossad can arrange the killing of Abou Jihad, the SAS can do the same with Irish people, and the parallel police of GAL with Basques. Those whose killings are arranged by supposed terrorists are not chosen without reason; but it is generally impossible to be sure of understanding these reasons. One can be aware that Bologna railway station was blown up to ensure that Italy continued to be well governed; or of the identity of the 'death squads' in Brazil; or that the Mafia can bum down a hotel in the United States to facilitate a racket. But how can we know what purpose was ultimately served by the 'mad killers of Brabant'? It is hard to apply the principle Cui prodest? where so many active interests are so well concealed. The result is that under the rule of the integrated spectacle, we live and die at the confluence of innumerable mysteries.

Media/police rumours acquire instantly - or at worst after three or four repetitions - the indisputable status of age-old historical evidence. By the legendary authority of the spectacle of the day, odd characters eliminated in silence can reappear as fictive survivors, whose return can always be conjured up or computed, and proved by the mere say-so of specialists. They exist somewhere between the Acheron and the Lethe, these dead whom the spectacle has not properly buried, supposedly slumbering while awaiting the summons which will awake them all: home is the pirate, home from the sea, and the terrorist home from the hill; home, too, the thief who no longer needs to steal.

Thus is uncertainty organised everywhere. Often domination will protect itself by folse attacks, whose media coverage covers up the true operation. Such was the case with the bizarre assault on the Spanish Cortes by Tejero and his civil guards in 1981, whose failure had to hide another more modem, that is to say more disguised pronunciamiento, which succeeded. The equally showy failure of the French secret services' sabotage attempt in New Zealand in 1985 has sometimes been seen as a stratagem, perhaps designed to divert attention from the numerous new uses of these secret services, by persuading people of their caricatural clumsiness both in their choice of target and in their mode of operation. It has most certainly been almost universally accepted that the geological explorations for oil-beds in the subsoil of the city of Paris, so noisily conducted in the autumn of 1986, had no other serious purpose than to measure the inhabitants' current level of stupefaction and submission; by showing them supposed research so absolutely devoid of economic reason.

So mysterious has power become that after the affair of the illegal arms sales to Iran by the US presidency, one might wonder who was really running the United States, the leading power in the so-called democratic world. And thus who the hell was running the democratic world?

More profoundly, in this world which is officially so respectful of economic necessities, no one ever knows the real cost of anything which is produced. In fact the major part of the real cost is never calculated; and the rest is kept secret.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29337
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord

Postby admin » Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:18 pm

XIX

AT the beginning of 1988, a certain General Noriega suddenly became world famous. He was the unofficial dictator of Panama, a country without an army, where he commanded the National Guard. Panama is not really a sovereign state: it was dug out for its canal, rather than the reverse. Its currency is the dollar, and the army which runs it is similarly foreign. Noriega had thus devoted his entire career - precisely like Jaruzelski in Poland - to serving the occupying power as its chief of police. He imported drugs into the United States, since Panama was not bringing him sufficient revenue, and exported his 'Panamanian' capital to Switzerland. He had worked with the CIA against Cuba and, to provide adequate cover for his business activities, had also denounced some of his rivals in the import trade to the US authorities, obsessed as they are with this problem. To the envy of Washington, his chief security advisor was the best on the market: Michael Harari, a former officer with Mossad, the Israeli secret service. When the Americans finally decided to get rid of this character, some of their courts having carelessly condemned him, Noriega proclaimed that he was ready to defend himself for a thousand years - against foreigners, and against his own rebellious people; in the name of anti-imperialism he quickly received public support from the more austere bureaucratic dictators in Cuba and Nicaragua.

Far from being a peculiarly Panamanian phenomenon, this General Noriega, who sells everything an d fakes everything, in a world which does precisely the same thing, was altogether a perfect representative of the integrated spectacle, and of the successes it allows the assorted managers of its internal and external politics: a sort of statesman in a sort of state, a sort of general, a capitalist. He is the very model of our modern prince, and of those destined to come to power and stay there, the most able resemble him closely. It is not Panama which produces such marvels, it is our times.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 29337
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

PreviousNext

Return to A Growing Corpus of Analytical Materials

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests