The Moment of Truth — October 20, 2001
Situationism in the Third Millenium
Hi, I’m mejeffdorchen and welcome to the Moment of Truth, the mechanism inside you that helps you focus on your authentic motivations as if there were no cameras on you.
There’s so much truth to tell it’s almost as if there’s no truth to tell. I remember thinking, as I watched the second tower crumble, “Time will now be divided into before this happened and after.” Here was an incredible nightmarish image of apocalypse that seemed to shear history in two parts along its seam, the way Jesus did, or was, in retrospect, declared to have done.
And perhaps future generations will see the WTC suicide/massacre as such. Maybe even next year I myself will. But as for now, everything’s back to normal, in the sense that our wonderful national military with what some hoped would be new-found common sense – how could it be else on this side of the dividing line of history? – now that our wonderful government and its military have responded in their characteristically unuseful way to this shattering event; now that our media have responded by redacting the event into an allotted portion of the Spectacle; now that even the get-out-and-march activists, who hope that this war will be a rallying point for rejection of the insincere and unloving culture of commercialism, have tried to mash this thing into something they can recognize, in this case a box the shape of the Vietnam War; we can truly say that the most shocking and appalling and mind-blowing event many of us have ever witnessed has truly been tamed into something comprehensible to suit one and all. Paul Krassner, sweet, dear man, was dreamy fool enough to declare the new peace movement this week in the LA Weekly. Although he did report a nice sound bite which is repeated in this very text, as follows:
While trumpeting the new unity of the so-called American People, the NPR hell-spawn and perfidious class-enemy Cokie Roberts was asked if there were any opposition to the war. “None that matters,” she replied. Let us first of all remember what Cokie Roberts thinks matters. She is an interpreter of opinion polls, as far as I can tell, and when she’s not interpreting opinion polls she’s fabricating an opinion she thinks the so-called American People would hold if they were as perceptive as she.
I said something wise to a friend recently. I said, “The Spectacle is the arena in which the people and the rulers communicate.” Let me try to create a mental image of what I’m talking about. Let’s say the rulers inhabit the ruling region, which is a round area at the center of everything, where the ruling machines are and from which radiate out into the universe the commands of the rulers. Around the rulers is a bubble on which they project media images and fabricated consensus and what they want the people to desire and the ways they want those desires expressed. Those projections are part of what makes up the Spectacle.
Outside the bubble, watching the Spectacle, are the people. But the people aren’t passive observers of the Spectacle. They themselve make offerings for projection into the Spectacle, things like opinions sent to the editor or the broadcasting station; or poll responses; or protests and other media-attention-getting civil actions; records of their purchasing habits; Arbitron ratings; and many celebrities who emerge from outside the ruling class, like Madonna and Oprah and Richard Nixon and Ralph Nader. All this input is tossed before the rulers, and, though ultimately they decide what makes it into the Spectacle, the people’s opinions, expressed by their input, about what they want to have included in the Spectacle, is something the rulers have come to recognize, historically, as a force to be ignored at their peril.
So the people strive for input into the Spectacle, and try constantly to push the boundaries of what the rulers will consent to include in the Spectacle by projecting parts of their own selves onto that screen from their side. And so the two antitheses, the people and the rulers, communicate to each other through this projection by competing with each other for which side’s projection will take first priority, or how the two will be mingled, or whose interpretation will carry more weight. The rulers have much more leverage, being more economically powerful. But at times the people do manage to wrestle their way into a position of high profile in the Spectacular mix of image. And let’s not forget that the desires of the rulers and those of the people often overlap, for various reasons, some creepy and sinister and evil and others benign or even joyous and beautiful. And let us also concede that the divisions between the rulers and the people are not always clear. But let us agree that there are those with a great deal of control most of the time and those with not so much control most of the time, and that the Spectacle is this incredible creation of language and image and conception and rationality and instinct and insanity and hunger that is at once organic and synthetic, artificial and natural, good and evil, benevolent and malignant, helpless and manipulative, reflective and engaging, where those with lots of control and those who feel a lack of it, though they be kept apart geographically, economically, socially and politically, exchange messages of every conceivable kind. Even, sometimes, the Truth.
I think we can also agree that more and more diverse aspects of the human species are coming to be represented in the Spectacle. And, though such representation may not be viewed as a good in itself, it can certainly be considered part of a global democratizing process, if by democracy we mean, ultimately, the participation of all of society’s members pretty much equally in the decision making processes of the society.
I think looking at the Spectacle this way helps explain why terrorism is such a popular form of rebellion against the status quo among people who are in such a hurry to force the world to change that they don’t care if they kill or die. They want to put a bullet in the Spectacle, rather than talk to it in some kind of reasonable way. It also demonstrates the difference between terrorist tactics, which get big but negative play in the Spectacle, and civil actions against global capitalist rule which get significantly smaller but slightly more sympathetic representation.
I also think that this view of the Spectacle suggests a clear role for peaceful strategies. Reasonable, calm arguments are much more persuasive and sympathetic than violent actions. Especially in a world that seems to be telling itself that civil discourse between antagonists is not only possible but preferable to war.
I’ve noticed that, unlike the Spectacle of the Gulf War, the Spectacle surrounding the Twin Towers Massacre has been forced to reflect the desires of the people that the punishment not add to the horror of the crime. This is kind of revolutionary. I have to applaud Bush for speaking out against bigotry against Arab Americans. His father would never have done that, and he should have. Families and friends and co-workers of those killed in the massacre are among those who have even expressed a desire that military reprisals not be part of our response at all. The Spectacle has reflected that. Bush and his war counselors have had to pay lip service to the popular desire that they not add to the total misery left hanging in the air like smoke from burning plastic. So Cokie Roberts is wrong. Dead wrong, even by her own standards, even within the filtered compartment that circumscribes her and her colleagues’ ability to perceive, analyze and discuss. Yes, Cokie, there is opposition to the war that matters. And I would like to join Paul Krassner and his audience in saying, “F U Cokie Roberts!”
Now, granted, dropping 37,000 pop tarts and instant cocoa envelopes on a nation whose refugees now outnumber the population of Manhattan is not an adequate response either to the popular wish for mercy or to the actual problem of Afghan suffering. But if it were, then we couldn’t really say that things were back to normal, could we?
It’s almost a comfort that the Bush regime hasn’t released the promised evidence connecting bin Laden to the massacre. Business as usual shows that the terrorists haven’t won, right?
Thoughtful people can be excused for supporting a military adventure to punish the criminals and remove them from action. Other thoughtful people can also be excused for not supporting such action on the grounds that it will only perpetuate violence. I think that both groups had better watch what’s going on very closely and complain specifically about what they don’t like about it. I think that would be a very helpful contribution to the Spectacle.
In the meantime, let’s get back to the business of fighting for economic justice. That is the real rallying point, and no war should be allowed to distract us from it. Economy touches everything. It comprises opportunities, possibilities, hopes, education, esthetic limits, fun, health, peace, civility, freedom of all kinds – if you don’t believe me, please read something by Nobel Prize-winning economist and purported womanizer Amartya Sen.
Yes, and also, let us not allow the Spectacle to distract us, nor the religious right to shame us away from our everyday liberal conduct. Business as usual means it’s time for us to unapologetically get this fetus-killing feminazi fag-factory back up and running and churning out abominations as never before. Otherwise the terrorists will have won. Also, I think I heard someone say we should shop a lot.
This all makes great sense to me. I must congratulate myself for having sorted out my thoughts and arranged them in such a clever fashion.
Hoping you feel the same, I’m mejeffdorchen and this has been the Moment of Truth.