nothingness.org

Guy Debord is really dead

Published in Guy Debord is really dead December 1994


Chapter 1 "Nunc est bibendum"

- Butch, whose motorcycle is this? - It's a chopper. - Whose chopper is this? - Zed's. - Who's Zed? - Zed's dead, baby... Zed's dead. -- Quentin Tarantino, 1994

When Guy The Bore died [1] the Italian reformist press responded with obvious, misleading 'obits' with nothing to be surprised about. The same lib-lab trash-shredders who swallowed and ruminated K. Popper's dull tirades against TV, have later celebrated The Bore as a prophet of Berlusconi's taking the field. For years the leftist Ignoranzhia has been mistaking the "spectacle" for the media insolence of the Establishment or the cyclic recurrence of people like Letizia Moratti [2], or Sgarbi-and Ferrara-style Tv rows...[3] It 's no surprise then, that a critical theory attacking commodification and a system of production turning each of us in an insolent medium of the establishment, has been defused by a metonimy (the effect instead of the cause, the content instead of the container). Defusing the bomb was easy, due to its shortcomings, yet The Bore doesn't deserve to be stored in the pantheon of leftist heroes together with Pajetta and Berlinguer [4] where catto-togliattiani intellectual gravediggers are trying to put him, although as a heretic.

The abuse of the epithet "situationist" and of the meaningless term "situationism" [5] is due to the emphasis given the Debord's analysis of the spectacle; savoir vivre, subversion of everyday life, psychogeography and Unitary Urbanism - in a word, the whole range of immediate and practical kinds of actions the Situationists suggested - were taken in little consideration. Thus "situationist" was doomed to become an uniformative term; cultural reporters then decided to attach it to whatever personage or artistic movement whose expressions were nihilistic enough to be considered "estreme" and spectacular enough to allow for second-class mass-mediology. Thus, the TV schedule of Italia Uno - decided by Carlo Freccero - [6] was "situationist", as well as Striscia la Notizia [7], and TV-truth on Guglielmi's Raitre [8]: "situationist" is whatever text written in a schizo-epigrammatic style, and so on. Most of these 'wild labellers' hardly knows The Society of the Spectacle and, taking it as a Talmud of radical critique (although it rather looks like a bunch of clues for crosswords) pretends to be inferring anything from it. "Situationist" has become a passe-partout opening all the doors, from that of a badly-chewed dadaism, to that of an easy-minded technological millenarianism. In a nihilistic world, whatever is real, is "situationist".

After all, wasn't Debord himself the one who changed his reputation in that of a spiteful Cassandra? Wasn't his own attitude to allow his best known essay to be taken as a Talmud? Isn't it true that, two years ago, in order to explain the fall of so-called 'socialism' in Eastern Europe, he didn't do much more than recycling two laconic theses on bureaucracy, written 1/4 of century earlier and previously enclosed in the above mentioned book? [9] During the last decade of his life, The Bore had endlessly tried to give his dramatis persona a place in the historical context; like the prisoners in Kafka's short story, "In the Penal Colony", he stepped into a machinery carving on his body not only his writings (Considerations sur l'assassinat de Gérard Lebovici, Panegyrique, Commentaires sur la societè du spectacle, Cette mauvaise réputation...) but also the Law. In his case, the Law was the Right Interpretation, against slander and passive contemplation of the historical experience of the SI, and finally against pro-situ misleading information. [10] The ceaseless hypertextual cross-references (from one line of the body-text to the other) seems to hide the desperate will to set up the proper bad reputation, to foster the proper way to contemplate, to bringabout the proper misleading information, in a word, the attempt not to change the style and to keep control. Such a task would involve the whole system and requires a group strategy: if a single will tries to reach it, (or simply to mark it), he or she will obtain exactly the opposite of what they were after. They used to care for style, now it's Identity to be defended, but Identity freezes and kills style, and strenghtens the spectacle. Thus, after The Bore's suicide, we inherit a body of rules which didn't mean to be such, as well as a bunch of prophetic soliloquies. We're left with holy writings, and only two things can be done with holy writings: you can either take them literally and be a fundamentalist, or taking them to mean whatever you like, without even reading them. But, where does this attitude come from? We believe it's due to the unappealable failure of the SI which doesn't date back to the dissolution in 1972, but at least to a decade earlier, when the French section (after the experience of Lettrisme) came into power in the SI. Before the sky is breached and pro-situs insults start pouring down, it's necessary to provide an explanation. And while explaining, it's necessary never to forget that it's a long time since a rift has grown between the SI and us, and this rift will shape the following text, sometimes openly and unambiguously. After all, the SI was still too strongly influenced by avantgardiste language and myths, and "every avantgarde grows old and dies without seeing its successors, because succession doesn't follow straight, but through a contradiction." (Asger Jorn, 1960).

 

Footnotes

The notes marked by a ** didn't appear in the original text: they were appended by the author during the foul-proof reading.

[1] Guy The Bore is the double of Guy Debord, is Debord in such a self-contemplative attitude that he became a sheer image. In our opinion a feeling of deboredom (i.e. the boredom caused by Debord) has definitely taken hold of the character after the movie In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni (1979); here, self-contemplation still met a lyric requirement, and wasn't tedious, (de)boring. As we'll explain later, since then each of his writings is really full of resentment (a self-referring kind of feeling which ended up in an emotional short-circuit) This feeling of deboredom was already there at the time of the SI, though it was mitigated because they recognized the collective revolutionary needs and expectations.

[2] Letizia Moratti is the chairman of the RAI board of directors. The RAI [RAdiotelevisione Italiana] is the public broadcaster which competes with the Fininvest, the Berlusconi's TV company. In March 1994 Berlusconi became Prime Minister of a government which was a wonderful synthesis of Poujadisme, Fascistic behaviours, Mafia alliances and neo-thatcherite lingo. The first 'enemy' attacked and defeated by the Government was the RAI, whose very existence seemed to be an intolerable interference in the final Fininvestization of the country. Berlusconians and post-Fascists use to describe the RAI as a lair of crypto-communists; actually there are lots of soft-core leftists and former pro-situs, nevertheless the RAI belongs to the ruling class as much as the Fininvest. Berlusconi instituted a new board of right-wing directors whose chairman was Mrs. Letizia Moratti ['chairMAN' is quite proper, because some right-wing women refuse to use the feminist gender; since in Italian the neuter gender does not exist, they describe their offices or positions as though they were males]. She is a member of a potent family of the Milan upper-class which, amongst other things, owns the Inter football club. This raid has been the only successful act of that Government, which was shaken and overthrown in November by a general strike led by the reformist unions. Berlusconi was too fetid and extremist to meet the requirements of the ruling class, which exploited the workers' struggles to establish an 'apolitical' emergency government whose premier is Lamberto Dini. However Letizia Moratti is still where Berlusconi had placed her.**

[3] Vittorio Sgarbi, former art critic, and Giuliano Ferrara, former journalist, are two exponents of the Right who talk in a very vulgar and insulting style. Sgarbi has a daily talk-show on Canale 5 (Fininvest), Ferrara is the ghost-writer of the Berlusconi's speeches and statements.**

[4] Gian Carlo Pajetta and Enrico Berlinguer were two powerful and respected bosses of the old communist party (PCI). Berlinguer was secretary general since 1969 'til his death in 1985. He completed the destalinization of the party and started its conversion into a social-democratic organization.**

[5] It's no mistake today to use the term "situationism", because we owe the existence of such an '-ism' to those who already used the term 30 years ago. On the other hand, the SI strongly condemned the use of this word because it defined a specific doctrine about savoir vivre which didn't exist at all: everybody could be situationist even without knowing the SI, therefore there doesn't exist such a thing as situationism. But, only in 1977, in Manoscritti antieconomici e antifilosofici del 1977 (anonimous cyclostiled writing , Italy) we can read: "power swallows critique and recycles it. Marx became Marxism [...], in the same way the SI became situationism." And power swallowed critique owing to those who turned situations into situationism.

[6] Carlo Freccero is a former pro-situ which became general manager of Italia 1 (Fininvest) in the late Eighties. He managed to produce TV shows which conjugated commercial potential and post-modernist experimentalism, but he was too indipendent and Berlusconi fired him. After the death of Guy The Bore, he wrote an obit piece on the communist newspaper "Il Manifesto".**

[7] Striscia la notizia is a daily satirical news edited by the former pro-situ Antonio Ricci and broacasted by Canale 5 (Finivest).**

[8] Angelo Guglielmi is an ex-member of the 1960's literary avantgarde group Gruppo 63. For over ten years he's been general manager of RAI3, the most post-modernist and leftist TV channel of the public television. Most RAI3 shows started as experimental and became smash hits, e.g. "Blob", an outrageous daily strip edited by the pro-situ Enrico Ghezzi, which consists in cut-ups and détournements of the shows and news broadcasted the day before by all the national TV channels. Nevertheless, RAI3 broadcasts ugly cop-styled shows like "Chi l'ha visto?", a show which searches for the missing persons; in January 1995 its editorial staff has been victim of a prank by Luther Blissett. **

[9] See the "Avertissement pour la troisième édition française", in: Guy Debord, La societé du spectacle, Gallimard, Paris 1992. He writes: "This edition has been left identical to that of 1967 [...] I am not the kind of man who corrects himself [...] Such a critical theory doesn't need to be trasnformed...". In this short piece, The Bore refuses to take the 1989 collapse (and all the following events) into account, and is content with a reference to theses 58 and 111 of The Society of The Spectacle, as if this were all had to be written on the subject, a sort of Nostradamus' centuriae to which nothing can be added. Since in 1992 Croatians and Serbs were already butchering each other, how should we name such a hack-prophet?**

[10] Pro-situs was the name given to superficial and lamely ideological sympathizers of the SI who tried to emulate the style without sharing their rigour. Still in the Commentaries to the society of the spectacle, (1988), Debord wrote: "On the ground of the post-1968 contestation, the inept recuperators called 'pro-situs' have been the 'first disinformers', because they dissimulated as much as possible the practical manifestations by which the very critique they maintained to share had become popular; without scrupling to weaken the proposition, they never cited anything or anybody, in order to arouse the impression that they had found out something by themselves" [By the way, isn't this an antiplagiarist statement? **].

 

Page generated by the dadaPHP system.

0.0062 sec.