Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Aimless Reading: The D's, Part 9.1 (Guy Debord)

Debord, Guy
Comments on the Society of the Spectacle

I also purchased this at St. Mark's books at some point in the mid-nineties. In fact, I may have purchased this book before I purchased the original because I was unable to find a copy of Society of the Spectacle.

The thing I most recall about reading this is that it is tinged with a note of sadness. The author looks back on his original book (and on May 1968) and determines that his description of the spectacle was in fact accurate --- that is, the spectacle IS modern life to such an extent that even the May revolution represents just a slight disturbance of its operations and must in the light of the success of the spectacle be considered a failure.

As I recall, it's a bit less abstract than the original, a bit less concerned with the concept of the spectacle on the grand scale and more focused on looking at how the spectacle has developed over time in very specific ways.

There's an excellent commentary on the use of "experts" by television news organizations who purport to know something about a subject, but whose main function is to deliver messages from the powers that be with "authority."

I remember he spends a fair amount of time examining the use of the term "terrorist" to describe anyone who speaks out against the form which society takes in the present, especially those with the gall criticize a democratic society.

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 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 theday before they themselves were busily disseminating the error, with their habitual assurance.

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