Communique from the Committee for the Liberation of Autonomous Amusement: on the media

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 “Representations have become more powerful than the material reality itself.”i

When we make representations, we never accurately reach that which is being represented. There is a gulf between the object and the subject, and this gulf extends even to these separated – perhaps erroneously! – entities. We find ourselves reiterating what was said at the beginning of “On the foreclosure of possibility in everyday life.” Let us begin anew.

In the 1960s it was believed that changes in mass media technologies would usher in a global village, that the acceleration of these visual-machinic variations would produce a techno-tribal social order. It did not matter how information was circulated; importance was attributed to the medium as that which generated an era’s environment. We agree with this assessment, and we see the global village extending towards all corners of the earth. While the imagery of the technological shaman has gone, disappeared with the rave scene of yesterday, the vast proliferation of countercultures, subcultures, protocultures and postcultures can be seen as the return of the tribal to the contours of contemporary life. William Gibson imagined himself in the future when he wrote of an accelerated world where “entire subcultures could rise overnight, thrive for a dozen weeks, and then vanish utterly.”ii The world he was describing was the one we now inhabit.

Unlike the vision of the dreamers, the global village is not a utopia. It is completely and utterly subsumed in the political project of neoliberal capital; it requires neoliberal capital for its production and reproduction. The global village’s electronic mediation is an array of signs and symbols circulated through neoliberalism’s neural mesh – these signs cannot be divorced from the power that enables them with the means to circulate. The global village becomes the Situationist’s projection of the so-called Spectacle – social life mediated by images – extended to the point where it becomes a transnational smooth space, a viscous consistency that merely represents mediation.

The primary conduit of the Spectacle is the media apparatuses. Every event that transpires is reduced down to an array of signs compatible for fast circulation: it is attached to stereotypes, mottled to buzzwords, reflective of class, business, and political interests, reduced to the barest minimum, and the complexity of the conditions brought into the most linear of causalities. Hierarchies of event are created within media systems to give precedent of one “story” over another, either to play into bias or to simply capitulate to the whims of the market. When it comes to the media, it is information for consumption that requires highest priority, followed by information of the event, subjected to an array of filters and augmentations. If the viscosity of the global village has an emotive ambiance, a great deal of it would be paranoia. We can’t ever be sure if the event happened in the way that is portrayed, or even if happened at all. Philosophy has made ‘solipsism’ a dirty word, a bad taste in the mouth. But we can see that the embrace of the solipsism is an all-too-real byproduct of the postmodern condition. Everywhere is information, but none of it verifiable.

Isn’t this all too tidy, dialectical? If the prophets of the Spectacle – the Situationists, and later Baudrillard – are followed, we find that in some primordial past there must have been there, a state of pure information. The Committee disavows this understanding; we know that no concrete territory is hidden away under the map, no total object underneath the representation. When we remove historical determinism from the equation, we realize the nuances in the question of the media: Spectacle, Simulation are possible because it has always been Spectacle, Simulation. Signs referring to nothing except themselves circulate, but we should not look at them and ask “is this true?” Instead, we should ask ourselves “what can this do?”

We affirm the use of the media not as a means of transmitting pure information, but as a terrain of the struggle. Against corporate media, state media we call for the utilization of tactical media to grasp, subvert, detourn, negate, parody, confuse, or eliminate that which produces the Spectacle we are now in. Against their Spectacle the Committee for the Liberation of Autonomous Amusement wants to pit our own Spectacle, one that is reflective of rhizomatic imagination, participatory, and ephemeral.

A member of the Committee once had a job that he waged ‘low-intensity sabotage’ against. Everyday he would take a screwdriver, and remove a single screw from somewhere in the building. Though he quit before critical mass was reached, the gradual removal of screws destabilized the structure, created precarity in the environment, and increased the likelihood of things breaking down ‘on their own accord.’

We find much to admire in this strategy, and the Committee calls for the importation of it into a tactical media setting. Our common enemy operates immaterially; even if the conditions for capital’s monopolization of the Social are material, it is the flow of information and signs that allow the machine to propagate itself. Instead of removing material screws, we want to inject altered information across all coordinates. This mutation will spread, coalesce, circulate. It will destabilize the foundations of the Spectacle; pierce the side of this environment and all matter of bizarre things, divergent strands, deterritorializations, unreasonable desires and prohibited images will leak out.

[The CLAA is an open name, welcome to appropriation. Feel free to fold-up, adapt, mutate, disavow, and/or circulate]

iEvinç Doğan “City as Spectacle: The Festivalization of Culture in Contemporary Istanbul”; in Young Mind Rethinking the Mediterranean Global Political Trends Center, 2011, pg. 69

iiWilliam Gibson Neuromancer Ace Books, 2000 (reprint edition)

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2 Responses to Communique from the Committee for the Liberation of Autonomous Amusement: on the media

  1. noir-realism says:

    When reading this I was again reminded of J.G. Ballard and his prescient portrayal of these ideas and crossovers in his late story War Fever. In this story war has become a reality tv series and Beirut the center of infotainment apocalypse. The characters in the story have no clue they are part of a new made war event specifically for the moguls of the warring factions pleasure so think this is literally real events taking place rather than stage sets with real people as wartainment extras.

    The statement above where the communique states: ” Spectacle, Simulation are possible because it has always been Spectacle, Simulation. Signs referring to nothing except themselves circulate, but we should not look at them and ask “is this true?” Instead, we should ask ourselves “what can this do?””

    Seems oddly to turn toward pragmatism rather than Continental thought in its action theory. And, their insistence “Instead of removing material screws, we want to inject altered information across all coordinates. This mutation will spread, coalesce, circulate. It will destabilize the foundations of the Spectacle; pierce the side of this environment and all matter of bizarre things, divergent strands, deterritorializations, unreasonable desires and prohibited images will leak out.”

    Problem with this is that the machinic unconscious of the capitalist media moguls across the planet already have done this over and over effectively and to the point that they can redirect any new virus into the latest bit of commoditized propaganda. All viral campaigns to infiltrate the system within are doomed to failure. We cannot change the system from within its diseased atrocities, we can only spell the course that will lead the system to crash of its own accord. This is a deadly choice that one must not take lightly for it will spell the death of millions (more than likely). Reform has never worked and has always led to less than adequate readjustments and counter measures. What we need is to build something outside the framework altogether, hidden pockets of resistance that hide in plain site – the chameleon is our guide not the bear or eagle. On the surface we must make the transition into these autonomous zones through a slow process of dissipation not accumulation. This new world will have no center of power, but the power will be centered everywhere and at all times in the truly autonomous individual. As is olden days there will call signs and obligatory codes to allow for security and transitional markers for those on the road to autonomy. We must turn capitalism inside out rather than trying to destroy it from within thereby creating out of its dark control systems a new system of freedom and autonomy that cannot be controlled by any power structure.

    Power resides within institutions not people. People are the carriers of these mythical institutions powers and potentialities. The media is only the surface glitter of these control mechanism. Everything has become surface without depth. The media is a vast hallucination made up not of bits and pieces of reality but of vectors of pure neural energy manifesting itself and disguised as the ‘human equation’. Under the belly of the beast the machines have already been unloosed and we are their minions, slaves of creatures we barely understand who have infiltrated every aspect of our mediscape to the point that we live moment by moment in the wake of their illusionary dream.

    The sad thing is that we are all willingly or not in search of the apocalypse: seeking to stage a final conflagration of this vast seething illusionary world. Some hope for paradise beyond, while others see only ashes extended to the edge of the universe. Yet, there are still others who have left the theatre altogether and are building parallel lives invisible to others yet perfectly visible for those who know.

    • edmundberger says:

      Hi Steve, apologies for the belated response! Its been kind of hectic time as of late…

      I wouldn’t necessarily deem what the CLAA is calling for here as a movement away from continental thought, but an attempt to work out the logistics of some of its woolier components (Baudrillard, primarily) into some sense of action. Its in the opening of Simulacra and Simulation that we find that quote from Ecclesiastes on the simulacra as truth – the bitter irony being that this quote is to be found nowhere in the Bible. Baudrillard seems to be telling us that while he fits the procession of simulation and simulacra within the context of contemporary control systems and bases its evolution in this space, that elusive ‘primordial totality’ that he has long been accused of as longing for is, in fact, nonexistent. Before the illusions of truth and reality in our age, there was the illusions and power of the previous ages, so and so forth. This is the paradox of the map and the territory – every so-called territory drawn up by an individual or social group or collective fantasy is, at the end of the, a succession of world maps piled into each other and intertwined.

      Thought it may be theoretically uncouth, we can perhaps collapse Baudrillard’s sci-fi elaborations into the Lacanian symbolic order (which he, after all, depicted in his early 50s seminars as a cybernetic machine that processes via binary logic – the exclusionary software of the grid). For Lacan, the symbol order is mythic, a machine that crafts order from the chaotic foam of noise; it is a hollow representation taken for the concrete. There is nothing dividing power itself from the forms that produce it. Lacan says we can never get beyond this symbolic order, that it obscures the real, just how Baudrillard’s procession of the simulacra makes the idea of a concrete truth impossible to reach.

      How do we fight myths? Or more properly, how can we craft a play with the plasticity that our symbolic order undoubtedly is? Back in the hey-day of the alter-globalization movement, certain sectors of post-Autonomist thought latched onto Georges Sorel’s idea of the myth itself as a means of solidarity, and reworked this into the idea of mythopoeisis, or the tactic of the open myth. Following Lacan, Deleuze, and Guattari, everything that composes a community is a collective fantasy, from government structure to activist affinity groups. The open myth acknowledges the role of the collective fantasy and runs with it, acknowledges the fantastic element while making it open and mutable. Thus we saw the rise of ‘collective individuals’ like Luther Blissett and later Wu Ming; organizations like the Association for Autonomous Astronauts, the Neoists and the London Psychogeographical Association. All of these dynamic meta-actors played a long and often hilarious game with the media, one of the key synthesizers of the symbolic order, and by doing so, revealed it for what it is: a machine made for myths, and capable of being caught up in this contradictory fracture. .

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