Posts Tagged ‘society of the spectacle’

Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations. New York: W. W. Norton, 1979.

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“The same society of alienation, totalitarian control and passive spectacular consumption reigns everywhere, despite the diversity of its ideological and juridical disguises. The coherence of this society cannot be understood without an all-encompassing critique, illuminated by the inverse project of a liberated creativity, the project of everyone’s control of all levels of their own history.”

– Guy Debord, The Situationists and the New Forms of Action in Art and Politics. June 1963. (via @shituationist)

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“…the random cannibalization of all the styles of the past, the play of random stylistic allusion. … This omnipresence of pastiche is not incompatible with a certain humor, however, nor is it innocent of all passion: it is at the least compatible with addiction — with a whole historically original consumers’ appetite for a world transformed into sheer images of itself and for pseudo-events and “spectacles” (the term of the Situationists). It is for such objects that we may reserve Plato’s conception of the “simulacrum,” the identical copy for which no original has ever existed. Appropriately enough, the culture of the simulacrum comes to life in a society where exchange value has been generalized to the point at which the very memory of use value is effaced, a society of which Guy Debord has observed, in an extraordinary phrase, that in it “the image has become the final form of commodity reification”.”

– Frederic Jameson, “POSTMODERNISM, OR THE CULTURAL LOGIC OF LATE CAPITALISM.” New Left Review, I/146, July-August 1984

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“The return to the real is certainly not the path that leads back from a bad and ‘irrational’ speculation to healthy production. We have to get back to the immediate and reflexive life of all those who live in this world. If we get back to that, we can unflinchingly observe capitalism, and even the disaster movie it has been making us watch. It is not the film that is real: it is the cinema.”

– Alain Badiou, ‘The Crisis of the Spectacle: Where Is the Real?’ The Communist Hypothesis. London: Verso Books, 2015.

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’“The state of the integrated spectacle (or, spectacular-democratic
state) is the final stage in the evolution of
the state-form – the ruinous stage toward which monarchies
and republics, tyrannies and democracies, racist
regimes and progressive regimes are all rushing. Although
it seems to bring national identities back to life,
this global movement actually embodies a tendency toward
the constitution of a kind of supranational police
state, in which the norms of international law are tacitly
abrogated one after the other. Not only has no war officially
been declared in many years (confirming Carl
Schmitt’s prophecy, according to which every war in
our time has become a civil war), but even the outright
invasion of a sovereign state can now be presented as an
act of internal jurisdiction.

Under these circumstances,
the secret services – which had always been used to act
ignoring the boundaries of national sovereignties – become
the model itself of real political organization and
of real political action. For the first time in the history
of our century, the two most important world powers are
headed by two direct emanations of the secret services:
Bush (former CIA head) and Gorbachev (Andropov’s
man); and the more they concentrate all the power in
their own hands, the more all of this is hailed, in the
new course of the spectacle, as a triumph of democracy.
All appearances notwithstanding, the spectacular-democratic
world organization that is thus emerging actually runs the risk of being the worst tyranny that ever
materialized in the history of humanity, against which
resistance and dissent will be practically more and more
difficult – and all the more so in that it is increasingly
clear that such an organization will have the task of managing
the survival of humanity in an uninhabitable world

One cannot be sure, however, that the spectacle’s attempt
to maintain control over the process it contributed
to putting in motion in the first place will actually succeed.
The state of the spectacle, after all, is still a state
that bases itself (as Badiou has shown every state to base
itself) not on social bonds, of which it purportedly is
the expression, but rather on their dissolution, which it
forbids. In the final analysis, the state can recognize any
claim for identity – even that of a state identity within
itself (and in our time, the history of the relations between
the state and terrorism is an eloquent confirmation of this fact). But what the state cannot tolerate in
any way is that singularities form a community without
claiming an identity, that human beings co-belong without
a representable condition of belonging (being Italian,
working-class, Catholic, terrorist, etc.). And yet, the state
of the spectacle – inasmuch as it empties and nullifies
every real identity; and substitutes the public and public
for the people and the general will – is precisely
what produces massively from within itself singularities
that are no longer characterized either by any social identity
or by any real condition of belonging: singularities
that are truly whatever singularities. It is clear that the
society of the spectacle is also one in which all social

identities have dissolved and in which everything that
for centuries represented the splendor and misery of the
generations succeeding themselves on Earth has by now lost all its significance. The different identities that have
marked the tragicomedy of universal history are exposed
and gathered with a phantasmagorical vacuity in
the global petite bourgeoisie
– a petite bourgeoisie that
constitutes the form in which the spectacle has realized
parodistically the Marxian project of a classless society. 

For this reason – to risk advancing a prophecy
here – the coming politics will no longer be a
struggle to conquer or to control the state on the part
of either new or old social subjects, but rather a struggle
between the state and the nonstate (humanity), that
is, an irresolvable disjunction between whatever singularities
and the state organization

– Giorgio Agamben, “Marginal Notes on
Commentaries on the
Society of the Spectacle
(written in 1990), Means Without End: Notes on Politics. Translated by Vincenzo .Binetti and Cesare Casarino. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000. pp. 85-87

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“The first stage of the economy’s domination of social life brought about an evident degradation of being into having — human fulfillment was no longer equated with what one was, but with what one possessed. The present stage, in which social life has become completely dominated by the accumulated productions of the economy, is bringing about a general shift from having to appearing — all “having” must now derive its immediate prestige and its ultimate purpose from appearances. At the same time all individual reality has become social, in the sense that it is shaped by social forces and is directly dependent on them. Individual reality is allowed to appear only if it is not actually real.”

– Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle. 1.17. 

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“"This is the news of the millennium!“ said the story on WorldPoliticus.com. Citing unnamed FBI sources, it claimed Hillary Clinton will be indicted in 2017 for crimes related to her email scandal.

"Your Prayers Have Been Answered,” declared the headline.

For Trump supporters, that certainly seemed to be the case. They helped the baseless story generate over 140,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.

Meanwhile, roughly 6,000 miles away in a small town in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, a young man watched as money began trickling into his Google AdSense account.

Over the past year, the Macedonian town of Veles (population 45,000) has experienced a digital gold rush as locals launched at least 140 US politics websites. These sites have American-sounding domain names such as WorldPoliticus.com, TrumpVision365.com, USConservativeToday.com, DonaldTrumpNews.co, and USADailyPolitics.com. They almost all publish aggressively pro-Trump content aimed at conservatives and Trump supporters in the US.

The young Macedonians who run these sites say they don’t care about Donald Trump. They are responding to straightforward economic incentives: As Facebook regularly reveals in earnings reports, a US Facebook user is worth about four times a user outside the US. The fraction-of-a-penny-per-click of US display advertising — a declining market for American publishers — goes a long way in Veles. Several teens and young men who run these sites told BuzzFeed News that they learned the best way to generate traffic is to get their politics stories to spread on Facebook — and the best way to generate shares on Facebook is to publish sensationalist and often false content that caters to Trump supporters.

As a result, this strange hub of pro-Trump sites in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is now playing a significant role in propagating the kind of false and misleading content that was identified in a recent BuzzFeed News analysis of hyperpartisan Facebook pages. These sites open a window into the economic incentives behind producing misinformation specifically for the wealthiest advertising markets and specifically for Facebook, the world’s largest social network, as well as within online advertising networks such as Google AdSense.

“Yes, the info in the blogs is bad, false, and misleading but the rationale is that ‘if it gets the people to click on it and engage, then use it,’” said a university student in Veles who started a US politics site, and who agreed to speak on the condition that BuzzFeed News not use his name.

Using domain name registration records and online searches, BuzzFeed News identified over 100 active US politics websites being run from Veles. The largest of these sites have Facebook pages that boast hundreds of thousands of followers.

BuzzFeed News also identified another 40 US politics domains registered by people in Veles that are no longer active. (An April report from the Macedonian website Meta.mk identified six pro-Trump sites being run from Veles. A Guardian report identified 150 politics sites.)

Their reasons for launching these sites are purely financial, according to the Macedonians with whom BuzzFeed News spoke.

“I started the site for a easy way to make money,” said a 17-year-old who runs a site with four other people. “In Macedonia the economy is very weak and teenagers are not allowed to work, so we need to find creative ways to make some money. I’m a musician but I can’t afford music gear. Here in Macedonia the revenue from a small site is enough to afford many things.”

Most of the posts on these sites are aggregated, or completely plagiarized, from fringe and right-wing sites in the US. The Macedonians see a story elsewhere, write a sensationalized headline, and quickly post it to their site. Then they share it on Facebook to try and generate traffic. The more people who click through from Facebook, the more money they earn from ads on their website.”


Craig Silverman & Lawrence Alexander,

“How Teens In The Balkans Are Duping Trump Supporters With Fake News.” BuzzFeed News, November 3, 2016. 

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