Friday, February 17, 2023

The Wages of the Spectacle – Panegyric for Sy Hersh


Does the Spectacle mandate that you be a passive Spectator? No, in fact the Spectacle invites intervention, it just invites a multiplicity of wrong interventions, based on deficient, distorted information. And in this way one remains a Spectator to the Situation, even while active, in being unable to actually change or substantively inflect upon the Situation. The Spectacle alternately invites Spectatorship, on the one hand, and incorrect, deluded, or mystified intervention, on the other, and in this way the Spectacle perpetuates itself with us inside it. What is it that the Spectacle is meant to obscure, or make impossible? Lucid, concerted, knowing intervention into the Situation. The more historically situated and contextualized the intervention, the more the Spectacle seeks to demonize, stigmatize, and exclude it. Why? Because lucid, historically situated knowledge of the Situation threatens to diagnose and oppose the Spectacle in a way that knowledge gained by mere naive sense – that is, the empiricism accrued by a subject naively developing within a contemporary Capital-Nation-State – cannot.


One shouldn’t be paralyzed by the fear of wrong intervention into not acting, not speaking, especially when it is vital and necessary to do so, but at the same time one should be cognizant that the Spectacle invites, and rewards, stupid, ill-informed acts and speech. We are suffocated and bamboozled by an overproliferation and over-amplification of insipid, cretinous acts, and insipid, cretinous speech, and it does not threaten the Spectacle to inadvertently perpetuate that low, shallow thought. This, incidentally, is the phenomenon most specifically diagnosed in Gilles Châtelet’s exemplary text To Live and Think Like Pigs: The Incitement of Envy and Boredom in Market Democracies tr Robin MacKay (London: Urbanomic, 2014).


For whose benefit is the Spectacle? It is tempting to say ‘for the owning class, of course.’ But that isn’t true, or isn’t complete at any rate. The Spectacle exists to perpetuate a number of anachronistic and obsolete categories, including the owning class of the richest imperialist states, the bureaucracy of their respective states, as well as diffusely the bigots and hatemongers of society as they misdirect the anger which ought to be directed towards the first two categories onto the heads of the marginalized and the vulnerable. The Spectacle deflects responsibility for the actual, it invents pseudo-villains and pseudo-cures, it is a reality denying and reality distorting machine.


For every imperialist owning class of the richest imperialist states there are chauvinist popularizers of reaction, bloviating balding, frustrated white men who view their exclusion of other voices as a noble self-sacrifice to keep the partisan, activist mob at bay. Those who envision themselves as the last intellectual bastion of sanity in a world gone mad. Jordan Peterson in the West is a prominent example, but perhaps the paradigmatic example is France’s Bernard-Henri Lévy, Nouveaux Philosophes. Whether on television or in print, these popularizers of reaction are small-minded self-involved chauvinist tyrants and charlatans, mashing together mismatched concepts in an effort to bamboozle the public. Gilles Deleuze was asked once, "what do you think of the "new philosophers,"" and he responded "nothing, I think that their thought is worthless." He says they use concepts which are "coarse as a hollow tooth. . . grotesque melanges, superficial dualisms: the law and the rebel, power and the angel." And, secondarily, Deleuze says, "the weaker the content of the thought, the more important the thinker becomes, the more the subject of enunciation asserts its importance in relation to the empty utterances." There is an omnipresent generalized appeal to authority. Between these two procedures, the superficial and erroneous use of shallow concepts, and the generalized appeal to authority, the 'New Philosophers' "sabotage work." The Spectacle promotes and rewards stupidity, it disproportionately platforms and amplifies it, precisely because the overwhelming majority of means of communication are privately owned mouthpieces, and the few that are not are nonetheless


The Spectacle requires the promotion of stupidity and the censorship of knowledge. This is particularly apparent in the case of Julian Assange, where from Assange we now know about the American treatment of prisoners of war at Guantanamo Bay, civilian murders by American troops in Iraq, and the expansion of the drone-war throughout the middle-east, but particularly in Yemen, and because of these revelations, the US has Assange kept in captivity by UK authorities, in abominable conditions, pending the resolution of his legal appeals process. For the Crime of revealing true information to the international public, the United States is individually persecuting Assange. But it is also true, in the cases of Jeremy Corbyn, a politician, Steven Donziger, a lawyer, and Seymour Hersh, a journalist. Each of these figures was subject to relentless, erroneous, unjustified character assassination precisely because they had exposed the Spectacle to historically grounded knowledge about the Situation. In the case of Corbyn it was knowledge to the effect that society is unequally structured to benefit a tiny ruling class at the expense of a dispossessed and impoverished underclass. In the case of Mr Donziger, it was that Chevron had severely ecologically degraded key portions of the Amazon river basin. And in the case of Sy Hersh it is, most recently, that the United States committed infrastructural terrorism against the Nordstream2 Pipeline in order to compel Germany and the EU into greater compliance with its world hegemonic project.


The case of Hersh is particularly enlightening. In our shallow, superficial discourse in the West today, there is very little in the way of the weighing of speech and thought. Because of the profusion of superficial, puff thought among the kept televisual lackeys in the most affluent imperialist states, the contending thought is never subject to real verification, that is thoroughgoing scrutiny. Rather contentions and allegations simply drift across our screens, this outlet says this, that outlet says that, and they say it until whatever phenomenon or personages has drifted from the memory of the public whose brains they have turned to mush.


For the liberal bobble-heads in the West, anything which doesn’t accord with the prescribed NATO/Atlantic-Council version of “the truth” is labelled “disinformation,” or “a Kremlin-and-or-Chinese talking point” effectively irrespective of its empirical validity. They have said this with respect to the precipitous and provocative encroachment of NATO against Russia, they have said it with respect to the US orchestrated coup in Ukraine in 2014, as they say it with respect to the reasonable expectations of the signatories of the Minsk Peace Accords. But saying this about one of the most decorated and interrogative journalists of a generation is more difficult. When an American liberal today denigrates Seymour Hersh, to try to deny the allegations he has recently made with respect to the United States having bombed the Nordstream 2 pipeline, they oppose themselves to a figure which revealed US perpetrated massacres in Vietnam, the prison abuses at Abu Ghraib, and the RAT-line in Syria, by which America armed Al-Qaeda proxies through intermediaries in Turkey in what was later revealed to have been a 1 Billion dollar CIA project named Timber Sycamore.


The Spectacle tolerates incredible, almost unimaginable amounts of both insipid, empty speech, as well as false speech which promotes erroneous action and the perpetuation of the Spectacle. What it cannot countenance is truth, digested, historically grounded and contextualized truth, and its expression is demonized, stigmatized and reviled from by the Spectacle, and in particular the privately owned means of communication in the richest imperialist states, and their atrophied, emaciated public institutions of expression, if any. In this way, what the Spectacle and its technocratic institutions, the Atlantic Council and its Digital Forensic Research Lab in particular, decry as “disinformation” is, more often than not, information. And what they promote as information is chauvinist, imperialist disinformation. The promotion of this present conflict in the West requires the strict policing of an almost incredible shortfall of even recent historical knowledge, the demonization and stigmatization of even basic inferences from the actual Situation.

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