Film producer and publisher Gérard Lebovici (who does not have an IMDB entry) was murdered on March 5, 1984. He was a friend of Guy Debord's, who wrote a slim book, Considerations on the Assassination of Gérard Lebovici (finally published in English in 2001) attacking the media's treatment of Lebovici and himself and their friendship in light of the assassination (which is still unsolved). At a certain point there is a very telling paragraph that I will quote at length:
"This press campaign had barely been set in motion before numerous journalists attempted to get an interview with me, ringing at my door or even telephoning me directly, despite the fact that my telephone numbers are always unlisted. They were all turned away by my friends. Dozens of photographers, in groups or individuals, and even some cameramen, stationed themselves in front of my windows for several weeks, waiting to get a picture of me on the sly. It is comforting to note that all the time spent by these incompetents came to nothing, with only one exception--after months of trying, someone managed to get a blurry, and not very interesting silhouette taken through a telephoto lens by inflitrating the house next door. The photograph, coupled with some hateful commentary, was then published by Paris-Match. The journalists of today are so accustomed to the public's submission--even their complete delight--when faced with the press' voracious need for information (of which journalists are apparently the great priests, but in fact the hired help) that I truly believe that much of the press deems guilty the person who would claim to not have to explain himself before their authority. But for me, I have always found it a crime to speak with journalists or to appear on television, in other words, to collaborate in the slightest way with the great enterprise of the falsification of reality that is lead by the mass media. It is quite normal for me to think so, and consquently to act this way, since I published the theory on this a long time ago. The press believes that all those who have access to this sort of the celebrity of the moment want it, and indeed want it as often as possible. But I have nothing to sell. Discretion is not viewed well in these times. An article in the March 23 Le Nouvel Observateur provides a revealing demonstration of this: " 'In my long career, I have never seen as strange and mysterious an affair as this one,' said an important police commander.... And he concluded, in a pensive tone: 'What do you expect--by living in secrecy, one dies in darkness.' " In this statement emerges a new sociological law which actually makes one pensive. This "important police commander" has just supplied a brilliant contribution to the theory of the spectacle. He introduces the definition of a new criminal offense. He who does not, of his own free will, make himself as visible as possible in the spectacle, lives in fact in secrecy, since all current communication in society passes through this mediation. He who lives in secrecy is a clandestine person. A clandestine person will be more and more likely to be considered a terrorist. In any case, a clandestine person is not able to frequent honorable people; and one would not therefore be terribly astonished if such person met a violent and mysterious death."
To what extent does one participate in all the Big Media of the day? More and more I feel the urge to turn and 'say no' to as much of it as possible ... but is this just tantamount to a head-in-the-sand approach? Maybe piracy is an answer. I don't know. I broke down and ordered cable in June so that I could watch World Cup games. My girlfriend and I have kept cable, even though I personally only watch it for the occasional soccer match, Food Network program, or--my guilty/unguilty pleasure--Project Runway. I could try to satisfy myself with this: "Oh, I only watch a few shows..." Because really no matter what I think I mean is that I'm still saying, "I pay x amount of dollars each month to have this cabled into my apartment, use it sparingly and so am doubtless paying too much by any standard, but justify my occasional tuning-in as an obedient set of advertisement-bombarded eyes through this very extravagance of barely using something I still pay x amount for." All I'm getting from television is entertainment, and I can get that any number of places, without purchasing the rights to see it month-to-month, and without selling myself as a statistical blip for ratings & advertisers.
One of my favorite blogs is Le Colonel Chabert. Back when le Colonel was known as Alphonse van Worden, she wrote on the work of Patrick O'Brian (of Master and Commander fame):
"The great poet of civility of the 20th century, Patrick O'Brian, proposed a code of civility whose central posture is not a soft voice, peaceable 'diplomatic' manner, or feigned flexibility of opinion, but discretion. The civil being controls his curiosity, permits the other his privacy and anonymity. Asking questions, interrogation, is in the novels of O'Brian a more serious transgression against civility than flinging an unblunted insult or even dealing a physical blow. The forced (or betrayed) confidence is the most heinous violation. 'Question and answer is not a civilized form of conversation,' declares the wandering Catalan-Irish-Catholic (crypto-Jew) Dr. Stephen Maturin, United Irishman, physician, natural scientist, and British intelligence agent."
"Amazon knows me better than I quite like. 'Alphonse, this is what we recommend.' Amazingly intuitive usually. I'll take it, and that, and that too. Once in a while something repellant comes up for my consideration, and I can't help but feel Amazon means to insult me. They immediately sense my discomfort. Indeed they read my mind, offering the question, minus two words, that has just entered my head: 'why was I recommended this?' Yes why? And the response sounds irksomely reasonable - because you bought this, that, and that...well so I did. Perhaps they have a point."
"It is impossible to protect one's anonymity with Amazon. Futilely protest your individuality, quirkiness, irreducibility to type."
"Perfect Intimacy: the relationship of the advertiser to the consumer. Seduction and control of which Cholderos de Laclos could not have dreamt, the permanent expulsion of eros from human experience. The ideal romance for capitalism: What Women Want, a film by Mel Gibson, a market researcher's fantasy of free infallible data collection - he hears women's thoughts - a film constructed around a long Nike advertisement which takes the place in the narrative usually reserved for the love scene or ecstasy of shared peril."
The battle against 'bad culture' isn't a matter of high and low (well, maybe for some people it still seems to be) ... it's rather a question of protecting our humanity, our privacy, our civility. If the world changes too drastically, if certain things we hold dear are to be swept aside as happens through history's course, then I would at least want to bend some of these inevitable changes (if inevitable they be) to my own terms, at my own pace. But Guy Debord did this, and is always mentioned with knowing smirks for it. Attacks on Debord tend to be groundless, toothless insults and simplifications. I am not saying Debord is beyond reproach--I am saying that his reproaches against him have often been beyond defense or reason. For several years, as an undergraduate, I just assumed that Debord was influential but irrevocably passé, and far too crusty to be taken too seriously. This was simply the sum result of my having read his name mentioned, usually in passing, enough times, to form this non-opinion almost by osmosis. Why? Because he recognized what culture was doing, he could point a finger at it, name it, accuse it, and to a certain extent reject it. Maybe his way is not my way, but he's one of the ones who provides an example.
This is one of my more disjointed and diaristic blog entries, long too, and with substantial quotes from better writer-thinkers than myself, and therefore not some of my better communication or conceptualization. But does anyone reading this feel they get what I'm trying to describe? An almost helpless feeling, but not totally so, unable to confidently choose a plan of action in dealing with a media-world which simultaneously provides me with purpose (for what do I want to do with myself if not look at images, information, communications, and say something about them?) and which traps me in a giant scheme to make profits (from us, from our "free time") and to try to indoctrinate us ...
(In other words, I want agency, dammit, and don't know how to get it, or feel it, or know I have it.)