Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Spectacle Isn't Stupid. It Wasn't Born Yesterday, You Know.

Television nearly gives me everything I want. Yet as it expresses itself, television actually communicates what is permitted rather than what is possible. I guess the true spectacle is not really the mass media. The mass media are limiting, to be sure. But the insidious reach of the spectacle is rooted in power relations.

My favorite scene in Team America: World Police is when they release the jaguars. They ate the throats of the puppets. In this way, the spectacle props our daily life -- the spectacle underwrites the Science Diet food pellets in our bowls each morning, the magic water that drips from the bathtub spigot. The spectacle is the subliminal force of everyday life, with power relations as its governing archetype.

Capitalist division of labor only makes things worse, creating "the mythical order with which every power shrouds itself from the beginning" (Guy Debord). A two-week vacation means nothing: by taking it, you legitimize your "activity" -- your working -- during the other 50 weeks of the year. Division of labor is, really, just a question of "separate production as production of the separate" (Debord). What is modern is archaic; that is, both depend on structures that cleave "subject" from "object," creating a separation that is mythic -- a myth that serves as the perfect shroud and justification for institutional power.

The Sean Penn puppet was really fucking scared.


Blogger aubra said...

You and I are so connected, Shimmy. I happened to see Sean Penn last night at San Quentin, which was the site of quite a spectacle. He didn't look scared. Throughout the evening, I discussed with a friend the spectacle-ness of Tookie Williams' death and the attendant *vigil* (literally "watch"). I was repeatedly bumped by large cameras. The bright lights of TV news teams were blinding, in stark contrast to the candles people were holding. Folks gathered around TV news personalities talking to cameras, while TV-viewers watched them watching the reporters watch the vigil-goers, who were there to witness a devastating exercise of state power.

5:18 PM  
Blogger Shimmy said...

The accumulation of spectacles! Writing about Schwarzenegger's spectacular governorship, Dave Zirin observed that "in the end, we can only assume the decision wasn't so 'agonizing' after all." Zirin admits his own spectatorship is inextricable from his political anger: "Unlike the movie tough guy always ready to look his victims in the eye-- a quip at the ready -- before shooting, stabbing, or beheading them, Arnold made his decision at safe remove, hanging out this weekend at his son's soccer game, his face a waxy mask of carefree detachment."


9:12 AM  
Blogger aubra said...

"To be governed is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. To be governed is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished."(Pierre-Joseph Proudhon)

9:37 PM  

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