As a follow-up to my recent post on Guy Debord's film Society of the Spectacle, I have been reading Debord's 1988 essay "Comments on the Society of the Spectacle," an extension to the earlier book and film, as well as an update which amends Debord's ideas in relation to changing social conditions. In general, this later essay is much more pessimistic than the earlier works, as Debord seems to have concluded that by this point the spectacle has definitively won: it is everything and everywhere, and virtually no means exist to question or effectively rebel against the established social and economic order of the world. He addresses his essay to some "fifty or sixty people" who might be interested, among whom he guesses that roughly half will in fact be those who wish to maintain the spectacle. One can hardly blame Debord for his despair, since his 1967 pronouncements and predictions have seemed increasingly prescient and relevant in the face of an expanding globalist economy and a media who do nothing to question or even call attention to its hegemony.
One of Debord's comments in this essay seems especially relevant to the state of the world today, so much so that I felt I really had to post this here. Keep in mind that this was written in 1988.
Such a perfect democracy constructs its own inconceivable foe, terrorism. Its wish is to be judged by its enemies rather than by its results. The story of terrorism is written by the state and it is therefore highly instructive. The spectators must certainly never know everything about terrorism, but they must always know enough to convince them that, compared with terrorism, everything else must be acceptable, or in any case more rational and democratic.
I post this primarily as a reminder that, though Debord's theorization of an international "spectacle" which secretly controls the entire world can sometimes seem a bit abstracted or far-fetched, there are obvious and tangible implications for his ideas in the real world. The P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act and the invasion of Iraq being the two most blatant ones occurring to me after reading the above.