There is finally no ordinary argument at all, only an unstoppable recontextualization of anything an argument might touch. The analysis is irrefutable not because it is true, any more than it is refutable because it is false, but because it so happily use[s] a private language to distort a public world.
- G.M. on the S.I.
Don't need a cure
Need a final solution
- Pere Ubu
The Situationist International dismissed former member Alexander Trocchi because he instigated Project Sigma and in so doing wound up rubbing elbows with Allen Ginsberg, Colin Wilson, Timothy Leary, and other "mystical cretins" (Debord's term).
Detournement as practiced by the SI was never didactic. Its goal was not to advocate the "right side" of the spectacle by ridiculing the "wrong side" of the spectacle. Detournement was a means of collapsing the entire spectacular society. To the SI, playing golf at the club and marchin' in the peace rally were simply two sides of the same spectacular coin.
In 2005, we are offered a watered-down, liberal guerilla media remix culture with a formalistic sheen of detournement but none of its underlying radicalism. Michael Moore, OutFoxed, flash mobs in Wal-Mart, and of course The Guerilla News Network. GNN's "radicalism" is characterized by Berkeley academicians propounding conspiracy theories over hip hop breakbeats cheezily silhouetted in front of newsreel footage altered by rave-ish, off-the-shelf After Effects filters. To Debord, these kind of guerilla news scoops would be equivalent to blowing the whistle on someone stealing from the cookie jar, when the real story is that all the cookies have been poisoned. To me, the cheeky didacticism of most GNN "media recontextualizations" -- loops of Bush stammering Bushisms set to a soundtrack of "Dueling Banjos" -- makes Adbusters seem subtle. Compared to Bruce Conner's film Report -- a simultaneously sympathetic, humorous, subtle, and profound remix/collage/cut-up/deconstruction of the JFK assassination footage --, GNN is simply part of the spectacle.
The following excerpt from the GNN FAQ is deliciously telling.
"GNN was co-founded by Stephen Marshall and Josh Shore in the summer of 2000. The partners first joined forces at MTV (Josh had brought Stephen in to consult on some radical television ideas for the station) when they finally realized that the mainstream networks would never allow their hi-impact brand of television content and design to reach prime-time."
"Radical," "hi-impact brand" indeed! Read "Detournement Lite (TM) -- twice the taste at half the calories!" But Detournement Lite is no detournement at all.
Remix and reappropriate the videos at gnn.tv/videos/ in a way that truly makes them disruptive. Shake them loose from their didacticism, their preachiness, their morality, their context, their sense, until they are turned in on themselves and glimpses of the spectacle are revealed. In other words, detourn them. Put your remixes on the web at a site called "The Godzilla News Network." Use reamweaver to appropriate the design of the GNN site and recontextualize it as you have the videos. Titling is crucial.
1. Remix in footage from "Gorrilaz" videos (gorillaz.com), because, you know, gorilla - guerilla.
2. Remix in footage of King Kong vs. Godzilla, because Godzilla rhymes with guerilla and gorilla, and King Kong is an ape. Also, the monsters will be crushing the whole city, tearing it up. Focus more on the collateral damage than on either King Kong or Godzilla. It's not about the liberals vs. the conservatives; it's not about the democrats/republicans vs. Noam Chomsky; it's not even about your new Godzilla News Network vs. their old Guerilla News Network. It's about the ashes from whence a phoenix may rise and begin its spiralling slouch toward Bethlehem.
3. Move in the opposite spirit. To detourn a "hi-impact brand," you need a slow impact pace. Leave in 5-minute-long periods of silence and blankness (a la Debord's Hurlements en faveur de Sade). Eschew hip-hop. Incorporate doo-wop. I'm partial to the Platter's "Only You," but "Earth Angel" is perfectly acceptable.
4. Don't fall into the easy dis Bush trap. Draw your horns on the head of Warhol soup cans; paint your pitchfork into the hands of Ozzie Nelson. Bush is the quintessential iconic bogey, luring millions of potentially disruptive heads into an almost involuntary, hypnotic, knee-jerk vilification of himself. He is the polarizing agent that coaxes "radical artists" into the spectacle. We become that upon which we gaze. To oppose Bush above all else is not to oppose the spectacle. It is to participate in the spectacle at a most ramped-up, self-deluded level. (If even now you feel disdain rising up in you and an irresistable desire to write a scathingly indignant response to this post, it's probably too late for you.) He who has ears, let him hear.
5. If your piece reads like a didactic critique of the GNN, you've failed. If your piece reads like a holiday in the leopard cage (replete with a ransom note from Leopold of Austria), your compass begins to point Northwest.