On Saturday night I did not go out to explore the Nuit Blanche. Instead, I stayed home, had some friends over, and watched the livestream of Zizek’s talk on our house projector.
In a lot of ways, it was an ideal experience – the self created, cinematic Zizek. If we had tried to attend the seminar in person, we probably would have waited in line for hours, gotten sick (I was feeling under the weather already), and not gotten in anyway. (Toronto Media Co-op has published a scathing critique of the event). At home we watched Zizek from our own comfy chairs, new shag carpet, beer and wine in hand.
The talk was intense, better than a lot of Zizek talks I’ve seen on youtube. Although, as usual, there is a lot of repetition from someone who is constantly speaking, rarely getting a chance to think about something new.
I like the direction Zizek is going in politically. He is emphasizing the hardness of the contemporary problem, and I think some of his formulations are useful for critiquing the dominant “progressive” ideologies and exposing the reality of their reactionary attributes. “No genocide without poetry”, “No revolution without secret police”, these are hard things to hear, but if we don’t reflect on the role of meaning-constitution in violence, or the role of disciplinary violence in revolutionary transformation, I think we are lost. These are some of the first things we should think of today.
I’ve been thinking about another formulation lately, a formulation which is simply stating something which already gets play in the media: No social media without self-imposed ideological censorship. We live and work on the internet, and it appears the freest place. But in reality, there are very strict rules which everyone obeys which articulate what you are allowed to talk about on the internet, for reasons of security. The internet is the new Greek agora – the open place where we are in public. But not in public to each other as a public – our internet lives are known only to our friends, and to the secret police. This is a tragic dynamic – a dynamic where we must worry about everything we say ending up in a court, or, and it amounts to the same thing, into the hands of an interrogator.
I remember as a child asking my godmother why the Soviet Union was “bad”. Her response was that over there the government could put a listening device in your home and spy on you and put you in jail if you said things against the government. Surely here the level of criticism which is allowed may be higher – but don’t we all own this spying device? Don’t we all use it, freely? Aren’t I using it, right now, to express myself to you?
The lesson of the false freedom of the internet is to develop human relations, networks not based on social media. Only in physical presence with each other do we feel truly at home.
And perhaps, next year, to go out on Nuit Blanche.
3 thoughts on “Nuit Blanche: “Cinema Zizek” at Toad Lane”
“The internet is the new Greek agora – the open place where we are in public. But not in public to each other as a public – our internet lives are known only to our friends, and to the secret police. This is a tragic dynamic – a dynamic where we must worry about everything we say ending up in a court, or, and it amounts to the same thing, into the hands of an interrogator.”
If we really wanted to, we could keep our own secret police out of the internet. For instance, we could put telecommunication company executives in jail when we find out that they have agreed to secretly cooperate with our national intelligence services. We could similarly imprison politicians and bureaucrats who design and implement such systems. We could even theoretically make evidence gleaned from the internet inadmissable as evidence in court.
McDonalds would still be able to Google you and scan through your MySpace page before making you night manager, but there wouldn’t be systematic surveillance of the internet by our own government. Of course, the governments of plenty of other countries would still be watching, along with all sorts of private actors.
Let’s do it!
A more sensible approach might just to be to refuse to allow the reality of surveillance to have a chilling effect on our discourse.