When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.
- The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
excerpts from A Neoist Research Project:
A NOTE FROM THE EDITORS OF SMILE
In case you were not aware of it before, the texts reprinted here are variations of other, pre‐existing texts. In Neoism, there are various formulas for perpetually deriving new texts from existing Neoist writings.
Neoist writing explains the qualities and gradual reduction of of Monty Cantsin’s multiplicity, and the relation of all things to Neoism. The intention is to manipulate reality through the name of Monty Cantsin. This name is not regarded as merely a token, but as something alive, so that everything done in the name of Monty Cantsin will manipulate reality.
Early Neoist writings were highly metaphorical and rich with inside jokes. Later, these meanings were lost, and the texts were taken for face value. Since they obviously had to mean something, people began to make wild guesses and speculations about Neoism. Neoism’s great promise to manipulate anything through the power of its names, and the sublime tone of its proclamations, still has great impact on people who are easy to impress.
(a) replace an arbitrary number of words with their opposite meaning.
(b) the text will still tell the same.
(c) apply to this formula.
Let us assume, as a point of beginning, that even the remotest of us relates to experience through some aspect of the habitual philosophical beliefs that characterize the civilisation in which this presentation takes place. That these beliefs are eclectic and inconsistent is not important, what is important is that we can identify them as part of this civilisation, and that we make constant use of some of them. It is not important to determine whether or not these beliefs are “true” in an objective sense, since clearly their function is to be used to create a sense of “reality”, and not to be verified. The most didactic ideological projection to the simplest use of propositional thinking (for instance “I am swimming”) contains the arbitrary and deterministic map of our civilisation. These beliefs, this “swimming”, form an impenetrable field that traces around and separates us from experience outside the realm of beliefs in general. That certain obviously false beliefs, such as beliefs in so‐called “absolute” truth, can be deconstructed is deceptive since the process of deconstruction is taking place within the structure of cognitive consciousness as it is dictated by the languages, cultural patterns, and identity formations of contemporary civilisation. Thus, refusing to believe in specific commonly‐held opinions, such as the value of capitalist social relations, or belief in metaphysical abstractions, including those presented in this text, is ultimately a reformist measure which serves only to disarm the real and total opposition to beliefs in general. This opposition, since it aims to undermine the language, cultural history and identity formation of present reality is naturally difficult, if not almost impossible, to articulate within existing contexts. It is an orientation against and outside beliefs and consequently not compatible with the language or concepts that are used to describe things in terms of them, such as propositional language. That is by no means to suggest that this orientation does not exist, or is valueless, since its value clearly relates to the throwing off of the repressive aspects of consciousness, such as the ability or lack of ability to perceive paradox. In order to explain fully what I mean, I will use as an example a science fiction story about an alien civilisation consisting of two humanoid entities. In order to talk about the entities, I will give a brief description of the cultural, linguistic and identity characteristics common to them. The two entities occupy the same general area of space but are physically unable to perceive one another, to interact or to communicate in any way. Despite this, both are speculatively aware of the other’s existence through “memories” of a cultural history learned through direct experience with certain cultural artifacts. Both entities consequently have a developed and identical language and culture despite their non‐communication. This commonality constitutes their social relation entirely, being absolute. The aliens have a language that is significantly different from ours in that it does not contain reference to objects or situations, and has, of course, no communicative value. The language is best visualised as a moving spiral of operational symbols floating free in space, with the symbols constituting a level of purely structural, “non‐referential”*, mental activity. The holes between the symbols, which are gaps in the structural activity, provide space for penetration by material from “above” or “below” as they rotate. The material “above” the spiral is incoming information from the alien’s senses, for instance, sight or touch. The material from “below” is non‐sensory data, best understood as “imaginary” visions and fantastic images. This, in short, is the language of the alien culture, which constitutes part of each alien’s conscious relations with the world. The language is not spoken, but is notated at arbitrary intervals to preserve itself as a structural/cultural model for the next generation. The method for this notation involves particular use of sound and light in a physical approximation of the structure. The memory of this method of notation is the only referential aspect of the language, and it is essentially perceived by the aliens as a kind of intuition. The aliens perceive the sensory and imaginary information sensations during the pauses in their “non‐referential” mental activity, but are not concerned with differentiating between them as real or imagined. They have no memory of past time as we understand it, except for an intuitive sense of the other’s existence and the methods of cultural notation. As I have stated, this memory roughly constitutes the identity formation of the civilisation. Incidentally, the identities of the aliens have no bearing on the “imaginary vision” aspect of the language. The “imaginary visions” are as arbitrary and unconnected to the alien as are his/her “real” sensory experiences. Both the aliens occupy a space that is similar to our cultural vision of the Garden Of Eden. The plot of this very dry and technical example thickens when, for reasons entirely conflicting with our logic system, and with the logic of the civilisation I have just described, one of the aliens decides to stop using the spiral that constitutes the “non‐referential” and structural aspect of his/her language. This proves very difficult, as it is entirely without precedent in the civilisation, and physically impossible. Eventually the spiral ceases to exist and the alien’s sensory experiences and imaginary visions intermingle without interruption of any kind. Suddenly the alien becomes experientially conscious of the only other member of the civilisation, who remains oblivious to him/her. The alien attempts to communicate with the other, but s/he is unable to perceive him/her. The alien “intuitively” decides to use the artifacts and methods of notations from the civilisation to communicate his/her existence to the other, but is ultimately unsure of the success of the project, since without memory s/he is unclear as to his/her placement in time. What I suggest is that this scenario is not fictional, but instead a literal analysis of our civilisation, including its inconsistencies.
*That is, not referring to any concept of other formation outside its own system.
Proletarian Posturing and the Strike which Never Ends
‘Censorship is a more populist form of subjectivity than imagination because it does not require the construction of alternative (“imagined”) possibilities, only familiarity with existing ones.’ (CENSORSHIP LEAFLET)
For some time now, there has been a momentum of dissident culture, strengthened by conformity, and organized around a series of attacks on various subjects. The “material” side of this process has been the creation of events and materials which transmit, in a relatively conventional manner, a collection of attitudes towards various aspects of dominant culture. These attitudes can be simplistically summed up as distaste for work, production, originality, “high” and “low” culture, and received identities. These elements of social relations are added to the usual list of exploitations in capitalist society. A variety of experiments have been proposed to investigate the negations of these “abstractions.” “Multiple names,” anonymity and explicit plagiarism have been used to undermine the idea of identity or ownership in culture. At the same time, participants have been hell‐bent on historicizing themselves and their activities, partially in order to insert these discourses into mainstream politics and culture, and perhaps also for reasons which are more unpleasantly in contradiction with their stated aims.
Throughout much of these ideas loomed “abstract” questions of power, even at the level of event organization. In a very obvious way, “activists” were structuring events and language to give weight to a programmatic agenda of ideas. At the same time, there was considerable dissent as to what those ideas consisted of. In partial response to this ironic crisis, a participant from the London Festival organized a Festival of Censorship in Baltimore, during which participants would make presentations in support of censorship and against the idea of the sanctity of information or expression. Support of Censorship logically followed a critical understanding of questions of autonomy and power in culture. In the same way that explicit plagiarism undermined the distinction between production and consumption, explicit censorship attacked the distinction between the creation and destruction of possibilities. The Festival was short and poorly attended, and again, only a few of the participants completely supported its ideological bent. Many of the events were advertised but did not occur. The “value” of either festival was primarily “academic”‐‐feeding discussion around various issues rather than creating militant engagement.
How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations
…I want to focus and elaborate on the overarching point revealed by all of these documents: namely, that these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.
Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums.
GCHQ describes the purpose of JTRIG in starkly clear terms: “using online techniques to make something happen in the real or cyber world,” including “information ops (influence or disruption).”
The Art of Deception: Training for a New Generation of Online Covert Operations
We tell ourselves stories in order to live. The princess is caged in the consulate. The man with the candy will lead the children into the sea. The naked woman on the ledge outside the window on the sixteenth floor is a victim of accidie, or the naked woman is an exhibitionist, and it would be “interesting” to know which. We tell ourselves that it makes some difference whether the naked woman is about to commit a mortal sin or is about to register a political protest or is about to be, the Aristophanic view, snatched back to the human condition by the fireman in priest’s clothing just visible in the window behind her, the one smiling at the telephoto lens. We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.
(Or at least we do for a while. I am talking here about a time when I began to doubt the premises of all the stories I had ever told myself, a common condition but one I found troubling…
Joan Didion, “The White Album”
Rob Irving, Art and Artifice
The world we experience is not an exact image of objective reality; it is a virtual reality, generated from sensory input filtered through theories, knowledge, emotion and associations and so on. This is not to say that nothing is real, just that we can never experience reality directly. Our natural instinct to make sense of our perceptions – the desire for order – can be so strong that the obvious can be obscured and the mundane made mysterious, magnifying the merest conjecture into astounding fact.
Rick Paulas interviews Spencer McCall “San Francisco’s Baffling Jejune Institute Gets A Documentary”
Did you ever see The NeverEnding Story? What’s cool about that is, the people of Fantasia need a human being to give a new name to the Empress. And the only way they can get someone to come to their world is to create a story that someone can immerse themselves in, they can only come to this world and save it if they believe that the story they’re reading is essential and necessary. The story doesn’t matter. It’s just the tool to get you to come together and open up your eyes. It’s not the Holy Grail; it’s the quest for the Holy Grail. But everything that the Holy Grail would give you, you could gather on the quest. So that was the message. And that’s not necessarily a new message. You know, “it’s the journey not the destination.”
So that’s what’s really cool to me, is that you can believe in something more going on. You can believe in magic and you don’t have to attribute it to a God or whatever…
… or a corporation, or a movie…
… but at the same time, people love to say they’re spiritual but not religious, and this was definitely religious but not spiritual. Because it was all the tradition and story that religions have, but none of the necessity to believe in any of the magic. And I don’t know if that was really Jeff’s idea. His idea was to get people to stop looking at their phones, to explore the world they live in, not be afraid to go down an alley because they think it might be owned by someone. You know, don’t go robbing anybody, but explore it. It’s your city, too. That would be Jeff’s thing.
Mine would be just to question the media you’re presented with. I think a movie has the ability to make you open your eyes and linger and bounce around in your brain for awhile, but don’t take it too seriously. And if you do, be sure you really question it and get the answers. It’s like Jaws. If you’d seen the shark in the beginning, would it be that sharp or spooky of a movie? Probably not. You know at the end they do show the shark. I don’t think I ever showed the shark in this movie. But that’s the idea. Go find the shark yourself. You decide.