Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Plagiarism

Lautreamont once wrote "Plagiarism is necessary. Progress demands it." Given that plagiarism only makes sense within a regime of ideas as property, this is self evident. The fact that the category exists adds to the mountain of evidences for the lack of progress in history. The practice of plagiarism must be approached dialectically, however, and not simply uncritically celebrated.

Among the general separation that the spectacle produces, one key product is a puerile servility. The spectacle produces the weak minded and weak kneed subjects required by both liberalism and fascism. The movie American Beauty is only one among many demonstrations of this: the ostensible protagonist, Lester Burnham, and his nazi neighbor Colonel Fitz, are united less by the Colonel's sexual interest in Burnham than they are by their mirroring of each others' alienated selves. Stunted by the ensemble of the spectacle that they face - suburban architecture, the advertising industry, war movies, etc - the two wrap themselves tightly in their fear of acting, while nervously considering if that is indeed what they should do.

These figures in their fear and weakness are, of course, capable of serving as tinder for the internal combustion occasionally required by the spectacle. The fearful atomized subject can be activate in inverted forms of collective action such as rallying around the flag, around the troops, around the latest spectacular commodity. Both Burnham and Fitz undergo a type of explosion, though of course as a moment of the spectacle the movie reduces these to examples of individual pathology rather than mass systemic outcome.

The spectacle instills a craving to be mastered, a love of mastery. (It is in the context of combating the recuperation of Debord, and to a less degree the Situationist International generally, that the otherwise mediocre books The Tribe and The Consul have a use. These books, while full of the type of trivia and banalities that characterize the spectacular commodity that is pop biography, help undermine the attempts to turn Debord into a master figure by showing his loutish moments as well, and the general effervescence of the historical moment which is not reducible to an effect of Debord's ascerbic pen.) Hence the requirement of a critical dialectical use of plagiarism. Just as the political bureaucrats of the happily extinct so-called Communist countries merely changed one group of people (sic) for another at the helm of spectacle, state, and capital, some practices of plagiarism are attempts not to undermine mastery but to become new masters. One example is the plagiarized 'intelligence' report by the United Kingdom about Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction. Another practice of plagiarism is the proliferation of knock offs of commodities such as the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Chronicles of Narnia books. These are also of no use, as they are merely an internecine squabble within the spectacle, a cultural parallel to the fundamental agreement that existed between the USA and USSR, and exists today between Bush and Bin Laden. The ruling classes may well hate each other, but it is the masses who they hate most and they happily unite when necessary when the masses threaten.

The type of plagiarism needed is taking up, a making one's own of ideas. Just as in the best experiences of drugs, riots, music, sex, and perhaps others - the boundaries of where one begins and another ends become blurred, but not erased - plagiarism must do the same. Plagiarism as detournement, but directed less at changing the original than at producing the new.

Detecting this beneficial plagiarism is tremendously difficult, which frequently imposes a requirement to re-invent the wheel, to start again from scratch in regard to how best plagiarize. It would be of some use to carry out a conversation on how plagiarist techniques can best be performed - a Plagiarist International, though it could likely not publicly name itself so. It be less so to converse on specific plagiarized works, though it is easy to turn to that issue immediately, bound up as it is with the urges of the gossip column and the scandal that fuel important segments of the spectacle. One immediate proposal, though of course not the only possible, would be to make use of various forms of electronic reproducibility to disseminate goods for free under different - or without - names. The remix and the mashup in music and in film offer gestures toward this, but on the terms of the spectacle and thus of recuperation, as they preserve the name of the original. The initial distribution of such goods, as when the Yippies distributed free money, would feed into spectacle induced hunger for further consumption. Carried out correctly, however, and enough times, the activity might help loosen the ties that bind spectacular commodities to the names that they fall under, the names of authors and pop groups. That untying would threaten the current spectacle, as well as undo, or, at a minimum, prevent the further instilling of the desire to be mastered.

9 comments:

  1. Thank you for the feedback.

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  2. do you dream in color or black and white?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I dream about cats

    ReplyDelete
  4. and hipoooppoptoomiusussis

    ReplyDelete
  5. me be garret unger who have low iq

    ReplyDelete