Telemorphosis

by Φ

Baudrillard

Our entire reality has become experimental. In the absence of any stable destiny, modern man has reached the point of unlimited experimentation on himself.

All of this is reinforced by the fact that the public is itself mobilized as judge, that it has itself become Big Brother. We are way beyond the panopticon, of visibility as the source of power and control. It is no longer about rendering things visible to the external eye, but rendering them transparent to themselves, via a perfusion of control within the masses, and in erasing any trace of the operation. So it is that the spectators are implicated in a gigantic negative counter-transfer of themselves, and once again, it is from this situation that we see the dizzying attraction of this spectacle.

In the end, all of this comes from the desire to be Nothing and to be looked at as such. There are two manners of disappearing: either we demand not to be seen (this is the current problem concerning image rights), or we immerse ourselves in the delirious exhibitionism of its nullity. We make ourselves nothing, a loser, in order to be seen as nothing — the ultimate protection against the necessity of existing and the obligation of being one’s self.

It is from this that we get the simultaneous contradictory situation of not being seen and being perpetually visible. Everyone wants it both ways: the unconditional right of being able to view and at the same time not be viewed in return. Complete information access is part of human rights and with it we also find a forced visibility and over-exposure to the lighting of information.

Self-expression is the ultimate form of confession, as Foucault used to say. Keep no secrets. Speak, speak, and communicate endlessly. It is a form of violence aimed at the singular being and his secret, and against language as well, because from here on, it also loses its singularity, it is no longer anything but a medium, an operator of visibility, it completely loses its ironic and symbolic dimensions — precisely at the point where language becomes more important that what it says.

The worst part of this obscenity, this shameless visibility, is the forced participation, this automatic complicity of the spectator who has been blackmailed into participating. And it is this which is the clearest objective of the operation: the servitude of the victims, but a voluntary servitude, one in which the victims rejoice from the pain and shame which they are made to suffer. The complete participation of a society in its fundamental mechanism: interactive exclusion — it doesn’t get better than that! Decided all together and consumed with enthusiasm.

If everything ends up being visible, (which is, like heat in the theory of energy, the most degraded form of existence) the crucial point nevertheless is to succeed in creating out of this extreme disenchantment of life, out of this loss of any symbolic space, an object of contemplation, of awe-struck observation and perverse desire.

“Humanity which, beginning with Homer, once used to be the object of contemplation for the Gods, has now become the contemplation of itself. Its alienation from itself has reached such a point that humanity experiences its own destruction as an aesthetic sensation of the highest degree.”
~ Walter Benjamin

p. 25

This is radical democracy. The democratic principle was of the order of merit, and equivalence (albeit relative) between merit & recognition. Here, with Big Brother, there is no equivalence between merit & glory. It is everything in exchange for nothing. A complete principle of inequivalence. The democratic illusion is thus elevated to the highest degree: the maximal exaltation for a minimal qualification. And, while the traditional principle merely insured a partial recognition for merit, the operation of Big Brotherhood insures a virtual glory to everyone in terms of the absence of merit itself. On one hand, it is the end of democracy, by the extinction of any qualification of merit whatsoever, but on the other hand, it is the result of and even more radical democracy on the basis of the beatification of the man without qualities. It is a great step toward democratic nihilism.

In this disequilibrium between merit and public recognition, there is a kind of breakdown of the social contract which leads to another type of injustice and anomaly  while we could accuse traditional democracy of not rewarding their citizens with the merit they deserved, here one would be better off accusing it of indifferently overvaluing everyone on the basis of nothing.

Big Brotherhood is both the mirror and the disaster of an entire society caught up in the race towards meaninglessness and swooning in front of its own banality.

“A total social fact” as Marcel Mauss says — if in other societies this situation indicated the converging power of all the elements of the social, in our society it indicates the elevation of an entire society to the parody stage of an integral farce, of an image feedback relentless with its own reality. What the most radical critique, the most subversive delirious imagination, what no Situationist drift could have done… internet has done.

Internet has show itself to be the strongest power within the science of imaginary solutions. But if internet has achieved this, we are the ones who wanted it. There is no use in accusing the powers of media, or those of wealth, or even public stupidity in order to allow for some sort of hope of a rational alternative to this technical, experimental, and integral socialization in which we are all engaged, and which ends in the automatic coordination of individuals within irrevocable consensual processes. Let’s call this the integral event of society which, from then on, without a contract or rules, nor a system of values other than a reflexive complicity, without any other rule or logic than that of immediate contagion of a promiscuity, blends us all together with an immense indivisible being. We’ve become individuated beings: nondivisible with others or ourselves. This individuation, which we are so proud of, has nothing to do with personal liberty; on the contrary, it is a general promiscuity. It is not necessarily a promiscuity of bodies in space — but of screens from one end of the world to the other. And it is probably screen promiscuity that is the real promiscuity: the indivisibility of every human particle at a distance of tens of thousands of kilometers — like millions of twins who are incapable of separating from their double. Umbilicus limbo.

Even more, that of an i”interactive” couple who continuously project the entirety of their relationship onto the internet in real-time. Who watches them? They watch themselves, but who else does, since everyone can get off, virtually speaking, from the same  domestically integrated circuit?

There will soon be nothing more than self-communicating zombies, whose lone umbilical relay will be their own feedback image — electronic avatars of dead shadows who, beyond death and the river Styx, will wander, perpetually passing their time retelling their own story.

Just enough of something is still taking place in order to give the retrospective illusion, beyond the end, of reality, or the illusion of the social, but which is only evoked in a desperate interaction with oneself.

Any space where people recreate in an experimental nest or privileged zone — some sort of equivalent space of initiation where the laws of an open society are abolished. It is no longer about protecting a symbolic territory but of closing oneself off with one’s own self-image, to live promiscuously with it as in a nest, in an incestuous complicity with it and with all the effects of transparency and feedback images which are those of a total screen, no longer having anything to do with the others but via the relationship of image-to-image.

“If man does not do well with supporting the freedom of others, it is because he is not part of nature.
He does not even support this freedom for himself.”
~ Dostoyevsky

But he adds something else to his servitude: the enjoyment of the spectacle of servitude.

The irony of all these experimental masquerades: parallel to the multiplication of these spectacles of sex, violence, & above all, banality, grows the uncertainty in regards to the reality of what is being viewed. The more we advance into the orgy of the image and the gaze, the less we can believe it. “Real-time” vision merely adds to the unreality of it all. the two paroxysms: violence of the image and the discrediting of the image, cross paths according to the same exponential function. This leads us to constantly being doomed to deceptions (and more and more the deception of synthetic images & CGI) but also revived by the deception itself. Because this profound uncertainty is to a large degree part of the insatiable demand of this type of spectacle.

p. 45

The twentieth century has seen all sorts of crimes, but the lone true perfect crime is, according to Heideggerean terms, “the second fall of man, the fall into banality.”

It is only with suicide that the murderer and the victim become the same, and in this regard the immersion into banality is indeed the equivalence of the suicide of the species.

What are you doing after the orgy?