Michael Benson on Fri, 5 Jul 2002 01:33:26 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> the language of tactical media


Reading your text on tactical media reminds me of the experience of seeing
a group of Ljubljana skinheads aggressively singing the words to the
Slovenian national anthem the other day. One would think that the effect
would be nationalistic, which is what they intended, but the lyrics kept
on tripping them up -- only they themselves didn't know it. (The words
call for equality and peace among nations) So in the skinhead's case,
there was a kind of inadvertent monkeywrenching or Adbuster-style action,
but one where the subversion which crept into the mix was there to begin
with: it was only the context of the racist nationalists singing it that
gave it a nice reversal only apparent to an outside observer. And so what
was meant to be menacing was actually funny, its racist/nationalist
delivery subverted not by its subtext but by its text. It was the song
that detourned the singers.

In your case, what was meant to read as incisive analysis, couched in a
hard-edged, dispassionate variant of the academese everyone's familiar
with, is a kind of fog concealing exactly what you inaccurately accuse
Godard of: it has "nothing to say" -- beyond its citations. If there's any
kind of revelation in this post it's in your uneasy fascination with
Godard's film about the Palestinian cause. (Right -- the same one I got to
refamiliarize myself with because you lent me a tape of it when you were
in Ljubljana. For the record.) "Here & Elsewhere" doesn't have nothing to
say -- rather it's the only film document I know of that accurately
conveys the complexity of the Palestinian/Israeli disaster, for which
there are exactly no easy answers, and maybe no answers at all. But when I
accuse you of having nothing to say it's also not quite right, because
there's something fascinating about the coexistence of your ambivalent
observations about his film with your other observations, all of which
lead to a conclusion in which fellow travelers are advised to drop the
metaphors of warfare, something (we're told) that's not a cop-out but
instead shows "the vigilance of continuing to think, beyond the
obvious..." Are we beyond the obvious here? Didn't "Here & Elsewhere"
already signpost an alternative to what you call the apocalyptic vs.
utopian "sense" of the media, 30 years ago? Isn't that, more than
approximately, the very voice of Godard's film I detect, rising like a
stale but at least believable truth in your conclusion? I detect "nothing
to say" in your post beyond what you inherited from those you'd accuse of
the same.

Regards, MB

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