www.nettime.org
Nettime mailing list archives

nettime: luther blisset / bey prank
Vuk Cosic on Sun, 18 Aug 96 19:37 METDST


[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

nettime: luther blisset / bey prank


Just stumbled on this while checking mwatz.....
the same Luther Blisset project was involved in an other fake book 
by Blisset (double boomerang) earlier this year. More about it at 
http://www.dsnet.it/qwerg/blissett/bliss0.htm
under "nasty trick". 
This Bologna Blisset thing is very interesting, 
they publish a "Luther Blisset - global magazine for psychological 
warfare" (3 volumes so far), and have issued two authentic books - 
Mind Invaders (Castelvecchi) and Toto, Peppino e la guerra 
Psichologica (forgot the editor), both in italian. 
Below you can find an email account 
that might put you in touch with these nice people.

vuk cosic

///////////// forwarded message follows ////////////////////// 

X-POP3-Rcpt: marius {AT} lima
Date: Fri, 16 Aug 1996 14:27:45 +0200
From: Luther Blissett <nav0243 {AT} iperbole.bologna.it> 
Reply-To:nav0243 {AT} iperbole.bologna.it 
Organization: Transmaniacon 
MIME-Version:1.0 
To: marius {AT} hok.no 
Subject: Hakim Bey X-URL:
http://www.hok.no/marius/bey/

Hello, I noticed you're concerned with Hakim Bey. The attached file
should be of some interest to you. Bye.

WHY I WROTE A FAKE HAKIM BEY BOOK
AND HOW I CHEATED THE CONFORMISTS OF ITALIAN "COUNTERCULTURE" 


by Luther Blissett



A. The wonders of creation


...In order to get on and improve the relations between the masses and
the leaders, we must keep the valve of self-criticism open, we must
enable the soviet men to scold their leaders and criticize their
failures, so that the leaders do not become presumptuous and the
masses do not leave the leaders. Josif Stalin, 1923


Since last April all good Italian bookshops are selling A Ruota Libera
- Miseria del lettore di TAZ [more or less: "Loose from all restraint
- On the poverty of the TAZ readership"], a collection of pieces by
Hakim Bey published by Castelvecchi (Rome). Multitudes of fans of that
notorious guru of 1990's counterculture bought the book (which has
quickly sold out). The left-wing press reviewed it enthusiastically.
Concurrent publishers have gone off their nuts and charged the
publisher and the editor/translator (the mysterious Fabrizio P.
Belletati - born in Caserta 1969, now living in Nottingham, UK) with
"uncorrectness" for having copyrighted "texts freely circulating on
the Net". None realized that A Ruota Libera is apocryphal, nay, no
more euphemisms!, it is FAKE. "Fabrizio P. Belletati" doesn't exist.
I, Luther Blissett, wrote A Ruota Libera. It is not a mere parody of
Beyan writings, rather, it's been a way of testing how gullible and
tardy is the average buyer and/or reviewer of cyber-crap, and how
believable is the output of an overestimated "santon" whose anal
orifice, just as anybody's butthole, spouts ordinary shit instead of
gold. 

A Ruota Libera includes:
--- A preface by "Belletati". ('This book is a selection of articles
and essays by Hakim Bey, written during the period 1993-95, previously
untranslated into Italian [...] Why have I "invented" for the Italian
market a book that does not yet exist in the USA? Maybe I had to wait
for the author himself to improve and collect his writings, didn't I?
As always, the reason is one of the several "Italian" anomalies, i.e.
the surprising untimeliness of Bey's critical success in Italy [...]
Shortly before, during and immediately after the publication of
TAZ...Hakim Bey was actually without interlocutors: the reviews of his
major theoretical work were marked by an uproarious "greed for
novelties" and a passive admiration of Bey's syncretic acrobatics. The
main result was a depressing banalization of his positions, which in
many ways were mistaken for those "cyber-gnostic" ideas which Bey
explicitly detests. Bey appears to be the first person to complain
about these foolishly new-agey or pseudo-cyberpunk interpretations
[...] Luckily enough, this trend has recently been inverted. An
useful, indeed indispensable critique of Bey's theories is revealing
itself and retro-acting on his latest texts [... quick overview of the
things written by John Zerzan, the Neoist Alliance, the London
Psychogeographical Association and the Berlin-based magazine Super!
Bierfront...] Apparently, this is only the beginning: Hakim Bey is no
longer so awfully trendy, he isn't deemed as an untouchable santon any
longer. This doesn't mean that his bias on the countercultural debate
is going to end; rather, the understanding of his next pieces will be
easier than before, also thanks to the rudiments of "immediatist
self-criticism" which he is inserting. And as to Italy? Here is
necessary to bring the debate up-to-date, because we're still facing
the long rambling speech on the TAZs: "Geez, this party really seems
to be a TAZ!", "Hey, won't you come down at the TAZ in the squatted
centre?"...That's why I decided to publish these texts...which provide
us with a complete picture of Bey's theories, here and now, without
enervating and useless waits.') --- A few lark-mirrors, i.e. true and
"serious" (as well as questionable) Bey's texts: "PAZ", "Media Creed
For The Fin De Siecle", "Primitives & Extropians"; --- Some true,
ludicrous Bey's texts - shameful bullshit, newagey nonsense: "Evil
Eye", "Moorish Weather Report". --- Some interesting (as well as
questionable) apocrypha, things that Bey would write if his ideas were
clear enough: a) "Fart Strike", in which "Bey" suddenly changes his
(banally pro-situationist) position on art and the Art Strike 1990-93;
b) "Albigensis Postscript", actually "A Conspectus On The Evolution Of
Cyberspace", a text by the London Psychogeographical Association, with
such ludicrous inserts as a reference to one Lee Mortais (which sounds
like "Li Morte'!!!" [...your deads!], i.e. a Roman insult meaning
"[Fuck] the souls of your dead parents!") as well as a mega-stupid
final roller-coaster ride; c) "On The Poverty Of The TAZ Readership",
which does not break the promise of its title. Since I imitated the
style of Italian translations of Bey's writings, any translation
"back" into English would betray the text. It's a pity. Anyway, the
piece is a radical critique of Bey's fans. --- apocryphal crap,
indifferently swallowed by the readers, which proves that the "new
underground" conformist posers would believe anything: a) "An
Immediatist Self-criticism" (actually a 1926 Stalin's speech, which I
had slightly altered without softening its arrogant, authoritative
tone); b) An appendix to "Evil Eye" entitled "Toccarsi le palle"
[Touching One's Own Balls], which I couldn't comment without getting
sick of my own laughters! c) "Outdated Media", i.e. a hasty critique
to the Internet which culminates in a ludicrous yearning for the good
old smoke signals and carrier-pigeons; --- A real piece by John
Zerzan, 'Hakim Bey, Postmodern "Anarchist"'. In one word, a crapbook.

I parodized Bey's style (which is one part Hippy bullshit and cheap
oriental trinkets, one part post-Structuralism and pithily
intricacies, one part cyber-crap), forced its ambiguity, made use of
any banal rethoric expedient. I also stuffed the texts with fake
translator's notes (pointing out various untranslatable puns) and
persian and arabian words. At last, I created "Fabrizio P. Belletati",
who sent all the stuff to Castelvecchi. Castelvecchi deemed the texts
as "extremely disputable, but worth publishing" (not too bad if Luther
cheated even one of his/her publishers and spokesmen: not even Gerry
Adams knew that the IRA was going to explode the Canary Wharf bomb!).
As an ultimate hoax, I copyrighted the texts - Italian "translations"
of unexisting anti-copyright English texts. Eventually the book has
been published and positively reviewed, the prank was successful. As a
side effect, the entire operation raised panic in the "underground"
scene. 



B. It's the press, baby!


A "white radical" is three parts bullshit and one part hesitation. Up
Against The Wall Motherfucker, 1968


The left-wing press welcomed A Ruota Libera with fanfares and
flourishing trumpets. On Friday, April 26th B.V. (Benedetto Vecchi)
reviewed the book on "Il Manifesto" (whose heading contains the phrase
"communist newspaper") and published several excerpts from "Media
Creed For The Fin de Siecle". Here is the end of B.V.'s masterpiece,
which was entitled: 'Hakim Bey: Self-consciousness of the
"underground" scene' : "...This Bey's book published by Castelvecchi
replies to fans and detractors. Bey's provocations are the right way
to take a different look at this 'too-late-Capitalism', which is how
he describes the post-modern age. A book worth devouring, thanks also
to Belletati's introduction, which describes in details what happens
to that jovial Sufi master". A few weeks later, Angelo Quattrocchi
fell in the pseudo-Bey ambush. Quattrocchi [his surname means "4
eyes"] is a boring old guy who can't help yearning for May '68, and
boasts of having taken supper with Guy Debord (as if this was a
honour). This dotard wrote some useless anti-media pamphlets such as
Come e perche' difendersi dalla televisione [How And Why We Defend
Ourselves From TV] (1988) and Dai...Stacca la spina! [Come On, Take
The Plug Off!] (1996); he's proud of not having a TV set, a fax or an
Internet access, and yet this disinformed moron writes articles on
"counterculture" on "Liberazione", the organ of the PRC [Re-founded
Communist Party, that is a powerful trotsko-stalinist monster]. On May
29th, Quattrocchi wrote this meaningless and ungrammatical review: 

SONS OF SITUATIONISM DEMOLISH EACH OTHER Hakim Bey, "A Ruota Libera",
Castelvecchi, lire 14.000 Hakim Bey, Sufi master or bastard nephew of
Vaneigem, the father of Situationism, is still a lovely
theoretician-antitheoretician of libertarian radicalism thought and
lived in this age. TAZ was published in Italian by Shake in 1993, then
they published "Via Radio: Saggi sull'Immediatismo" [Radio
Sermonettes/Immediatism]. Now another collection of Bey's writings, A
Ruota Libera, is out thanks to quick and multi-coloured Castelvecchi.
O, it's a funny, brilliant, delicious book, though there are some
style drops! As to radical thought, it takes us on the same time wave
of the US, which is where Bey writes, and Germany, where Bey is as
famous as in Italy. The book has an incredible appendix, a 3-page
mycrocosm in which John Zorzan [sic], another brilliant writer of the
same school, demolishes our Bey by describing him as perfect
mega-trendy blah-blah poseur, a sort of post-modern anarchist. Zorzan
[sic] has published for Nautilus another lovely text, "Apprezzare il
tempo" [Time And Its Discontents]. Who's right? Zorzan [sic] or Hakim
Bey? Both. They both foam with a critical intelligence that leaves all
the other "libertarians" amidst the ruins of an ideological wall which
they haven't yet removed. Zorzan [sic] and Bey are both bastard sons
of gran pere Vaneigem, the Situationist philosopher whose
"Treatise..." throws light on this fin de siecle since 1968. This end
of the century sees anarchy and utopia rising again from the ashes of
ideologies. They [Bey and Zorzan] talk about temporary autonomous
zones, that is a conquest of space (squats) and time (raves? Altered
states of consciousness?), which subjectivities want to take over.
This is the only weapon left against the omnipotence and omnipresence
of capital, it is worth reading and living. Again, ce n'est qu'un
debut. 

A storm of turd. It's piteous to see how a life without TV can reduce
an educated man. Vaneigem is NOT "the father of Situationism": the
Situationist International was founded in 1957, Vaneigem joined it in
1961 and left it in 1970, two years before its official dissolution.
Likewise, the Traita du savoir vivre   l'usage des jeunes generations
was NOT published in 1968, but in 1966. Actually "Zorzan"'s surname is
Zerzan, and the Italian title of Time And Its Discontents is Ammazzare
il tempo [Killing Time], not "Apprezzare il tempo" [Appreciating
Time]. Again, Zerzan is not "of the same school" of Bey: the former is
one of the "primitivists" which Bey charges with absolutism. Zerzan
DOESN'T talk about temporary autonomous zones, and anyone who says
that they both are right is an obnubilated person. At best, Vecchi and
Quattrocchi superficially read the book. At worst, they can't tell a
libertarian discourse from a mere reactionary delirium. In the
meanwhile, A Ruota Libera was cited on several zines and influenced
the whole debeyte...Even professor Georges Lapassade, the prestigious
anthropologist, was sighted waving a copy of the book during a
conference! 

Before I cover how the media reacted to the scam and some idiots in
the radical scene freaked out, I want to state that this prank doesn't
need a "political" concluding postscript. This operation was an
attempt to forge the passage between theory and practice. There are
too many charlatans all around, guys who try to sell miraculous
remedies for the "crisis of the end of the millennium". Humanity will
not be happy 'til the last "layc intellectual" will be hanged with the
guts of the last hezbollah. What? I'm running the risk of making
enemies? But what "me" are you talking about? The name of Luther
Blissett may be adopted even to bash my face in, and anyone can use
it. Humans understand themselves in the process of psychic warfare.
Forwards to a world without poseurs! 



C. Terror in the underground


Let the throbbing flyers become impatient, we'll calmly bring them
back to the ground, back at the humble level at which we ourselves may
ascend. We are unsuitable to any heroism and prefer irony to lyricism.
We feel forced to warn the most impetuous ones: don't play Phaeton! 

Amadeo Bordiga, 1952



By chance, the A Ruota Libera prank clashed with other events pivoting
on the circulation of Bey's books in Italy. Milan-based ShaKe
Edizioni, often described as the "official" pushers of Bey's dope in
the "bel paese", began indulging in the most trivial conspiracy
paranoia. Therefore a light-hearted and playful prank has been
perceived as a base assault. But my prank was not a character
assassination of Gomma and Raf Valvola nor had it a "fratricidal"
purpose. I don't believe in the stalinist pedagogics of "false
friends", and what's more I don't imagine I can aim at such an easy
target (just a few months ago I kicked the shit out of Mondadori, the
most corporate of Italian publishers. Two weeks after the prank Iem
describing, Ieve attacked the Bologna District Attorney, the local
ecclesiastic authorities and a rightwing paper by a scam on Satanic
cults and black masses). I don't intend to bear the blame of Gomma's
behaviour: ShaKe did all they could to fall into ridicule. Is it my
fault if I found out that the ShaKe edition of Radio Sermonettes (Via
Radio, 1995) had been censored? They cut out a sentence against Che
Guevara ("...that Rodolfo Valentino of red fascism") which is both in
the original text and in the competing (i.e. better) edition by
Salerno-based Edizioni Ripostes (Immediatismo, 1995). It appears that
ShaKe didn't want to piss off the average leftist reader. When the
matter came to light, ShaKe said that Bey had given them leave to cut
out the passage. If this was true, the author would cut an extremely
sorry figure, having complied with leftist moralism and created a
gaudy discrepancy between the different versions - for abstract
reasons of political time-serving. Is it my fault if those champions
and "experts" of anti-copyright, as well as Bey himself, threatened to
apply to the bourgeois legal system in order to prevent an
"unauthorized" publication of Bey's Pirate Utopias by Ripostes? While
they were attacking Castelvecchi and "Belletati" for having
copyrighted free texts, they threatened Ugo Scoppetta Adelfio,
Ripostes' translator of Pirate Utopias, and Alessandro Tesauro, the
owner of that small publishing house. ShaKe used to say: "WE are in
the 'Movement', THOSE PEOPLE aren't", which was fucking absurd: first
of all, there's no such thing as a "movement" pedigree, nay, there's
no such thing as a "movement"! Secondly, if it's a matter of "street
credibility" (...and it isn't), Adelfio is a notorious anarchic
prankster, friend of Canadian neoists like Gordon W., involved in the
Luther Blissett project. Likewise, if one is really against copyright
and the private property of ideas, he won't claim any "patent". O boy,
I can't help fully exposing this storm in a teacup! 

Summer 1995: Ripostes announced they were going to publish Adelfio's
translation of Radio Sermonettes. According to some informers, ShaKe
got pissed-off and hastily translate the same book. November 1995:
bookstores got the two editions on the same day! Peter Lamborn Wilson
a.k.a. Hakim Bey sent an undated fax to the Salernitan guys: "Dear Ugo
& Romano (et alii), ...thanks for a marvellous job on Immediatism -
It's very weird to me to be taken seriously! - I wish I could read the
apparatus criticus..." I got a copy of this by Ugo. At the beginning
of 1996, Gomma & Co. were told that Adelfio was translating Pirate
Utopias as well. They contacted Wilson and urged him to intervene.
Wilson sent another undated fax: "Dear Ugo...please communicate with
ShaKe in Milan because they are also working on Pirate Utopias!!! Talk
to Goma [sic] or Sid. I'm sorry this confusion arose. Maybe you can
work together! Sid just started work on translating..." I got a copy
of this by ShaKe. (They made a lot of stuff public in order to claim
their exclusive "right"!) Anyway, at that moment, Ugo was aware that
ShaKe had cut out a passage of the book, so he didn't want to
cooperate with any of them. On April 24th, Wilson sent a fax to ShaKe:
"Dear Sid & Goma [sic]...you can tell [Adelfio] - or anyone - that you
are the only authorized translator and publisher of Pirate Utopias in
Italy. Any other translation or edition is unauthorized & I will take
legal steps to prevent its appearance or sale..." Consider that the
text we're talking about is anti-copyright! After ShaKe received this,
they forwarded it to Ripostes attaching a similar threat. At last,
Adelfio sent a fax to Wilson: "Dear Peter... Our intents are not
connected to copyright and we want to stigmatize the disquieting
behaviour of neo-copyrightist paranoid Italian publishers. We don't
want to start a merchandising war. Our intentions are clear, the cure
for our version of Immediatism! demonstrates it. [The omission of your
definition about Che Guevara] shows what they really are: red
fascists, ther usual passe' expression of Italian leftist hegemonical
cultural control disguised as alternative cyberpunk!...For this reason
we did not want to cooperate with them...Are you a sponsor of the
neo-copyright movement?". Wilson never replied. In plain words, Bey
was ready to bring to court people whose only fault was having "taken
him seriously" and put into practice all the 1990's idle talk on
anti-copyright. Accidentally, they had found out Wilson's opportunism
(stalinoid self-censorship - I hadn't gone so far! :)) 

Again, is it my fault if ShaKe didn't realize that A Ruota Libera was
a fake? Those guys used to brag of their direct link with Hakim Bey or
pontificate as if they knew the Internet like the back of their
hands...And yet they didn't notice that "the original English versions
of these texts, which circulated only via E-mail" (as "Belletati"
wrote) simply DON'T EXIST! Why didn't they ask to the supposed author?
Why didn't they search for the texts on Alta Vista, Yahoo and the
likes? No, Sir, they only wanted to slander, calumniate, backbite
Castelvecchi and Adelfio, insult "Belletati"... They FORCED me to con
them, so I contacted Luther Blissett of the Nottingham
Psychogeographical Unit (COM3FASSID {AT} ntu.ac.uk) and proposed him to
play "Belletati". He began to write and/or ring up Gomma, obnoxiously
trying to tranquillize him, then insulting him. Gomma would wail over
that behaviour, that's why everybody kept believing "Belletati" to be
a real person ("Who the fuck is this Belletati? His letters are total
crap! He's gotta be mad!"). Every complaint by Gomma became a further
pound of shit thrown in the fan. 



D. The scam exposed


...A little more like Italy where only drivers who sharpen their
skills survive. Jello Biafra, 1987


The previous three sections of the text you are reading are an English
translation of the communique by which I revealed my scam in the
second week of July 1996. I sent it via fax and snail-mail to as many
zines as I could, then put it in digital form on many BBSs and mailing
lists. I sent it to the press as well. Many
"post-cyber-anarcho-situ-hippie-punk-bullshit" clap-trap leftist
poseurs in the "alternative scene" freaked out, many more started
laughing and haven't yet stopped! When the first article appeared on a
national newspaper ("Una beffa a ruota libera", by Loredana Lipperini,
on La Repubblica, 7/20/1996), some said that "the dirty linen of the
movement shouldn't be washed in public" (which sounds like a sort of
Mafia ideal). The most stupid victim of the prank, that is Angelo
Quattrocchi, got totally out of control. Soaked in his lofty anti-tech
dream, he was the only journalist who didn't bump into my communique.
Someone passed on him a copy of Lipperini's article, which he got as
the only gateway to my prank. Instead of taking the piece as a
secondary source, he assumed that was an anti-communist scam by his
colleague, indeed, a vile provocation by "the bourgeois press", maybe
favoured by Luther's verbal incontinence. On Wednesday, July 24th
"Liberazione" published an ultramoronic article by Quattrocchi
[entitled "C'e' Stalin in un testo underground e allora 'La
Repubblica' gode" = "La Repubblica is excited in finding Stalin in an
underground text"]. Geez! Quattrocchi wrote that A Ruota Libera was
not fake and attacked both Lipperini (whom he also mispelt as
"Lipparini") and Blissett for "having craped in his nest" (uh?!)! On
the following day, Lipperini replied and demolished Quattrocchi:
"[...] Everyone approved at the prank on Mondadori. Should everyone
take offence now that Luther has given a blow to counterculture? This
is an unpleasant signal [...]". Two days later, "Il Manifesto"
published a whole-page article on the prank by Alberto Piccinini
[entitled: "La beffa e le miserie di Lee Mortais" = The prank and the
poverty of Lee Mortais], which exposed the whole matter of censorship,
anti-copyright, conformism etc. The article contained this passage:
"[this prank] is a further proof of Luther Blissett's fascinating and
admirable capability of keeping his "fifth columns" [i.e. spies] in
the media". Many "representatives" of the Italian "radical scene" said
that my prank was "beneficial", at least "useful" in order to destroy
"some putrescent mechanicisms of myth-making and literary criticism"
(S. Dazieri). On August 9th, during an interview on the public radio,
Bifo criticized some aspects of the prank but added that "Blissett's
operation is extraordinary". As to ShaKe, they reacted bearing a deep
grudge against "me". Gomma was sighted in a Milan social centre
yelling: "I think I know who had a hand in this! I'll smash their
faces in!". Well, "we" can physically humiliate him at any moment.
Choose your seconds and come tomorrow at 5 o'clock behind the
graveyard. I've chosen (and already used) the weapon: your touchiness.


Luther Blissett, August 1996
--
*  distributed via nettime-l : no commercial use without permission
*  <nettime> is a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism,
*  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
*  more info: majordomo {AT} is.in-berlin.de and "info nettime" in the msg body
*  URL: http://www.desk.nl/~nettime/  contact: nettime-owner {AT} is.in-berlin.de