31 October 2007

A challenge or game for Hallowe'en

A prize and the Chaos Marxism Seal of Heroic Soviet Approval to anyone who can write a functional magickal working which entirely uses internet memes as its mythological or symbolic system. You know, the Lesser Chargin Ritual of tha Lazor, or something about whether you can has cheezburger or not. (NOTES: By "functional" I mean "is actually designed to do something rather than just give lulz to the practitioner". Prize will be without value.)

As many of you will have gathered by now, I am fascinated by emergent mythologies or symbolic systems. Things like 4chan memes "just growed"; other things like the Faction Paradox shared universe were started by one major creative mind and others joined in later. These are becoming increasingly important as all the pre-media symbolic systems break down. Some people look at you funny when you say that things like NaNoWriMo or Talk Like A Pirate Day are the emergent symbolic systems of, even more importantly than a community, a class and a global class at that. But anyone who's really serious about doing magick in the 21st century has to understand this. (NOTE OF CAUTION: People who hang around on the internet are not the primary interest of Chaos Marxism, but they are a pretty good "petri dish", since they embody facets of the concrete global society "speeded up".)

29 October 2007

Ia Sathanas. YHBT.

Famous lefthandpather Don Webb says in one of his books that one path to personal power might be blowing out inhibitions by, say, wearing a swastika armband to a synagogue garage sale, or light pastels to a Goth night. In other words, in-real-life trolling. The many references I've made to Encyclopedia Dramatica recently bring on a new and disturbing significance. Are the ED crowd or - even worse - serious hard core trolls like the GNAA (Google it) the Illuminated Ones of the Intarwebz era?!?

In other news - finally picking up on a clue that greengalloway gave me ages ago, I plunked down valuable financial energy on Maat Magick. Wish me luck.

EDIT: And the two combine. I quote from the abovementioned work, page 87:

You may well ask, "If you've seen that existence is illusion, why care what happens in it and to id? Why do Magick, why publish, why speak, if existence is simultaneously illusory and perfect?"
The short answer is "for the sport" or "for aesthetic enjoyment." The long answer begins with the precept that there is no virtue in suffering.

I'm not sure whether I'm thrilled or terrified by the idea that the central secret of consciousness is "I did it for the lulz". (Link to the ED article on this topic removed since it contains a picture, possibly not photoshopped, of horrid cruelty to a cat. Cats are serious business.)

27 October 2007

Chaos Marxist Aphorisms

Today, this blog has existed for 13 months. (You know, I forgot all about the first anniversary. Never mind - the 13th lunaversary probably has more mystic resonance, or similar.)

In any case: let's attempt to sum up what we've learned so far. The Chaos Marxist Aphorisms (I stole the idea from Guitar Craft) are the 127 (number subject to change) sentences I've picked out of the past 13 month's entries which might give the newbie an idea of where I'm going - or even form the outline for the Big Book of Cultural Witchcraft. Note that in their current form they only make a very vague form of coherent unity. I welcome suggestions for refinement or expansion.

(NOTE: these aphorisms are not all original, though they are all appropriate. I have stolen from Lawrence Miles, V. I. Lenin, Terry Pratchett, Bobby Sands, Andrew Eldritch, Tony Cliff, the Redskins, Slavoj Zizek, Robert Fripp, and perhaps some others that I can't remember.)



  1. YOU ARE WHAT YOU DO. If you want to be something else, do something else.

  1. Belief follows action.

  2. You are NOT a Beautiful and Unique Snowflake. Nor are you the Chosen One.

  3. Just because a friendly voice is muttering in your head that You Are The Chosen One does not mean it’s telling the truth.

  1. Nothing is more fatal to magickal success than a magical worldview.

  2. Politics, magick, psychology, advertising, propaganda are ALL THE SAME THING – attempts to describe and alter consciousness.

  1. The only true witch or Magus is she who realises that there are no cosmic forces.

  2. To be a witch or Magus, you’ve got to learn three things – what’s real, what’s not real, and what’s the difference.

  1. There are no mistakes except one – the failure to learn from a mistake.

  1. Destroy your own icons and enabling narratives. They will keep you safe and neutered. Most people would rather destroy life, limb or property than do this.

  2. The world doesn’t owe you jack, no matter how brilliant or unique you are.

  3. History will prove you right.

  4. There is no Big Other. Once you have figured this out you have grasped the central point of all revolutionary politics and magick.


  1. Marxist revolutionary politics seek the coming to consciousness of the vast majority of people in the world – the goal of magick, the tools of politics.

  2. In this sense, the Leninist cadre party is – ideally - a magical order of adepts.

  3. The central goal of Chaos Marxism is to integrate chaos magick and dialectical materialism.

  4. You may have a wrong idea of what being a Marxist is about from the idiots who try to sell you badly-xeroxed newspapers. Being a “revolutionary” is, in most cases, a mass-produced consumer product, just like any other lifestyle. People can talk all kinds of revolution and yet still be completely harmless.

  5. The way you can tell a revolutionary from a political lifestyler is – are they trying to figure out how to engage the masses? Or are they just interested in recruiting to their cult?

  1. For both the Leninist party and the disciplined magickal order, by making yourself available to it you are also used by it. If this offends your notion of yourself as a Beautiful and Unique Snowflake, then you are in the wrong game.


  1. Chances are, the "tribe" you cling to is a mass-produced consumer product.

  2. If you're entirely hung up on your own "lifestyle", so determined to surround yourself with a fortress of The Right Kind of Stuff that you're incapable of thinking beyond your own self-image, then you're part of the problem.

  1. Consumer culture is the opium of the 21st century masses.

  1. "I am the Chosen One" is the opium of 21st century niche markets.

  1. A lifestyle or a subculture is neither politics nor magick. It is a religion.

  2. People will believe any insanity if it allows them to belong to a real or imagined community.

  3. The logic of the “in-crowd” or the “enlightened few” is precisely what we are trying to destroy.

  4. Civilisation isn't about sealing yourself off from the rest of the world and your responsibility to it, and you don't get bonus marks just for being a nice or politically correct person.

  5. The only antidote to mass-produced identities is an Identity of Opposition which is combined with a practice of effective opposition.

  1. The proletariat” is not a mass-produced consumer product. It is more like a kind of industrial waste. No-one wants to be a wage-slave. But in wage-slavery there is the potential of power.

  2. The Real World of Horrible Jobs is everything that the Corporate Egregore sees as “chthonic” or even the Qlippoth. It’s the dirty underside which you’re not even supposed to look at. Here lies power, for those brave enough to grab it - but only collectively, not individually.


  1. The idea that “ideas shape the world” could only have been invented by people who earn a good living from creating ideas.

  2. If you believe in ideas as the highest good, you will find yourself incapable of effectively fighting actual material evildoing.

  3. Middle-class intellectuals fall harder for propaganda than anyone else – because their entire lives are based on propaganda.

  4. You can stay in your ivory tower and change your own reality infinitely. Until, of course, you need to go to work or deal with anyone but your immediate friends. That's the point where nasty reality cuts in. And nasty reality cuts in more and more the less money and internet access you have.

  1. Blind materialism always has a dirty idealist secret in the background – and vice versa.

  2. Dialectical materialism is the process of seeing which futures are possible, based on the contradictions of the present, and what kind of pressure on what kind of points right now will bring about which future.

  1. There are not two words with a bridge between. There is only one world.

  1. Meaning is material.

  1. Ideas are material.

  2. Ideas become real forces when they seize the masses.

  1. Chaos Marxism is interested in practicality above all.

  2. Your power lies in how much external reality you influence, not in how doctrinally pure you are.

  3. Where is the money and the surplus labour going? Who pays and who benefits? Those are the questions you have to ask in every situation

  1. There is no place for democracy and collective reality-tunnel-formation except in a materialist thought-system.


  1. The "individuality" you are so proud of is also a mass-produced consumer product.

  2. Once you accept that reality is individual rather than collective, you will never be a threat to the system.

  3. The more I looked at the mystics and the psychonauts, the more I realised that for them "Question everything” meant "Question everything except the idea that individual consciousness is a thing unto itself which can be worked on in isolation".

  4. If you start saying that people are not individuals - that they are created by their upbringing and the role they play in real, nasty, going-to-work-in-traffic society - then you open the door to the idea that only a social revolution can actually solve the real problems with humanity.

  5. Everyone has their own part to play, no matter who or where they are.

  1. No-one will ever be sane and healthy until we are all sane and healthy.

  2. If the subconscious, unseen and cultural levels of the world are the ocean, then magick is all about being able to dive, swim, and get back on dry land safely. Eventually, we should be able to become psychic and cultural surf-lifesavers – a role that will be integral to a new society.


  1. Technology will not solve your problems for you.

  1. The Apocalypse will not solve your problems for you. Global civilization will not collapse in a friendly manner so as to leave you and your buddies unscathed.

  2. Since you are what you do, you will have to DO to BE. There is no substitute for doing.

  3. There is no place to run, and no place to hide. So you will have to fight.

  4. Socialism doesn’t fall from the sky. Nothing does, except rain, snow, meteorites, and airplane toilet droppings.

  5. Any course of action which can be summed up in the words “Wait and see” is the wrong one.

  6. As far as religion or magick goes, ANYTHING works if you do it enough. It might not work as advertised, though.

  7. Success breeds daring and failure breeds passivity.

  8. The proper stance for a revolutionary is: pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will. To know which is the winning side, and still join the other.

  9. To use Situationist jargon, détournement which remains on the symbolic can always be recuperated. The only thing which really can dissolve all magic spells whatsoever is the self-activity of the masses.

  10. A Marxist might call a picket line or a militant demonstration "an altered state of consciousness", since it takes place in an area not acknowledged to exist by the dominant paradigm of reality.

  11. This side of the revolution, the revolutionaries are a minority.

  1. Success comes to the strong. The struggle is hard and the struggle’s long.


  1. Religion, like any other painkiller or hallucinogenic, can be used for good or evil purposes. It can encourage you to lie around and stare at the ceiling, or kill your family, or it might take the edge off enough to allow you to accomplish something in the real world.

  2. The way cults operate is just a boiled down and spiced-up version of the way in which all authoritarian society operates.

  1. Some of the nastiest religions preach atheism and rationalism.

  1. Judge every school of politics or magick, every religion or subculture, as to whether it enhances and promotes conscious, rational thought and ability to shape the world, or the opposite.

  1. Most people do not base their actions on rational thought related to material reality. They base their action on stories which they partly pick up from their culture and partly make up themselves.

  1. People who base their lives in images and narratives expect those images or narratives to be “morally true” – or “truthy” - not physically true or even logical.

  2. Even if I know on an intellectual level that X is bullshit, if I act like it's real it becomes real for me at least.

  1. People will happily swallow lies if it enables them to maintain the narratives that they live by.

  2. Addictions, whether to chemicals or to abusive personal relationships or whatever - are a natural reaction to the World-As-Is.

  1. Basing your life on images and narratives rather than the hard facts of material existence is much, much, much easier. And it will virtually ensure that you don't ever change anything.


  1. To put it in magical jargon, we start with the memes and thoughtforms which arise spontaneously from anti-corporate activity, transmute them magically to give them the best chance of survival and replication, and then release them back into the infosphere of the activity where they were born.

  2. Metaphorical, narrative language can help people understand real although intangible forces better than intellectual jargon.

  3. An effective political or advertising slogan has all the same characteristics of a meditative mantra.

  1. The most effective advertising does not say "Brand X has qualities Y and Z"; instead, it presents a meme which associates X with Y and Z and leaves it up to the recipients to connect the dots. All the most virally infective memes require that the readers/viewers/listeners do some work to make some sense of what they are given – they are “pull” rather than “push” marketing.

  2. Make your memes open-ended in possible meaning.

  1. If you’re not being misunderstood, you haven’t been properly understood.

  1. If you’re not being attacked, you won’t be supported.

  1. Leave it noncommercial for as long as possible.

  1. If you don’t have a party, a mystic order or a scene, you have to start one.

  2. A meme will spread if it fills a niche in the materially existing noosphere.

  3. A successful memetic operation will work backwards in time - in other words, pick a possible future, and attempt to make it a real present.

  1. Invoke often.


  1. The rationality you were taught to survive in this world is often diametrically opposed to the rationality you will need to change it. Drugs or religion may create the “altered state” necessary to build an alternative rationality. Or they may screw you up.

  2. Engaging in hostile banter is not politics or magick. It’s a kind of sado-masochism.

  1. Keep your recreational activities separate from your work, or one will begin to substitute for the other and both will suffer.

  1. If you're not hated by a large group of people when you die, you didn't do it right.

  2. Seek out mystical enlightenment, then subject it to the most merciless skeptical examination.

  3. Arguments over what is ‘good’ rest on arguments about reality, even if they seem not too. ‘Ought’ does rely on arguments about what ‘is’.


  1. The Devil (however defined) owns this world. It's his. You can either sell your soul, fight the power, or be irrelevant.

  2. Propaganda and consumer culture fills the gap left by the decline of traditional forms of religion in modern society.

  3. Capitalism destroyed all the old myths, but then had to create new myths to continually expand consumption and win our consent to the system.

  4. An egregore is a magickal term for an ideological construct with a will of its own. We can see corporate capitalism in these terms.

  5. It's no accident that psychology was born at the same time as mass consumer society and universal suffrage.

  6. Corporate Psychology wants to make us functional, not to make us well.

  7. The corporate egregore creates the needs it survives by supplying – including the need for meaning.

  8. Our culture promotes isolation, alienation and paranoia as not only an ideal, but the highest ideal.

  9. The “Green Zone” in Baghdad is the most effective microcosm of the World-As-Is.

  10. Less bread means more circuses – the less food and shiny consumer items there are to hand out, the more lies and spectacles must be provided.

  11. Corporate politics and management are memetics combined with brute force. Memetics are generally cheaper and have less unpleasant side effects than brute force, but need to be continually updated to remain effective.

  12. Corporate (or Black, or brute-force) Memetics works through a barrage of constant mutually reinforcing impressions.

  13. When corporate capitalism had succeeded in fulfilling the basic physical needs of its workforce, it then had to create new needs and desires in order to perpetuate itself.

  14. The corporate egregore will stop existing the instant that the masses stop believing in it. That will only happen once the alternative begins to make sense to them. Your work is judged on how successful you are at making an alternative to the World As Is a real thing to real numbers of people.

  15. Diversion of consciousness into impractical reality tunnels is one of the prime means by which the Corporate Egregore maintains its power.

  16. Sometimes in the World-As-Is, you’ve got to shake the hand that feeds you. There is no virtue in starving. If you have a job, then you are at a point in the belly of the beast where it is possible to wound it – with help.

  17. There is change in the World-As-Is, once you accept that the World-As-Is exists.


  1. The struggle has to be carried on on three levels at once: industrial, political and ideological. Don't confuse these.

  2. The map is not the territory - that symbols are only useful in so far as they serve the actual purpose on the ground. Ideology is an imaginary solution to a real problem – an attempt to “live in the map”.

  1. If you try to live in the metaphor you constructed, rather than using it as a guide to action, you will at best create just another religion, and at worst, create an internet subculture that people will laugh at.

  2. The most powerful magic of all is what causes change on the level of the subconscious mind; on the level of Industry; on the level of the reality which doesn't go away when we stop believing in it.


  1. The main indication that the future will be different from the present is that the present is different from the past.

  1. Believing that there is change, that the future will be more than the present with faster cars and smellier air, is in fact a revolutionary act in itself.

  2. Will the corporations collectivise humanity? Or will humanity collectivise the corporates?

  3. Revolutions are not predictable. People don't wear nice colour coded symbols in a real revolution. They get drunk and smash shit up and in all other ways go over the top.

  4. We adopt a reality-view that maximises our effectiveness in causing change-in-accordance-with-will in the real, physical, material world.

  1. The revolutionary organisation must organise counter-hegemonic cultural movements.

  2. We are not initiators of the New Culture - we can only hope to be its midwives.

  3. Culture-from-below is always free, and often illegal – mainly because it subverts the intellectual property laws. The new world will have different definitions of property and reward.

  1. Revolutionary commercial culture is ideally a kind of virus in the system, but sustained on the same logic as the system itself – the ideas contradict the commodity format.

  1. Don't blame the media - become the media. Turn readers into writers, consumers into producers, buyers into sellers.

  2. Propaganda and agitation are transitory, art is eternal – but they can have the same effect.

  3. There is no future for small, independent capitalism. The only way to defeat the corporates is to go through them.

  4. To defeat an enemy you must become symmetrical to it - then we need some kind of "egregore" (or cultural metaphor for struggle) equally strong on our side.

  5. We will make sure the Ghost Point never happens. The 21st century is where it all starts – or stops.

24 October 2007

"Me? The Chosen One? I didn't even graduate fucking high school."

Sometimes I wonder whether, ever since at least January, I haven't been reposting exactly the same information on here, in different words. Or perhaps it's like a sculpture, and every time I rephrase I'm chipping away a little bit of marble that doesn't look like Michaelangelo's David. In any case, listen up and listen good:

Most people do not base their actions on rational thought related to material reality. They base their action on stories which they partly pick up from their culture and partly make up themselves. Depending on whether the culture is in a death spiral or not, these stories might actually be helpful or might actually systematically break down consciousness. In whatever case, basing your life on images and narratives rather than the hard facts of material existence is much, much, much easier. And will virtually ensure that you don't ever change anything. This is fine if nothing needs to be changed - perhaps problematic if the planet or human civilisation is at risk, and if you give a shit about human civilisation and/or life on earth, which I assume most of you do.

(Palestinian accent:) "Zis side of ze revolution, ze revolutionaries are a minority."

One of the most common media narratives is actually the one which scoops up the people who don't fall for the mainstream ones. It's the one embodied in virtually every popular fantasy or speculative-fiction work today. What it says is: YOU ARE THE CHOSEN ONE. There is something special about you and you alone which means that you are destined to eventually find Your People who will help you in your noble quest, and who will probably be your cabinet ministers once you've conquered Earth or whatever. Let the friendly trolls at ED comment further:

The purpose of the Harry Potter books is to create the illusion that losers succeed in the end and that the outcasts and misfits are the real winners of society, similar to internet favourites like Donnie Darko. Their massive success is instrumental in preserving the status quo in western society: while basement-dwelling goths and mousy teenage girls read the Harry Potter books, jocks and teen-queens alike get laid and start real careers.

In other words, the myth is designed to stop you working, and introduce you to a lifetime of masturbating to your own coolness, and never learning the skills which might bring you success - either on the terms of the Prince of This World, or any better terms which you might think up for yourself. Never forget that - The Devil (however defined) owns this world. It's his. You can either sell your soul, fight the power, or be irrelevant. The choice is yours, but happiness is guaranteed no matter which way.

For those who want to fight the power - as the commies have been telling you since 1848, the world will change only at the point where a huge majority of people decide that it needs changing. Just because you're a "brilliant" outsider doesn't mean the system owes you jack, or the masses will ever realise your brilliance - until, of course, you give the system something it wants in return, or you learn to package your brilliance in such a way that people who work in supermarkets and don't spent 16 hours a day on teh intarwebz will find it useful. Also: the world will not just magically collapse, somehow leaving you and your buddies unscathed so you can turn your clique into an independent anarcho-syndicalist commune.

Of course, the flipside of this is: because you are not guaranteed a noble destiny, if you haven't met a noble destiny it doesn't mean you suck. You have absolute and horrible free will. You are guaranteed neither success nor failure. Use this power wisely. Learn to see social and material reality, not pictures in your head derived from pictures from TV or from books, and learn to work in accordance with it.

As far as magick goes: it consists in not only learning what is underneath the Veil of Illusion, subjecting your perceptions to the most merciless objective scepticism, but also firmly conditioning yourself and your buddies never to forget it no matter how deep the swamp of the Real World of Horrible Jobs gets. Then, you must be be able to talk about it with sufficient conviction and eloquence that the ordinary people you meet are jolted into seeing it for themselves. Remember the logic of the Transitional Programme - the idea is to describe something that is close enough to consensus reality that it doesn't get rejected straight off, but which points the way towards enlightenment.

On a lighter note, again courtesy of ED - take a look at those Iraqi resistance music vids that I mentioned below.

13 October 2007

I have good news and bad news

... in the form of updates on the matters I discussed here.

The good news is that the first hard-copy-printed Chaos Marxist article hits the presses this week.

The bad news is that the practical experiment - the attempt to apply CM principles to a political campaign - didn't work, or rather didn't work well enough. On one hand, it's said that a failed initiation makes chances of future success even smaller. On the other hand, it's also said that a revolutionary is distinguished not by never making mistakes, but always learning from those mistakes. At least I'm not dead in a remote village in Bolivia.

11 October 2007

"True... from a certain point of view."

People who pose as "modernist" or "Enlightenment" giggle and guffaw at "pre-rational" ways of understanding the world. How, they ask, could Amazon tribes, or even the cultured citizens of the Roman Republic, believe that their stories about gods and superheroes and monsters were actually true?

Perhaps there are several values of "true". I remember arguing with a serious Christian (back in my Wiccan-missionary phase, which I cringe to remember), who said to me something like: "Do you think I'm stupid? I don't believe snakes can talk. But I believe the Genesis narrative is morally true."

Perhaps we can generalise that the mythic-life of a culture is seen by its participants as "true on a moral level". What happens in the stories which hold a culture together doesn't have to actually make sense by the physical laws of the universe or the social laws of behaviour, as long as it makes moral or narrative or symbolic sense. Even if we believe the Gods are real on some level, we don't expect them to behave by human rules.

To give this a concrete modern context: it is generally recognized that the whole "War on Terror" / Iraq occupation is not being fought on the rules of ordinary human reality. Previous wars had to be fought that way because if you lost, the enemy would actually occupy your country, steal all your food and sexually abuse your loved ones. But the worst that will happen to "the West" is a humilation and a loss of global bragging rights. In terms that Mad Larry would understand, it is a war for cultural and historical space.

Orwell had it right: when the State can wage war without fear to its own survival, it is under no obligation to actually pursue the war in a rational way. All it has to do is keep fighting, because the war is not about survival, but about being right, and in that case the goal is not to occupy territory or seize resources (although these are both part of a complete breakfast), but to generate the correct images. The images which will ensure that citizens of the "free West" continue to believe (on a "moral level") that their States (and the corporates behind them) are essentially benevolent and all-powerful, and that the only alternative is a blasphemous darkness and irrationality. As for those outside the state, as Caligula put it - "Oderint dum metuant", let them hate us as long as they fear us.

It does not seem too great an assumption that ordinary people see what they see on TV and hear in their cultural sphere as morally, not literally or physically true. They expect to hear from their TV news not hard facts, but stories which resonate with the ideas they have in their own heads about how the world operates - and they will not think to question narratives which have what Stephen Colbert calls "truthiness". The most important of these narratives is: "Our governments and bosses are the good guys, and I can ignore the horrible bits of life if I can feel I am on the right side in the great struggle for Truth, Justice and the (Insert my country here) Way." (Because if people didn't willingly believe that, in the absence of a credible alternative myth-for-life, life for many would be without obvious hope altogether.)

Accordingly - after 9/11, what you heard was "we had to do something" - not because it would bring 3000 New Yorkers back from the grave or prevent more deaths, but to restore the image that bad things like that didn't happen to the enlightened, prosperous good guys. See here for an analysis of what this meant in America (and to a lesser degree elsewhere) - a McCarthyist witchhunt of people who actually wanted to explain why people might restort to terrorism. People who wanted the war to make physical, concrete sense were indeed traitors - traitors to the essential myths of our society. How dare you hold the Gods of our Tribe to your laws of pathetic human reality, you reality-based community unbelievers?

The purpose of the War on Terror is exactly the same as the purpose of the Cold War - to cow all foreign and domestic opposition to capitalist imperialism, and provide an ideological justification for imperialism abroad and clawbacks on political and social liberties at home. It is being won to the extent that the official media-godforms (the enlightened West brings salvation to lesser countries with laser-guided bombs, and you can either cheerlead for it or be crushed as an Islamofascist or a "Crazy") continue to grab hold of the popular imagination.

But the point is that these myths are not based on stupid physical or social reality, but on the moral truths which bind our allegiance to the State and the corporations for which it stands. And as such, they have to be fought on that level. The corporate egregore [life-form created by belief] will stop existing the instant that the masses stop believing in it. Only a win for our side on the ideological/cultural field - a succesful "alternative life-myth" which seizes the masses - will make the elected politicians cut off funding, or encourage the troops to mutiny. (The Iraqi resistance understand this when they try to create their own media weapons.)

The movement against war - which is the movement against corporate imperialism - has to create our own myths, godforms, stories and icons. These will have to be based in messy physical everyday reality - only when you have a truckload of lawyers, guns and wage-slave labour can you just decide what you want to be true and make it so. Which will mean training ourselves to be able to tell what actually is real, what's not real, and what's the difference - which, in many cases, will mean throwing out the cherished myths which make up our membership of the Tribe of the Free, Enlightened West.

06 October 2007

¡Ché! - a Chaos Marxist "how to" guide

Sometimes I despair a bit about whether what I am writing here will ever bear fruit. But today our friends at the BBC took a look at how the cult of Blessed St Ernesto the Motorcyclist got started, and Dobbsdammit if my intuitions weren't right on the money. Judge for yourself:

"Che Guevara has become a brand. And the brand's logo is the image, which represents change. It has becomes the icon of the outside thinker, at whatever level - whether it is anti-war, pro-green or anti-globalisation"...

The unchecked proliferation of the picture - based on a photograph by Alberto Korda in 1960 - is partly due to a political choice by Korda and others not to demand payment for non-commercial use of the image...

"I deliberately designed it to breed like rabbits... The way they killed him, there was to be no memorial, no place of pilgrimage, nothing. I was determined that the image should receive the broadest possible circulation. His image will never die, his name will never die."...

After Che Guevara's death, an outraged Mr Fitzpatrick furiously reprinted originals of the poster and sent it to left-wing political activist groups across Europe...

"His death was followed by demonstrations, first in Milan and then elsewhere. Very soon afterwards there was the Prague Spring and May '68 in France. Europe was in turmoil. People wanted change, disruption and rebellion and he became a symbol of that change."...

"There is a theory that an image can only exist for a certain amount of time before capitalism appropriates it. But capitalism only wants to appropriate images if they retain some sense of dange..."

Combining capitalism and commerce, religion and revolution, the icon remains unchallenged.

Compare the above with the intuitions I put on this blog back in January:

  • 1. Make your memes open-ended in possible meaning. It's sheer death to a meme to attempt to control how it spreads. If at least some people aren't misusing it or misinterpreting it - if, indeed, it's not being subjected to the merciless application of Rule 34 by /b/tards and their ilk - it doesn't have real power. If you make the meaning plain on the surface - meaning that it has to pass a "conscious mind" filter first - its usefulness will be restricted to people who already agree with you. The fact that capitalist pigs use Ché for advertising is a tribute to his power, as the lady quoted above says. To give another counterexample, mass movements start to suck when the founders start insisting on the right to "bounce" their fanbase - followers of the career of Andrew Eldritch will know what I mean.

  • 2. Leave it noncommercial for as long as possible. Make it a signal that can't be stopped. Are you in this to change the culture or to make a living? Choose, but choose wisely.

  • 3. Invoke often. You can't get this going until you put in the work yourself. Memes don't spread by themselves - you have to get the damn thing out there, not just make it available and assume that people will find it as if by (heh) magic.

  • I would like to add a fourth to this list:

  • 4. A meme needs an environment to grow in. You need to have a receptive audience to give your meme the start it needs. Ché had the mass movement of 1968 to grow to maturity in - but not all of us will be that lucky. On the other hand, Malcolm McLaren said: "if you don't have a scene, you have to start one". In politics, I think we call that cadre-building.

02 October 2007

Cool always equals "expensive". Funny, that.

Moffa is one of a crew of young dance producers who have dumped their neat little laptops for rooms full of hulking black boxes, scouring eBay and garage sales for vintage, amp-driven, analogue synthesisers.

Interesting. In the early 80's, when the cool people like Moffa were jumping on the digital bandwagon, it was crappy old analogues which were cheap and easy to acquire and people like Gary Numan and Depeche Mode used them to create the sound of their generation. Now, when software synthesizers have made weightless music - free and open source - possible for the first time in history, the cool people are trying to make bulky, hard-to-acquire, difficult-to-repair-store-and-carry technology fashionable again. The article above talks about

the genre's growth (or dilution, according to some)

Uh-huh. Because if more people can do something, it suddenly becomes worthless. There's the logic of not only capitalism but of all class societies in a nutshell.

It gets better:

"People are realising what's missing from the sounds they're getting out of software," Phil Moffa of production/DJ outfit Vinyl Life says. "They're conscious of how everything is sounding the same, and digital replication is the same every time."

But of course, when you sell it to them on a record, it will be the same every time. And you don't object to that because it's your precious intellectual property, which by its nature has to be infinitely reproducible to make you $$$.

"You try to do something, and they'll give you something back you didn't expect," Ford says of the old-school technology. "Also, because they're physical things, it's less cerebral; there's a humanism to it. We're not big fans of pushing blocks around screens."

Firstly - fuck humanism. I'm going transhuman as soon as it's feasible. Secondly - pushing blocks around screens is precisely what the majority of working people in rich countries do for a living all day. If you want escapism, fine - I'm looking for something which expresses real, concrete, nasty reality.

Oh, and the best bit is this:

"I hate really nostalgic records that are trying to sound like old records," Ford says. "But there's something familiar about (analogue), the way it shapes the sound and rounds out the edges and warms it up. It reminds you of the records you grew up with."

Ay-ay-ay. Warm, comforting, reminding you of your childhood... this is not the direction in which a future which avoids the Ghost Point lies.