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Guy Debord,[1] in his major work, The Society of the Spectacle[2], argued that modern capitalism inverted the ontological order by placing the primacy of the image or representation over the ‘real’. This was a perspicacious and vital critique, which takes on ever greater significance in the age of the internet, texting, email, sophisticated camera, video, telephony, and music technology.

In a previous blog Capitalism: We hit ya and we give ya some, we provided some examples of the progressive encroachment of cyber-capitalism into the already-shrinking interstices of unmediated communication. However, there are also other equally disturbing developments. For example, a Palestinian youth was stopped at an Israeli checkpoint, ordered to strip by IDF soldiers, and forced to play his violin for their ‘entertainment’ [].

This act was criticised by the Israeli state, not because of its inherent cruelty, but because it besmirched iconic images and accounts of the Jewish experience under the Nazis, for example a photograph taken by a German soldier of a beggar playing the violin in the Warsaw ghetto []. The implications of this incident sets the mind reeling…

More fundamentally, the inversion effected whereby the image supersedes the object, action, or experience risks subverting any notion of objective reality, no doubt to the delight of adherents of post-modernist ideology.

In this context, let us remember Hegel’s position in the Philosophy of Right, which can be summarised as ‘Whatever is real is rational, and whatever is rational is real’. When reality becomes a displaced, irreal phenomenon induced by a sophisticated minority and its minions [witting or otherwise], do we accord the nightmare[3] a true ontological status? Equally, does the attribution of rationality to what we perceive as ‘real’ bolster the false ontological authenticity of the spectacle?

Answers on a postcard, please, sisters and brothers.

Fulano de Tal[4]


[1] The Situationist International, of which Debord was one of its two major theorists, was correct in heaping scorn on Herbert Marcuse’s incoherent and muddle-headed One-Dimensional Man, which purported to be the first and most authoritative critique of late capitalism.

[2] The concept of the spectacle has been reduced and banalised by subsequent commentators into a form of post-McLuhanism, which it is not to say that McLuhan’s concept of the global village was not prescient in terms of the ‘bringing together’ made available by the World Wide Web.

[3] To paraphrase a Spanish anarchist graffito “Your nightmares are our dreams”.

[4] Our thoughts are in everyone’s heads.