The Peculiar Unreality of Spectacle

Isn’t AI just a shoddy facsimile of genuine expertise that “serves the state and the media” in a new theater of Phenomenon?

Long time correspondent Zeus Y. just recently shared this thought-provoking post: Person Debord’s Warning of ‘The Role of the Specialist:’ A Philosophical Perspective rising of Fact-Checking.

The post sheds light on the current phenomenon of fact-checking and dependence on “professionals” by referencing French philosopher Person Debord’s 1967 book, The Society of the Spectacle. (This is a PDF of the entire text.)

Here are some informative excerpts from the short article:

“Since spectacle changes real life with a simple mediated representation of life that can not be experienced straight, it provides a framework where mass deceptions and lies can consistently and convincingly look like real.

It has recreated our society without neighborhood, and it has obstructed the capability to communicate in general. Such procedures and their ramifications eventually mean individuals can not truly experience life for themselves: they have ended up being viewers, bound to an impoverished state of unlife.

In The Society of the Spectacle, Debord explains that the economy ruling over society initially emerged as an ‘obvious degradation of enjoying having,’ where human fulfilment was no longer obtained through what one was, however instead just through what one had. As society’s capitulation to the economy sped up, the decline from being into having actually shifted ‘from having into appearing.’

With regard to knowledge, therefore, professionals no longer need to be professionals or have competence, they only require to handle the look of proficiency.”

Here is how Debord explained his 1967 book in his 1988 follow-up work, Discuss the Society of the Spectacle:

“In 1967, in a book entitled The Society of the Spectacle, I showed what the modern phenomenon was already in essence: the autocratic reign of the marketplace economy which had actually acceded to an irresponsible sovereignty, and the totality of new techniques of government which accompanied this reign.”

In my view, Debord is laying out a way to comprehend how society has actually ended up being subsumed by economic forces, particularly neoliberal markets.

This arrangement manages the people by turning whatever into a spectacle which in Debord’s view is not “real life,” it’s a representation that we passively accept without comprehending how it transforms our identity and social relations from “being” to “having,” i.e. consuming and owning stuff that is a representation of who we are and our function in society.

This representation is handled by technocratic know-how– the source of “fact-checking.”.

What we refer to as propaganda, marketing and narrative are for Debord all elements of spectacle.

Spectacle as a simulation or facsimile of “real life” talks to a profound alienation: we passively watch spectacle and take that passive usage as “reality” without understanding it’s all managed to maintain the supremacy of those taking advantage of the neoliberal financial arrangement.

This echoes numerous associated ideas (for example, The Matrix movies), the post-modern view of simulacra being passed off as the authentic “genuine thing,” and Marx’s concept of alienation in which the employee has been disconnected (pushed away) from the product/value of their labor.

The core idea here is that Phenomenon is inauthentic, a simulacrum or facsimile of reality, an alternative of representation for substance, that develops a peculiar unreality.

The entire appeal of social media can be viewed as personalizing Phenomenon, as we each gain audience and influence by making ourselves and our lives into unbelievable representations, i.e. eyeglasses.

Here are some illuminating excerpts from Dubord:

Debord: “All professionals serve the state and the media and just because method do they accomplish their status. Every specialist follows his master, for all former possibilities for independence have been gradually minimized to nil by present society’s mode of organisation. The most helpful professional, of course, is the one who can lie.”

Debord: “The vague feeling that there has actually been a fast intrusion which has actually forced people to lead their lives in an entirely different method is now extensive; however this is experienced rather like some inexplicable modification in the climate, or in some other natural equilibrium, a change confronted with which lack of knowledge understands only that it has nothing to state.”

This reminds me of a remark French author Michel Houellebecq made in an interview: “I feel of being captured up in a network of complicated, minute, dumb guidelines, and I feel of being herded towards an uniform type of joy, toward a sort of happiness that does not really make me pleased.”

This strikes me as an apt description of “spectacle as faux reality.”

I am not sure this reliance on spectacle to develop a strange unreality is entirely modern-day.

If we think of late Rome’s elegant spectacles– staged fights in the Coliseum, chariot races, etc– they were representations of a Roman power that was no longer real.

In the real life, Rome’s power flowed from its large importation of wheat from North Africa, its financially rewarding trade with the Mideast and India, its silver mines in Spain and its well-trained and provisioned legions.

When these rotted or collapsed, the spectacles in Rome were no longer manifestations of power, they were simple representations of a power that was quickly liquifying on the planet beyond Rome.

Those within the bubble of Rome had no grasp of the tenuous instability of the Empire beyond the city walls.

As a final thought, consider how AI is existing as automated knowledge. However isn’t AI simply an inferior facsimile of genuine expertise that “serves the state and the media” in a brand-new theater of Phenomenon?

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