"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 8 November 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

The Third Time As "Tragedy"



Good morning - or, as Leonardo

DiCaprio prefers, "Good morrow."

Do you still feel guilty for not

voting? As local citizens

flocked ovinely to the polls,

cutting short hurried breakfasts

to drop another polite turd on

the statistical dungheap, more

than a few web wiseacres took

the opportunity for a cheap

laugh or a bitter jibe. As those

helpful English lads told us all

last spring, "voting is

pointless, humanity has evolved

beyond the point of democracy,"

etc. Or, as our own Bryant

Street Bakunin put it recently:

"People believe electoral

politics is democracy because

they have been brainwashed,



Me, I voted! But I have to admit

the process lacked drama.

Where's the thrill in voting

compared to, say, storming the

Bastille? Isn't there supposed

to be a revolution going on?


Oh, you were talking about a

digital revolution? Well, still.


I fear that in this one rare

instance our friends the


revolutionaries may be misled.

Humanity has not evolved beyond

the point of democracy. Voting

is not pointless. Voting has a

very definite point. The point

of voting is to build traffic. Here, go

ahead. Help Dave and Buster out.



But let's think for a second

about that sense of

disappointment. Wouldn't a nice

little social cataclysm have

livened things up? It is not

just the Tofflers et al. who

thrill to the sound of some

third wave crashing down. The

hope for a bitter end and for

the looted luxuries of

revolution suffused the fat fall

Vogue, in which, among the

photographs of clothing inspired

by military officers and by the

Empire's stylish beneficiaries

of the tumbrel, we read that

photographer François

Halard keeps a Sevrès

cast of Marie Antoinette's

breast on his mantle, next to a

Twombly print.


The familiar rhetoric of

revolution has a history of

gentrification, of course.

Right-wingers wield it with

self-congratulatory irony and

our highly regarded colleagues

in the digital garrets of the

'90s (not sans-culottes,

certainly, but with a definite

preference for shorts) use it to

garrote the more traditional

fourth estate. And just at the

moment when these revolutionary

cries rise and then seem to die

disappointingly away, the

peculiar golden colors of an

imaginary revolutionary

aftermath begin to appear in

fashion advertisements and in

movies inspired by fashion




For instance, on the shores of

Verona Beach, Leonardo DiCaprio

(Premiere calls him "D," his

cute set nickname) and his

Montague homies twirl their guns

and wait for the vile Capulets

to show. Verona is

postapocalyptic, but this is no

Blade Runner. The waves lap

seductively, the boys and girls

wear pretty clothes, and Ms.

Dionysus would be pleased to

note that people dance and shoot

at each other as a form of

joyful sport. And despite the

ending, when Juliet puts a

bullet through her head

surrounded by hundreds of lit

candles, what you have here,

mainly, is a happy apocalypse.



I'm all in favor. We all know

already that the cries of

faux-rebellion are linked in

fantasy not to the terrors they

articulate but to the unspoken

wish for and anticipation of a

restoration of order - and not

even with a different gang on

top, though maybe with a few new

members. That's the harmless

rhetorical fun of it.


Sometimes, though, I worry. If

the wonderful Luhrmann missed

the point, and presented Romeo

and Juliet as innocent victims

rather than as crazy kids drunk

on rhetoric who didn't know when

to stop, might our friends and

colleagues make the same

mistake? Will the anarchists and

libertarians and revolutionaries

you find theorizing in South

Park and Silicon Alley actually

poison themselves on resentment?

After delivering their lines,

will they fail to snap out of




"I've completely embraced the

concept of 'tragedy,'" said

Claire Danes recently to W,

leaving readers to wonder

whether the actress's intonation

or the irony of New York copy

editors had added the quotation

marks. Right on, Claire. Here in

the land of digital politics,

we've completely embraced the

concept of "revolution."


But God protect us and the

mansions of our masters from "a

universal rebellion on the part

of the people." Like the

porcelain-breasted Antoinette

and her indecisive husband, they

don't really have a taste for

violence. Shooting and looting

make them nervous.



This suggests a business

opportunity. The Palo Alto

papers have been advertising

etiquette classes for high-tech

companies whose engineers and

executives don't know how to

hold a fork. The next step:

bejewelled armaments, such as

longswords and flamethrowers,

plus classes on how to handle

them, for our friends who want

to take their fantasies to the

next level. The ultimate in

digital edutainment: shooting

the pike from the hands of a

knave at the head of a mob in


courtesy of Dr. McLoo