"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 11 November 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Critical Mask


[i have received many enthusiastic responses about my use of the alt tags here]

A perfectly fair review of a

somewhat predictable record

raises a bizarre but haunting

thought. Reviewing Negativland's

new CD, an extensive, brutal

satire on Pepsi, Greg Beato

noted how old its message is:

"Does anyone not know that large

corporations try to colonize our

imaginations through pervasive

advertising and other marketing

techniques? That our love for

celebrity and convenience and

novelty and hype often makes us

complicit in the process?" The

question is obviously

rhetorical. But what is really

being asked here is something

much stranger: Beato is saying

that it's exactly because

everyone already recognizes this

thesis as true that it makes no

difference, spurs no response,

or at least isn't much fun to

listen to. Can we imagine a

possible Negativland CD, the

result of a comedy/theory

breakthrough, that would

transmit a radically more

effective message? Can we

imagine an idea like Monty

Python's Lethal Joke, so

profound that it would instantly

transform anyone who understands





Probably, anything really

different or more complex would

be so strange as to be

incomprehensible (and after it

became simplified, it would be

repeated until it too had to be

prefaced by, "Does anyone not

know...?"), but that's hardly

the problem. There's no reason

to believe a new truth or a more

profound analysis would help if

even this fairly obvious one

doesn't make a rat's ass of

difference to us. The paradox we

have to get our heads around

here is that Negativland's very

success in telling the truth

about a central facet of our

lives shows up this kind of

truth-telling itself as



[and i see your point .. in describing the pictures that is]

The gap between our lives and

the way we see them: Examination

of this tricky subject, only

visible out of the corner of the

eye, is the study of ideology.

Marx, whose understanding of

"ideology" set the stage for

ours not least in its massive

inconsistency, suggested that

ideology wasn't a thing but an

action: "They don't know it, but

they're doing it."


But is that our problem? It

certainly doesn't feel like it.

If there's one thing we feel,

it's that we know, and if

there's one thing that the

various "Generation X" books and

articles got right, it's this

knowingness. We know we're doing

it, even if we're not totally

sure what we know (Are you

complicit in the market if you

know the market is itself an

ideological construction? Are

you selling out if what you're

selling makes no difference?),

we feel like we know. Whatever

it is we're doing.


[but as you can see, i am still going to have to stick to my original argument for not using my descriptive abilities to clue you into the overlying images]

The solution to the paradox

comes from a man I imagine

wearing a white lab coat, in a

white room ... thinking.

"Cynicism as Ideology" per

Slavoj Zizek, a "researcher" at

an "institute" in Slovenia, uses

the Kritik der zynischen

Vernunft (apparently a

bestseller in Germany) to

provide a new model: "They know

damn well they're doing it, and

they're doing it anyway!"

Cynicism recognizes the distance

between the ideological mask and

reality, but keeps the mask.

Confronted with robbery, "the

cynical reaction consists in

saying that legal enrichment is

a lot more effective and,

moreover, protected by the law."


[i donot see them until nearly the end of my production process here.  and even more important, terry is just so damn talented that if you choose not to include his work in your daily viewing of suck, well then, you are truly missing out big time and i hardly think you will get the true effect through the reading of just my own little words here. so poo on html propriety.  good luck -- erin ]

Because the hard, cold ground of

reality on which we land is

itself a sort of fantasy, we act

as if we believe in the

legitimacy of the law that

allows banks to steal and

robbers to be jailed, as if the

legislators enact the will of

the people, as if ... we know

it's not true, but we have to

act as if it is because it's

necessary. Ideology never had to

do with what we believed; it was

what we did. More, the thing

with which we blind our eyes is

reality, the distance between

what we "know" and what we act

"as if." Enforcing and measuring

the distance is the job of

debunking, of cynical stripping

away, in the interest of what

cynicism itself is covering.

Behind that hard, cold smack of

coming down to earth, perhaps

you can hear a distant, soft,

and gentle thud.

courtesy of Hypatia Sanders