Stunted Publicity

“If a rock falls on your head it does positive harm, but shame, disgrace, reproaches and insults are damaging only in so far as you’re conscious of them. If you’re not, you feel no hurt at all. What’s the harm in the whole audience hissing [at] you if you clap [for] yourself? And Folly alone makes this possible.” Erasmus, Praise of Folly.

“To mark the launch of McKenzie Wark’s new book The Spectacle of Disintegration, Verso Books have offered Rhizome readers in the UK a chance to win a 3D printed Guy Debord action figure.” (, 17 May 2013)

It seems to us that a response is necessary to this impudent and silly provocation. Silence on the part of people like us – who have spent many years and a great deal of effort trying to understand, enrich and act in accordance with what remains vital and relevant in the situationist critique of spectacular society – would only allow those unfamiliar with, newly informed of or hostile to the legacy of Guy Debord and the other members of the Situationist International to think that impudent and silly provocateurs such as McKenzie Wark are the only ones who are interested in this legacy today.

But what kind of response is called for in this instance? Let’s look at two of them: one might respond seriously, and denounce it sincerely and violently; or one might respond facetiously, and pretend not to be outraged by it (one might even pretend to find it amusing). There are advantages to both approaches: the first would have the merit of showing that not everyone in this world is a silly twat who thinks that life is but a joke; while the second would have the merit of being easier on the writer (there are so many outrages these days and it can be hard to be outraged by all of them all the time). And of course there are disadvantages to each of these approaches: the first one carries the risks of being dismissed as evidence that one doesn’t “have a sense of humor” or that one sees oneself as the exclusive holder of the “the truth” about Debord and the situs, and thus a kind of authoritarian; while the second one might very well encourage the perpetration of other, even more impudent and silly provocations.

So we have chosen a response that allows us to both laugh and tell the truth about this stunted publicity for Wark’s newest book. The class-consciousness of our era has made sufficient progress to demand, using its own means, an accounting from the pseudo-specialists of its history who continue to eke out a living by exploiting its practice.

19 May 2013

Brendan Boehning (Danish Society for Comparative Vandalism, Denmark)
Bill Brown (NOT BORED! USA)
Thomas Evans (Thenameofthisfanzineiscensored, USA)*
Anthony Hayes (Notes From the Sinister Quarter, Australia)
Alastair Hemmens (Marblepunk, England)
Grant McDonagh (Ultrazine, New Zealand)

*Additional signer, as per note dated 20 May 2013.

Note added 20 May 2013

The five original signers of “Stunted Publicity” have agreed that any person or organization in agreement with this declaration against McKenzie Wark’s provocation can add his or her or its name to it and repost it on his or her or its blog, website, Twitter account, Facebook page, etc. provided that the precise original wording of the original declaration (as well as the names and affiliations of all the other signers) are reproduced exactly and in their entirety, and that there are no additions to the text of any kind. Additional signers are requested to contact one, several or all of the original five signers and relay to him or them the location(s) of their reposted copy or copies of the declaration.

Note added 21 May 2013

Wark has responded to “Stunted Publicity,” but of course has not done so directly. Instead, on 19 May, he sent messages to his Twitter feed, to which some of his subscribers had posted our declaration. Though short and few in number, these Twits, er, ah, these Tweets are rather telling.

“Pro-situs will of course yelp and whine,” he said to Cthshrdlu. “Try making something for a change.” But who is the pro-situ? Is not Wark himself a pro-situ? After all, he has written three books on the subject of the situationists and is making a name for himself as a specialist in them. All of these books are not, as the academics say, “primary” sources, but “secondary” ones: that is to say, works about what other people have made. And what has Wark himself made? It looks like he made the decision to purchase a 3D printer, the one that he used to generate his “Guy Debord action figure.” He didn’t design that figure: someone named Peer Hansen did.

“Oh, have some wit or imagination for once,” Wark said to submedia. But he promptly contracted himself when he said to AnarkistAnalyst, “‘Stunted Publicity’ that’s a good one! Let’s all retweet that!” Yes, the title we chose for our declaration was a “good one”: full of wit and imagination. But what wit or imagination lies in “retweeting” it, like one was a trained parrot?

Last but not least, Wark said to burgerchrist, “That old predictable tone, once again.” It is clear that Wark is tone deaf and, thus, for him, all tones are “predictable” and repetitions of something he heard once before. But let us imagine that our tone does indeed echo other, older voices. Unlike Wark, who speaks in the fresh, new tones of the advertiser hawking the latest “revolutionary” product, we are animated by a tradition that goes back to the situationists, certainly, but also back to the anarchists and Communards of the Nineteenth Century, the Ranters and Lollards of the Seventeenth Century, and even the communalists and free spirits of the Eleventh Century. And our message is simple: your days are numbered.

Note added 25 May 2013

This text has been translated into Greek and posted by Poety Must Be Made By Each and Everyone under the title Κολοβή δημοσιότητα

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2 Responses to Stunted Publicity

  1. Pingback: Poetry must be made by all | notes from the sinister quarter

  2. Pingback: The peculiar anxiety of Sam Cooper | notes from the sinister quarter

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