Been reading the Ccru: Writings 1997-2003 that Simon Reynolds describes in his RENEGADE ACADEMIA as the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit. He will highlight the thrust of a hyperconservatism masking itself as radical chic: “Cyberpositive” actually reads like a nihilistic paean to the “cyberpathology of markets”, celebrating capitalism as “a viral contagion” and declaring “everything cyberpositive is an enemy of mankind”. It’s in these and other writings that one will find the scarlet thread that has led Nick Land and others into the Dark Enlightenment of the Neo-Reaction.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of this amazing treasure trove from this past era. Not being a fan boy, but rather a sort of visionary materialist who grew up in the 1950’s and 60’s I lived through another different era, the Psychedelic Era. Having joined like many other youth in the sixties the thumb-to-the-road traveling circus of wandering the drugscapes of America from my southern rooted culture in West Texas. I discovered through the various music fests, protest dynamics, and experimental digestion of biochemical compounds (i.e., marijuana, psilocybin, LSD, peyote, etc.) that the world was not what I’d been led to believe. But as in all things laws were passed banning hitch-hiking, psychedelics, and other mind-expanding drugs, while the drugs like alchohol and the various medically supervised system of uppers and downers seemed to continue both within the legal and illegal marketplace. (Oh, sure, you could still find some of the psychedelics in small pockets here and there, but as a culture it was dead)
Of course for me in the late 70’s through 90’s and beyond the pressure of survival brought me into that sub-world of debt that any good Marxist could explain to you. I began like others to drift into the dark corners of our radical complaisance and bitch and complain on the sidelines rather than in action. Oh sure, I continued to protest, act the activist, run the gamut of what we took to be activism; but, like many others we realized it was probably all show, that it wasn’t changing a thing. That the Reality Makers of the new market economies were coming into their own and developing information and communication technologies to drown out the noise from the radical fringe. That’s all history under the bridge.
So when the internet came along and I’d moved into the coders world I began to see new possibilities, find new connections that were not possible before. One could connect to people beyond the limited physical planes of one’s familiar everyday world. This other world of MUDs, Gopher, and the pre-world of textual trafficking across the hidden DARPA networks allowed those who had the knowledge to access a space of freedom that had not been there. All this is history too. Those days are gone. The Internet has become a part of the networks of control, the marketing force of commercial systems of aggressive tracking, spying, listening that seem to follow one’s every move among the specifically framed space of a Web Browser now force you into channels of unfreedom day by day. With the development of the Web Browser the commercial and governmental authorities could frame the world that they would give you access to while closing down the realms beyond the scope of their acceptable freedoms. This is old news too. Geert Lovink and others have documented this history.
All through this era was the musical world that kept the low critique going from Rock, Metal, Punk, Hip-hop, Rave, etc. as sort of dark horse critique of the planetary system for the street life. That’s why when I began blogging a few years ago and discovered certain marketing devices such as Amazon.com or a Barnes & Noble selling unloading the world of culture and society with its millions of bits of information from books that up till then had been bound to libraries and trial and error methods of seek and search. I was suddenly awakened to a global network of radical knowledge that had been for the most part invisible to me before. So in this sense the capitalist marketplace opened up rather than closed down access to its own radical enemies. Yet, even this is slowly dying off for the simple reason of overload… one sees through both self-publishing and the literal over-publishing of shit not worth reading that the universe of knowledge is now drowned in its own cesspool of information. But that’s another tale.
While all this was going on I came across the work of Nick Land. And, seeing his interest in Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Bataille among others opened my eyes back up to my former youth. I plowed through most of this world of thought during my early twenties back in the 70’s, but at the time found few in my own neck of the woods in West Texas who had even heard of these names much less read the authors themselves. I have to admit that the world I grew up in was the typical anti-intellectual realm that a lot of critics have written about. I think one of the first works I read back in the 70’s after Viet Nam and other things had forced me to reevaluate my Christian heritage I read Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter. Although a little dated it still opened my eyes to my own history, my actual world of everyday existence. I lived in a world where guns and booze were more central than books, and if one was a book man one was seen as a little out there, an “egg-head”. Did I give a shit. No. But there it is, I had few people I could share with about my quest to understand life and reality, my doubts, etc. One word would always crop up when I would unload my views onto unsuspecting friends and associates: “deep”, boy you’re a deep thinker; or, “man that’s deep, buddy, I’m not really getting it”, etc. So, of course, like many I went underground, became a loner with my thoughts and challenges. When I found someone who seemed better read here and there I would seek advice on what they knew, what books the recommended, etc. I think many of us have gone through this same process.
Back to Ccru. When thinking about these young people who pushed the limits of thought beyond the acceptable frameworks of their academic culture I had to admire their effort, even if it ended in a form of failed event. It wasn’t a failure at all, just another experiment in escape that the authorities of our cultural bankruptcy shut down. Reynolds in his essay captures this succinctly when he describes the staid grey elitist Professor Andrew Benjamin, Director of Graduate Studies at Warwick’s Philosophy Department who says:
“See, there isn’t such a thing as the CCRU,” he insists. “Within the university system you can set up a thing called a center for research, then you take the planned center to various committees and put it through this system in whose terms that center would be legitimised, have an external committee overseeing standards, et cetera. Because Sadie left early, that procedure didn’t happen. Officially, you would then have to say that CCRU didn’t ever exist. There is, however, an office about 50 metres down the corridor from me with CCRU on the door, there’s a group of students who meet there to have seminars, and to that extent, it it is a thriving entity. Informally, it did exist, still does, lots of things go on under its aegis. But that office will disappear at the end of the year. A number of students thought there was a conspiracy, there’s a lot of gossip and carry-on, but the fact is–had Sadie decided to pursue an academic career, CCRU would have been a viable, ongoing entity.”
What’s interesting here is to see how the structure of power works in subtle ways. By copping out and saying that it was Sadie Plant’s termination that terminated CCRU it allows him to absolve his own guilt or the guild of the University in the closure of this experimental entity – as if, “Oh it wasn’t our responsibility, Sadie left, so we just closed the doors. If she’d of stayed it would have continued.” All so matter of fact. This post isn’t about piecing together the narrative of that history. It’s about the need for such experimental endeavors. The need for the academy to open up its eyes again to radical ideas rather than become the site of a command and control structure of power in the hands of the commercial empire of the markets.
Reading about what Ccru said of themselves makes me wish there were such places still like this on the internet if no where else:
Ccru is an ongoing experiment in collectivity, collective production, anonymity, and masks, dedicated to practically dismantling standard models of social existence, by pursuing ethics in the spinozistic sense (experimental production of collective bodies). Ccru feeds its own researches back into its own microcultural production. Its basic tool in this respect is ‘pulp-theory/fiction hybridity’ or Hyperstition.1
In my next post I’ll outline the basic nodal points of interest in this hyperstitional pulp-theoretic: Ccru : The Hyperstitional Beast Emerges from its Cave
1. Ccru (2015-05-06). Ccru: Writings 1997-2003 (Kindle Locations 98-102). Time Spiral Press. Kindle Edition.