Guy Debord: On McLuhan’s Global Village as Malicious Gossip


Guy Debord in his last book Comments on the Society of the Spectacle would mention McLuhan’s acknowledgement that his notions of the Global Village were erroneous and that the ‘pressure of the mass media leads to irrationality’ rather than true democratic and participatory alliances as he once conceived.1 Commenting on this Debord would say,

The sage of Toronto had formerly spent several decades marveling at the numerous freedoms created by the ‘global village’ instantly and effortlessly accessible to all. Villages, unlike towns, have always been ruled by conformism, isolation, petty surveillance, boredom and repetitive malicious gossip about the same families. Which is a precise enough description of the global spectacle’s present vulgarity… (pp. 33-34).

Reading the above I’ve often wondered what Debord’s reaction would have been to Twitter and Facebook. The gossip vines that inhabit these new media-frenzied sink holes are so full of bored and petty conformists that they haunt the blip-screens of the rich and famous, seeking any off-hand remark that might slur toward racial, gender, political, cultural, religious and off-color politically incorrect remarks, upon which they will pounce and blast the idiot net-waves like full-blown Zombie’s cannibalizing the last vestiges of negativity in an unending frenzy of merciless and bitter character assassination. Stars of Hollywood, Sports, or Music not to say politicos and other cultural icons of the world matrix are daily scrutinized by these daimonic denizens of the blip-ghost scenes waiting to be fed to the rumor mills, and obliterated by the regulatory policing of Political Correctness Factories: ultimately to be tried in the Court of Public Opinion from which there is no appeal. Certified to the death or suicidal limits of malicious gossip and vulgarity those who fall prey to the Village gossip mongers have no place left to hide in this 24/7 badlands of the net’s local zones of slaughter.

I remember Mark Fisher’s essay Exiting the Vampire Castle where he remarked

‘Left-wing’ Twitter can often be a miserable, dispiriting zone. Earlier this year, there were some high-profile twitterstorms, in which particular left-identifying figures were ‘called out’ and condemned. What these figures had said was sometimes objectionable; but nevertheless, the way in which they were personally vilified and hounded left a horrible residue: the stench of bad conscience and witch-hunting moralism. The reason I didn’t speak out on any of these incidents, I’m ashamed to say, was fear. The bullies were in another part of the playground. I didn’t want to attract their attention to me.

This sense of fear, of being afraid to voice one’s opinions for fear of coming under the PC eyes of the ultra-moral Left Police seems to be part of the latest dogma of these so-to-speak non-entities who suffer the world of pop cultural politics. What’s sad is not that there are not issues with race, gender, poor, politics, culture, religion, etc.: the problem is that the Left seems to be in the midst of a self-destruction of its own people. There seems to be some kind of new Stalinism of the Great Purges that is seeking new victims to accost and threaten with their PC bullying and character assassination. If a person makes one bad call in a linguistic utterance he/she is vilified and forever condemned to the outer reaches of the neo-hells. Is this the world of the Left that once promised Liberation and Emancipatory politics? Is this the future of the Left? If so I’m certainly reconsidering my complete participation in this world matrix of ideological constructions, because this is not my view of the Marxian traditions…

As Mark suggest “The open savagery of these exchanges is accompanied by something  more pervasive, and for that reason perhaps more debilitating: an atmosphere of snarky resentment.” This form of nihilist dribble of resentment was once categorized by none other than Nietzsche himself as negative annihilation – a praxis of hate and deceit:

Ressentiment is a sense of hostility directed at that which one identifies as the cause of one’s frustration, that is, an assignment of blame for one’s frustration. The sense of weakness or inferiority and perhaps jealousy in the face of the “cause” generates a rejecting/justifying value system, or morality, which attacks or denies the perceived source of one’s frustration. This value system is then used as a means of justifying one’s own weaknesses by identifying the source of envy as objectively inferior, serving as a defense mechanism that prevents the resentful individual from addressing and overcoming their insecurities and flaws. The ego creates an enemy in order to insulate itself from culpability.

Ressentiment is a reassignment of the pain that accompanies a sense of one’s own inferiority/failure onto an external scapegoat. The ego creates the illusion of an enemy, a cause that can be “blamed” for one’s own inferiority/failure. Does this sound familiar? Are those who now command the police force of PC none other the resentful gossip mongers of a dead and dying creed who have lost the truth of the once great mission of the Left, and have instead fallen into a pit of self-despair that seeks nothing more than new scapegoats to lambast and pulverize under the rumor mills of their deceitful systems of hate and self-inferior dialectics? Is this the Party of Hope or Death? The Left must put away resentiment and discover once again its deep roots in people’s lives, remember the darkness of capital and its terrible ruination of people’s lives around the world and leave off this bitter scapegoating of its own which can lead only to decay and ultimate defeat.

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