Home ASAN Index Discussion Contact

The Empire Of Obscurity

The Age Of Happiness

When a king reigned, he was recognized as ruler by all his vassals. Medieval kings might often reign supreme while not having as much true power as their dukes and duchesses. Today, it is easier to say which principles reign supreme than what are the ruling forces that govern our lives.

In this decade of "the end of the cold war," every known problem of the world has been solved. Yet unknown and unexplained problems constantly appear to wreck havoc on our existence. The peace dividend appears and vanishes without explanation. Wage inflation vanishes in America yet the federal reserve tells us we must suffer now for the ghost of future inflation. Israel and the PLO make peace to fight war against the Palestinian poor. The FMLN "revolutionaries" of El Salvador agree to become the police of El Salvador yet death-squads continue. An immense massacre happens without warning in Rwanda.

The world is more moral and more democratic than ever before. Mass murder is common, but it has never been more moral. More people are killed with fewer bad intentions than ever before. So fewer leaders are blamable for these deaths than ever before. From highways to unsafe factories to world-wide starvation, accidental death is the most justifiable kind of misery.

Every serious national liberation organization, union or Leninist party today has sworn fealty to the world market. Every gang today is together as a gang. And every gang will accept the morality of gangland.

Morality has triumphed. World leader can truthfully shake their heads and say that this misery is just a sad by-product of our chosen way of life. Lloyds of London, the International Monetary Fund and the international currency markets have done the service of taking death out of the hands of the evil leader. "Mass murder for the world market? I'm shocked, shocked..."

The Holocaust will "never again" happen. Thinkers of morality will be able to preserve it's unique quality of evil like a rare etching to enhance the reputation of their nook in the academic world. And Schindler's list will glorify this last moment of evil forever.

The holocaust is disturbing Steven Speilberg, Hannah Arendt and the college moralists who write about "The Holocaust And The Dimensions Of Evil" because there was an obvious cruel agent, the NAZI government, that killed many people and was semi-open about it. When Serbian/Yugoslav army commits mass murder and rape, it has the kindness to denounce the principles of cruelty and torture - everything can be chalked-up to the "normal" "horrors of war."

"Bad guys," "terrorists," and "Psychos" are still on the outskirts of social life to preserve the idea of those who kill on purpose. But good intentions reign supreme. "Holocaust revisionism" shows the changed tactics of state murders - even neo-NAZIS are willing to denounce the messiness of open death camps by denying such a terrible thing could have happened.

Democracy and morality rule a world of lies not really meant to be believed. When the ATF federal police murder eighty five people in Waco, Texas, it is automatically "an accident," automatically a big effort is made to find "who's responsible for this mistake." We won't complain that no one was punished. Congress, of course, wasn't looking for the person who incinerated the Branch Davidians but for the person who failed to incinerate them quietly.


What's Happened Lately

So what's happened lately? We could write about the post-modern quality of OJ Simpson's Ford Bronco ride, Tabloid TV or the latest invasion. But it is important to also look at what this domination of our attention means - OJ Simpson's ride was watched by 100 million people - the largest TV audience since the Gulf War was televised. OJ Simpson's ride was news because it was news - just as OJ was even more famous for being famous than for being a football star. To talk about how this society is really changing, we need to not accept the news and not be news. There can be nothing really new while people go to work, come home and contemplate TV's atomized "sound-bytes." The latest invasion does matter. But the system of news is part of what lets Panama or Somalia or Haiti happen. The systematic murder of hundreds or thousands of people becomes interchangeable in American minds with the latest football scores.

This magazine is about how daily life is changing and how it can change. To talk about change, you have to talk about the incredible sameness of life today. This is our fifth issue in about seven years of publishing. Each time I have slightly rewritten each introduction from the previous issue. Each issue we attack the ideology of news, the idea that television's stream of empty facts is anything really new.

Counter Strategies

Of course spectators never reach the absolute zero of pure passivity. Just keeping track of the news is some activity. But all the powers-that-be need to have people remain passive enough not to take control.

Leftists, anti-deficit cranks and Jehovah's Witnesses all have an image of just convincing one person of their ideas, then another and so on etc. They imagine potential converts not thinking at all until they can inoculated with the objective truth.

Mass media today plays for the total mood of each moment. They change their stories enough to keep people interested. They accept real, unconscious intelligences working but only so they can keep them unaware. They try to get people to not expect Clinton to increase wages but not to have complete enough despair to take independent action. For each decrease in the standard of living, they give workers a new, differently packaged scapegoat for their misery. (Drug dealers, youth gangs, child molesters, and immigrants have all had their day).

The rhetoric of unbiased information is part of the ideology of news. But the media itself has already gone beyond the ideology of unbiased information. The media navigates the tide of popular misery and obsession. Where the Worker's Vanguard wants to educate the masses, Time wants the spectator's playful, cynical participation in their own alienation. The media thus recognizes feelings and subjective reactions as being as important as " facts."

The rulers of this society see a danger to themselves that the average person does not. Since a fluid situation must be managed, there is always a chance of the pot boiling over.

We move into the opposite extreme position beyond the media. We use both the subjective and the objective. Leftists don't admit that workers' resist work. We know that people resist work and we push resistance to become unified and total. Leftists say that the poor only loot because they are desperate. We look for looting to be unified as a mass potlatch to destroy the economy.

Instead of filling our magazine with facts designed to convince a passive "unbiased" observer, this magazine contains series of strategies for fellow travellers. It assumes that the reader is engaged in counter-flow to the general flow of submission and passivity in this society. We describe a series of conceptual leaps, hoping that the reader has already made some and intending to fill in the rest.

Our Obscurity

Every racket of this society uses plausible deniability.

One force holding together an authoritarian state is confusion. No one knows exactly who is a rat and who is cool - who really swallows the bullshit and who just plays along.

As long as our class struggle remains defensive, obscurity will be part of the strategy of the dispossessed. One defensive strategy today is hip language. This patter can show defiance to those in the know and hide it from authorities. To escape being pinned-down, oppositional language constantly mutates, parts vanish and reappear, and much is left indefinite.

Gangsta Rap is the most visible place for rebels to create this language. Gangsta Rap is ultra-rebellious and ultra-conformist. It is sung by cop-killers and cops. In places, the most extreme resistors of this society put rebellion forward in terms of "Fuck The Police" (By NWA). But this rebellion is broken up by every sort of consumerism from violent sex to fast cars to petty hatred.

Of course we can't chart the bounds of this under-ground sea. Our obscurity is part of the total sea of obscurity today. We can say that since rebellion takes obscure forms, it is especially critical to be clear about how to reach our goal - what to do when we change from fighting from a position of weakness to fighting from a position of strength. We can also take comfort that if an explosion is taking shape, it may stay invisible until it happens.

The River Of Lies

The Painted Bird

As this society adds a moral gloss to all the old systems, it has only automated all the repression of each previous patriarchal or empire society. That sexual harassment in the work place, racism, sexual assault on children and rape have increased long after "our society emerged from superstition." Hatred of those who are even slightly different is not more irrational than the continuation of this system itself. Superstition, panic and hatred of all that is different are natural counter-parts of "normal life." At the same time that the global merchandising system gives formal equality to every woman, the largest single marketing tool remains the glorification of stereotypical adolescent-boy experience. The pseudo-priveleged of society have lost ground along with the more oppressed groups. When they react in atomized ways, the rigid character that once supported official patriarchal society are instead routed towards fraternity-boy style attacks on women, queers, ethnic minorities and everyone outside the official norm.


The rule of democracy is also the rule of rumors, a constant muttering going from the center off to the shadows. The media is a vast spectrum ranging from The History Of D-Day to Clinton Talks To Space Alien. Scientific announcements are made for TV and the TV becomes a scientific authority.

When so many crazy ideas are believed today, conspiracy is more plausible. Not that many people believing these ideas makes them likely. But because mass hysteria leaves people open to being herded by well-placed insiders. When a river of false belief is flowing quickly, it is inevitable that certain people will take advantage of the direction it is flowing in. Was AIDS a conspiracy or were people able to take advantage of the direction the epidemic went in?

The commonness of conspiracy theories often comes from their inability to be proven false. As the idea of conspiracy gets more credible, mainstream media types repackage open events as conspiracies to make them more interesting. "The secret alliance of Reagan and the pope to over-throw communism" is sold when that the president and the pope had always been the most open crusaders against communism.

The real condition of life today is both pre-meditated and unconscious. Everyone is expected to be their own spin doctor.

The Empire Of Obscurity

The fog of the empire of obscurity is quite dense in the "world of work." From the lowest levels to the highest levels, companies have few set rules for hiring. In a small retail outlet, there is effectively no procedure at all. Applications are taken constantly but the people who apply are only given interviews if the shop is hiring. If the shop isn't hiring, the applications are thrown away without comment. If the shop is hiring, the applicant talks to the manager. The interviewer takes stock of the attitude and appearance of the applicant and hires the one with the "best" (most conformist) attitude. The actual skills of the applicant are seldom tested. The applicant is usually hired on the spot or occasionally called back. If the applicant does not fit the interviewers' criteria, they are simply never called back. No rejection notice is ever handed out.

For larger companies or more skilled employees, the system is similar but more elaborate. A company puts an ad in the local paper. It will usually receive hundreds or thousands of resumes. Often all of the resumés are ignored and a friend of the boss is hired. Sometimes many interviews are done but they are not more objective than the pizza joint owners' chat at the counter.

This system is like a blanket of obscurity for the job seeker. They have no certain information about the availability of jobs, the requirements for getting them or the likelihood of being hired. For the employer, employees are like air, they need only inhale, and one appears that at least says that he or she fits their qualifications.

What does this say about the conditions of power and the economy today? The economy generates no set information but only a desperate sea of orders, rumors and fables. Since everything is uncertain, the desperate worker must constantly move in the direction that seems least likely to destroy them.

But when you move in the direction that protects you the most, it's hard to see any bigger picture.


So today we have more passivity than ever before and more participation in power than ever before. This is not a contradiction - people participate in the market and are passive in the way they expend their creative energy.

The world market has mastered the preemptive strike against possible working class demands - it's newest weapon is the preemptive organization of society - the decentralized production of preemptive attacks on an ad-hoc basis - talk radio.

More-over, the managers of the world market see that popular mood in capitalist society fluctuates wildly. The media energetically manipulates both the beliefs and the mood of the majority.

It is well known among news people that, if a particularly grisly crime is widely reported in the newspaper or on TV, it will likely be repeated by some impressionable person quite soon (this won't go on forever only because that kind of crime will lose it's novelty).


For the average person, the month of revolts two years ago when LA exploded in flames and several other cities had large riots might have been fifty years ago. But this is a symptom of the totalitarian rule of mood - the present moment overwhelms any the memory of yesterday. And it shows in the end that things are really unstable, ready burst apart given the right circumstances.

The past is not remembered but constructed as a part of the present - the image of "the sixties," "the eighties" overwhelms any reliable knowledge most people have of those times.

The total unity of this system is concealed only by it's hiding any possibility of change. Many, many people are angry and desperate in today's America. But relatively few people would describe an entire system as their enemy. We let our confusion be fed back in the form of empty choices.

This shows the strength and weaknesses of the largest urban insurrection of the last twenty years. The LA riots showed that a vast number of people had no loyalty to consumer society and felt fucked over in many ways. But it showed little in the way of a counter power to the power of the state.

We are trying to create new ways of living. But to do this we recognize that almost every way of acting that today says that it is new and different is really an intensification of the old.

This society has brought up a vast sea of possibilities. It heralds new ways of living, communicating, and relating. But it mainly brings up the possibilities to crush us with them. When the vast majority remain spectators, avant guard art, encounter groups, and other explorations remain experiments in ways that capital can advance its domination.

The misery of vanishing possibilities can be seen in our milieu. Informal city dwellers, work resistors, runaways, we could be almost a family. This almost is the pain of modern existence. There is a leakage of trust - each person loses a bit with multiple loyalties and pressures.

How can we think about this life? Things are hurdling along faster than any of the easy explanations can ever describe them. Indeed, you are close to our view if you think that all the easy answers are part of the system that is moving us closer to ruin.

We are neither mindless activists of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) variety nor pure subjectivists of the Vaneigemist variety.

The force that appears must rediscover activity - creative action without compulsion. But in a frozen world not yet shattered, our actions can only be building for a situation that now seems impossible - that is against the logic of now.


We use language as a sword, not a shield. At one point we might talk about "people acting for themselves." But we expect the reader to figure out this means impoverished people creating a new world, not yuppies going shopping. The meaning of each word depends on the context of the article, the magazine and this society. Our words are not axiomatically defined formulas but fluid responses to changing conditions of the social maelstrom. They aim to be accurately chosen blows against the current conditions.

Destroying the democratic spirit means refusing the smallness, the flatness of this world as well as the illusions and manipulations of this world. This society provokes a need for judgment - to evaluate its situation in definitive manner. Absolute certainty of right and wrong is characteristic of those who will greatly. It is the opposite of morality because it says "my good is my good and I do not care if anyone else has it." Great wants, great mistakes, great hungers, and great judgments are what the dispossessed lack as much as food, clothing and shelter.

Certainly, this is a society whose judgment on itself has been read and is subconsciously known by all. From the old socialist movements to the situationists, the path to a different world is known and not taken. Our language and our practice aims to be self-conscious of our existence as process. Social existence is constantly changing, even if in today's world it always returns to the same small area.

The context of each article depends on the historic context of the dispossessed. We aim to create new possibilities but naturally must begin with some of the same old words that capitalism uses to destroy all thought of anything new. This is just as when partisans begin armed with fewer weapons than a regular army.

We can add the entire context of the dispossessed only by cleverly thrusting forward our assumptions. Thus we expect the reader, our ally, to make assumptions with us, to build up an understanding of our new methods from words that start out seeming old.

This is not an axiomatic system that proves that we will succeeded, but neither is our effort a matter of pure rhetoric.

This method is chancy and we must take responsibility for our tactics. Words do not have any meaning we wish but only the meanings we manage to give them. We attack morality but will use good and bad as short-hand for what we want. We attack democracy but do not aim for the common opposite - "dictatorship."

None of the specialized thinking produced by this current system has any universality. All ahistorical thought, from mainstream art, science, and philosophy, to leftism, anarchism, anti-technology thinking, deconstruction or mysticism, is utterly dependent on its unexamined point of origin. It will fade even before dialectics, the thought which knows it depends specifically on the current period of capitalism.

Origins And National Liberation

In this issue we will focus our attack on morality and democracy. This is a strategy against capitalist relations in total.

This magazine has a similar project to Marx and the various communist-influenced thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We more or less accept the "left-communist" program of internationalist struggle against unions, nationalism, the left and parliamentarianism. The left communist approach arose around 1917-37 as capital intensified and perfected these control systems masquerading as autonomous workers' movements.

But the make-up of capitalist society is constantly changing. We are against unionists and Leninists - the old enemies of the working class. But at the moment this sort of enemy of the working class seems to have dissolved into a wider, more modern spectrum of enemies of the working class. The Leninist is just one kind of leftist. The unionist can be a bureaucrat, a specialist, a moralist, a social worker and/or a good democrat depending on how radical a posture he or she takes.

The national liberationist today are the only "classical" enemy that seems to have still have separate power outside that general leftist/bureaucrat mush. The difference now is that national liberation can parade as radical while simultaneous refusing to challenge capital.

"Forging a national identity" is the favorite venture of today's nationalist entrepreneurs. The creation of a new set of common myths is at the center of these wicked schemes. Such an endeavor is both a modern application of capitalism's practical psychology and a call to maintain the hide-bound traditions in a streamlined form. Each new identity stays as rigid as the posture of its self-unaware adherents.

This unity of all gangs has been subjectively visible for year to all who cared to look. The high level of cooperation today comes as capital winds up the pressure one more notch. In today gangland, the production of misery is being infinitely streamlined.