So, I want to make it clear that I am not criticizing this person or their comment. But I didn’t know how to respond to it without just writing a whole post about it because this is stuff that I think about every waking second of every day.
So here goes. I got the following comment on my “You Don’t Scare Me” video, which I’ll put at the bottom of this post in case you haven’t seen it for some reason.
There’s a lot to this comment, and it’s nothing I haven’t heard before – I was advised not to post this video by several people with similar concerns, and I didn’t even ask my family for their input before posting because, well… there are obvious concerns to be had because, yeah, it’s possible that this video will invite more unwanted attention, but here’s… okay, there are a few things to say, here, actually.
I’m working on a video about this book, written by Guy Debord & published in 1967. The Kindle translation I have isn’t as good as the Audible translation, so I was going to type up some quotes/notes on the Audible version so I can compare the two more easily, since comparing two translations is often a lot more, uh, elucidating. I couldn’t think of a word that sounded less pretentious. Anyway. I figured, why not share it with you? So.
Okay. That’s enough for now, because that’s where things start getting more complicated. This is a good place to start, because there’s already quite a bit to unpack. I had a professor once who had us rephrase philosophy passages in the simplest terms possible to help us understand them better, which I always found really helpful, so here’s my attempt with these ones:
The media is at the center of modern life. Instead of living life for ourselves, we watch movies and TV shows about life.
The Spectacle (media/movies/TV/books/etc) chips off a piece of many different ways/aspects of real life and presents itself as the real thing. This new homogenized reality turns us into passive viewers of the version of life it presents to us.
The second two sentences here are tricky, I’m not quite sure but I’ll give it a shot..
These representations of life take on a life of their own… and begin to believe in their own validity.
The spectacle prioritizes the general over the individual, which turns individuals into zombies whose real lives are lived in service of the spectacle, which is imaginary.
It’s kind of hard because I feel like you could write a book just about what he means by “the spectacle” exactly, but imagine, like, corporations where the real people sacrifice their actual lives to this bigger idea of the corporation that doesn’t actually exist, and so the corporation, which isn’t alive, takes on a life of its own by siphoning life from the living people who compose it.
The spectacle (for simplification purposes, let’s just say the media) – presents itself as both a part of society and all there is of society – as the means by which the different veins of social life become unified. But because it isn’t really society, but rather a sort of fun-house mirror that allows society to watch itself, the unification it purports to create is a lie.
The spectacle isn’t just the amalgamation of all media (it isn’t a list of all the shows on Netflix and Hulu, all the videos on YouTube, etc., it’s the means by which those things mediate our relationships to each other on both the individual and the collective levels.
So this is kind of going to be the cornerstone, I think, for me, in thinking about the philosophy of the media, and I hope you can kind of see why. Because what’s completely bananas, is this dude wrote all of this before the internet even existed. Social media wasn’t even a thing – he was JUST talking about, like, cable news and sitcoms at the time.