Of the Stranger
The Times Change Debord

There was agitation, last week, in the hallways of the ICA (the Institute of Contemporary Arts, more or less the London equivalent of Beaubourg, except for the museum . . .), which is presenting a retrospective of situationist activities. An article in the Times,[1] about a half-page long and signed by a certain Andrian Dannatt, concluded as follows: ". . . Guy Debord, the philosopher and revolutionary intellectual hero, was, in the last few months, portrayed in a completely new light. Last month, a long article in The Village Voice revealed that Debord had been recruited by the CIA in the first years of the SI, and received regular payments at its Parisian offices. This long-dissimulated information was only dug up by accident, in the course of laborious searches through the documents of American central intelligence recently opened to the public. . . ."

Not by chance, there was at the ICA an ex-situationist[2] and a collaborator on The Village Voice,[3] who knew what they could not abide. Busted by Greil Marcus, from The Village Voice, furthermore the author of a book about the rebels (from the Gnostics to the Sex Pistols, passing through Dada and the situationists),[4] the journalist from the Times went flat and immediately confessed to whomever wanted to listen to him that he had invented it all, from the first to the last line. "Adrian Dannatt," Marcus wrote us, "has informed me by telephone that this assertion concerning Debord and The Village Voice was fabricated, 'imaginary, a joke.'" And he added that he hopes that someone sues the Times. Moreover, Marcus concluded, "I can attest that The Village Voice has never published such a claim."

At The Village Voice in New York, Scott Samuelson confirmed that he had never read in his weekly an article that spoke of links between Debord and the CIA. The Village Voice furthermore reserves the right to protest against the abuse of its name. It remains to be seen how this allegation (against a man who had already more than his share of defamation)[5] was published on the front page of the very serious Times of London.

We have contacted the editorial staff of the London newspaper, which has refused to give us more information on the sources of its contributor. One explained to us, in a dry tone, that we could not obtain the telephone number at which one could reach him. We can only write to him. Does the venerable daily share Dannatt's conceptions, according to which a good journalistic "scoop"[6] is a "scoop" that causes a sensation, whether it is true or false?

In England, where even more than here the boundary between the "gutter press"[7] (the cesspool press that recounts anything at all) and to so-called "respectable" press is clearly traced, the Times -- although part of the [Rupert] Murdoch empire -- still enjoys a good reputation that is almost as old as the crown jewels. But what? But has the time come in which a gentleman no longer dares to pose with it and his umbrella?

M.B. and E.W.
Liberation, 29 June 1989

Curtain for the Thinkers!

Among the flood of prudent, uncertain commentaries, all in half-tones, concerning Eastern Europe, finally there are clear, frank, audacious analyses! They come to us from the "International Assizes of Disinformation," which unfolded under the chairmanship of Jacques Medecin[8] (all one program!). Understand the informative review of Le Quotidien (14 November) of the recent events in Berlin: they are part of the "new methods of seduction of the Communist countries."

With respect to the society of the spectacle, the philosopher Jean-Marie Benoist opens a breach in the wall of certitudes: "Gorbachev verifies the analyses of Guy Debord." For Alexandre Zinoviev,[9] the opening of the East German border is a rude blow: "No doubt it will be necessary in the end to limit immigration to the West and it is not unimaginable that the West will re-establish an iron curtain" (Le Quotidien, 14 November).

Hit your head against the Wall!

Le Canard enchaine, 15 November 1989

[1] "Sometimes a Great Notion?" The Times of London, 21 June 1989.

[2] Michele Bernstein, a co-founder of the Situationist International and Guy Debord's ex-wife.

[3] Greil Marcus.

[4] Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century (Harvard University Press, 1989).

[5] Journalists employed by Liberation have no right to complain about or lament the defamation of Debord's character and reputation by the French Press. In 1984, Liberation was in fact one of the newspapers that Debord sued -- and won judgments against -- for defamation in the wake of unfounded accusations and insinuations that he was somehow involved in the assassination of his friend and publisher, Gerard Lebovici. See Debord's letter to his attorney, Thierry Levy, dated 30 March 1984 and 19 September 1984.

[6] English in original.

[7] English in original.

[8] A Gaullist politician (1928-1998) who was mayor of Nice.

[9] A Soviet dissident and caricaturist (1922-2006).

(Published in Jean-Francois Martos, Correspondance avec Guy Debord, Le fin mot de l'Histoire, August 1998. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! July 2007. Footnotes by the translator.)

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