Incitement to Self-Defense

By Michel Bounan

Chapter II

Among those who once appeared to refer to situationist critique, two tendencies of very unequal influence are thus pronounced and opposed in this affair. With the exceptions of Guy Debord -- completely negligible to the extent he was the gravedigger of this movement -- and the so-called "radicals" whose priceless extravagances Quaddruppani indicated by splitting his sides laughing and by mopping his brow, a certain unanimity is shown by those to whom the means have been offered to argue their opinions. Beyond several very well-known banalities concerning medicine, biology and language, the best meta-situationist critics agree that the author of the preceding publications especially distinguishes himself through his charlatanism, homophobia and mysticism.

Several pages of The Time of AIDS are devoted to the possible interest of a homeopathic remedy that is assuredly painless and liable to intensify the natural defenses against certain illnesses. This treatment is not proposed to those "sick from AIDS" but to certain, precisely qualified pre-AIDS patients. If the theoretical foundations of such a treatment are somewhat arguable, the experiments intended to verify the interest of it are recognized as insufficient. The rules of very strict hygiene -- little compatible with the current way of life -- are, on the contrary, presented as decisive in this book. And the conclusion of all this is that no treatment can be opposed to this epidemic of immuno-depression, but only the overthrow of the social organization of which it is the sanction.

One knows quite well what a charlatan is: a so-called therapist who exploits the credulity of a public that he scorns by praising the efficacy of illusory remedies, selling such remedies and enriching himself with his mendacious promises. Then perhaps it is not useless to recall to those who have the lack of awareness to publish under their names the preceding calumnies that I have nothing to sell, neither "magic powder" nor A.Z.T., and that the tribunals of the social organization that they serve sometimes severely sanction this type of defamation.

Furthermore, little charlatans are less numerous today than previously, because the development of capitalism has considerably reduced the importance of the old retail trade with the help of very strict regulations. In fact, it has monopolized all the sources of enrichment in better concentrated networks -- apparently without excluding medical charlatanism. Nevertheless, voices are beginning to be raised -- and appeal to tribunals -- so as to denounce medical charlatanism at the highest levels, that is, pharmaceutical trusts and the States (falsified experiments, mendacious promises, insufficient precautions, notorious enrichment, and even complicity), with respect to vaccinations, chemotherapies, blood transfusions, organ transplants and AIDS. Thus, according to Professor Duesberg, the discoverer of the retrovirus, the administration of A.Z.T. to AIDS patients, which is "not only useless, but fatal," depends upon the purest medical charlatanism. Likewise, the politico-scientific people in charge of the French monopoly on blood transfusions have recently been caught in the act of an even more dangerous medical charlatanism and have sacrificed as quickly as possible a few of their employees so as to protect the business as a whole. And this criminal charlatanism of great scope has its source -- none can be unaware of it -- in the considerable profits that can be made, as in any charlatanism of more mediocre scope.

Obviously, those who have read The Time of AIDS know that the book is principally a denunciation of medical charlatanism; of its theoretical pseudo-foundations; of the scorn that it shows the sick, who are considered to be mechanisms; of the illusions that it entertains; of the dangers that it stirs up; and of the financial interests that it nourishes. Those who have spoken in this context of "charlatanism" cannot only be considered imbecilic simpletons. Their procedure is quite of their times, of their world, and of their party. And, until the end of market time, the same questions must be publicly posed to the servants of the crafty State: "Who speaks of what? In the name of whom?"

The so-called homophobia of The Time of AIDS obviously depends upon the same procedure. It was not so long ago that homosexuals were led to the slaughterhouse by the people in charge of a modern State that was in the midst of a pitiless social war. This sentence was pronounced in the name of a criminal code founded upon genetics -- of which the scientific experts and the authorized university professors of the era were the guarantors. Having judged degenerate all those whose behaviors, emotions and consciousnesses turned away from the model then demanded by the German economy in difficulty: the Jews and Gypsies, the psychopaths and homosexuals, those outside the law of the market. With its habitual historical opportuneness, official science thus approved the model of the monogamous and prolific, hard-working and sober German family, fanatically submitted to the law of the State.

Other scientists and experts, all selected and remunerated by the State, came to proclaim that the homosexuals, drug addicts and violent individuals would be "genetically programmed." In sum, one would be "homosexual in the same way that one has blue eyes" or delinquent in the same way that one has curly hair. This scientific finding currently remains independent of all value-judgment: today, what would the homosexuals, drug addicts and "asocial people" have to fear about the privileged financing of such research? Who could be worried that such costly investments will not remain unproductive?

Contrary to these painless scientific rediscoveries, The Time of AIDS exposed -- in detestable fashion -- that the emotions and the desires, the manners of thought and behavior, the professional and familial structures of an epoch are principally tied to the general social organization that produced or induced them. Thus, the question of the so-called bourgeois family and the sexual perversions, their old and often noted complicity, is sufficiently explained by their common origin. Is this not a condemnation of the sexual perversions and an apology for the "bourgeois" family?

The media-police organizations that promote "family values" and "moral rectification" have no doubt judged things otherwise, because they have hardly utilized such dangerous arguments. And the reason for this is obvious: a society as notoriously democratic as ours cannot publicly avow itself to be judge and jury; it can only neutralize its adversaries (or, in extreme cases, destroy them) by hiding the fact that they are the negative that it unavoidably produces against itself. The so-called genetic determination of homosexuality currently participates, and without any equivocation, in such a praiseworthy enterprise.

So as to now have done with the preceding calumnies, what do these swine want to say about mysticism or religion?

"The mystic," Feuerbach wrote, "speculates on the essence of nature and man, by imagining he speculates on another essence, personified, different from the two others" (The Essence of Christianity). And Marx: "Religion is only the illusory sun that turns around man, in so far as man does not turn around himself" (Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right). Certainly no one can claim to have been a Marxist once and be unfamiliar with what mysticism is from the perspective of this critique. And one must still remark that none of the innumerable contemporary religious sects have risked the favorable evocation of any text that I have published. They have had excellent reasons: all the idolaters have, without pleasure, recognized that The Time of AIDS is a radical critique of their religion; that it claims, inversely, to reduce all the idols and their historical avatars to the living subject itself, to its sole movements in the historical circumstances that it ceaselessly recreates and that animate it in return; in sum, to make man turn "around himself."

The forms of the various religions, the speculations on an essence of the world outside of mankind, are excessively plastic: they are tied to the general form of the society in question, the image of which they make divine; they proclaim the durability of that general form. Thus, the old trinitarian form, called "Catholic," was originally that of European feudalism, while other forms -- in the same epoch -- were used to represent and protect the different socio-economic organizations in Africa and Asia. As for market civilization, after a phase of conquest that it declared to be for [the glory of] the Reformed Church, the Supreme Being and then Nature personified, market civilization discovered -- and imposed on the entire universe -- its real religion, founded on what Marx called "the fetishism of the commodity," the idolatry of "exchange value."

In the purely market view of things, any object takes on a foreign value, independent of the living desires of the seller. And the world likewise discovers it has a bizarre meaning, independent of the passions of the observer and even independent of his consciousness. This "other essence" of the world presents itself under a purely objective aspect, divisible into similar unities, measurable: that of a hundred-weight of potatoes or a stock of books, a representative sample of consumers or a social class, a molecular mass or a bit of human brains. And, through this properly metaphysical apparatus, these perceptions of the world and of oneself are imposed by the market view like an irrefutable truth and the absolute principle of all knowledge.

The science elaborated for several centuries in Europe and now universally recognized as canonical unquestionably rests upon such foundations: this is, nevertheless, only a religion, an illusory sun that only turns around mankind in so far as it does not turn around itself.

Metaphysical views form and ripen in life practices that require them, in social structures in which such practices are the very conditions of survival. Thus, the market view is not only that of the banker or the receiver of stolen goods; it is also that of the salaried worker, the researcher employed as a temp who pays his rent and vacations as part of a club, the student who invests in his work and increases his own exchange-value by several "units of value."

Contemporary universal science-idolatry results from a consciousness of self and of the world that is forged by a market life-practice from which one can only escape with difficulty when the economic system is still functioning. Nevertheless, it is an historical avatar of this protean idolatry that has always served to legitimate perishable social organizations, to credit them with a kind of eternity. Contemporary scientific experts and scholars are priests, become quite unworthy. They are the ones who rediscover the congenital bases of homosexuality, social aggressivity and drug addiction, and who guarantee the efficacy of A.Z.T. and B.C.G. [Bacille de Calmette et Guerin]. Contemporary science is indeed the miracle that permits all the others. Its foundations are sacred.

Nevertheless, over the course of the last half-century, scientific research has been sunk in several slightly improper affairs, in Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Seveso, etc; sales of indulgences; and quite obvious complicity in diverse social conflicts. Thus, today, some of its priests desire to free it from its filthy allegiances, from its ignoble vassalage. Isn't it above parties and social conflicts? But if -- do not appeal to God -- the market system can no longer maintain itself as it is, it will be the very principles of this science that are recognized as fundamentally improper. And all of this grandiose construction will collapse along with the civilization of which it is the religion.

Here it is not only a question of what one calls the natural sciences, but also the so-called "human" and "social" sciences as well. Thus the theories of historical development -- not intimately lived in a conscious practice of life, but lived as eternal laws, foreign to itself and contemplated as such -- are pure products of this very religion: the "class struggle" is only a reactionary dogma as long as it is not lived by the living subject of which it is the unique principle and the proof.

Theologians often act haughty and disgusted when faced with vulgar beliefs, and the pretty daughter of the squire has no place in the community of saints. Likewise, the stories about extraterrestrials are unworthy of the conquest of space, and the representations of the atom must not be confused with images from science-fiction.[1] But as the degraded forms of religion are popular expressions, they correspond to more miserable ways of life. Nevertheless, both are merely different manifestations of the same mystique, accomplices of the same civilization. Contemporary science is inseparably tied to the spectacle, as the spectacle is tied to the commodity, which, for some time now, is the real center of the world.

Today, the critique of science-idolatry is the preliminary to all social critique. But the necessary critique of religion is now diverted -- like social critique itself -- towards the out-of-date forms that allow its neutralization, and moreover it is not useless to maintain this effect as a contemptible alternative. The critique of a mummified form even reinforces the contemporary religion that participates in this critique, as in past times the Biblical denunciation of idolatry served a quite real and venomous idolatry; as more recently the Stalinist denunciation of capitalism served to protect its real form in the Stalinist empire.

Were not the Hungarian insurgents of 1956 dealt with by Moscow's bureaucrats as "the tools of Wall Street"? Why shouldn't the contemporary idolaters accuse of mysticism the denouncers of their own folly?


The calumnies concerning homophobia, charlatanism and mysticism hurled at The Time of AIDS -- diffused by people who propagate the theories of "congenital homosexuality," who incite AIDS patients to have recourse to A.Z.T., "not only useless, but fatal," and who proclaim their faith in the commodity-ideology of science-idolatry and who expect from it a miracle that would save them in extremis from the next scourge -- have all been fashioned according to the same model.

But the question arises: among so many possible calumnies, why choose these? Because, finally -- following the same procedure -- one would have to accuse me of being a racist or a misogynist, a pedophile or a secret agent from the narcotics squad. Why have me prefer this bad reputation[2] among so many others that one could make for me?

The response seems obvious. The Time of AIDS is principally addressed to three categories of readers: to AIDS patients and their circles; to the homosexuals who were then on the firing line of the hecatomb epidemic; and to all those who submit to the conditions of modern servitude in its most terrifying aspects and who strive to grasp the source and coherence through a social critique elaborated for 150 years. These were the readers whom it was fitting to discourage. The accusations of charlatanism, homophobia and mysticism were forged for the sake of the sick, the homosexuals and the unsubjugated, respectively. These were perfectly targeted calumnies and made in an unquestionably strategic operation. Those who inspired, organized and diffused it through the "ad hoc networks" work for the same shop.

In 1864, Maurice Joly exposed how a modern State has the means to create its own oppositional groups concerning precise questions, to attract malcontents to them, to direct violence at inefficacious actions or even actions useful to the maintenance of order. The Stalinist propaganda services have more recently shown how -- by proclaiming oneself to be partisans of an old and fossilized social critique -- one can dress oneself in a kind of contestatory legitimacy and work to occult, falsify and calumny any new social critique that is really useful in the most modern conditions. In conformity with this well-proven tactic, the operation against The Time of AIDS has been conducted under the anarcho-situationist label, with the complicity of former members of the Situationist International: it doesn't matter who is merely a coarse beast and who has long been suspected of being a simple "disinformer."[3] The "unbelievable faults" of the founder and gravedigger of the SI have nevertheless ended up in a situation where few former situationists have been found usable for this role and where it has been necessary to invent a great many others, almost 30 years later.

One last question: why has the content of The Time of AIDS and that of the texts that followed it appeared so untimely and so unfortunate that such an operation had to be conducted? Today, writings, proclamations and claims are made and published, the tone of which is much more choleric and more insulting to the established order than mine. Actions are conducted by commandos of AIDS patients, "angry queers," the badly housed, the recently sub-proletarianized. Homosexuals are invited to take power, the entire medical establishment is presented as a conspiracy of assassins and AIDS patients hurl an ultimatum at the President of the Republic that he immediately stop the epidemic that is carrying them off. And all this is widely reported, encouraged and applauded by the very people who have affixed their signatures to the preceding defamatory proclamations. How have I merited the honor that is today conferred by such a bad reputation?

It is the knowledge of the current stakes that permits a response to such a question and, inversely, these stakes are made precise in the light of the preceding calumnies. Such is the risk of these kinds of aggression: if those who make them miss their mark, they reveal their own positions, the quality of their instruments and sometimes even the color of their uniforms.

[1] English in original.

[2] "Cette Mauvaise Reputation" is the title of a book by Guy Debord (1993) in which he reproduces and responds to particularly "disinforming" articles about his later writings.

[3] The reference here would appear to be the conclusions that Guy Debord reached concerning Serge Quadruppani and/or Donald Nicholson-Smith. For Nicholson-Smith, see Debord's letters to Gerard Lebovici dated 27 May 1979 and 11 July 1979.

(New revised edition, published by Editions Allia, 2005. First edition published in 1995. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! November 2007. All footnotes by the author.)

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