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There is nothing new when someone affirms that the nihilistic tyranny of the spectacle can be faced and fought by “talking big and telling tall stories,” i.e. by raising a whirl of fibs and lies “till a communication short-circuit dissipates the virtual world and the real one will settle again” (Paul Virilio). In fact, a radical criticism of the world order, and even the right to criticize, was an achievement of the “plagiarist” pirates of the past centuries, i.e. by rascals, buffoons and court jesters.
The social conflict of the Middle Ages was similar to that of the present day: the language of the powers that be (that is the language as Law, State and Identity) was objected, perverted and subverted by the words of the detournement, by parody and the plagiarism, by a 'resistance through lies' which was used to keep the language in motion as well as to frustrate all authoritarian codification. Tramps, tumblers and criminals deviated from the “straight path” of the high poem of chivalry in order to practice such minor literary genres as satire, coarse songs and blasphemous prayers, preserving the linguistic cross-fertilisation. Thanks to them, the dialect of each class, rank or profession might cross and modify one another. The XVIth century novel “Gargantua et Pantagruel” by François Rabelais owed to this practice of the “merry prank” its radicalism and its subversive change, which consists of “breaking all hierarchical false links between ideals and things by destroying any ideological partition between them” (M. Bakhtin).
In plain words, it was necessary to free every thing and let them naturally link up each other, however strange this might seem in the light of Tradition and customary connections. It was necessary to enable things to come into contact one another with all their concreteness and variety, in order to reapproach what had been fallaciously divided and redivide what had been fallaciously approached. It was a question of “a radical scepticism about direct speaking and its seriousness, a scepticism which went so far as to negate any possibility that direct speaking couldn't be false” (M. Bakhtin). Rabelais, Villon and their anonymous predecessors did not put their feet down trying to state Truth in a world of lies: quite the contrary, they worked to “circumvent” any official truth and dismember it from the inside by carrying its logic to paradox.
Today, on this analogy, it's question of preventing the writing of an informal constitution which submits the general intellect to a system based on exploitation and ecocide. The struggle is still against the language of the powers that be, in order to create by merry pranks new links between things (i.e. networking) and break any old hierarchy.
As Rabelais emphasized in his works that the Middle Ages was over and that new social relations were beating up the inertial force of the feudal world, so we have to point out that wagework has become unnecessary, that information and technology must belong to everybody, and so on.
However, it is insufficient to wait for a 'short-circuit' or to hope for cathartic explosions: rather, we must create a scientiphic strategy of the merry prank. In the mid-eighties cyberpunk propagated an interesting metaphor, according to which information is a bank that we have to force open in the name of a free admittance to the data, challenging their secrecy. That was correct, yet the 1989 Amsterdam ICATA (an international conference on the alternative use of technology) had also stated that “any information is in the meantime deformation, the right of the former is inseparable from that of the latter, which belongs to the whole world… We should subvert the conventional channels by means of detournements and surrealistic changes of the events in order to raise chaos, rumours and waste which in their turn shall be regarded as carriers of information.”
This provocative use of the term 'right' had to cause a breakdown in the liberal phraseology, as though we used the term 'non-statal public sphere.' Actually, those who decided to follow that statement opened breaches in the liberal-democratici horizon which had limited any discussion on 'infoglasnost' and the cybermedia up to that time. Those XIXth century rascals and buffoons weren't interested in the myth of a “new new frontier:” rather, they decided to deal with rumours, noises and interferences, just standing in the dark shadows which the information outgrowth couldn't help throwing on the capitalist society, i.e. the symptoms of a psychochemical illness. The morals of those who ride the waves of the digital ocean are necessarily provisional. Especially in Italy, some called all this 'Transmaniacality' (see the 1979 John Shirley S-F novel “Transmaniacon”). In the depths of the informal 'network of events' which these teams of mind invaders are setting up, one of the most interesting practices of merry prank is the so-called MULTIPLE NAME, a technique particularly improved by the NEOISTS. An important multiple name was KAREN ELIOT.
The Luther Blissett Project has been launched in the Summer '94 by an international gang of revolutionaries, mail artists, poets, performers, underground 'zines, cybernauts and squatters. A multiple name, if it was used outside small circles of radicals, would be a practical solution of problems such as the relation between community and individual, or the quest for identity. All the debates on the necessity of a 'Nomadology' and all idle talk on 'situations' are superseded by this concept. Luther Blissett is a -dividual, because the character has many personalities and reputations; Luther Blissett is also a con-dividual, because many individuals share the name; Luther Blissett is a multitude as well as a 'decentralized subject,' a project aiming to what Karl Marx called 'Gemeinwesen' (i.e. the common essence of the Wo/Mankind, the awareness of the global community).
Luther Blissett is not an (anti)artist like KAREN ELIOT: s/he's a cultural terrorist who supports the religious programme of the NEOIST ALLIANCE. Sabotages, hoaxes, urban legends, performances, magazines, bulletin boards and TV or radio broadcasts are spreading the name all over the world. Especially in Italy, this merry prank is reaching new heights of subversion and mythopoiesis.