July 2002
volume 1, issue 1


Death of the Author, 2 (continued | 1, 2)

Text means Tissue; but whereas hitherto we have always taken this tissue as a product, a ready-made veil behind which lies, more or less hidden, meaning (truth), we are now emphasising, in this tissue, the generative idea that the text is made, is worked out in a perpetual interweaving; lost in this tissue-this texture-the subject unmakes himself, like a spider dissolving in the constructive secretions of (her) web.

- Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text

®TMark, in their quest against corporate imperialism, are terrorists. One difference from classic terrorism is in ®TMark’s only (and very adamant) requirement: that all acts are non-violent. However, if we loosen the meaning of violence, ®TMark, in infringing upon the legal terms that many corporations consider their right, and names they consider their property, had committed crimes against freedom of will and property, according to their victims. In addition, not only is the name regarded as property, but it is also regarded as identity. What are the means of bodily harm available for use against the incorporated entity? One would certainly be to strike at the source of their identity, while also stripping them of their means of retaliation.

Generally, classic terrorism is an act of violence against innocent members of a select group identity deliberately designed for shock value. It exists to voice (thus resist) unbearable oppressions experienced by the terrorist members and those they perceive as the (ethnic, national, cultural) group for whom they are speaking. The emphasis is on awareness, media coverage, and global recognition through high symbolism. With shock value (with media) there comes a high premium on novelty, aided by the fact that many acts of terrorism are crafted with only the most lowbrow means. In ®TMark’s case, dot-com skills and media-spin supplied this novelty factor — they used the tools of corporate culture against its point of origin.

In the terrorist act, we see a body not as individual, but a body that hopes to be seen as nation. He did not kill the civilian to get a dollar for a meal, he killed the citizen for a nation of millions starving. The body, and the identity-laden name trailing at its heels, has been requested to disappear. Eventually, this is all war. But there is a way in which every act of terrorism is built upon a seed on confusion. For in every terrorism’s implicit or explicit dependence upon media, there is little accounted for the nature of contemporary media, that capricious but most self-aware of meaning makers. These acts tend to get mangled in media’s hands. Deliberate high-density meaning, so important to the act, is always displaced.

For media is incapable of processing collective identities or clarifying the play of symbols. It tends to seek within the terrorist act identifiable faces and names — no matter how relevant or real the link. So while the act may have been meant to bring awareness to a structural condition involving complex histories and innumerable peoples, media reduces it to the psychodrama of a select number of individuals. The rest fall aside. This may, however, be a dynamic implicit in war itself — and the locus of its paradox. For amidst a collective army who stands involved in highly coded advances and collateral damage counts, there are also the individual deaths which are of a wholly different type of reality, one which is intimately lived. Media attempts to approximate this, as the personal is the frequency along which we all live, thus what we understand best, but in this it loses a clear picture of the large-scale movements of a militarized, global economy. Or, worse, media’s handful of human faces are used to obfuscate that reality, to divorce its symptoms (poverty, disease, nations of refugees) from causality.

>Media’s merchandise is the persona — individuated identities with biography. This is also partly due to media’s format — the news bite — which is incapable of processing anything more than individual names and faces. A public accustomed to this format - and thus incapable of grasping long or complicated strings of information - is also at fault, in a chicken-and-egg play with media’s ADD. But this also has much to do with its role as a form of entertainment. For one of the peculiarities of our postindustrial world is that it retains a desire for the individuated. In all our forms of entertainment, select names and faces ameliorate a sense of self as anonymous unit shuffled about by unnamable and incomprehensible forces. This is a reactive release for a globalized, telecommunicatory world, organized by those long strings of data, produced by massive amounts of strangers. So, if the author is dead, the thirst for identifiable protagonists lives on.

Now, if anything, ®TMark does understand how media works — or do they? As I speak, they have receded from public view. Large-scale media coverage has all but dissipated since mid-2001, and even then it’s been waning since 2000. This could be due to the short attention span of media, and ®TMark’s inability to sustain the first proviso of coverage: novelty. It may also have something to do with the final deflation of computer fascination with the net-bust, as well as the events of fall 2001 onwards, which were accompanied by a certain amount of media tunnel vision and a temporary drop in tolerance for stories of deadpan transgression (we saw some real terrorism, after all).

However, it may also have to do with their position of anonymity. In order to be newsworthy, one must possess a face. This is the rule for Hollywood, and this is why the exploits of corporations are often invisible. For a long time, ®TMark piggybacked on the faces of their targets. ®TMark’s most widely received acts were those in which there was a famous persona anchoring the whole - Bush, Beck, and Barbie. Regarding media, fame begets fame, but what does not beget fame is anonymity. Their more recent projects seem to be veering towards more shadowy targets — WTO, money for votes (Voteaction.com — fairly successful, but low in ®TMark recognition), G8. To shift focus to more abstract entities, while entirely honorable, is to situate themselves in a different way to media. For these targets, as crucial as they are to real power, do not possess the glitter of a name.

Perhaps in the quest for worthy opponents, ®TMark has encountered its Achilles heel. For as one climbs deeper into the dark tracts of power, one finds entities of higher abstraction — acronymated post-legal nebula, which most people still do not understand, or know exist due to the lack of a public persona. To battle faceless entities as faceless entity is something that others are good at — the ACLU is one — those who possess a commitment to working on a political front with much effort shadowed behind stage wings. If ®TMark has chosen this path, it loses its most basic component - and perhaps what it was truly best at. To develop a situation of scrutiny, one must possess the means for disseminating vision. Media, at the center of any consideration of vision and truth production, always demands that it be romanced on its own terms. And without the appeal of names, ®TMark may suffer the death of the true political activist — media blackout.

< previous | 1 | 2