The Baltic Notebooks of Anthony Blunt
Cher Monsieur Godard,
I agree that the culture of Lithuania, like all the cultures of former Eastern Europe, is one of travesty. Nevertheless, allow me to dispute this. It is not because of a lack of identity or the constantly changing nature of it which has become identity itself. Not because, as the locals complain, “here history is always late,” because “we are tortured by the complex of a wrong clock,” for which, always, the clock is blamed. You ask why “we” don’t just throw away the clock. It’s because we still want to arrive at the date “on time”, I guess. To a date with the past or the future, you ask. But “the future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed,” and has the past already come, even though it is unevenly remembered?[*]
Quotes by William Gibson may be found here
But isn’t time in our latitude (if latitudes still exist in the world ghetto) just a constantly turning Rubik’s Cube, isn’t time a labyrinth? The inventor of Rubik’s Cube is another former Eastern European, after all.
So you want to talk about the television, ah? And you ask what my first relationship to it is?
I remember that late evening my mother returned, not on her own but with an “uncle” dressed in overalls. I had always liked “uncles,” but this one seemed exhausted and gave me no attention. This “uncle” wasn’t just different he had brought a giant “box,” from which nice “aunts” soon started speaking — television presenters. From then on, television became my nanny, and mother did not have to introduce me to her new friends anymore.
Tele-box or tele-barrel? Diogenes chose a barrel; one which has recently become the prototype TV studio or TV box. Diogenes is the first hero of the reality show; he is a pre-TV reality proto-show star that like a true star ignored the star system. Was Diogenes also the first TV presenter? Do they exist in reality shows? Could this be the reason why they were also absent in CAC TV? Don’t the replies of Diogenes remind one of the best examples of television talk-shows? Shouldn’t the MTV and Jackass generations be grateful to Diogenes for the phenomenon of cool. Didn’t Beavis and Butthead light the detonating fuse on the barrel of gunpowder that Diogenes had loaded? “Fire, fire, fire” is also one of the favourite phrases of Beavis.
It is a paradox that probably the most apolitical philosopher of all time, Diogenes was constantly at the centre of public life. A barrel, though not necessarily the one Diogenes lived in, has two ends. A barrel has become the Big Brother “Aquarium”. When, during one of the first reality shows, an American family was put into this barrel (“American family”), its members became Diogenes and the family, naturally, fell out through the other end of the barrel.
Soviet television was not man’s best friend. In the period of late communism, soviet propagandistic media was the most difficult thing for technologically obsolete USSR television to produce, so it bore more semblance to a potpourri of paradoxes, than to the previously linearly consistent megaphone of totalitarianism. On the screen of the same TV you could see everything: the dogmatic plenary sessions of the Communist Party Central Committee, a world football championship based on the principles of the united proletariat, films from the Second World War and erotic melodramatic frontiers, persuasive speeches by Gorbachev and bewitching sessions of Kashpirovsky, during which half of the country was laughing against its will, while the other half slept. By the time the national television station broadcast the Bolshoi theatre performances of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake several years later, during the soviet Junta of 1991; those halves had probably changed places. At that time tanks were passing just outside the window. Half a year earlier the same tanks had taken over the Vilnius TV tower, which visually resembled the syringes of propaganda that had punctured the map of the USSR almost as far as Afghanistan, or perhaps even further.
“With full responsibility I can state: I saw the behaviour of the soldiers under the effect of some psychotropic substances. Their eyes were watery, they were constantly asking for something to drink, they were constantly going to the toilet to get water, and each young guy drank at least a jug of water,” one witnesses of the Vilnius TV tower drama recalled[*]
Vytautas Markevičius, “Neneigsiu, verkė ir vyrai” (EN: “I Won’t Deny, Men Also Cried”),$9359_26002$z_332878, 2006 01 13 12:16:27
To misquote a popular statement by Karl Marx, “television and other mass media are the opium of the masses”. In those times this opium overflowed from the rim of the TV tower saucer. This saucer was, and is, an actual restaurant, one which turns on the axis of the syringe. Even now this restaurant is one of the cheesiest in town. The soviet propaganda system is not the only system in which stimulants and simulations are an inevitable constituent in the transformation of crowds, nations, subcultures or classes, to use the jargon of those times. Ideological apparatuses always ensure the perfect operation of the system; Prozac, direct broadcasts from the Parliament, CCTV camera images on the Internet, soap operas, national MTV, sports championships calm us down and make us obedient on both sides of the screen and TV towers.
The question “since when must one use military terms while talking about reality and entertainment industry?” is not the most important one. The information war is also a psychotropic war, information is a digital retrovirus, which is transmitted non-sexually, but is no less dangerous for that — because we are all entangled in information nets. If a beautiful girl and a gun make a good movie, what makes a good TV program? Diogenes and a remote control?