Primitive people fear that photos capture their souls. Western people don't. Photos have long make them believe that their souls did not exist.
I certainly agree with Michael Richardson about "things we are forced to read that should not have been written". Yet, I would like to deepen his analysis of the symptoms in order to show why and how I disagree with the diagnostic he makes.
As an individual, I have taken all steps I thought of in order to avoid most information related nuisances. By carefully not reading newspapers - except scientific or technical magazines and also revolution and surrealism related articles - I personally succeed in getting rid of tons of uninteresting written data while preserving my mental health. Also, as Scutenaire once wrote, "I solve a lot of questions by simply not asking them".
As anyone would guess from the above, I never listen to, read, or watch anything looking like "News". Being fully aware that the entire population around me will repeat and repeat what they have already been told so many times, I long ago came to the conclusion that I would never need any memory effort to keep updated.
People usually do not realize how many times the same ideas, words, sentences and images are "willingly" repeated in this society. It's amazing. Even the most valiant opponents to capitalism can be caught with their mind half asleep, open to any sort of external influence and behaving like parrots. Michael Richardson provides an excellent example of a person of good will, whose mind is half colonized by so said ideas that were neither produced nor checked nor even selected by himself or his close friends.
Yet, I am greatly helped in my personal fight and quest for mental sanity by the holy association computer plus telephone line also named the Internet, that easily allows me to select what information I want to care about, and even to protest against the providers of this information when it is of a weak interest, totally stupid, or more simply erroneous.
It is an experimental fact and an extremely important feature that the Internet - as based like the telephone itself on point to point and double sided connections - allows people to select their information sources and to react whenever they feel it is needed.
As people knowing how to read or even to listen are quickly vanishing from the visible part of this planet, the worst in terms of information pollution is not text of course, but images. And indeed, in spite of all the precautions I listed above, I am still exposed to images on the streets and along the roads - even in the countryside, even in forests - images that my eyes cannot avoid and that are forced into my mind very much like people feed geese in the South West of France to make Foie Gras.
But what are these images and who made them ? The images by which the most important part of the information pollution is hurled into our minds are currently mostly photos, films and videos. Raw computer made images are still very rare - even in commercial ads - and for the time being, they are essentially present in computer games.
Just like the novel remain the major and official form of literature in the current type of society, Realism remains - and by far - the main and official form of Art. The reason for such a situation is that in this society the Spectacle must look real.
Most photos, films and videos are created by artists - computer games as well. A little bit of intellectual honesty should lead people to notice that it is, and it has always been the traditional task of artists to make things appear desirable. And because any Power needs to appear as desirable, at any moment in the History a majority of artists was always found working hard to provide the necessary level of praise required by the Powers (religion, emperors, lords and kings, merchandise and merchants).
From the time of Taliesin the bard, until now, such has always been the fate of most artists and intellectuals. Hardly towards the end of 19th century have limited gangs of artists and intellectuals been granted some sort of freedom, and one may suspect that this little area of autonomy has only been allowed in order to hide what the majority of artists are actually doing.
Here I would like people to stop for a while and to wonder whether they ever saw any consumer buying any device, appliance, commodity, etc... As it gets out from the research and development labs.
Because I spend about 8 hours a day in such a lab, let me say the obvious answer: this never happens. Why ?
Quite simply because in the world of the Merchandise in which the worker is kept more hidden than a Muslim's wife, consumers having no sensitivity for technical beauty would certainly not tolerate such "things" in the middle of their living rooms.
And yet, that is exactly where all these beautiful inventions finally end up prior their final exile into a dark and dusty cabinet.
But artists have this almost magical ability to transform so many technical piece of garbage into beautiful and desirable objects, and they are paid for this purpose.
So artists design desirable objects, artists make the catalogues, the images for the commercials (films videos and photos).
Artists have always been - and still are - the masters of illusion.
And all ruling classes have always been using the power of illusion to the widest possible extent as one of the ways of enforcing and extending their dominion.
But the Bourgeoisie is different in the sense that it essentially lives on it. Every move made by a merchant is a trick and must be a trick since this is the way such people essentially earn their living. But the most basic requirement for a trick is that it must not appear as a trick.
Hence the need to use artists extensively, so that the core part of the business remains hidden. Hence too, the need for Realism, because in a world where everything is essentially artificial and produced by the industry, all must look natural, so that this world clearly appears as the only possible one.
The huge work accomplished by the arts of the image for the promotion of the Merchandise is hence kept hidden, and when things start to appear somwhat wrong, then scientists and technicians are fingered at for being the reason why so many people buy so many questionable and even useless things .
Let's be honest and accept the evidence that the power of images is real and effective since this society essentially relies on it.
But then, by which strange sort of miracle would such a power, be used only for the good? Is such a thought simply reasonable in the type of world we are living? Certainly not. On the opposite, it is precisely because the power of images is real and effective that all forms of Power have always been relying so heavily on it.
One of the most efficient ways to lead people to forget that they are permanently manipulated and tricked by the dark side of Arts is hence to keep the finger pointing at this small part of the artistic activities that is not entirely used and enslaved to praise the Merchandise and its servants. And another quite successful approach is to turn the lights towards scientists and technicians, to show-hide them behind heavy veils of magic and mystery and make them responsible for every single sale made on this planet.
I am sorry, sincerely sorry, but printing, photography, cinema and video are one way only media that have been heavily used in enslaving people's minds and bodies as soon as they were invented. They are the major sources of information pollution, and because they pretend to represent the world, because they are realist, they also are the main power of illusion this world relies on.
The little bit of surrealist use that has been made of photography and cinema never was enough to go against this situation.
Because photography and cinema are one way only in their very essence, they are not only excellent media for all types of propaganda, they are also strong incentives to passivity.
On the opposite, if you stay 5 minutes doing nothing in front of computer screen, I would strongly suspect that you were misled and are stupidly sitting in front of a television set.
Photography and cinema have long proven to have an expansive quality that serves the spirit...of capitalism. Computers may well have been explicitly built for such a purpose, they have an entirely different potential. Users of a computer program are not only expected to react, they are required to react or, unlike a film, the program stops or loops.
This feature may of course be used to enslave the users reactions as well as their perceptions, as some surrealists fear - fear, yes, but without concretely reacting the slightest however.
And yet, if surrealists started to subvert "the computer", they would get far better and far more efficient results than they did with photography and cinema, because they could free the users reactions instead of freeing their perceptions only.
But do the type of surrealists who complain about computers, instead of using them in a surrealist way, still care about results as regards a surrealist revolution?
The fact, that so long after Magritte, there may still be people - and apparently surrealist people as well - who may not be fully aware that "virtual reality" started with the first drawing made on a cave wall, is extremely strange. It is even properly incredible and a strong evidence of how overwhelmingly efficient the bourgeois propaganda can be on all types of minds - surrealist minds included.