Tag Archives: Mass media

In the Library: … La Société du spectacle“ a Book by Debord

Some of the information below is from wiki the other is from a website solely devoted to Debord’s book La Société du Spectacle

La Société du Spectacle (Society of the Spectacle) is a black and white 1973 film by the Situationist Guy Debord based on his 1967 book of the same name. It was Debord’s first feature-length film. It uses found footage and detournement in a radical criticism of mass marketing and its role in the alienation of modern society.

With the term spectacle, Debord defines the system that is a confluence of advanced capitalism, the mass media, and the types of governments who favor those phenomena: “the spectacle, taken in the limited sense of ‘mass media’ which are its most glaring superficial manifestation”.[4] The spectacle is the inverted image of society in which relations between commodities have supplanted relations between people, in which “passive identification with the spectacle supplants genuine activity”.

“The spectacle is not a collection of images,” Debord writes, “rather; it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images.”

Degradation of human life

Debord traces the development of a modern society in which authentic social life has been replaced with its representation: “All that was once directly lived has become mere representation.”[1] Debord argues that the history of social life can be understood as “the decline of being into having, and having into merely appearing.”[2] This condition, according to Debord, is the “historical moment at which the commodity completes its colonization of social life.”[3]

In his analysis of the spectacular society, Debord notes that quality of life is impoverished,[6] with such lack of authenticity, human perceptions are affected, and there’s also a degradation of knowledge, with the hindering of critical thought.[7] Debord analyzes the use of knowledge to assuage reality: the spectacle obfuscates the past, imploding it with the future into an undifferentiated mass, a type of never-ending present; in this way the spectacle prevents individuals from realizing that the society of spectacle is only a moment in history, one that can be overturned through revolution.[8][9]

Debord’s aim and proposal is “to wake up the spectator who has been drugged by spectacular images,” “through radical action in the form of the construction of situations,” “situations that bring a revolutionary reordering of life, politics, and art”. In the situationist view, situations are actively created moments characterized by “a sense of self-consciousness of existence within a particular environment or ambience”.[10]

Debord encouraged the use of détournement, “which involves using spectacular images and language to disrupt the flow of the spectacle.”

Mass media and commodity fetishism

The Society of the Spectacle is a critique of contemporary consumer culture and commodity fetishism. Before the term “globalization” was popularized, Debord was arguing about issues such as class alienation, cultural homogenization, and the mass media.

When Debord says that “All that was once directly lived has become mere representation,” he is referring to the central importance of the image in contemporary society. Images, Debord says, have supplanted genuine human interaction.[1]

Thus, Debord’s fourth thesis is: “The spectacle is not a collection of images; rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images.”[11]

In a consumer society, social life is not about living, but about having; the spectacle uses the image to convey what people need and must have. Consequently, social life moves further, leaving a state of “having” and proceeding into a state of “appearing”; namely the appearance of the image.[12]

“In a world which really is topsy-turvy, the true is a moment of the false.”[13]

 Comparison between religion and marketing

Debord also draws an equivalence between the role of mass media marketing in the present and the role of religions in the past.[14][15] The spread of commodity-images by the mass media, produces “waves of enthusiasm for a given product” resulting in “moments of fervent exaltation similar to the ecstasies of the convulsions and miracles of the old religious fetishism”.[16][17]

Other observations Debord makes on religion: “The remains of religion and of the family (the principal relic of the heritage of class power) and the moral repression they assure, merge whenever the enjoyment of this world is affirmed–this world being nothing other than repressive pseudo-enjoyment.”[18] “The monotheistic religions were a compromise between myth and history, … These religions arose on the soil of history, and established themselves there. But there they still preserve themselves in radical opposition to history.” Debord defines them as Semi-historical religion.[19] “The growth of knowledge about society, which includes the understanding of history as the heart of culture, derives from itself an irreversible knowledge, which is expressed by the destruction of God.”[20]



The budget fight in Congress is really just beginning and it’s going to be a big one. Republicans are claiming they’ll shut the government down if they don’t get their way. They’re willing to cost even more Americans their jobs — just so Republicans can make a political point and attempt to hold Obama hostage.

What Republicans don’t understand is if Democrats stand together, we’ll win this fight.

That’s why DFA members are demanding a budget that has no cuts to vital programs, invests in jobs, and makes the rich and corporations pay their fair share.

And when we talk about vital programs, we’re not just referring to Social Security, Medicare, or the many aspects of our social safety net that keep the struggling middle class and poor Americans from poverty and homelessness. We’re also talking about education, the Environmental Protection Agency, and of course, NPR and PBS.

Our fiends at CREDO action are calling on Congress to fully fund National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System, please join them right now.http://act.democracyforamerica.com/go/504?akid=474.1480546.8I3SJ5&t=1

Our fiends at CREDO action are calling on Congress to fully fund National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System, please join them right now.

House Republicans, when deciding how they want to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year, immediately attacked NPR and PBS. They cut all funding — that’s right, all of it — for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the nonprofit responsible for funding public media including NPR, PBS, Pacifica and more.

If the funding is not restored in the Senate, it would be a tremendous blow to the entire public interest media sector.

House Republicans disingenuously claimed that they needed to cut funding for public media because of budgetary constraints. But what they failed to highlight is that national public broadcasting is remarkably cost effective, providing local news and information, free of charge, for millions of viewers while only receiving about .0001% of the federal budget.

More to the point, it’s nearly impossible to put a price tag on the actual value of public broadcasting.

We cannot allow congressional Republicans to destroy public media.

Tell Congress: Fully fund NPR and defend public service media! http://act.democracyforamerica.com/go/504?akid=474.1480546.8I3SJ5&t=2

Public media is one of the last bulwarks against the corporate media, where the combination of consolidation and profit motive has long since shifted the focus to infotainment rather than substantive news. In many rural and less affluent communities, broadcasters rely on federal funding to provide the only available high-quality news and public affairs programming.

Without public media, corporate media monopolies would increase their already large control of what we see on television, hear on the radio or read in the newspaper.

The increased accumulation and consolidation of corporate power is a threat to our democracy. And nowhere is this more evident than in our media. It’s important that we stand up to stop this today. America simply cannot afford to lose what public media brings to the table.

Tell Congress: Fully fund NPR and defend public service media!http://act.democracyforamerica.com/go/504?akid=474.1480546.8I3SJ5&t=3

Conservatives have longed for any opportunity to defund NPR, PBS and other public media, and now it looks like they may finally get their wish — unless we stop them.

Tell the Senate to reject cuts to public broadcasting today.

Thank you for everything you do,


Charles Chamberlain, Political Director

Democracy for America