Among the most influential members of Situationist International, Vaneigem is inspired by facts and debates on the agenda in order to rip apart the certainties of the right-thinking self-righteous and the claims of those who stand in judgement and censorship. A provocative pamphlet in the wake of the enlightenment and libertarian tradition.
"There is no good or bad use of freedom of expression. There is only insufficient use of it": a real manifesto devoted to the most fundamental freedom of the human being. An uncompromising text to defend a freedom that must not be subject to any limitation, whether it be political, moral or legal. An attack on the hypocrisy of a society that, failing to eliminate the causes, prefers to hide the evil from itself.
The fight against tyranny, strong point of freedom of speech and thought, is an illusion if the citizen does not learn to identify and distinguish, in the information that bombards their eyes and ears everyday, which intrigues of interest it obeys or, at least, how it is ordered, governed, deformed.
The absolute tolerance of all opinions must have as a basis absolute intolerance of all barbarities.
Nothing is sacred. Everybody has the right to express and profess on their own behalf any opinion, any ideology, any religion. No idea is unacceptable, not even the most abnormal, not even the most hated. No idea, no subject, no belief can avoid criticism, mockery, ridicule, be a subject of jokes, parody, caricature, forgery. “I will repeat it in every way” wrote Georges Bataille, “the world is livable only under the condition that nothing be respected within it.” Furthermore the poet Scutenaire said “There are things that one does not joke about. Not enough.”
Religion falls under a private agreement between those who practice it and the extraterrestrial creature chosen by them to govern their fate. [...] To subject a child to a dogma without first informing them about the existence of Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, Hinduist, Celtic, Greek or Aztec mythologies, means thwarting them.
Tolerating all ideas does not mean becoming a supporter of them. Saying everything does not mean accepting everything.
The racist xenophobic, sexist, sadistic, spiteful, contemptuous opinions have the same right to be expressed as all the various nationalisms, religious beliefs, sectarian ideologies of corporatist clans that openly and subtly encourage them according to the fluctuations of demagogic disrepute. [...] To exercise evil instead of prevent it and cure it. [...] Those things that must be condemned are not the ideas, but the acts themselves.
Life needs a poem that sweetens it, not imperatives that make it harder and as a result break it. It is up to us to refine the antennae of our natural sensitivity in order to tirelessly identify at what point, at what moment the individual and collective behavior is at risk of plunging into barbarity, in which an act of life turns into an act of death.
No truth is worth being kneeled down to. Every human being has the right to criticize, contradict what seems a certainty or claims to be scientifically proven evidence. The most foolish speculations, the most delirious assertions seed in their own way the field of future truths and prevent the truths of an era from becoming absolute authority. In the most unrestrained fantasy, in the most shameless lie there is a spark of life that can revive all fires of what is possible. The flowering of eccentricities is a reminder that the center of life is everywhere and opens up to an infinite variety of choices.
There are no violations of state secrets, but it is only the state secret that violates the essential and undeniable right of the citizen not to ignore anything that concerns and affects them.
We want a product or a service, proposed in the name of public good, that turns out to be absolutely transparent, so that it is possible to refute it if it is harmful or to adopt it if it is useful and pleasant.
[...] how to prevent murder, rape, attack, robbery, misappropriation of public funds from inflicting pain when, on the other hand, this is exactly what is encouraged when absolute priority is given to money and profit without any distinction between morality and immorality?
Environmental reconstruction implies the regaining of urban and rural territory by a part of a population that would be able to free itself from its instincts of fear and predation, and that would be present not to repress delinquency but to dissuade it. That develops the consciousness of a solidary intervention ready to not tolerate any aggression.
It is in the logic and in the interest of the repressive forces that act under the flag of convenience of humanitarian complacency, to let the situation deteriorate, in order to intervene according to the military and police tradition, because otherwise those repressive forces would evidently lose their raison d'être .
[...] that system of commodity exploitation of misfortunes, that, by feeding the passive spectator the small consolation of more desolate destinies than their own, sells misery in a market of delights in which the more morbid the injury the more it becomes completely irresistible.
The laws of the media spectacle induce the freedom of expression to deny its original gush and to make itself look ridiculous in a chaos of images and words that clash and cancel each other out.
The defamation can ruin a business man fighting against his competitors, a politician in need of his supporters, an individual who is jealous of their own authority, a creature reduced to live most of their existence by proxy and under the umbrella of the representation. How could it have influence over those who, putting their love for life above their role and their function, free themselves from the pitiful chains of their reputation to defend?
[...]the controversial battle hides the crux of the matter: the real obscenity lies in the attractivity of profit, in the fetishism of money that, by taking possession of beauty or of its outrage, makes a commodity out of it, a profitable object, a banality subjected to the laws of supply and demand.
While the adult man has means to avoid the traps of persuasion of advertising, the child is subjected to brain washing from which they don't have freedom nor the ability to defend themselves.
The image in itself is not obscene, but the advertisement, not the poster showing a naked woman or man, but the use of it to sell and earn profit.
In order to consolidate its own protection, the established authority has always needed to treat men as blind, incapable of leading themselves, to such an extent that they are used to go around with their eyes closed wherever they are commanded to go. These men fear the light and request, at their own expense, more nights and fog, where they can wander and curse the hard times.
Demographic policy, that tells men to grow and multiply themselves like animals, condemns the excess number of children to misery, sickness, desperation and violence that kills them. The same thing happens with the wild spread of information: abandoned to the absence of discernment, all the information is the same and isn't worth anything, leaves us indifferent by persistently moving us to tears, conceals by revealing and, suffocates the concrete under the virtual.
Translated from Italian by Văn Thuần Nguyễn and Ashton Roza