Books by Invisible Committee, The

Invisible Committee, The. The Coming Insurrection. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e)/MIT Press, [2007] 2009. ISBN 978-1-58435-080-4.
I have not paid much attention to the “anti-globalisation” protesters who seem to pop up at gatherings of international political and economic leaders, for example at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Seattle in 1999 and the Genoa G8 Summit in 2001. In large part this is because I have more interesting things with which to occupy my time, but also because, despite saturation media coverage of such events, I was unable to understand the agenda of the protesters, apart from smashing windows and hurling epithets and improvised projectiles at the organs of state security. I understand what they're opposed to, but couldn't for the life of me intuit what policies would prevail if they had their way. Still, as they are often described as “anarchists”, I, as a flaming anarchist myself, could not help but be intrigued by those so identified in the legacy media as taking the struggle to the street.

This book, written by an anonymous group of authors, has been hailed as the manifesto of this movement, so I hoped that reading it would provide some insight into what it was all about. My hope was in vain. The writing is so incoherent and the prose so impenetrable that I closed it with no more knowledge of the philosophy and programme of its authors than when I opened it. My general perception of the “anti-globalisation” movement was one of intellectual nonentities spewing inchoate rage at the “system” which produces the wealth that allows them to live their slacker lives and flit from protest to protest around the globe. Well, if this is their manifesto, then indeed that's all there is to it. The text is nearly impossible to decipher, being written in a dialect of no known language. Many paragraphs begin with an unsubstantiated and often absurd assertion, then follow it with successive verb-free sentence fragments which seem to be intended to reinforce the assertion. I suppose that if you read it as a speech before a mass assembly of fanatics who cheer whenever they hear one of their trigger words it may work, but one would expect savvy intellectuals to discern the difference in media and adapt accordingly. Whenever the authors get backed into an irreconcilable logical corner, they just drop an F-bomb and start another paragraph.

These are people so clueless that I'll have to coin a new word for those I've been calling clueless all these many years. As far as I can figure out, they assume that they can trash the infrastructure of the “system”, and all of the necessities of their day to day urban life will continue to flow to them thanks to the magic responsible for that today. These “anarchists” reject the “exploitation” of work—after all, who needs to work? “Aside from welfare, there are various benefits, disability money, accumulated student aid, subsidies drawn off fictitious childbirths, all kinds of trafficking, and so many other means that arise with every mutation of control.” (p. 103) Go anarchism! Death to the state, as long as the checks keep coming! In fact, it is almost certain that the effete would-be philosophes who set crayon (and I don't mean the French word for “pencil”) to paper to produce this work will be among the first wave of those to fall in the great die-off starting between 72 and 96 hours after that event towards which they so sincerely strive: the grid going down. Want to know what I'm talking about? Turn off the water main where it enters your house and see what happens in the next three days if you assume you can't go anywhere else where the water is on. It's way too late to learn about “rooftop vegetable gardens” when the just-in-time underpinnings which sustain modern life come to a sudden halt. Urban intellectuals may excel at publishing blows against the empire, but when the system actually goes down, bet on rural rednecks to be the survivors. Of course, as far as I can figure out what these people want, it may be that Homo sapiens returns to his roots—namely digging for roots and grubs with a pointed stick. Perhaps rather than flying off to the next G-20 meeting to fight the future, they should spend a week in one of the third world paradises where people still live that way and try it out for themselves.

The full text of the book is available online in English and French. Lest you think the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a beacon of rationality and intelligence in a world going dark, it is their university press which distributes this book.

May 2010 Permalink