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co. insofar as it is tied to revealing and concealing. and make it alterable? By turning an eye towards secrecy. who taught courses at the University of Illinois in which students researched DT’s identity. family. cf. but intensified and redistributed it. Finally. pp. power’s machinations. including one Nixon researcher who noted the irony that we have a ‘Deep Throat who can’t talk’ (Kincaid 2005. Indeed.tandf. But did this obscene revelation end the enigma? Pundits wrote about their hopes that conspiracy theories would finally be dispelled. to secrecy and publicity. one of American political history’s grandest mysteries was solved. himself was finally revealed. perhaps we can experiment with new techniques. masks In June 2005. Former FBI agent W.uk/journals DOI: 10. Twin Cities] at 10:27 29 May 2012 STUDIES1 Is cultural studies becoming-strategic in accordance with its context? In this era where traditional conceptual tactics have not provided the desired results. Waas 2005). including William Gaines. activism. and activist strategy. that Watergate template for enigmatic revealers. and ultimately neutralize. all speculation and sleuthing could be put to rest. Mark Felt (via his lawyer. one that requires us to rethink our own notions and attachments to truth.1080/09502380601046956 . and friends) publicly exposed himself in Vanity Fair as the shadowy source for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s mythic Washington Post series. 21. namely the faith in publicity as a truth-telling strategy to expose. This essay explores one such tactic and commitment. justly. No. Deep Throat (DT). spectacle. occult. public sphere. Recent events compel us to revise our conceptions of publicity. what is important about this event is the fact that the moment of revelation did not end secrecy. cultural studies can become a strategic craft that enhances its capacities to remake its context. Sandoval 2005. strategy. Keywords secrecy.Jack Bratich POPULAR SECRECY AND OCCULTURAL Downloaded by [University of Minnesota Libraries. 1 January 2007. How can cultural studies recognize its own commitment to transparency and publicity. Regardless of whether Felt is DT. 42 ! 58 ISSN 0950-2386 print/ISSN 1466-4348 online – 2007 Taylor & Francis http://www. numerous bloggers and broadcast pundits were skeptical over the revelation. but feared that this was not to be (Greenberg 2005). Hoff 2005. We are witnessing a regime-oftruth change. Even those who essentially believed that Felt was DT expressed some reservations. The Deep Throat event is just a more visible example of a Cultural Studies Vol. secrecy.
Polemological analysis is not limited to academic theory. Why? Because the War on Terror is defined by its immersion in everyday life. but first let us contextualize the argument within the current conjuncture. What are the analytic tools that can assist cultural studies in becomingstrategic? Elsewhere (2006b) I have elaborated how cultural studies can enhance its capacitation by encouraging more strategic analyses (in the sense articulated by Giorgio Agamben 20003) and becoming more ‘polemological’ (De Certeau 1984). at least since the recognized importance of Gramsci’s notion of ‘war of position’. has been constitutive of cultural studies. and deter its own neutralization? I propose that cultural studies recognize the vital elements of refusal already in circulation at a practical level. as a number of 43 .POPULAR SECRECY Downloaded by [University of Minnesota Libraries. Cultural studies and the polemological: strategy in neo-new times After the 2 November 2004 US election. cultural. with a newfound sense of experimentation. What does this mean for cultural studies’ own conceptual strategies? What kind of transformation will cultural studies give itself: which cherished figures will be discarded and which new tactics adopted? Strategy. How will cultural studies respond to this immanentization of war? How will cultural studies reclaim its own terrain (everyday life). The Revolution in Military Affairs has implemented ‘full spectrum dominance’. 51! 62). of a ‘full spectrum activism’. It is this revelation-management that I explore here. pp. This miasma of defeatism2 transformed into a revived will to resist. This would be one component. or as Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri argue. as the lines of terror/war travel along the most mundane spaces and practices. that operates directly on ‘biopower’ (2004. cultural studies continually restrategizes according to changing conditions. This current media environment is rife with public secrecy or what I elsewhere (2006a) call ‘spectacular secrecy’ (where publicity of the covert is strategic). the military has accomplished what cultural studies has tried to do for decades: bring politics to everyday life. As a contextual practice. one that would transform the reactive components of cultural studies into a project that actively creates and strategizes. For instance. to borrow the military language. In other words. counterinsurgency manuals and studies are important sources for understanding the games of power and resistance. Twin Cities] at 10:27 29 May 2012 tendency that has taken center stage in post-9/11 information warfare. Cultural studies ought to be leading conceptual innovations in the post-9/ 11 context. a style of warfare that fuses together social. especially where cultural studies is concerned. political strategies. ideological. a fog of mourning and depression settled on many social justice activists and anti-Bush citizens.
the expose´ documentaries. namely the faith in publicity as a truth-telling strategy to expose. And this was the case for a very limited objective: an electoral change in a two-party system. the essay brings together various experiments in secrecy (as conceptual practice and activist tactics). is cultural studies becoming-strategic in accordance with its context? This essay explores one such tactic and commitment. or explore its abstract inextricability from publicity (much better explored elsewhere). Secrecy has become integrated into (no . and ultimately neutralize. strategy is not simply a reaction to an alreadygiven set of conditions. Less an exercise in critical analysis than a conjunctive survey. We are witnessing a regime-of-truth change. In this era where traditional commitments and conceptual tactics have not provided the desired results. this analysis entails ‘giving to the skilled revelation of skilled concealment a density and fluidity almost sufficient to dispel the craving for certainty that secrecy inspires’ (Taussig 2003. much effort was exerted in the 2004 election year to reveal the grotesque corruption embodied by the Bush regime. and alter it? Rather than simply seek exposure as a corrective to power. It synthesizes the offerings of secrecy-as-strategy in circulation to understand the practices (actual and virtual) composing the current context. Twin Cities] at 10:27 29 May 2012 44 C U LT U R A L S T U D I E S social theorists (Hardt and Negri. and magazines about Bush regime abuses: all failed to achieve their objective of removing the corrupt figures from office. Rather than elaborate the theoretical grounds for understanding secrecy as such. As classic texts define it. What kind of fate awaits broader systemic changes? In this essay. I pose the issues of secrecy and publicity as strategic matters. to secrecy and publicity. insofar as it is tied to concealing and revealing. power’s machinations. As cultural studies practitioners. journals. the essay is committed to a polemological approach. Michael Taussig) have argued. the courageous writing in newsletters. The books with ‘Lies’ or ‘Deception’ in the title. p. Recent operations have seen a return of this spectacle but with an unprecedented visibility of secrecy. 2003). Ultimately. 305). all the cultural strategies involved in speaking truth to power were not enough. one that requires us to rethink our own notions and attachments to truth. Spectacular secrecy and pop occulture The Gulf War of 1991 has often been called a media spectacle (Kellner 1992. For example. it is crucial to understand the changing conditions of truth-telling.Downloaded by [University of Minnesota Libraries. it is the active transformation of conflict-context and a modification of the agents involved. How can cultural studies recognize its own commitment to transparency and publicity. Armand Mattelart.
museum displays. the meteoric success of Dan Brown’s books. public decryption keys). members of a secret society). and the mysterious appearance and disappearance of government agencies (such as the Office of Strategic Influence and the Information Awareness Office4) all point to a public version of secrecy (Bratich 2006a). Spectacular secrecy is not just a propaganda effort of the current administration ! it permeates popular culture. they were also designed to deceive. secrecy’s new form is the public secret. And lest we think these popular revelations are uniformly embraced by truth-seekers and cryptologists. and canonical paintings. Rather. in many guises (architecture. These ancient public secrets are only a first-order revelation: their exposure through Brown’s novels constitutes a second order. astronomical maps. one based on an image of a box or envelope with hidden contents. Twin Cities] at 10:27 29 May 2012 POPULAR SECRECY longer expelled from) the spectacle. we need only look to Michael Hoffman’s (1995) work. making revelation no longer the end to secrecy. widespread covert tribunals. He argues that popular and commercial unmaskings are a pernicious element of ‘Making Manifest All that is Hidden’. paintings. Brown’s own enigmatic public statements about his relationship to secret organizations only add mystery to these disclosures. Popular culture becomes a venue for the becoming-public of secrecy.5 Cryptographic writing. scientific trickery. can be traced at least to Edgar Allen Poe. rampant invoking of state secrets privilege) these descriptions rely on a traditional notion of secrecy. hidden in plain sight while interpretable only by a select few (usually. inaccessible detainees. At the same time. a Freemasonic principle that involves processing human consciousness via public symbolic rituals and cryptic dramaturgy. the logical response is to call for ‘openness’. but its new catalyst. While the current regime has been correctly identified as being ‘obsessed’ with secrecy (excessive document classification. maps. for instance. it should be remembered that these public secret texts (the ones narrativized within Brown’s books) did not just encode true secrets. Take. the occulted origins of ‘evidence’. where exposure destroys the secret by making manifest its obscured being. His bestsellers all deal with public secrecy. With this image. The Da Vinci Code (2003) and Angels & Demons (2001) especially convey public secrets. Occult historians like Manly P. These secret traditions are preserved by being out in the open. forming a spectacular secrecy. the announced use of covert and special ops. the use of ‘preventive revelations’. according to Shawn James Rosenheim (1997). Hall (2003) and Eliphas Levi (2000) argue that occult communication is essentially 45 . out in the open where it works its charms even more effectively.Downloaded by [University of Minnesota Libraries. as cryptic messages and ancient codes are inscribed on buildings. But with spectacular secrecy the image of a box or envelope is too narrow. The strategic proliferation of leaks. This spectacular form generalizes secrecy into public and private domains. as a popular pursuit. urban design.
31. revelations do not eliminate the secret. in redressing the concentration of state secrets. of elitist exclusivity. a rational subject endowed with the right-to-know. 2). then. Disclosure might be part of secrecy’s game. the typical assumption is that secrecy is a tool for power. and as political question of democracy? How do we theorize secrecy when theory is etymologically tied to looking.Downloaded by [University of Minnesota Libraries. not an end to it. Secrecy is illegitimate and nonconsensual. and kept by elites or the State as a means of maintaining hierarchical exclusions. and a desire for revelatory truth at the heart of the ideal of public reason. and disclosure as its . while publicity is agreement and consensus. of special interest power that blocks consensus). a becomingpopular of secrecy that is not a public execution? In political activism. I want to add to this discussion by asking. but a revelation which does justice to it’ (Benjamin 1977. She argues that democracy is typically equated with publicity and with the elimination of secrecy (as a domain of self-serving corruption. The delicate art of popularizing secrecy often involves publication of devices to deter the unworthy. A number of theoretical tools are available in this ‘just revelation’ project. for instance. Within public occulture. contextualizes the issue of secrecy within modernity and US political history. and I agree. Jodi Dean. But this notion of a cryptocracy depends on assuming publicity’s secrecy: the form of an envelope/box. What happens when secrecy becomes visible: as spectacular media event. and it is worth briefly summarizing them here. and say analysis means telling a ‘truth that is not a matter of exposure which destroys the secret. She does justice to the secret by firmly establishing it as publicity’s internal limit and convincingly argues that there can be no public without a disavowed secrecy. as activist tactic. is there a secret that is not publicity’s secret? Can we only think of secrecy’s activities within the determination made by publicity? Is there a different route. as popular cultural phenomenon. Alongside the messages for the initiated are decoys and red herrings for investigators and general audiences. that this conception has political value. From the CIA to the KKK. In multiple senses. The phrase ‘secrecy is everywhere’6 best captures this dynamic. for instance. From its traditional roots. secrecy is a sign of pernicious hidden agendas. that is publicity’s secret. disinformation has been endemic to public secrecy. quoted in Taussig 2002. This version of publicity entails the following values: a faith in exposure. p. in Publicity’s Secret (2002). Dean argues. in the service of domination. p. Twin Cities] at 10:27 29 May 2012 46 C U LT U R A L S T U D I E S cryptographic. but preserve and extend it. privileging the visible and observable? We can take our cue from Walter Benjamin. Dean’s contribution to the study of secrecy is the following: she recognizes the problem with anti-secrecy and with equating democracy with the public. It is crucial.
namely the belief that the publicity of secrets is inherently a progressive force. 306). In the US political imaginary. never given the powers of negation. not just about it? Dean’s deconstructive work on the limits of publicity is a good start. Debord compels us to think secrecy outside of its commonsensical status as opposite of a public. publicity may no longer be an effective political force 47 . I would like to suggest that revelation is precisely what the secret intends. What if we began to think of cryptocracy in other ways. (2) as an action. The techniques of deception in his analysis have wider application: the public secret is ‘a species of knowledge no less political than it is mysterious. cryptic book Comments on the Society of the Spectacle (1998) (originally titled Treatise on Secrets. The fact and mechanisms of secrecy are exposed.Downloaded by [University of Minnesota Libraries. Michael Taussig elaborates their second point: ‘To the extent that the secret can be and is revealed.7 Rather than surrender to a totalitarian state of secrecy. if not mystical’ (2003. an anthropologist. but in ways that only enhance those mechanisms. Twin Cities] at 10:27 29 May 2012 POPULAR SECRECY opposite and vanquisher. 273): the ‘success of such ritual is not in concealing but in revealing trickery’ (2003. Now we can view the secret not from the perspective of its destruction (within revelation) but as a positivity with its own history and effects. examines shamanistic trickery and magickal rites but not as a way of describing exotic Others. in other words part of secrecy is secretion’ (2003. and not to be confused with the original Society of the Spectacle ) introduces the concept of ‘generalized secrecy’. Debord’s point is that our obsession with secrecy as a box to be opened is itself part of the spectacle. or secretion). Magick is thus effective. p. absorbing critique at the moment of publicity. we can pursue secrecy as a strategy. unsettling a fundamental assumption among oppositional forces. secrecy is always in negation. but we also need to find analytic tools that can move secrecy beyond publicity’s shadow. For example. a distraction from the myriad ways generalized secrecy permeates the political body. but the ‘skilled revelation of skilled concealment’ (2003. p. Making this argument entails a shift in focus. like from the perspective of secrecy itself? As publicity’s other. preventive revelations appropriate the power of the challenge. Taussig. 272). Guy Debord in his short. How can we make the covert productive? What can be learned from the secret. It is not skilled concealment that characterizes the power of secrecy. The political public secret orbits around revelation-management. then. p. especially in exposing the very techniques of concealment. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (1987) break secrecy down into three components: (1) as the contents in a box or envelope (the common sense of secrecy). p. like Deep Throat). not despite its exposure but on account of it. (3) as the secret perception of the secret (shadowy revealers. both secret influence (the way secret societies affect social changes) and the propagation of the secret (its spread and leakage. 297).
Twin Cities] at 10:27 29 May 2012 48 C U LT U R A L S T U D I E S against a cryptocracy. can we begin to experiment with an insurgent secrecy. or a popular secrecy? Secrecy. and imperceptibility are increasingly demonized if not criminalized? More recently. Borrowing the idea from William Burroughs. Why surrender the capacity to produce these to the State/private sector networks of control? In an age where secrecy is virtually everywhere as a strategy of domination.Downloaded by [University of Minnesota Libraries. placing it in a lineage of nihilistic forces. Publicity has been allowed to transcend its own historical conditions (including its Enlightenment origins within secret societies). Secrecy may at least be afforded a similar generosity. Bey cites the historical role of monasteries. insurgents need to use both visibility and disappearance tactically. crypto-anarchists have turned the tables on a technoculture that seeks to render society fully visible. an active secrecy. These are techno-anarchists who put their faith in cryptography as a political tool. a minor secrecy. Rather than the full-frontal visible attack that reveals a martyr-wish. depending on historical circumstances. Hakim Bey (1985) argued that the Left needs insurgent secret societies. in other words. at best. The potential to make these new arrangements belongs to the creative meaning-making powers of the many. the will to disappearance is a logical radical option. The oppositional political imaginary up until now has focused on reactive secrecy. How do we address these untimely meditations in a homeland security context. has been associated with circumstantial necessity. this type of activism . the capacities and wills to create new worlds. Rather. anonymity. in fact this detachment is the very condition of possibility for public sphere theory (see Dean 2002). For Bey. and argues that we may be facing a political plague of sorts today. where secrecy. Why not accord it some affirmative powers? Popular or minor secrecy would be immersed in what Negri (1999) calls ‘constituent power’. Bey suggested they be modeled after the Chinese Tong: mutual aid societies that kept their work hidden as a key to preservation. Bey’s calls were written over twenty years ago. When dissent primarily operates by seeking to expose the State’s secrets. Secrecy as a strategy is already the subject of experimentation in the activist milieu. So what better way to explore active secrecy than by tracing a line through secret activism? Secret activism In an influential little book called Temporary Autonomous Zone. we can explore the generation of secrets and their exposure as a political force. Most famously enshrined in Timothy May’s ‘Crypto Anarchist Manifesto’ (2001). which became sites of refuge and knowledge-preservation during the plague. it may be playing into a larger logic of concealment and revelation that is ultimately disempowering.
And try as it might. ‘there are no longer secrets. For Deleuze. as imperceptible. if not the whole counterglobalization movement (Albertani 2002). While the news media tries to fill in the abyss with content and give the mask an interiority. Becoming-secret is akin to what Deleuze and Guattari call becoming-imperceptible. free speech is not the right to be heard. black bloc became the media face of anarchism. Their practice is based on an atypical interpretation of the First Amendment. The mask de-individualizes actors and 49 . pp. Secrecy is not primarily defined by its interior ! it seeks its outside. but toolsbecoming-weapons against that scopic regime. black bloc masking imaged the burgeoning networks of global justice activism. cryptoanarchism finds in technological developments not the instruments of domination through surveillance and data mining. appeared on the nightly news. becoming-imperceptible is primarily a relation with others (1987. We can return to Deleuze and Guattari here to elaborate. but this time as occulted. During the anti-WTO protests in Seattle. You have become like everyone. it misses secrecy as form.8 At the very least. like its 1960s ancestors. their use of technology creates strategic potential for secrecy under surveillance state operations. mutual assistance and a general sense of solidarity through anonymity. of cowardice. While the cryptoanarchists tend towards the libertarian and technophilic stream. p. as secretion. Imperceptibility provides a counter to a politics based on identity and representability. financial transactions). and can thus ensure un-monitorable activities. clandestine’ (1977. For cryptoanarchists. Becoming-imperceptible helps explain the black bloc tactic. Twin Cities] at 10:27 29 May 2012 POPULAR SECRECY consists of constructing codes and ciphers to shroud messages in secrecy. the media spectacle cannot fix the meaning of the mask. 279! 81). In tandem with the balaclava icon of Zapatismo. but in fact you have turned the ‘‘everyone’’ into a becoming. Programs such as PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) create untraceable interactions (communication. it is a form of exteriority. 277! 79). p. Not simply reducible to being invisible or disappearing. You have become imperceptible. but the right to speak in a language that is occulted. The mask came to function as a dominant representation ! of something to hide. blend in to surroundings (1987. and thus as a tactic of disappearance not identity. of violence. use camouflage. as action. The mask and the black bloc Perhaps the most recent public ‘face’ of secrecy in US activism is the black bloc. Benefits for participants include evasion of surveillance. It entails a negation of rootedness in identity in favor of a more relational network: merge as a collective.Downloaded by [University of Minnesota Libraries. New activism. 127).
16Beaver. performing as part of ‘Indigenous Immigrants’. The Zapatistas’ trademark balaclava is a powerful signifier that allows anyone to becomeimperceptible collectively. as a direct action tactic. As a tactic or ‘gesture’ (Agamben 2000). produces an immediate collectivity without personality. More recently. but to acknowledge that it is the most visible example of secret activism. What would a different politics of masking look like? Becomingimperceptible constitutes what Giorgio Agamben calls the ‘whatever singularity’: a community without identity. November 2006. Anonymity during public action goes back centuries. the collective mask is nothing new. which ‘declines any identity and conditions of belonging’ (2000. This mask operates as a global image that anchors their performative statement. 89). Twin Cities] at 10:27 29 May 2012 50 C U LT U R A L S T U D I E S Author in mediated mirror mask. Continental Drift Seminar. ‘You are no longer you. one which ‘wants to take possession of belonging itself’. where squatters took to masking themselves as a way of preventing identification by the police (Katsiaficis 1997). The experience of having people you don’t know at your back is often cited by black blocers as a powerful moment of solidarity. This ‘whatever subject’ is a type of belonging whose lack of specificity opens up potentials not seduced by the security of faces behind the mask. black bloc can be traced back at least to the Autonomen in early 1980s Germany. a workshop from Pdero Lasch’s Naturalizations Series (2002 ! present).Downloaded by [University of Minnesota Libraries. p. I highlight black bloc not to debate the merits of the tactic. now you are one of us’ . NY.
239! 42). He analyzes how the Mexican government ‘unmasked Marcos’ (the Zapatista subcomandante) at a news conference by revealing a photo of his ‘true face’ (2002. where these revelationrituals are performed as a matter of public policy and media spectacle. p. This is precisely the point. Taussig isolates a fascinating component of masking. and not just when its riot police wear armored disguises (Taussig 2002. It wishes to make itself imperceptible while eliminating other instances of becoming-imperceptible. Originating from the Nahuatl language indigenous to many parts of Latin America. pp. 239). but the 51 . Twin Cities] at 10:27 29 May 2012 POPULAR SECRECY (see EZLN 1998). not just left to the State and its surrogates.9 But just as the State wishes to keep all the masks and to unmask others. this public secrecy infuses modern societies. The state and its masks Much like the infinite secretion of anonymity spurred on by black bloc. Masks are signs and practices to be struggled over. The State abhors masks that are not its own. reappropriating it strategically as a type of minor secrecy. including Chiapas. ‘the threat the state is not willing to come to terms with is precisely the fact that the unrepresentable should exist and form a community without either presuppositions or conditions of belonging’ (2000. The Zapatistas remind us that the State is always masked. The mask donned as nahual is often one of an animal. nahual refers to both disguise and co-essence (or familiar). During the World Economic Forum demonstrations in 2002 and again at the Republican National Convention in 2004. as well as secret organizational form. the artist collective Guerilla Girls donned ape masks to de-individualize authorship. signifying not simply the negation of one’s identity. namely the practice of nahual (2002. While we might accept these practices as part of ‘primitive societies’. the Zapatista balaclava is intolerable to the State. New York City police invoked a little-known state law dating back to 1900 that banned more than three masks at protests (from the days when tenant farmer uprisings against landlords employed tactical masking). As Agamben argues. however. this public act proliferated a magical force (in the subsequent re-maskings performed by the Zapatistas). They also worked in direct response to the individualized mask of the superhero (whose selfinvolved brooding and existential crises are enhanced with the disguise). So while we cannot simply affirm masking. Anonymity and secrecy in themselves have no necessary political allegiances or effects. we can unmoor it. emphasizing instead the collaborative and anonymous production of textual meaning.Downloaded by [University of Minnesota Libraries. obviously resulted in widespread atrocities. Not all collective masks or popular secrecies are to be valorized. The Ku Klux Klan’s hoods and robes. Taussig alerts us to the mystery-making impact of any exposure done by the State. p. A decade or so ago. 238! 46). pp. 89). But instead of disempowering him.
Downloaded by [University of Minnesota Libraries. not simply utopic withdrawals. but mask-to-mask. and partially become. The State. desires ‘to control transformation . Deleuze and Guattari also link becomingimperceptible to becoming-animal). and unmasking. Why is this important? Because. . As the State appropriates secrecy. 132). but maybe not now or here. and reappropriating secrecy are affirmative gestures of disappearance. At minimum secrecy tells us that we do not always need to seek visibility and recognition to legitimize our politics. p. Our task is to map those hazards and possibilities. gazing. becoming-imperceptible. 256). which as detailed above is already part of collective experiments. . it is ‘dangerous’ (1997. it seeks to appropriate becoming as such. existence comes with the exodus from this spectacle. p. a clandestine action group or affinity web operates in a self-valorizing manner ! beyond naming. as Taussig argues. p. where communicating and becomingperceptible are quickly turning into internalized commands. ‘the New Left never really believed in its own existence till it saw itself on the Evening News’ (1985).11 Secrecy’s gifts Secrecy does not belong to the State. . neither as publicity’s negation nor as spectacular domination. This active secrecy is a ‘preventive resistance’ that prompts our concluding question. Identity. and appropriate becomings’ (2002. like everything. Twin Cities] at 10:27 29 May 2012 52 C U LT U R A L S T U D I E S transformation into another being. and exposure have their usefulness. and the State’s ability to see. Masking is an act of shape-shifting. At least there is less need for recognition. Becoming itself is becoming the property of the State. perceptibility. In a surveillance/control society. To reappropriate this becoming through the preservation and proliferation of masking is indispensable for the current conjuncture. It has a positivity of its own. 248). the State attempts to appropriate nahual for itself. The coming politics of secrecy might involve a confrontation that is not face-to-face. As Bey puts it. Deleuze . in seeking to monopolize the power of masking. masking. Publicity is not necessarily the best strategy. simulation and spectacle? It would only provide the same spectacle with a new object of representation and an easy target of inveigling. to give it proper identities and interiorities. but. Beyond the defensive tactic. To paraphrase Michel Foucault.10 Masking. it is not that publicity is necessarily ‘bad’. Why bother to ‘face’ a power that has operated through. for a conferral of identity by the State and its vision. what does popular secrecy give us? . Perhaps today. of becoming-animal (interestingly. The nahual fuses the power of secrecy with the power of transformation.
the right to resistance (cf. We can thus tie this active secrecy to the customary jus resistentiae. As the black bloc and Zapatistas demonstrate. A right to secrecy would change the tenor of freedom from privacy’s passive. . means inserting imperceptibility into circuits of control. entwined as the latter is with the western subject of self-possessed individuality and interiority. One need only think here of how ‘security culture’ is a term not reserved for Homeland Security immersion into everyday life. which wants to take possession of belonging itself. Currently. This public affirmation could take a liberal. Similar to the cryptoanarchist claim. Virno 2004. 1995b). p. but is used by activist groups for their own survival. Secrecy here. Any collective future will need to acknowledge secrecy’s lineage so as not to lapse into the domination of pure visibility. It is the task of what Michel De 53 . Twin Cities] at 10:27 29 May 2012 . like Bey’s will to disappearance. This imperceptible collectivity is intolerable to the State. It has historically been a necessary component of dissident culture. A need. pp. Secrecy becomes a circuitbreaker. p. a tactic that promotes collectivity. the right of resistance. It is a reawakening of ancestral customs whose trajectories in ‘secret corners and cracks’ (Wilson 1998. affirming the powers of secrecy is a defensive argument. 42! 3). Secrecy as strategy is not simply a provisional instrument for attaining goals ! it offers a rethinking of secrecy for any future social arrangements. this tactic would parallel the public’s ‘right to know’ with a ‘right to be unknown’. then.POPULAR SECRECY Downloaded by [University of Minnesota Libraries. nor a valorization of coping strategies. suggests we create ‘vacuoles of noncommunication’ (1995a. From guerrilla manuals to Edward Luttwak’s (1987) highly influential counterinsurgency work. which would like to appropriate becoming for itself. juridical form. 175.12 The importance of secrecy as a defensive stand is noted even within political theory indebted to publicity and the public sphere (Squires 2002). A public affirmation of secrecy is not a dialectical trick. safeguarding future forms of life on a line of flight. individualized zone to an interactive exteriority of relations. clandestinity is mutual-aid. in the service of an exodus. We can articulate the current resurgence of the mask and secrecy as a revival of popular traces relegated to the interstices of society: the custom of secrecy. namely in a call for the right to secrecy. This right would be counterposed to the right to privacy. Military strategic analyses even acknowledge this. secrecy has long been recognized for its value to dissidents. 76) can now form a confluence. Becoming-imperceptible creates the ‘whatever singularity’: a community without identity. for a public affirmation of secrecy: a demand for its extension to all sectors. As Jacques Derrida argues in A Taste for the Secret (2001) society that does not respect secrecy is a totalitarian society (as the drive to illuminate all social spaces renders those spaces vulnerable to the harshest forms of ocular control). not just concentrated in the hands and boxes of the privileged.
not to further the mystifying effects of unmasking that the Enlightenment. p. As the White House Cabinet was going through a shake-up so activists rethought previous tactics and sought out new techniques of resistance. yet most necessary for that ceaseless surfacing of appearances we defer to as truth’ (2003. one that is worthy of the secret. let us perform a just revelation. We need to pay attention. but to lay foundations for something along the lines of that gay science Nietzsche proposed as its critical. and while the State is a dominant experimenter. p. 306). the magic of mimesis ! at heart. cultural studies can become a strategic craft that enhances its capacities to remake its context. It can also be read as a part 2 to my recent article in this journal (Bratich 2006a). (2003. even illness. Previously taboo topics like secession were regularly discussed both humorously and as serious options (Flores-Williams 2005a. . a fraud. for an analysis of this movement from an autonomist perspective see my 2005. J. that we have to associate with the will to knowledge’ (2003. masquerading alternative. 2005b.) . one whose potentials we are just beginning to glimpse. These are experimental times. This attentiveness to tricks. but an occulted presence. to the use of tricks to out-trick other tricks . Wilson 2005. Taussig writes. project seems to assume. 304). including ‘that most elusive trick of all. (2006b). p. figures. . For Michael Taussig. and maneuvers is polemological and entails a commitment to secrecy as strategy. Rather than counter secrecy with revelatory truth.54 C U LT U R A L S T U D I E S Certeau (1986) calls ‘heterological’ projects to articulate these ‘scattered practices’ of becoming imperceptible. Downloaded by [University of Minnesota Libraries. the ‘very idea of a secret behind a fac¸ade is not just plain silly but sign of another sort of philosophic despair. justly. Notes 1 2 Portions of this essay have been published in Bratich. Twin Cities] at 10:27 29 May 2012 Coda: occultural studies as gay science Secrecy is thus not an absence. it cannot monopolize strategy. 295) What would it mean for cultural studies to take up this gay science as a strategy? It would mean developing our political and cultural ‘tricks of the trade’. By turning an eye towards secrecy. transparency.
POPULAR SECRECY 3 Downloaded by [University of Minnesota Libraries. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In addition. Twin Cities] at 10:27 29 May 2012 4 5 6 7 8 9 Strategic criticism. whose link between revealing and concealing is embedded in a variety of codes and technologies (see Butler & Keeney 2001. itself seemingly everywhere. perhaps it still haunts other departments. Perhaps the most blatant example of the secret becoming visible as strategy is the short career of the Information Awareness Office logo (DARPA. one could note how early film was attributed with the power to break open a hidden world of the mundane (as in Benjamin’s ‘Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’. Rosicrucian Eye-in-the-Pyramid). Teen Witch Mad Mad House). 1968). and the agency shortly followed suit. with the phrase ‘scientia est potentia’ (knowledge is power) So here we have the public face of the will-to-publicize. and with secret services (Alias. We can cite here the TV shows dealing with occult or supernatural themes (Charmed. and that it would continue its operations under different departments. Angel. once again demonstrating that reactionary forces (with their cellular operational 55 . involves positioning one’s view precisely in another actor’s view (2000. And Mrs. Popular secrecy was even embedded in the reality TV/game doc format (the first challenges of Amazing Race: Family Edition and the series Treasure Hunters). National Treasure). This seemingly new problematization of secrecy and technology is bound up with the history of cryptography. 24. It is important to note that this legal action was carried out by the Klan. public relations’ value of ‘getting ahead of the story’ is an example. Singh 1999). Perhaps what we are witnessing is how the link between secrecy and technology is moving from the shadows to becoming public (such as the popular fascination with codebreaking). SpyKids. Smith) to the secret society (The Order. The logo was comprised of an eye-in-the-pyramid shining a diffuse spotlight on the globe. And in this visible face is one of the most well-known occult symbols around (the Freemasonic. goal of Total Information Awareness through integration of technologies. The Skulls. from the secret agent (SpyGame. From Hell. Regardless of the significance one wants to attach to it. p. civilian and military think-tanks and citizen snoops). The Recruit. 74) (much like the perspectives taken by counterinsurgents when they study and mimic guerrilla and network-centric warfare). The logo ‘disappeared’ from the office’s website. The Agency). was the title of a Spring 2004 special issue of the Massachusetts School of Law Journal. We are reminded here of Donald Rumsfeld’s announcement of the Office of Strategic Influence’s appearance and subsequent quick withdrawal: months later Rumsfeld revealed that its disappearance was in name only. headed by Poindexter. This repressive law was later challenged but not overturned in court. Also. Perhaps it was conjured away. XXX. In addition. a number of films have taken secrecy as their subject matter. This enigmatic phrase. as Giorgio Agamben defines Guy Debord’s work. it is an occult symbol for those who practice this form of symbology. the face of desire for total openness and absolute observability. Mr. Davis 1998.
Bratich. and insurgent manuals like Invisible Resistance to Tyranny. and revolutionaries become secret agents’ (1998 p. New York. London. vol. 20! 25. University of Minnesota Press. pp. 24. (1985) T. namely because the tactic is vulnerable to infiltration and provocation. Cultural Studies. C. vol. New Political Science. As Luttwak. nos. black bloc has actually given more visibility to the issue of provocateurs in the activist community And let us not forget that the secret services have infiltrated plenty of non-anonymous groups and actions. no. This flaw is certainly there: enough is known about the events in Genoa 2001 to claim authoritatively that the State infiltration of black bloc was deliberate and provocative. Black Blocs. much to the dismay and detriment of progressive forces. At stake here for strategists is the element of surprise. the key objective in the intelligence community is to prevent the ‘strategic surprise’. (1977) The Origin of German Tragic Drama. no. New York. H. References Agamben. New Left Books. 493! 511. W. Osborne. (2006a) ‘Public Secrecy and Immanent Security: A Strategic Analysis’. Bey. However. Arendt. The black bloc has brought to light Debord’s assessment that in a society of the spectacle and secrecy. in Illuminations. July.. (2005) ‘Swarmcession!’. ed. W. 579! 596. State masking is cited as a reason to criticize black bloc. After 9/11. G. 4. Bratich. J. Notes on Politics. Tute Bianche and Zapatistas in the Anti-globalization Movement’.A.56 C U LT U R A L S T U D I E S Downloaded by [University of Minnesota Libraries. The lead character wears a Guy Fawkes mask.Z. Twin Cities] at 10:27 29 May 2012 10 11 12 networks. The Novel Intelligence Project provides one example. (2000) Means without End. H. leaderless resistance strategies. J. and other strategists have pointed out. pp. is precisely geared towards predicting and controlling surprise. Albertani. 2002) have been effectively and deliberately harnessing the strategic power of secrecy. (2002) ‘Paint It Black. 20. Karl Von Clausewitz. The spring 2006 film release of V for Vendetta turns this masked antagonism into a spectacular epic. pp. 11). whose role in the Gunpowder Plot has created significant speculation about his identity (as agent. Essays and Reflections. From ‘who is behind the mask’ to ‘who is behind the masking’. ‘secret agents become revolutionaries. Benjamin. This model writ large would be a matter of rooting out and eliminating unpredictability as such. (1968) ‘Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’. Eliminating surprise seems to be the new grand goal of State/counterinsurgency force. Brace & World. Harcourt. The NIP. Minneapolis. J. as instrument for a strategy of tension). Benjamin. . 96. trans. 4! 5. secrecy is attached to the element of surprise. Autonomedia. Lumpen. via massive data analysis and surveillance.
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