WHY I WROTE A FAKE HAKIM BEY BOOK
AND HOW I CHEATED THE CONFORMISTS OF ITALIAN "COUNTERCULTURE"
by Luther Blissett
A. The wonders of creation
...In order to get on and improve the relations between the masses and the leaders, we must keep the valve of self-criticism open, we must enable the soviet men to scold their leaders and criticize their failures, so that the leaders do not become presumptuous and the masses do not leave the leaders.
Josif Stalin, 1923
Since last April all good Italian bookshops are selling A Ruota Libera - Miseria del lettore di TAZ [more or less: "Loose from all restraint - On the poverty of the TAZ readership"], a collection of pieces by Hakim Bey published by Castelvecchi (Rome). Multitudes of fans of that notorious guru of 1990's counterculture bought the book (which has quickly sold out). The left-wing press reviewed it enthusiastically. Concurrent publishers have gone off their nuts and charged the publisher and the editor/translator (the mysterious Fabrizio P. Belletati - born in Caserta 1969, now living in Nottingham, UK) with "uncorrectness" for having copyrighted "texts freely circulating on the Net". None realized that A Ruota Libera is apocryphal, nay, no more euphemisms!, it is FAKE.
"Fabrizio P. Belletati" doesn't exist. I, Luther Blissett, wrote A Ruota Libera. It is not a mere parody of Beyan writings, rather, it's been a way of testing how gullible and tardy is the average buyer and/or reviewer of cyber-crap, and how believable is the output of an overestimated "santon" whose anal orifice, just as anybody's butthole, spouts ordinary shit instead of gold.
A Ruota Libera includes:
# A preface by "Belletati". ('This book is a selection of articles and essays by Hakim Bey, written during the period 1993-95, previously untranslated into Italian [...] Why have I "invented" for the Italian market a book that does not yet exist in the USA? Maybe I had to wait for the author himself to improve and collect his writings, didn't I? As always, the reason is one of the several "Italian" anomalies, i.e. the surprising untimeliness of Bey's critical success in Italy [...] Shortly before, during and immediately after the publication of TAZ...Hakim Bey was actually without interlocutors: the reviews of his major theoretical work were marked by an uproarious "greed for novelties" and a passive admiration of Bey's syncretic acrobatics. The main result was a depressing banalization of his positions, which in many ways were mistaken for those "cyber-gnostic" ideas which Bey explicitly detests. Bey appears to be the first person to complain about these foolishly new-agey or pseudo-cyberpunk interpretations [...] Luckily enough, this trend has recently been inverted. An useful, indeed indispensable critique of Bey's theories is revealing itself and retro-acting on his latest texts [... quick overview of the things written by John Zerzan, the Neoist Alliance, the London Psychogeographical Association and the Berlin-based magazine Super! Bierfront...] Apparently, this is only the beginning: Hakim Bey is no longer so awfully trendy, he isn't deemed as an untouchable santon any longer. This doesn't mean that his bias on the countercultural debate is going to end; rather, the understanding of his next pieces will be easier than before, also thanks to the rudiments of "immediatist self-criticism" which he is inserting. And as to Italy? Here is necessary to bring the debate up-to-date, because we're still facing the long rambling speech on the TAZs: "Geez, this party really seems to be a TAZ!", "Hey, won't you come down at the TAZ in the squatted centre?"...That's why I decided to publish these texts... which provide us with a complete picture of Bey's theories, here and now, without enervating and useless waits.')
# A few lark-mirrors, i.e. true and "serious" (as well as questionable) Bey's texts: "PAZ", "Media Creed For The Fin De Siecle", "Primitives & Extropians".
# Some true, ludicrous Bey's texts - shameful bullshit, newagey nonsense: "Evil Eye", "Moorish Weather Report".
# Some interesting (as well as questionable) apocrypha, things that Bey would write if his ideas were clear enough:
a) "Fart Strike", in which "Bey" suddenly changes his (banally pro-situationist) position on art and the Art Strike 1990 -'93;
b) "Albigensis Postscript", actually "A Conspectus On The Evolution Of Cyberspace", a text by the London Psychogeographical Association, with such ludicrous inserts as a reference to one Lee Mortais (which sounds like "Li Mortè!!!" [...your deads!], i.e. a Roman insult meaning "[Fuck] the souls of your dead parents!") as well as a mega-stupid final roller-coaster ride;
c) "On The Poverty Of The TAZ Readership", which does not break the promise of its title. Since I imitated the style of Italian translations of Bey's writings, any translation "back" into English would betray the text. It's a pity. Anyway, the piece is a radical critique of Bey's fans.
# Apocryphal crap, indifferently swallowed by the readers, which proves that the "new underground" conformist posers would believe anything:
a) "An Immediatist Self-criticism" (actually a 1926 Stalin's speech, which I had slightly altered without softening its arrogant, authoritative tone);
b) An appendix to "Evil Eye" entitled "Toccarsi le palle" [Touching One's Own Balls], which I couldn't comment without getting sick of my own laughters!
c) "Outdated Media", i.e. a hasty critique to the Internet which culminates in a ludicrous yearning for the good old smoke signals and carrier-pigeons;
# A real piece by John Zerzan, 'Hakim Bey, Postmodern "Anarchist"'.
In one word, a crapbook.
I parodized Bey's style (which is one part Hippy bullshit and cheap oriental trinkets, one part post-Structuralism and pithily intricacies, one part cyber-crap), forced its ambiguity, made use of any banal rethoric expedient. I also stuffed the texts with fake translator's notes (pointing out various untranslatable puns) and persian and arabian words. At last, I created "Fabrizio P. Belletati", who sent all the stuff to Castelvecchi. Castelvecchi deemed the texts as "extremely disputable, but worth publishing" (not too bad if Luther cheated even one of his/her publishers and spokesmen: not even Gerry Adams knew that the IRA was going to explode the Canary Wharf bomb!). As an ultimate hoax, I copyrighted the texts - Italian "translations" of unexisting anti-copyright English texts. Eventually the book has been published and positively reviewed, the prank was successful. As a side effect, the entire operation raised panic in the "underground" scene.
B. It's the press, baby!
A "white radical" is three parts bullshit and one part hesitation.
Up Against The Wall Motherfucker, 1968
The left-wing press welcomed A Ruota Libera with fanfares and flourishing trumpets. On Friday, April 26th B.V. (Benedetto Vecchi) reviewed the book on "Il Manifesto" (whose heading contains the phrase "communist newspaper") and published several excerpts from "Media Creed For The Fin de Siecle". Here is the end of B.V.'s masterpiece, which was entitled: 'Hakim Bey: Self-consciousness of the "underground" scene' : "...This Bey's book published by Castelvecchi replies to fans and detractors. Bey's provocations are the right way to take a different look at this 'too-late-Capitalism', which is how he describes the post-modern age. A book worth devouring, thanks also to Belletati's introduction, which describes in details what happens to that jovial Sufi master".
A few weeks later, Angelo Quattrocchi fell in the pseudo-Bey ambush. Quattrocchi [his surname means "4 eyes"] is a boring old guy who can't help yearning for May '68, and boasts of having taken supper with Guy Debord (as if this was a honour). This dotard wrote some useless anti-media pamphlets such as Come e perché difendersi dalla televisione [How And Why We Defend Ourselves From TV] (1988) and Dai... Stacca la spina! [Come On, Take The Plug Off!] (1996); he's proud of not having a TV set, a fax or an Internet access, and yet this disinformed moron writes articles on "counterculture" on "Liberazione", the organ of the PRC [Re-founded Communist Party, that is a powerful trotsko-stalinist monster]. On May 29th, Quattrocchi wrote this meaningless and ungrammatical review:
SONS OF SITUATIONISM DEMOLISH EACH OTHER
Hakim Bey, "A Ruota Libera", Castelvecchi, lire 14.000
Hakim Bey, Sufi master or bastard nephew of Vaneigem, the father of Situationism, is still a lovely theoretician-antitheoretician of libertarian radicalism thought and lived in this age. TAZ was published in Italian by Shake in 1993, then they published "Via Radio: Saggi sull'Immediatismo" [Radio Sermonettes/Immediatism]. Now another collection of Bey's writings, A Ruota Libera, is out thanks to quick and multi-coloured Castelvecchi. O, it's a funny, brilliant, delicious book, though there are some style drops! As to radical thought, it takes us on the same time wave of the US, which is where Bey writes, and Germany, where Bey is as famous as in Italy. The book has an incredible appendix, a 3-page mycrocosm in which John Zorzan [sic], another brilliant writer of the same school, demolishes our Bey by describing him as perfect mega-trendy blah-blah poseur, a sort of post-modern anarchist. Zorzan [sic] has published for Nautilus another lovely text, "Apprezzare il tempo" [Time And Its Discontents]. Who's right? Zorzan [sic] or Hakim Bey? Both. They both foam with a critical intelligence that leaves all the other "libertarians" amidst the ruins of an ideological wall which they haven't yet removed. Zorzan [sic] and Bey are both bastard sons of gran pere Vaneigem, the Situationist philosopher whose "Treatise..." throws light on this fin de siecle since 1968. This end of the century sees anarchy and utopia rising again from the ashes of ideologies. They [Bey and Zorzan] talk about temporary autonomous zones, that is a conquest of space (squats) and time (raves? Altered states of consciousness?), which subjectivities want to take over. This is the only weapon left against the omnipotence and omnipresence of capital, it is worth reading and living. Again, ce n'est qu'un debut.
A storm of turd. It's piteous to see how a life without TV can reduce an educated man. Vaneigem is NOT "the father of Situationism": the Situationist International was founded in 1957, Vaneigem joined it in 1961 and left it in 1970, two years before its official dissolution. Likewise, the Traité du savoir vivre à l'usage des jeunes generations was NOT published in 1968, but in 1966. Actually "Zorzan"'s surname is Zerzan, and the Italian title of Time And Its Discontents is Ammazzare il tempo [Killing Time], not "Apprezzare il tempo" [Appreciating Time]. Again, Zerzan is not "of the same school" of Bey: the former is one of the "primitivists" which Bey charges with absolutism. Zerzan DOESN'T talk about temporary autonomous zones, and anyone who says that they both are right is an obnubilated person.
At best, Vecchi and Quattrocchi superficially read the book. At worst, they can't tell a libertarian discourse from a mere reactionary delirium.
In the meanwhile, A Ruota Libera was cited on several zines and influenced the whole debeyte... Even professor Georges Lapassade, the prestigious anthropologist, was sighted waving a copy of the book during a conference!
Before I cover how the media reacted to the scam and some idiots in the radical scene freaked out, I want to state that this prank doesn't need a "political" concluding postscript. This operation was an attempt to forge the passage between theory and practice. There are too many charlatans all around, guys who try to sell miraculous remedies for the "crisis of the end of the millennium". Humanity will not be happy 'til the last "layc intellectual" will be hanged with the guts of the last hezbollah. What? I'm running the risk of making enemies? But what "me" are you talking about? The name of Luther Blissett may be adopted even to bash my face in, and anyone can use it. Humans understand themselves in the process of psychic warfare. Forwards to a world without poseurs!
C. Terror in the underground
"Let the throbbing flyers become impatient, we'll calmly bring them back to the ground, back at the humble level at which we ourselves may ascend. We are unsuitable to any heroism and prefer irony to lyricism. We feel forced to warn the most impetuous ones: don't play Phaeton!"
Amadeo Bordiga, 1952
By chance, the A Ruota Libera prank clashed with other events pivoting on the circulation of Bey's books in Italy. Milan-based ShaKe Edizioni, often described as the "official" pushers of Bey's dope in the "bel paese", began indulging in the most trivial conspiracy paranoia. Therefore a light-hearted and playful prank has been perceived as a base assault. But my prank was not a character assassination of Gomma and Raf Valvola nor had it a "fratricidal" purpose. I don't believe in the stalinist pedagogics of "false friends", and what's more I don't imagine I can aim at such an easy target (just a few months ago I kicked the shit out of Mondadori, the most corporate of Italian publishers. Two weeks after the prank I'm describing, I've attacked the Bologna District Attorney, the local ecclesiastic authorities and a rightwing paper by a scam on Satanic cults and black masses). I don't intend to bear the blame of Gomma's behaviour: ShaKe did all they could to fall into ridicule.
Is it my fault if I found out that the ShaKe edition of Radio Sermonettes (Via Radio, 1995) had been censored? They cut out a sentence against Che Guevara ("...that Rodolfo Valentino of red fascism") which is both in the original text and in the competing (i.e. better) edition by Salerno-based Edizioni Ripostes (Immediatismo, 1995). It appears that ShaKe didn't want to piss off the average leftist reader. When the matter came to light, ShaKe said that Bey had given them leave to cut out the passage. If this was true, the author would cut an extremely sorry figure, having complied with leftist moralism and created a gaudy discrepancy between the different versions - for abstract reasons of political time-serving.
Is it my fault if those champions and "experts" of anti-copyright, as well as Bey himself, threatened to apply to the bourgeois legal system in order to prevent an "unauthorized" publication of Bey's Pirate Utopias by Ripostes? While they were attacking Castelvecchi and "Belletati" for having copyrighted free texts, they threatened Ugo Scoppetta Adelfio, Ripostes' translator of Pirate Utopias, and Alessandro Tesauro, the owner of that small publishing house.
ShaKe used to say: "WE are in the 'Movement', THOSE PEOPLE aren't", which was fucking absurd: first of all, there's no such thing as a "movement" pedigree, nay, there's no such thing as a "movement"! Secondly, if it's a matter of "street credibility" (...and it isn't), Adelfio is a notorious anarchic prankster, friend of Canadian neoists like Gordon W., involved in the Luther Blissett project. Likewise, if one is really against copyright and the private property of ideas, he won't claim any "patent". O boy, I can't help fully exposing this storm in a teacup!
Summer 1995: Ripostes announced they were going to publish Adelfio's translation of Radio Sermonettes. According to some informers, ShaKe got pissed-off and hastily translate the same book. November 1995: bookstores got the two editions on the same day! Peter Lamborn Wilson a.k.a. Hakim Bey sent an undated fax to the Salernitan guys:
"Dear Ugo & Romano (et alii), ...thanks for a marvellous job on Immediatism - It's very weird to me to be taken seriously! - I wish I could read the apparatus criticus..."
I got a copy of this by Ugo. At the beginning of 1996, Gomma & Co. were told that Adelfio was translating Pirate Utopias as well. They contacted Wilson and urged him to intervene. Wilson sent another undated fax:
"Dear Ugo... please communicate with ShaKe in Milan because they are also working on Pirate Utopias!!! Talk to Goma [sic] or Sid. I'm sorry this confusion arose. Maybe you can work together! Sid just started work on translating..."
I got a copy of this by ShaKe. (They made a lot of stuff public in order to claim their exclusive "right"!) Anyway, at that moment, Ugo was aware that ShaKe had cut out a passage of the book, so he didn't want to cooperate with any of them. On April 24th, Wilson sent a fax to ShaKe:
"Dear Sid & Goma [sic]... you can tell [Adelfio] - or anyone - that you are the only authorized translator and publisher of Pirate Utopias in Italy. Any other translation or edition is unauthorized & I will take legal steps to prevent its appearance or sale..."
Consider that the text we're talking about is anti-copyright! After ShaKe received this, they forwarded it to Ripostes attaching a similar threat. At last, Adelfio sent a fax to Wilson:
"Dear Peter... Our intents are not connected to copyright and we want to stigmatize the disquieting behaviour of neo-copyrightist paranoid Italian publishers. We don't want to start a merchandising war. Our intentions are clear, the cure for our version of Immediatism! demonstrates it. [The omission of your definition about Che Guevara] shows what they really are: red fascists, ther usual passe' expression of Italian leftist hegemonical cultural control disguised as alternative cyberpunk!... For this reason we did not want to cooperate with them... Are you a sponsor of the neo-copyright movement?".
Wilson never replied. In plain words, Bey was ready to bring to court people whose only fault was having "taken him seriously" and put into practice all the 1990's idle talk on anti-copyright. Accidentally, they had found out Wilson's opportunism (stalinoid self-censorship - I hadn't gone so far!)
Again, is it my fault if ShaKe didn't realize that A Ruota Libera was a fake? Those guys used to brag of their direct link with Hakim Bey or pontificate as if they knew the Internet like the back of their hands...And yet they didn't notice that "the original English versions of these texts, which circulated only via E-mail" (as "Belletati" wrote) simply DON'T EXIST! Why didn't they ask to the supposed author? Why didn't they search for the texts on Alta Vista, Yahoo and the likes? No, Sir, they only wanted to slander, calumniate, backbite Castelvecchi and Adelfio, insult "Belletati"... They FORCED me to con them, so I contacted Luther Blissett of the Nottingham Psychogeographical Unit and proposed him to play "Belletati". He began to write and/or ring up Gomma, obnoxiously trying to tranquillize him, then insulting him. Gomma would wail over that behaviour, that's why everybody kept believing "Belletati" to be a real person ("Who the fuck is this Belletati? His letters are total crap! He's gotta be mad!"). Every complaint by Gomma became a further pound of shit thrown in the fan.
D. The scam exposed
"...A little more like Italy where only drivers who sharpen their skills survive."
Jello Biafra, 1987
The previous three sections of the text you are reading are an English translation of the communique by which I revealed my scam in the second week of July 1996. I sent it via fax and snail-mail to as many zines as I could, then put it in digital form on many BBSs and mailing lists. I sent it to the press as well. Many "post-cyber-anarcho-situ-hippie-punk-bullshit" clap-trap leftist poseurs in the "alternative scene" freaked out, many more started laughing and haven't yet stopped! When the first article appeared on a national newspaper ("Una beffa a ruota libera", by Loredana Lipperini, on La Repubblica, 7/20/1996), some said that "the dirty linen of the movement shouldn't be washed in public" (which sounds like a sort of Mafia ideal). The most stupid victim of the prank, that is Angelo Quattrocchi, got totally out of control. Soaked in his lofty anti-tech dream, he was the only journalist who didn't bump into my communique. Someone passed on him a copy of Lipperini's article, which he got as the only gateway to my prank. Instead of taking the piece as a secondary source, he assumed that was an anti-communist scam by his colleague, indeed, a vile provocation by "the bourgeois press", maybe favoured by Luther's verbal incontinence.
On Wednesday, July 24th "Liberazione" published an ultramoronic article by Quattrocchi [entitled "C'e' Stalin in un testo underground e allora 'La Repubblica' gode" = "La Repubblica is excited in finding Stalin in an underground text"]. Geez! Quattrocchi wrote that A Ruota Libera was not fake and attacked both Lipperini (whom he also mispelt as "Lipparini") and Blissett for "having craped in his nest" (uh?!)! On the following day, Lipperini replied and demolished Quattrocchi: "[...] Everyone approved at the prank on Mondadori. Should everyone take offence now that Luther has given a blow to counterculture? This is an unpleasant signal [...]". Two days later, "Il Manifesto" published a whole-page article on the prank by Alberto Piccinini [entitled: "La beffa e le miserie di Lee Mortais" = The prank and the poverty of Lee Mortais], which exposed the whole matter of censorship, anti-copyright, conformism etc. The article contained this passage: "[this prank] is a further proof of Luther Blissett's fascinating and admirable capability of keeping his "fifth columns" [i.e. spies] in the media".
Many "representatives" of the Italian "radical scene" said that my prank was "beneficial", at least "useful" in order to destroy "some putrescent mechanicisms of myth-making and literary criticism" (S. Dazieri). On August 9th, during an interview on the public radio, Bifo criticized some aspects of the prank but added that "Blissett's operation is extraordinary". As to ShaKe, they reacted bearing a deep grudge against "me". Gomma was sighted in a Milan social centre yelling: "I think I know who had a hand in this! I'll smash their faces in!". Well, "we" can physically humiliate him at any moment. Choose your seconds and come tomorrow at 5 o'clock behind the graveyard. I've chosen (and already used) the weapon: your touchiness.
Luther Blissett, August 1996