1 October 1997

Is A Cult Of The Pendulum Born?

Is it licit to blame Umberto Eco if a group of young people has drawn inspiration from one of his novels, fostering chaos in the media and promoting blasphemous cults? Imagine that the things depicted in Foucault's Pendulum escape from literary fiction and infect sick brains. Fictional strategies continue working and mix reality and fantasy in an amoral disorder. In Italy and the rest of Europe, an obscure and delirious Internet youth movement called Luther Blissett are increasing their influence; they seem to have turned Foucault's Pendulum and Eco's philosophy into the Holy Writings of a "pop" "subversive" anti-media religion, a life-size role play with the tradition of hesoterism.. An anonymous pamphlet titled Umberto Eco's multiple name started to circulate recently. It aims at exposing the underhand dealings and connections with Italy's left-wing milieux which shaped the project, revealing the likely involvement of Eco himself in the scam and calling him a "master of deception", accomplice of the Intelligentia's hesoteric-gnostic activities. .

L'Espresso, a big italian information magazine, once described Luther Blissett as "an extraordinary mix of the Internet and the Knight Templars". Nowadays the collective imagination has completely merged with the media and the show-biz, and these descriptions cannot come as as surprises anymore. Consider that "Luther Blissett" originally was the name of an AC Milan soccer player! But who or what is Luther Blissett these days? He is famous for several hoaxes pulled on the TV and the press; he is a mass-media spectre whose legend has been constructed as that of a pop star who may be impersonated by anyone. Luther Blissett is a multiple name, that is a name which everyone is exhorted to adopt and spread, a collective character which some young people are using as a Trojan horse in order to infiltrate popular culture, using his reputation to foster apocalyptic cults, rave parties, radical "performance art" and a huge amount of World Wide Web activism. Their plans are definitely subversive: a semiological guerrilla against the media which has a plenty of coincidences with Eco's theories. Who knows what the author of *The Name Of The Rose* is thinking about his kinship with the mysterious creature... So long he played with the fanta-occult that he got involved in it as a protagonist.

The maze of news and rumours is endless and baffling, and curiosity demands understanding. On 26 May 1997 even Der Spiegel, the German weekly magazine, covered Blissett's activities in Germany and explicitly cited Umberto Eco as one of the forerunners of the project. The whole matter is made even more complex by the usual conspiracy theories, both right-wing and left-wing. Is this nothing more than conspiracy paranoia? The authors of the pamphlet wonder too. Is this a mere journalistic mystery story? We had better be circumspect and go for understatements. After all Eco seems to have become the primadonna in the salons of the left-wing intelligentsia, as well as a compulsory (and resigned) target of any rumour. In the springtime of 1997 he's even been charged with being nothing other than the Antichrist, which caused a sensation in many Italian newspapers. Moreover, after the deaths of Gianni Versace and Princess Di, we are witnessing a massive revival of conspiracy-spotting in the newspapers. At the end of the day we still have to find out who is concealing himself behind the initials K.M.A., the only signature on the pamphlet. K.M.A. promises to reveal himself at an opportune time.

On this website you will find a summary of the story of the pamphlet, the complete Italian text of the latter and an English abstract of its content, as well as links to the most famous Blissett- and Eco-related websites. The site is open to interaction: you may leave your comment on the guestbook page. For any further information, proposal and request you can e-mail to Andrea Ridolfi - ridolfi_andrea@geocities.com

It is up to you to judge the clues and coincidences scattered in this story: in Eco's life and works, in the vicissitudes of the pamphlet and in the galaxy of "avant-garde" movements. Here is the case. What is your solution?