Diana McCarty on Wed, 9 Oct 96 05:20 MET

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nettime:browsing through the files

Browsing through the files

In 1993, a well meant Romanian journalist searched the Internet
in order to see how often and in what context the name of our country
was traveling "the cyberspace". To his disappointment, made public in
a prestigious local newspaper, the only material found was entitled
"Visit reality park Romania and enjoy Draculaland". The Western stupid
addiction for clichˇs was again confirmed, and even worse, it was
confirmed by what was supposed to be the ultimate smart tool of the

What the voluntary analyst seemed to ignore is that the incriminated
text was written by Agentur Bilwet, as the post script of a book we
published on the occasion of our unfortunate participation in the
Venice Biennial. The book's title was DRACULALAND, and this
subREAL-istic concept remained part of our "artistic" behavior
ever since.

I find this story relevant because it speaks in a modest way about
the conspiratorial potential of the net. The continuous
de-contextualization, the cut-and-paste mentality of the participants
in the discussions, the random quotational attitude of the anonymous
majority, all this keeps in motion a subversive ingredient which make
the most serious reactions to/within the net unpredictable and funny.
And a bit out of track, also.

Nobody is spared the opportunity to be ridiculous and nobody can push
the sense of humor and the relativism far enough to avoid the common
places and the false positions. The system of the net is a distorted
mirror in which we (the folks) love to look for our improved selves,
although we constantly meet an ambiguous "other". We hope to be excused
for this "digital metaphor", and we also want to confess a complete
ignorance of the internet as a tool, as far as it does not concern our
own games of appropriation.

The texts which follow are samples in that sense; although the first
one has an e-mail address in the beginning, it never reached its
destination, for what we consider to be obvious reasons. We don't know
how many secret services have an e-mail adress, but the Romanian one
doesn't, so far. Which is a pity, because if there is a place where
information is available for control and manipulation, this is the
internet. And this is what the second text, a fragment from the Thesaurus
book of the Romanian secret services, is about.

To: The Director of the Romanian Service of Information
From: subREAL c/o 100530@compuserve.com
Subject: cultural intelligence strategies
Date: February 9, 1996

Dear Sir,

It is already well-known that cultural promotion became an active
 element in modern intelligence. The Jacobe & Raevski doctrine
(recently published under the title "Persuasion in the Information War")
gives enough arguments in support of this. We here mention only a few
advantages from the much longer list assembled by those analysts:
1. the potential to promote publicly hidden agendas under the slogan
of normality;
2. the low costs of implementation, compared to direct political action;
3. the permeability of mass media to new cultural data;
4. the access to specific lobbies via local cultural personalities,
usually less prepared to avoid infiltration;
5. the neutral appearance in comparison with emerging political and
military campaigns; etc.

Unfortunately, due to its critical position in terms of regional
and global strategies, Romania cannot afford to apply the 4 classic
solutions of cultural intelligence:
a. It lacks the infrastructure for large-scale operations
(see the 19 century promotion of Russian literature in  France;
or the post WW II invasion of the European art market by the American

b. It is internally too weak for an export-only production of
self-critical discourse (the case of the Soviet Union in the 70s
and the 80s).
c. It has no corporate consciousness in order to launch a criticism
of the nation-state (the US counter-ideology of the 90s).
d. It has no position to afford a direct criticism of international
values (the way fundamentalist Islamic countries do).

With all this in mind, we would like to keep your attention to the
1. subREAL is a group basing its activities on information material
extracted from Romanian realities.
2. subREAL might be used as an indicator of perception of the Romanian
society in general, since he reached a certain international acknowledgment.
3. subREAL has no harmful influence on national public opinion, because
its sole orientation is international. Therefore criticism and change are
not necessarily connected.
4. subREAL practices a criticism of the Western system from an independent
position, using the standards of that same system precisely.
5. subREAL's discourse includes new media as a central topic, which
potentially establishes access to an audience consisting of the new
political class.
6. subREAL operates with a small budget, which makes all financial and
logistic support unostentatious.

Considering these factors, cooperative efforts between subREAL and
your Service might provide the necessary infrastructure to improve
Romania's image abroad, without losing its modest position in the
international concert.Should our proposal find the interest of your
organization, please contact us for further practical discussions.

Sincerely yours,


P.S. An envelope with documentation will follow by snail mail
(too big for Attachments).

From: "Thesaurus of terms and topics connected to the open market
implementation", Internal use only, 1996
Internet - Intelligence strategic tool, implemented first in the
civilian society by a purposeful leaking /Thesaur**/ operation.
Immediate goals: a) the increase of social communication in a
storable data format; b) the decompression of potential tensions via
controllable alternative environments. The operation is a disputable

The development of capitalist technologies allowed the extreme diffusion
of the i., in a network beyond any obvious control. Yet some of our
analysts defend i. as an example of efficient inductive procedure/
Thesaur**/. According to them, the i. operation is based on the entropy
of open systems /Thesaur**/, and therefore it develops in the designed
direction without any necessary feed-back .

The i. generated its own codes: the key word is surfing and the main
attitude - self-reference. The speed of communication maintains the data
impact on the surface. The horizontal progression keeps it restrained to
itself. More a system opens horizontally, more it diminishes in depth.
The typical users' behavior is zapping the information.

The schizoid parallelism with the reality environment makes i. comparable
 to TV in its sedating effects. Unlike TV, i. keeps up a necessary urge
for activism and social responsibility, and therefore has never been
object of any significant rejection coming from the politically concerned

Note: "Information wants to be free" - an old slogan proving the
unawareness of the anarchist branch of i. users about the fluid
behavior of information and about the controlled release of pressure
in supervised environments. ("Like the released gases, the freed
information is very quickly losing any aggressive potential and the
climax effect of free information is neither longer or more disturbing
than the effects of a freed fart." MacLuhan, op. cit. p.239)

Applicability in the former Eastern block. In a context where:
1. the effects of programmed rumors fade under the pressure of the recent
media liberalization; 2. the national TV (our main media tool) has lost
credibility - i. can be a useful alternative, if the implementation is
organized in order to avoid the dissemination through uncontrolled
initiatives. An advantage in our case is the possibility to keep high
the rate of surveillance, via economic control of the computer market,
of the telephone lines and of the energy distribution. If things are
managed correctly, the i. will be a good resource of spontaneous
confession on a large variety of sensitive topics.

Still, the political potential of i. will be kept lower than in the
capitalist environments, due to the different relation to media of our
potential users. Suggestion: periodical lock-outs of the power networks,
in order to randomly delete files and undermine the reliability of the

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