August 07, 2004

Who are you negotiating with?/We be clubbin'

“Any dialogue betweeen matraqueurs and matraqués is impossible.” .... The relation between beaters and beaten is an antidialectic of absolute difference and total opposition--a relationship of “pure violence,” not unlike the one Frantz Fanon theorized between his paradigmatic figures of “colonizer” and “colonized” in Les damnés de la terre. The matraque, a short, generally balanced weapon used for bludgeoning, made of a wooden stick, thicker and heavier at one end and and covered with hardened rubber...frequently serves an almost pedagogical role of “awakening” or revelation..... “I saw street battles up close, I saw cops break peoples’ heads open. When you see cops charge, it marks you for the rest of your life.”

"The verb “matraquer” that appears so frequently in the literature of May-June takes on a figurative meaning for the first time only after ’68. It is only then that the French begin to speak, for example, of the matraquage of televisual images, or of other sensory experience of incessant repetition: no longer literal blows raining down, but the repeated staccato of advertising jingles, the refrains of popular music. After ’68, the word is most often used in the context of certain kinds of media or advertising “saturation” campaigns, when advertisement slogans decsend like cluster bombing, creating the bland monotony of received ideas or doxa, the whole reiterative logic of the “society of consumption.”.... the word derives originally from the Algerian Arabic, matraq, or “club.” In 1968, the same word contained both the future announced by its figurative sense, which was just appearing, and the materiality of past colonial violence. In the future lay the way in which the values of the dominant ideology (the market, profits, the firm) find their praises sung--or hammered out (matraqué) by the dominant media. But the colonial origins of that long national history and of other bloody confrontations in the not so distant past...."

-- Kristin Ross, May '68 and its Afterlives

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