Interview given by Bifo on the italian public television
A few weeks ago we re-found a pearl we had lost, that is the
videotape of an interview given by Franco Berardi aka Bifo on
the Italian public television in 1997. The context was Mediamente,
a daily TV program on the Internet and electronic communication
in general. It was a special feature, entirely dedicated to the
notion of identity, with specific references to the deeds of Luther
We wrote it down and translated it into English. OK, it's not exactly news, but we think that many people (especially nettimers) will be amused reading this lazy parody of kathedernihilismus: Bifo is coiled like a snake lying in ambush. Initially he plays with cyber-drivel in order to confuse the anchorman Carlo Massarini, then he stretches himself and coins one of the best definitions of the work we've been doing for all these years. I like it very much.
From "Mediamente", RAI3, 16 april 1997, h.1.30 pm
MASSARINI: Once a week Mediamente hosts Franco Bifo Berardi,
our cybernetic consultant. Today we're going to talk with him
about Luther Blissett, the ghostly identity adopted as a cover
by the author - or the authors - of hoaxes and pranks recently
pulled on newspapers, TV channels and radio stations.
Luther Blissett was a Jamaican footballer, he played in AC Watford and AC Milan. Let me tell you that, from the point of view of the average football fan, Blissett wasn't a great champion. Luther Blissett is also a terrorist though, as well as an artist and a virus inoculated into the infosphere.
But who's Luther Blissett? We could speculate on this for hours and hours, and we still wouldn't have a clue, simply because Luther Blissett isn't anyone in particular, it is a multiple name, an identity that we all are invited to adopt whenever we want... It sounds like a joke, and yet the existence of Luther Blissett forces us to reflect upon some important issues, I mean, can we still cling to some strong concept of "identity" as the newest technologies bring to light the limits of all traditional belief in property, personality, copyrights, sexuality and corporeality?
The age of global computer communications is blowing away one of the last myths of western culture: the Individual. By individual we mean a singular subject with his/her own exclusive and unchangeable characteristics. Can such a subject survive in the world of collective intelligence?
The progress of technology and the consequent social changes have forced us to acquire a flexible mentality, a nomadic way of thinking - this also changes our ideas about personal identity. To change identity, gender and/or physiognomy, to be everyone or no one, to erase the traces of a possible identification, to confuse ourselves into a collective identity. Is this going to be the new way of life?
Enter Franco Bifo Berardi.
MASSARINI: Good morning, Bifo, we got a hard issue today, don't we? First of all, let's talk about Luther Blissett. You say that Luther Blissett is a multiple name, which is more than a mere collective identity. What do you mean by that?
BIFO: Let's start by saying that we'll take the liberty of using words as we like...
MASSARINI: Sure, that suits the subject...
BIFO: ...because words are useless, one can multiply and demultiply
them to infinity, one can forget them. This is the starting point.
Now, what does 'multiple name' mean? Why do I talk about 'multiple
names' and not about 'collective identities'?
'Collective identity' means that we all get on well together, found a party, are faithful to an ideal, fight for it... Bullshit. 'Multiple name' means that each of us is what happens to her/him. Pay attention: not what s/he is, but all that happens to her/him. The relations to the world, to the media, to the past and the future, we can stick our favourite label on all these things. Our favourite is 'multiple name', which implies a non-identity.
MASSARINI: Therefore, 'collective name' means that people are in accordance with each other, while 'multiple name' means that everybody acts as they like.
MASSARINI: And what do these people who act as they like actually do? I mean those who use the 'Luther Blissett' label...
BIFO: One must not overvalue the importance of Luther Blissett. We could even say that Luther Blissett doesn't count for anything. All that really counts is the fact that we're all Luther Blissett, we all have lost any ability of saying where we come from and where we're going to. This is what Luther Blissett is about. "Psychogeographical drifts"? Naaaah. "Fakes"? Those are merely labels which advertise something different from the actual content of the can. Who gives a damn? After all Luther Blissett is the point of drifting which we all have reached, the moment when each wo/man admits that his/her journey is aimless, because the aim has been abstracted from our journeys. Is this good or evil? I dunno. That's what Luther Blissett is about.
MASSARINI: Thus it is pointless to wonder if [Luther Blissett] is serious, because he can do anything. I daresay that Luther Blissett might be the mover of such activities as struggles and protests, a sort of Greenpeace of information - but he might also be a completely different thing.
BIFO: Luther Blissett is our contribution to the extinction of civilization.
MASSARINI: [ nervously giggling] Oh dear...
BIFO: ...and the extinction of Truth.
MASSARINI: [looking at the camera] Beware!
BIFO: On the other hand, what does 'truth' mean as we learn day after day, moment by moment, that our society is based upon such lies as identity, work, communication, family, all those things which are described as necessary though we perfectly know it isn't like that?
MASSARINI: But why was he born in the cyberspace? Is that a more fertile soil? Is it because communication is easier there than in the traditional media?
BIFO: Well, I think that the Net is the place where the loss of meaning is more apparent and clear. If I communicate through a screen, by a name that can't be verified, then everything re-emerges, I can lie, multiply, abstract... In our everyday lives we lie all the time, but we're ashamed of it, and we bump into security checks, someone wants to see our ID card. On the Net, thank God - nay, no thanks to God - we are beyond that block, beyond that necessity.
MASSARINI: So he was born on the Net as a metaphor of the Net itself, and at the same time as a metaphor of the whole society. Is this what you mean?
BIFO: Yes, it is.
MASSARINI: Having said this, can we also say that Luther Blissett is a liberating idea... Or is it a new prison?
BIFO: Luther Blissett stems from the fact that we're free from the necessity of intelligence... The end of intelligence is everywhere, people even make a display of this condition, and we must be able to go through the whole process. In case we happen to be intelligent, that's all right, Luther Blissett gives us the possibility of facing the everyday without being ashamed of our intelligence.
MASSARINI: But, from the point of view of an outsider, since Blissett is everything and its opposite, both a positive action of counter-information and a mere pretext for talking nonsense, doesn't this damage his credibility? By mixing good and bad, don't he elide all the terms?
BIFO: No he doesn't, because something remains.
BIFO: Pleasure, suffering, authentic life, psychogeographical driftings, actions that may look meaningless but have an immediate authenticity, the authenticity of pleasure, the pleasure of being in touch with each other, feeling the presence of our own bodies and living this time even if it's destitute of any meaning, because life is enjoyable even in times of lies. Luther Blissett stems from the end of intelligence as a declaration of the fact that intelligence may reappear anywhere if we're able to get out of the frame built by capital and the media, and live apart from the things we were forced to endure.
MASSARINI: Yet the attitude of the Luther Blissett group is somewhat nihilistic and destructive, as if Blissett were the Antichrist of information...
BIFO: [a wicked light in his eyes] 'Antichrist of information' is a wonderful expression, indeed, I call on all the Luther Blissetts in the audience, that is eighteen million people, to start over from here: antichrist of information means the saver of authentic life - this is the beginning of a reconstruction, not the reconstruction of identity, but the reconstruction of the pleasure that's still possible.
MASSARINI: But what is the corner stone of this reconstruction? Personal identity?
BIFO: It is the flesh, the immediateness of a community that we must live rather than describe, a collective that's got nothing to do with mediation, information, television and the family.
MASSARINI: I think I get it now: Luther Blissett is just a paradigm, it's what we need in order to find ourselves...
BIFO: Damn, Massarini, you're in perfect accordance with me!
MASSARINI: I don't know why, but today I'm able to follow you, dr. Bifo... Excuse me, how many goals did Luther Blissett score in AC Milan?
BIFO: Dozens of thousands, because every kid has always been Luther Blissett running towards the goal.