Conformism and mass surveillance in the era of the new pandemic “normal”

Politicians, footballers, show business women and men, ordinary citizens, few have managed to save themselves from the pandemic surveillance and condominium report set up in the last year: the deputy Marattin, the Juventus players, and many other well-known and less known have seen the police break into the house, thus forced to interrupt some home banquet, in flagrant prohibition (and I imagine also fragrant given the prandial gathering based on, hopefully, good food and wines) compared to the stunning sequence of prohibitions imposed by decree-laws and more often Dpcm, and then to collect the penalty report.

An intricate tangle of rules, lemmas and paragraphs, often pataphysical prohibitions, so surreal and Dadaist that the Trieste newspaper Il Piccolo has seen fit to 'give' them as an attachment to the newspaper, with an advertisement that has rightly become viral on the Net.

But more than their own gargantuan hunger, the citizens who violated the new pandemic normality, interwoven with social distancing, masks, withdrawn and homely and above all solitary life, were privileged victims of the structural degeneration of the concept of active citizenship, with zealous neighbors who they became diligent informers of the police forces, then promptly rushed to sanction the assembled diners.

Erich Fromm wrote, in a rather painful way, that despite the fact that one of the salient distinctive traits between democracy and the totalitarian system is precisely the quantitative and qualitative figure of conformism, erected as a foundation scaffolding in the control devices of totalitarian regimes, even in democracies many choose the conformism.

On the other hand, if you think about it, it is not difficult to understand why: conformity is reassuring, warm, comfortable, sanctifying even because it elevates mediocre spirits on the altar of social awareness by assigning some useful function to individuals otherwise trapped in lives of rare greyness. .

And to conformism, in a degenerate and obscene marriage, is added narcissism, the desire to appear and be recognized.

How many socially conscious celebrities have seen the dark underbelly of the earth emerge in this pandemic, how many strangers eager to make a name for themselves by sharing their opinion on how we will all die every day.

Public pillories and public shaming architectures against restaurateurs, tourists, young people, entrepreneurs, groups, the Orwellians' two minutes of hatred 'directed against anyone who invokes freedom and return to normalcy, a wild, mad, ferocious, dripping resentment that transforms' violations administrative 'in the event of potential genocide. Curfew guardians and clerics, grim scientists increasingly protagonists in an authentic pandemic reality show , preside over the front pages of newspapers and every television channel, at any hour of the day and night, dispensing intensive care pornography that would not be displeased at the Ballard de “The exhibition of atrocities” .

I hear some showgirls about the new plague or some dapper virologists improvised anthropologists and psychologists according to which to be calm we should wall ourselves alive for a couple of years and the mind immediately runs to Louis-Ferdinand Céline's "Rigodon" , "tranquility is only for the mediocre, whose head disappears in the crowd ”.

It is no coincidence that in the era of presumed digital democracy and the first furtive and then obvious crumbling of intermediate bodies, active citizenship itself has flowed back from an initiative of conscious and positive participation in civil life to a sort of substitute for state delation .

It does not seem accidental to me the re-publication in these years of studies on mass conformism, narcissism and the psychology of crowds, with the proposition also of new studies on Le Bon, Zimbardo, Lasch.

Active citizenship, praised in the general framework of the vivification of horizontal subsidiarity, is soon discolored in the folds of the eternal authoritarian dream of a part of the population, that of living in a structural replica of the GDR, between STASI, 'lives of others' meticulously auscultate and seize, barracks of brutal Soviet architecture, subsidies, citizenship income variously denominated and State Father and Master: first they swept the streets and made their gardens bloom, trying to make themselves alternates of the inert public power, and this was already a pathology because subsidiarity implies collaboration, cooperation, not public power that consciously outsources, and by mere inertia or inability, its services to citizens that those services pay with their often hard-earned taxes, now instead for active citizenship we mean participation in the mass surveillance 'required 'to combat the spread of the pandemic.

Here too: the LUISS University Press has just recently published "The culture of surveillance" by David Lyon, whose founding assumption, I will forgive the brutal simplification, is that there is no longer a need for widespread control public if we ourselves, often unconsciously, make us enthusiastic supporters of control, feeding the device of social control with reports, telematic messages, photographs, videos, small accusations.

The pandemic has undoubtedly taken to extremes the general spirit of mass conformity, has imported the final degeneration of active citizenship by now made a gendarme from a tip against the dinner on the terrace, and has exalted the narcissism of people who are intoxicated with tele-virology and meteorology of death sent continuously on television they feel important and existentially useful to society with their complaints.

Now instead of plucking wild-grown nettles in a backyard or cleaning the spray-paint tags on some monument, we feel useful by phoning the police if we hear excessive cackling coming from the balcony next to our apartment.

After all, pandemics, as Foucault reminds us, have always been the privileged element, in their unusual emergence, to allow the essential devices of control to settle and innervate in the depths of our daily life: an entire chapter of "Supervise and punish" is dedicated to medieval regulations to combat the plague, which made the cities a living and pulsating organism of control, arranged along lines of continuous observation.

Because, beyond the conformism of small gestures, to assume the disturbing and restless hood of total control, of widespread surveillance contracted out to ordinary citizens, the plague of the conformism of thought has now manifested itself, and the latter, as Bertrand Russell taught, is very worse and more dangerous than petty conformism interwoven with small gestures.

On the other hand, the vulgate , the mantra that circulates and pollutes televisions, newspapers, websites, social media is that to really stop the virus it is necessary to hit the 'collaborators of the virus' with unusual hardness, the infectors who are insensitive to images of death. and suffering and only eager to enjoy their clandestine carbonare in company.

Yes, we have gone from carboneria to carbonara. From the sworn brotherhoods of the Risorgimento to attic groups with a view of black and silent cities. And it is not a joke, because unfortunately psychically we are all in it, up to our necks.

I challenge anyone after a year of media bombardment to say they are completely alien, as if they were a Pavlovian tic, from that mind control mechanism that leads us to look with suspicion who wears the mask lowered under their nose. Except that while we maybe sink that tic with a wave of disgust towards ourselves for having experienced it, many others use it as a psychic factor for widespread surveillance.

And this is how phone calls to law enforcement agencies swarm to 'report' the breaded cutlet enjoyed in homes teeming with life. The newspapers compete in the owner and find 'abusive parties', even if we were in the Chicago of prohibition. The nightlife has been transformed into a macabre dance, the kids who drink a beer on the Navigli or Ponte Milvio become potential bio-terrorists, all while the virologists from the television lounge continue to spread sentences of uncertainty and pandemic doubt.

Rock stars and rappers, the ones who once, decades ago, shot each other, died of heroin or choked with vomit after an epic hangover, got order services at concerts by Hell's Angels , celebrated any rebellion in music and revolt, today they make the stories on Instagram whining if they have spotted two kids kissing in the park under the house from the window.

And it is thus that, between a 'constitutional rights in a pandemic are suspended' and other similar pills of emergency constitutionalism dispensed by people who do not even know where the constitutional right of home is, we have all been sucked into this theater of the absurd , where not even a diligent STASI official is needed to listen to our conversations or to verify our degree of compliance with the provisions of the Dpcm.

There is now the neighbor for that. Stinging little finger that licks and titillates the telephone keys, to make the authorities aware of the atrocious crime of will to live committed carelessly by his neighbors, who were so much on his boxes for years because of that particularly heated condominium assembly and of those expenses for the reconstruction of the flat roof.

We are living in the era of resentment erected as a system, of small and large envies flattered as medals for civil valor. More and more often in the social media pit we read phrases like 'I have been bricked up in the house for a year and they have fun'. Where 'having fun' in general is always synonymous with living some life that can be said to be worth living.

On the other hand, in the beginning, and out of the pandemic, were the digital applications for reporting to the authorities: some commendable, such as reporting a pothole on the road, an unsafe plant, a water leak, or a triple row capable of paralyzing the traffic in some alley where the steering wheels are never used to pass, but others in reality immediately transformed into continuous jet surveillance determined by personal dislikes or social feuds.

Too beautiful cars. Too bad personal existence. He has a flashy and young wife, he, the other, the enemy of my existence, a prestigious job, while I instead roll into a dreary studio apartment, alone and angry with society.

It is inevitable. There is also no need to adhere to anthropological-negative approaches to the feral consistency of the human soul. Give the power, the real one, to an individual and he will make a personalistic and reckless use of it.

As the studies of the psychology of power and the behavioral sciences that have most questioned the processes of institutionalization have shown, man always tends to deviate from the right path and to abuse authority when this is granted to him in an extemporaneous and absolute way, when he is allowed to decide for others and on others: Philip Zimbardo with his Stanford university experiment, dating back to 1971, taking up some of Gustave le Bon's theories and in particular the one on deindividuation, has shown how the power of men ' normal 'tend to become atrocious carnage, without any limits and controls.

Zimbardo's idea was to verify how a highly polarized institutional environment made up of students 'hired' for the occasion, divided between inmates and prison guards, could exert influence on the participants.

The story is known, and so infamous that it was also reproduced in two films: the experiment was hastily interrupted due to the series of obscene brutalities committed by those who had 'too' identified with the part.

It is that lustful arbitrariness of power 'sung' by Sade, and taken up by Pasolini in his ' Salò ', which makes Mr. Nobody semi-God capable of deciding on the life of his fellow man, being able to ruin his life altogether.

And we have been de-individualized for a year, we live in a collective body anesthetized by the narrative of the virus, all stretched out in this almost mystical struggle, with no more critical sense and alternative hypotheses: no more tumors, no diabetes, no heart attacks, there is only Covid ; no sea, no holidays, no mountains, there is only Covid ; no walk, no sex with the girl, no party on the wall, there is only Covid ; no more restaurants or birthday parties, no visits to grandparents left on their own, no hugs or socializing, there is only Covid .

A well-known virologist even evoked, in terms of vaccines, the high war treason, recalling how deserters in war were shot. That the criminal code of war no longer provides for the death penalty for many years is an accessory, an inconvenience, he probably did not know but would not have said it anyway.

The important thing was to say something to effect, something atrocious that would reiterate this cloak of horror within which we are bound to live.

Metaphors of war, torrential data of death, home confinement, we are living in that warm and gray basement of Stanford, with our neighbor taking pictures from the balcony, making videos and ready to call the carabinieri if he hears us being sautéed in a suspicious way. It is a culture of surveillance and widespread suspicion, upon which a world that is not at all pleasant is being built. And that we risk dragging ourselves with us, and inside, even when the pandemic is over.

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This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Atlantico Quotidiano at the URL on Wed, 07 Apr 2021 03:54:00 +0000.