Rock's Backpages Writers' Blogs » David McKenna Rock reviews, rock articles & rock interviews from the Ultimate Rock'n'Roll Library Sun, 19 May 2013 03:11:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Pascal’s Theorem Tue, 28 Apr 2009 13:19:23 +0000 David McKenna Continue reading ]]> Ludovic, my Rockfort partner in crime, and I  recently went to the Barbican to interview Pascal Comelade. For those who aren’t aware, the Catalan musician started out his career in the early 70s making electronic music, but his stock-in-trade is now pieces which are closer to a cranky Tom Waits instrumental circa ‘Swordfishtrombones’ – fairly straightforward compositionally but performed using a whole variety of unusual instruments, often toy ones. Spiritually, he also seems akin to Robert Wyatt (with whom he has collaborated), if more primitive in his approach. I warmed to the guy pretty quickly, partly because, in his humour and the sense he gave of being rigorous in the selection of his words, he reminded me of one of my uncles.

Transcribing the conversation later, I was struck by a couple of things: firstly, the fact that a musician had been warming up in the room next door, with the result that at times Pascal’s voice was, rather charmingly, accompanied by the slightly muffled sound of an accordion; and secondly, his views on the internet, which he sees as a tool of fascism – and not from the state either:

“The simple fact that, on the internet, anyone can write freely whatever they like about anyone, without regulation… I can write whatever I like about you, and you can’t erase it. And you’re told “Yes, but then you just need to reply.” The simple fact of having to think about responding… but I don’t want to respond, someone is obliging me to respond. It’s pure fascism. If someone tells me today that they’re anti-fascist, I tell them “My friend, we’ve been living with fascism for some time already.” And not from the system, but from ourselves, under the pretext of freedom.”

At the time, it was easy to let this pass for the most part – he was in full flow, let the guy talk! It’s also worth mentioning his own caveat to all this, that he realises he’s out of step with his own era and it’s just a personal feeling. But in his eyes, the printed press is legitimate, the domain of professionals, while the internet is purely a forum for dilettantes. Now, in writing this I’d probably be guilty in Pascal’s eyes were they ever to alight on this post (unlikely, it seems) of the crime he describes, but I’m more interested in the larger issues he raised than in taking him to task personally.

First issue: Leaving aside trying to define what constitutes fascism, the idea here seems to be that the internet nurtures latent dictatorial impulses. Perhaps true, but if you look at this way, is that the only impulse it nurtures? It has undoubtedly been said before (and was reiterated by my housemate last night) but doesn’t the internet reflect a whole range of human desires, from the base to the noble?

Second issue: When it comes to professional journalists versus amateurs, any sane person can see that, generally, the importance placed on the opinions of self-appointed experts, ie members of the public (more views!), or celebrities, is massively over-inflated relative to that given to people who actually have training in a particular field and might know what they’re talking about. But from there to an implicit trust in the printed press over the internet, when we’re well aware of the many forces that govern the information we receive via official channels, and that there are plenty of ‘professional’ journalists who spout arrant nonsense. (No-one featured on this site, it goes without saying)…? I guess you could argue that at least you’re likely to know what a newspaper’s political allegiances are before you pick it up, but still…

Third issue: Doesn’t decrying ‘personal fascism’ miss the bigger picture? It wasn’t through official channels that we first became aware of police brutality at the G20 summit. It was through images, recorded by ‘ordinary’ people, and made visible via the internet.

Any thoughts welcome!

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