In a grandiose display of Foucauldian irony, one of the greatest anti-capitalist debates of our time has been reduced to an intellectual commodity.
We are terribly sad to announce that the YouTube video of the legendary Chomsky-Foucault debate that we shared on our website on Wednesday has been removed following a copyright claim by the New York-based distribution company Icarus Films. ROAR never claimed ownership over the video; we just helped to provide proper subtitles to a full version that had already been circulating online for months. The video had been brought to our attention by a group of Dutch anarchists who also assisted in its translation.
Needless to say, we are deeply saddened by this and we apologize to everyone who has not yet had the opportunity to watch the full debate online. Luckily, the web is like a bee-hive of subversive activity, and apparently some copies have already popped up over the past 24 hours. We will not direct you to these versions ourselves, but those who search for the truth will find it. Given the fact that tens of thousands of viewers flocked to our version of the video in the past 24 hours we are confident that the public interest has been sufficiently stirred.
We wish to emphasize one important point. We do not contest Icarus Films’ exclusive legal right to distribute the debate within the narrow confines of our present legal order; what we do contest, however, is the very nature of that order as it prioritizes the private ownership of public knowledge over its widespread dissemination among the very public that helped to produce it. The creation and use of knowledge is a collective enterprise that cannot be jammed into the suffocating straitjacket of a privatized intellectual commodity.
The video we shared was broadcast on Dutch public television in 1971. The production itself was paid for by Dutch taxpayers and made possible entirely by the creative input of two of the world’s most staunchly anti-capitalist thinkers, whose intellectual product was subsequently alienated by producer Fons Elders (a “professed anarchist” who also acted as the incapable moderator of the debate) and appropriated by international companies that did nothing to make the debate possible. Now the entire world is barred from seeing it just because this company owns an exclusive legal right to its distribution in North America.
Again, our issue here is not with a distributor of great documentary films that clings on to a somewhat outdated business model in the hope of squeezing a few bucks out of a 40-year-old public debate. Our issue is with a system that forces the employees of such a company to chase us down the streets of cyberspace in order to satisfy the profit motive that the market imposes upon their boss. This is precisely the “private tyranny” of the marketplace decried by the great thinkers of the Left, including Chomsky and Foucault in this debate.
Ironic, isn’t it? We wonder what Professor Chomsky would have to say about this; or Michel Foucault, had he still been alive.
ROAR considers itself part of a budding global movement towards free, universal, open-source access to all forms of public knowledge. We consider it our mission to breathe information and inspiration into the Creative Commons, thereby hopefully contributing a little bit towards the emergence of the “Ideal Society” envisioned by thinkers like Chomsky. We reject on grounds of principle the commodification of knowledge and the appropriation of the fruits of creativity by those who had nothing to do with its production in the first place.
For this reason, all original content on ROAR is published under CopyLeft: all wrongs reversed. Not because we wish to moralize, but because we aim to revolutionize. Unfortunately, the Chomsky-Foucault debate is not included in this original content and hence not part of the Creative Commons. It has long since been stolen from us all. All the more reason to search for ourselves and listen closely to the timeless words of those thinkers whose creative product is now the “exclusive property” of a New York company:
It seems to me that the real political task in our contemporary society is to criticize the workings of institutions, particularly the ones that appear to be neutral and independent, and to attack them in such a way that the political violence, which has always exercised itself obscurely through them, will finally be unmasked so that one can fight against them.
~ Michel Foucault
There are two intellectual tasks: one … is to try to create the vision of a future just society. Another task is to understand very clearly the nature of power and oppression and terror and destruction in our own society. And that certainly includes … the central institutions of any industrial society, namely the economic, commercial and financial institutions and, in particular, in the coming period, the great multinational corporations … Those are the basic institutions of oppression and coercion and autocratic rule that appear to be neutral. After all, they say: “Well, we’re subject to the democracy of the market place.” … If in those areas where the legal system happens to represent not better justice, but rather the techniques of oppression that have been codified in a particular autocratic system, well, then a reasonable human being should disregard and oppose them, at least in principle.
~ Noam Chomsky