Saying, doing or doing by saying?

What fascinates me about Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari is their willingness to go against the grain, not to be edgy, but to make you, as their reader, to think otherwise. It’d be tempting to argue that they want you to think like they do, but I don’t think that’s accurate. In a way that is, of course, true. I’d say that that does apply to a certain extent. Then again, they don’t want you to be like them, nor do they want you to enforce their views on others. I’d also say that that’s why they tended to write in a way that isn’t neatly arranged, leaving you hanging at times, to make sure that you, as their reader, wouldn’t end up turning it into fixed system. In other words, what I like about them is that they let you do your thing, the way you see fit, never telling you what to do and how to do it, making you figure things out yourself, leaving you wanting more and more, never having the final answer.

I realize that I’ve written about this in the past, even ranting about this, but I think it’s worth returning to. I’ve also used this exact passage in the past, by Claire Parnet, as expressed by her (26) in ‘A Conversation: What is it? What is it for?’, as included in ‘Dialogues’ written by her alongside Deleuze, but it doesn’t stop me from using it again:

“[A] school is already terrible: there is always a pope, manifestos, representatives, declarations of avant-gardeism, tribunals, excommunications, impudent political volte-faces, etc.”

I think this is an apt description of what happens when priests run the show, as Deleuze and Guattari explain in ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’. Now, I have nothing against priests, regardless of their religion or denomination, nor do they, as such. What they mean by priests is a group of people who take it upon themselves to elevate themselves into a position from which they inform others, giving them the correct interpretation of the world. In many cases this role does, however, match the roles of many religious leaders, but that’s beside the point, as they (116) point out:

“This … is applicable … to all subjected, arborescent, hierarchical, centered groups: political parties, literary movements, psychoanalytic associations, families, conjugal units, etc.”

They leave this list open because, well, it can apply to any arrangement, but I’d like to also add that academics should also be included here. People might not think that that’s the case, but, yeah, it is the case. To be fair, science, yes, science, as people think of it as, has given us a lot, that’s for sure, no doubt about it, but it is, by no means, immune to operating like a religion or a political party.

There’s staunch belief that science is about truth and that the so called scientific method is the guarantor of truth. That’s highly ironic, considering that that’s based on a belief held by a great number of people and that a small number of people claim to act for that large number of people, you know like a religion. On top of that, the organization is hierarchical, so that you have different tiers, you know like deacons, priests, bishops, archbishops, and a pope, subject centered, you know like venerating known figures as saints, backed up by texts, you know like holy texts, of which some are and some aren’t held as canon. Now, of course, this is not to say that science is a religion, but rather that it has a tendency to operate like one, as subjected, arborescent, hierarchical and centered.

This is actually linked to a somewhat recent public debate about how Finnish universities are supposedly ruined by ideologically tainted social sciences or arts and humanities, as they are better known here. Empiricism is, apparently, nowhere to be seen, unlike in the natural sciences. This is, of course, by no means a new debate. No, no. It comes and goes. Anyway, if you haven’t read the news, the gist of this is that natural sciences are presented as the true sciences, untainted by this, which is as credible as an argument as Lenin telling people that he is a man of the people, humble, not at all above them, in any way, whatsoever, as I’ve discussed in a previous essay. As you probably haven’t read that essay, nor will you, I’ll summarize it for you. If someone accuses someone else for being an ideologue, you can be certain that the accuser is an ideologue.

If you ask me, that whole debate is based on a false dichotomy. You won’t find a single science, field, or discipline, whatever you want to call it, that isn’t affected by that. They all operate like that because, erm, they are run by people. It’s hardly surprising that people seek to further their interests. If that happens at the expense of others, typically those entering the sciences, fields, or disciplines, then, well, too fucking bad, know your place and what not.

You’d certainly think that science or academics would be a noble pursuit of truth, considering how it’s presented as such, kind of like by people, for the people, aye, but assuming that that’s even possible, that there is such a thing as truth, which is not certain, I don’t see how we get to that by operating like a religion or a political party, with all that what’s mentioned by Parnet (26). If all the dissenting voices are silenced, one way or another, how does that guarantee any progress in that pursuit? I’d say that there’s nothing to fear. It should be a win-win situation regardless of who is right or wrong. Now, of course, people are not literally silenced. There’s not going to be some secret police knocking at your door, eager to banish you to a place where they don’t allow you to communicate with people back home, if you know what I mean.

Evelyn Beatrice Hall (199), aka Stephen G. Tallentyre, once wrote that François-Marie Arouet, aka Voltaire, was a staunch advocate of freedom of speech, if not it’s embodiment, as mentioned in ‘The Friends of Voltaire’:

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

This is often attributed to Voltaire, and that’s how I remembered it, but that’s not correct. Hall (199) doesn’t even claim such. She (199) presents this as “his attitude” at the time, right after a book by Claude Adrien Helvétius had been publicly burned. Voltaire might not have said that, but that doesn’t matter. I agree with that. I think it’s even better that a woman expressed that. Good on her.

Let’s start with a clear-cut example: dictatorships. If you want to argue that the leaders of communist regimes, like Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot, didn’t murder their own people by the million in the name of a better world, also known as people’s democracy, good luck explaining all that evidence away. It’s the same with Hitler and the Holocaust. I mean it’s pretty hard to explain away something like mass graves, considering that people are not typically buried in piles in pits. Feel free to attempt explaining that, but you’ll be wrong, and I’ll disapprove it, not because I think you shouldn’t have the right to say such, to argue your case, as I think you should, but because it takes willful ignorance of the abundance of evidence to reach such conclusions. If you can provide the necessary contrary evidence that sways us to believe that these guys weren’t murderous dictators, that they were, in fact, benevolent leaders, saints to be venerated, I’m fine with that, but I highly doubt you can pull that off. The thing with such regimes is that they are so high on themselves that they like to keep records of just about everything, including persecution and mass murder, basically incriminating themselves, which is why you have to be willfully ignorant about such.

So, as I pointed out, there’s nothing to fear here. It’s a win-win. They’ll end up either so off that you can’t even take it seriously or slightly revising something that doesn’t really change anything. It’s like when one estimates how many millions died in this or that conflict, for example in the second world war, the point is not really how many millions died but that millions died, that simply too many people died. Okay, to be clear, of course it does matter how many people actually died, not because one wants to obsess about it, as too many is simply too many, but because it matters to the people involved. I know knowledge doesn’t bring people back, but I’d say it’s better to know that they died instead of just vanished.

This is all linked to the debate on whether freedom of speech has or can have exception to it. I think it would actually be more apt to refer to it as the debate on freedom of thought or opinion as one is dealing with whether something can be discussed or debated, not with what can be said or expressed. For example, the Finnish constitution (12 §) indicates that:

“The freedom of expression entails the right to express, disseminate and receive information, opinions and other communications without prior prevention by anyone.”

Note how it’s about information, what I take to be considered factual, opinions, what I take to be considered debatable as factual, and other communications, what I take to be about relaying information, taken as such, debatable or not. It’s also worth noting that this is not only about speech, but also about other modes of expression, which is why I prefer the English translation where it’s presented as being about expression and not just about speech.

Finnish legislation also contains a number of exceptions to freedom of expression. I’ll start with a couple of very broad exceptions, followed by a short list of more specific ones. Right, any instigation to commit a crime, whatever that may be, or attempt to commit a crime, whatever that may be, is, in itself, a crime. If you are found guilty of it, you’ll be charged for that crime, whatever it may be, as if you were found guilty of that crime. This is the broadest exception and the one that should make you think twice because it’s not just that you get a slap on the wrist, a fine and/or a minor probational or conditional sentence.

Distinct from instigation, but related to it, is public incitement to commit a crime. It functions similarly to instigation, but it is, nonetheless, distinct because it isn’t concerned with one person instigating another person, but more general incitement to commit a crime, as expressed to people, through media or in a crowd of people. It can lead to a small fine or minor probational or conditional sentence, but it can also function like instigation, so that the punishment will be judged as if you committed the crime you incited people to commit.

Other crimes concerning expressions include defamation, aggravated defamation, dissemination of private information, aggravated dissemination of private information, ethnic agitation, aggravated ethnic agitation, blasphemy (functionally like defamation of religion or religious tenets), disturbing worship or other ceremonies (e.g. funerals), dissemination of depictions of brutal violence, dissemination of sexually offensive materials (depicting children, violence or bestiality), aggravated dissemination of sexually offensive materials, providing false or misleading information concerning marketing, breach of official secrecy, negligent breach of official secrecy, and breach of business secrecy. There might be more exceptions to freedom of expression in Finland. I just listed the ones that I’m aware of.

What’s common with these exceptions is that most of them are not about discussion or debate about something, whatever that may be, including highly sensitive topics, such as religion, but rather about what one would call speech acts. If you are not familiar with speech act theory, the point here is that most of these exceptions are about using language or other modes of expression to hurt people, one way or another, or to make people hurt other people. The last three are different from the others in the sense that they are about confidentiality. Okay, private information is also about confidentiality, but the last three are different in the sense that they are not about people but about one’s role as a public servant or an employee. You may be surprised that blasphemy is considered a crime in Finland, but yeah, it is. To my understanding, it is not intended to protect religions from public debate, thus permitting criticism, but rather to protect the religious communities from persecution. It is, however, a contentious issue, as also acknowledged by the legislators in the preparatory documents for the existing legislation, formally known as Government Proposal 6/1997 (see pages 127-129).

Holocaust denial is not one of those exceptions to freedom of expression in Finland, but it is in a number of countries. The definitions, of course, vary from country to country. It is mentioned explicitly, implicitly, or falls within the scope of other prohibited acts. I don’t know why it is not the case in Finland, but I guess that it is or has been interpreted as something that would risk being in contradiction with that is stated in the constitution, pertaining to information and the right to have an opinion about that information. In other words, it assumes that it is held as open to public debate, inasmuch it does not involve any speech acts that agitate people against the Jewish people as an ethnicity, defame their religion and/or infringe upon their right to worship.

What’s my opinion on such on exceptions, including Holocaust denial? Well, my vote counts as much as anyone else’s, as limited by my citizenship. I can only speak for how I’d like things to be handled here in Finland. I can’t and won’t speak for others. Plus, I don’t think that I have the right to meddle in the affairs of other countries. Anyway, I think the exceptions that I’ve listed make sense, inasmuch as they pertain to speech acts, directed against people or groups of people in order to hurt them or to make others hurt them. With regard to confidentiality, well, I think that’s like with all confidentiality. I think it’s more of a contractual obligation. The blasphemy part is tricky though, not because I think that religion shouldn’t be scrutinized, but because it is, in part, linked to protecting freedom of religion. I think the wording they’ve chosen is something that could use some brushing up as it’s unnecessarily vague in its current form. You have to read the preparatory discussion to get the idea what the legislators sought to accomplish with it. First you need to find the relevant document and then read the two and half page discussion on that topic. That’s hardly ideal. To my surprise, the bar is actually set much higher than you’d think, considering that it not only permits criticism, but also ridicule, in the sense that I take it to cover irony, sarcasm and satire, basically any snarky remark. It’s only prohibited if the intention is to hurt people. The point really is to prevent people from presenting something about a religion in bad faith, from using it as an indirect means to getting at the people. That makes sense.

I think this part of the criminal code would also apply to Holocaust denial. It permits discussion of Holocaust, not making it into a taboo subject, as the legislators who drafted that preparatory document would probably agree with me, thus permitting even dissenting views, on the conditions that such contrary views can be backed up, i.e., that they are grounded on something factual, as the legislators point out in the preparatory document. I think their point about the necessity of making claims that are based on something factual, i.e., evidence, is the key here. So, yeah, the discussion turns into Holocaust denial once you end up ignoring the existing evidence, which I’m sure there is no shortage of, and/or you are unable to challenge it with other evidence. Should such contrary claims be taken seriously? I’d say no. If you can’t back up your claims, then no. Should people be punished for such contrary claims, for what’s commonly known as Holocaust denial? I’d say no, even if they are unwarranted. I realize this may offend some people, namely in those countries where it is, in fact, illegal to make such claims, I’m siding with our legislators on this. I think they’ve managed to do a good job explaining where the line is drawn. I won’t show any sympathy to people who hold such unwarranted views, nor approve them, there’s that, but I think it is better to not make something into a taboo subject.

Maybe it’s my academic approach to the issue, which is very abstract and principled, and my general the unwillingness to let authorities to meddle with studying something, in this case history, which you may disagree with, but yeah, I have to say that I agree with Deborah Lipstadt on this. She stated to ‘The New Yorker’ in an interview ‘Looking at Anti-Semitism on the Left and the Right: An Interview with Deborah E. Lipstadt’ by Isaac Chotiner (24.1.2019) that:

“But I also don’t think that these laws are efficacious. Forget the morality – I don’t think they work. I think they turn whatever is being outlawed into forbidden fruit.”

I agree with her on this. I think it’s better not to make something into a forbidden fruit. It’s only bound to make people more interested in it and then there’s no guarantee that the engagement with is going to be level-headed. I also agree with what she added to that:

“I don’t want politicians making a decision on what can and cannot be said. That scares me enormously.”

Exactly. This why I wanted to stress the difference between what’s stated in the Finnish constitution regarding the freedom of expression and the exceptions included in the Finnish criminal code, how the constitution guarantees the right to discuss and debate on any topic, whatsoever, and holding any view or position on those topics, whatsoever, whereas the exceptions pertain to how language or other modes of expressions can be mobilized to cause harm to people, directly and/or indirectly.

I think it’s ridiculous to allow politicians to decide what people can and cannot discuss and debate, what views they should or shouldn’t hold on any given topic. I can’t stress enough how foolish that is. It is so absurd that I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Why would you ever let them do that to you? I mean isn’t that the antithesis of democracy, that politicians tell you what to think? I think it is, which, to borrow her wording here, “scares me enormously.”

I can’t say that I’m a fan of Noam Chomsky’s work, nor that I agree with his views on linguistics, but I do agree with him on this matter, which he is rather adamant on. He commented on this very issue in ‘The Nation’ (28.2.1981), titled ‘His Right to Say It’, following his involvement in what became known as the ‘Faurisson affair’.

Chomsky notes that he wasn’t concerned with Robert Faurisson’s views that included denying “the existence of gas chambers or of a systematic plan to massacre the Jews and questions the authenticity of the Anne Frank diary, among other things” because his involvement in the affair had to do with freedom of expression, defending Faurisson’s right to express himself, like anyone else, not defending Faurisson’s work that he notes as having been judged to be “worthless, irrelevant, falsified”, “diametrically opposed to views” he held and “frequently expressed in print”. I think he manages to explain it quite well why we need to act in the spirit of Voltaire:

“But it is elementary that freedom of expression (including academic freedom) is not to be restricted to views of which one approves, and that it is precisely in the case of views that are almost universally despised and condemned that this right must be most vigorously defended. It is easy enough to defend those who need no defense or to join in unanimous (and often justified) condemnation of a violation of civil rights by some official enemy.”

And why we shouldn’t do the exact opposite:

“It is a poor service to the memory of the victims of the holocaust to adopt a central doctrine of their murderers.”

I won’t comment on his take on the affair, but, having read his take, I can kind of understand his frustration with the French academics and especially the leftist French militants of the time, who, it seems, could or would not distinguish between defending freedom of expression and defending the views that are expressed:

“As [Jean-Pierre] Faye predicted, many showed themselves incapable of distinguishing between defense of the right of free expression and defense of the views expressed — and not only in France.”

I can understand his frustration, which becomes even further apparent when he wonders how unwillingness to debate someone on something is somehow considered to be against freedom of speech:

“In short, if I refuse to debate you, I constrain your freedom.”

No, it is not that way, as he points out. Lipstadt explains this well in an interview with Harry Wallop that appeared in ‘The Guardian’, titled ‘Deborah Lipstadt: ‘Many would like to stand up to antisemites. I had the chance to do it’’ (14.1.2017):

“You’re allowed to stand up at Hyde Park Corner and say the Holocaust didn’t happen. But do I have to invite you Cambridge or Yale to give you a platform to say so? No. There are not two sides to every story. You can argue [about] why the Holocaust happened, but not that it happened.”

I think it’s worth noting here that she isn’t saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to deny the Holocaust, as she’d then contradict herself, but rather that she, nor anyone else, doesn’t have to let others dictate on what grounds and on what terms something should be debated. That’s a very good point. That’s also why I don’t like a for or against debate. I like what Chomsky suggests we do instead:

“No rational person will condemn a book, however outlandish its conclusions may seem, without at least reading it carefully; in this case, checking the documentation offered, and so on.”

Exactly. This is exactly why I prefer to make sure people know what I’ve taken from where, giving you even the page numbers, so that you can check on it, if you doubt my work or my sincerity. I mean it’d be the dumbest thing ever to give you exact page numbers and state something that’s not stated on that very page. Lipstadt actually used this in court against David Irving, who took her to court in the UK for libel, as reported in her interview ‘Facing Up to Anti-Semitism: ‘We Will Win Because History Is On Our Side” with Annette Großbongardt that appeard in ‘Der Spiegel’ (30.10.2018):

“I told [holocaust survivors]: We will win because history is on our side. So were the facts. We had very good evidence.”


“[Holocaust deniers] are still around, but we amassed such historical evidence against their lies that they are far less of a threat.”

See. Evidence. I love how she relies on evidence. Oh and I love how she approached this, putting in the hours, to check on her opponent’s evidence:

“We followed even his footnotes back to the sources and were able to show how he had twisted the facts in order to exculpate Hitler.”

What was it again that I said about giving you even the page numbers? You may think that no one will ever check on your work, all those hundreds of pages, that it’s impossible, but there will eventually be someone who is going to do it. He got totally served, and, according to the court, rightfully so. And no, I’m not talking about getting one page number wrong, here or there, as typos happen. I’m pretty sure that was not the issue with the evidence. I’m also pretty sure it wasn’t about difficult passages of texts that could be interpreted in a number of ways, nor about things getting lost in translation. I’m talking about wilfull ignorance.

I also agree with Chomsky on that putting people on trial for speaking their mind gives them way more publicity, way more influence, than they would get if no one made a big deal about such, hence my earlier remarks about taboo subjects and Lipstadt’s remarks about forbidden fruit.

This may make you think that I’m, on the one hand, all for freedom of expression, which is the case, and, on the other hand, for regulation, which is also the case, albeit only under these conditions. That may seem contradictory, to be for, yet against, which is also the case with the Finnish constitution supplemented by other acts that add exceptions to that overarching freedom, but it is, as I pointed out, only because, at the moment, we could do so much worse by having no limitations or having strict limitations.

Deleuze and Guattari (212-214) note in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ that every society and every individual in that society is plied by two types of segmentarities, the molar and the molecular. The former is more rigid, totalized, centralized, gridded, and arborescent. The latter is more supple, fragmented, non-centralized, smooth, and rhizomatic. To use more plain terms, former pertains to the macro level and the latter pertains to the micro level, what they (213-214) also call macro– and micropolitics.

The state is the molar or macro level entity that relies on rigid segmentation, totalization, and centralization, i.e., regulating our lives through legislation. The Finnish constitution and the criminal code are good examples of such regulation. Of course, the state also needs a police force to enforce all that and a judicial system to judge us accordingly, but that’s beside the point here. This may seem like a bad deal for us, considering that the state functions to regulate our lives, and it is a bad deal, in the sense it does do that, as it does regulate our lives. Therefore, it would seem much better to engage in micropolitics rather than suffer under the yoke of macropolitics, to act bottom-up rather than be acted upon top-down. That’s not, however, that clear cut.

Deleuze and Guattari (213) warn us not to be enamored by the micropolitics. It’s easy to point out the rigidity of the system, to blame macropolitics for all our woes, e.g., for segmenting us into biunivocalized sexes, men and women, and classes, but it is much harder to come up with alternatives for it. Micropolitics, the supple segmentarity of the molecular order, does offer us an alternative, but it is, by no means, inherently better than macropolitics, the rigid segmentarity of the molar organization.

They (215) list four reasons why one should not simply opt for micropolitics over macropolitics. Firstly, something supple is not inherently better than something rigid: “fine segmentations are as harmful as the most rigid of segments.” Secondly, micropolitics is not just in our heads. It’s as real as anything and it has real consequences. Thirdly, while micropolitics tends to be marked by being about all things small, it’s not separate from the macropolitics. Fourthly, as one is not separate from the other, they can and do boost or cut into one another. To give you an example, they (215) summarize all this quite neatly:

“The administration of a great organized molar security has as its correlate a whole micromanagement of petty fears, a permanent molecular insecurity, to the point that the motto of domestic policymakers might be: a macropolitics of society by and for a micropolitics of insecurity.”

In other words, they emphasize that the state appears to be for the people, providing them the security that they desire, while also emphasizing how dangerous life is made to appear to us, how we, me, you and/or someone we know, might be harmed by something at any given moment.

If we flip that arrangement on its head, emphasizing micropolitics over macropolitics, we end up emphasizing the lack of security, which the state is not able to provide us. This pushes us to take matters into our own hands, to be fascist, so that everyone becomes a “self-appointed judge, dispenser of justice, policeman, neighborhood SS man” fueled by their thousands and thousands of petty insecurities and guided by the clarity that they think they possess, as they (227-228) point out. This is also why they (215) warn us not to think of fascism as a mere historical molar entity, as a matter of macropolitics, as macrofascism, but as molecular grassroots determination, as microfascism:

“It’s too easy to be antifascist on the molar level, and not even see the fascist inside you, the fascist you yourself sustain and nourish and cherish with molecules both personal and collective.”

This is, in fact, what makes it so dangerous, as they (215) point out:

“What makes fascism dangerous is its molecular or micropolitical power, for it is a mass movement: a cancerous body rather than a totalitarian organism.”

What I want to emphasize here is how it is cancerous. There’s something to it when people are suddenly the ones making things happen, when, for example, people bring down hedgefunds, like I pointed out earlier this year in a previous essay, but it can also be or become cancerous, as I also pointed out.

It’s also worth pointing out that the interesting thing about this is that, as Deleuze and Guattari point out, fascism hasn’t gone anywhere. It hasn’t been stamped out and it hasn’t been stamped out because, well, you can’t stamp it out, as such, because it’s not, strictly speaking, a mere early to mid-1900s phenomenon. It’s still in the news, we get to hear and we get to read how there are fascists everywhere, but it’s not because some of the fascists simply went into hiding, albeit surely some did, to re-emerge later on, but because, as Guattari (154) puts it in ‘Chaosophy: Text and Interviews 1972–1977’, “Everybody Wants to be a Fascist”.

To exemplify this, Guattari (162) points out that fascism existed well before the early to mid-1900s:

“The Inquisition had already put together a type of fascist machinery which kept developing and perfecting itself up to our own time.”

If you are not familiar with the Inquisition, it’s about the stamping out heresy in Christianity. It started in the 1100s when two movements, Catharism and Waldensianism, challenged the integrity of the Catholic Church. While it wasn’t that bad initially, being a mere inquiry into heresy, consisting of judgments, followed by penalties, having to go through some form of penance, it didn’t long for things to get out of hand, or so to speak, with executions becoming a thing to deal with those who didn’t repent or were deemed to be unrepentant.

The gist of this is that the more the integrity of the Catholic Church eroded, the more people challenged the system, the more those running the show felt was necessary to stop them from challenging its authority. Torture became commonplace, a tool among others, in the 1200s, after Pope Innocent IV authorized its use in a papal bull known as Ad extirpanda.

Ron Hassner summarizes the development of torture in his article ‘The Cost of Torture: Evidence from the Spanish Inquisition’. The gist of his article is that torture became widespread, an integral part of the inquisition, extending to anyone who was suspected of practicing a religion covertly, regardless of what their suspected religion or denomination was, or withholding information about such practices, and that it wasn’t uncommon for it to get out of hand, as summarized by Hassner (459). Most importantly, however, the primary goal of torture was not to gain new information, but to confirm known information, which is why it became such a widespread practice, as noted by Hassner (460). It is also worth emphasizing that what’s troubling about the inquisition is not that it involved torture, imaginable as some sort of reckless, brutal, and sadistic practice to make the tortured person repent and to function as a deterrent, but that it was agonizing, ruthless, unhesitant, comprehensive, systematic and meticulous, a standardized practice, and served to gain information that could be used against groups of people, heretics, apostates, and heathens, to persecute them and eradicate them, as explained by Hassner (460-471).

To get back to Guattari, torture is, of course, older than the inquisition, but the way it used was arguably similar to the way it was used by the German state in the 1930s and the 1940s, to gain information, to find where the enemies of the state were and to get rid of them, en masse. Guattari (162) also notes that the SS was organized like a religious order, being modeled after the Jesuits, which is not a spurious claim, as noted by Heinz Höhne (1) in ‘The Order of the Death’s Head: The Story of Hitler’s SS’:

“[T]he … SS was intended to be mysterious, sinister and incomprehensible to the ordinary citizen, like the Order of Jesuits which the SS officially abominated but actually imitated down to the smallest detail.”

Now, of course, the SS and the Jesuits are not the only fascist machineries, as Guattari (162) calls them, as fascism can manifest itself just about everywhere, in just about anything:

“Thus, we see that the analysis of the molecular components of fascism can deal with quite a variety of areas.”

Simply put, fascism is highly adaptable. Guattari (162) indicates other areas where it can manifest:

“It is the same fascism under different forms which continues to operate in the family, in school, or in a trade union.”

The lesson to be learned here is then that we can’t think of fascism as synonymous with totalitarian regimes, although it does have a tendency of resulting in the creation of totalitarian regimes. This is because micropolitics and macropolitics are always intertwined, boosting and cutting into one another, as noted by Deleuze and Guattari (215). Fascim can crop up just about anywhere and in anyone, as Guattari (166) goes on to point out. That is also why we can’t insist or keep insisting that fascism is National Socialism, as he (166) goes on to add:

“Through all kinds of means – in particular, movies and television – we are led to believe that Nazism was just a bad moment we had to go through, a sort of historical error[.]”

Only to add to this that it is not to be thought as just an error that we ought to avoid repeating, as, in my opinion, we are indeed often told, but also a false dichotomy (166):

“[W]e are led to believe that Nazism was … also a beautiful page in the history for good heroes. And besides, was it not touching to see the intertwined flags of capitalism and socialism? We are further led to believe that there were real antagonistic contradiction between the fascist Axis and the Allies.”

In other words, by equating fascism with the Axis, i.e., the baddies, the Allies are presented as the anti-fascists, i.e., the goodies. He (166-167) isn’t happy with such definitions because it acquits the others from any wrongdoing. To be more specific, he (167) argues that the Allies, namely the Americans, only intervened because the fascism of the Axis had become too unpalatable to the bourgeoisie of the West. It’s not that the bourgeoisie were simply opposed to fascism, i.e., external to it, and that it was therefore their duty to oppose it, but rather that they felt like something had to be done when things started getting out of hand. In his (167) words:

“Fascism only remained external to a certain type of bourgeoisie, which rejected it only because of its instability and because it stirred much too powerful forces of desire within the masses.”

In other words, something had to be done because things got so out of hand that it was bad for business. The West allied with the East, not because they were a perfect fit, I mean clearly not, but because, at the time, it made sense for the bourgeoisie, as he (167) points out. Communism didn’t really threaten capitalism because the Soviet Union was just rebranded old school despotism. The Soviet Union was predictable and rigid, whereas Germany was not. Hitler’s regime tried to do the impossible, juggling all the plates at the same time, catering for both the bourgeoisie, which sought stability, and the revolutionary masses, which sought to rework the system, as he (167) points out. The bourgeoisie elements weren’t a problem for the West, but the masses certainly were as “the revolutionary effervescence of the masses threatened to sway them towards a Bolshevik style revolution”, as specified by him (167). So, oddly enough, the real revolutionary potential that threatened the capitalism was not to be found in the Soviet Union, but in Germany. Hitler got to do his thing as long as things stayed that way, when it was all contained, but when they didn’t, when the masses burst out of containment, hellbent on conquering the world, spreading like cancer, something had to be done. It was this do or die attitude that threatened the capitalist world order, not communism, as he (168) goes on to argue:

“For the masses, virility, blood, vital space, and death took the place of a socialism that had too much respect for the dominant meanings.”

Simply put, fascism, first as micropolitics and then also as macropolitics, appeared to offer an alternative to “a reality which [the masses] detested and which the revolutionaries were either unwilling or unable to encroach upon.” Now, as he (168) goes to add, this was, of course, what appeared to be the case, but actually wasn’t:

“And yet, fascism was brought back to these same dominant meanings by a sort of intrinsic bad faith, by a false provocation to the absurd and by a whole theater of collective hysteria and debility.”

It was, of course, delusional. There simply weren’t enough Germans to ever achieve that. That did not, however, prevent them from trying that, going on and on until others made sure that it came to a stop. From a western, capitalist or bourgeoisie point of view, Germany just had to be stopped, whereas the Soviet Union did not need to be stopped, because it was too rigid and too old fashioned to pose an actual threat, as indicated by him (169):

“[T]he Stalinist machine seemed much more sensible, especially when viewed from the outside. It is no wonder that English and American capitalism felt few qualms about an alliance with it. [T]he … Stalinist totalitarianism could appear to the capitalist strategy as a replacement system, having certain advantages over the different forms of fascism and classical dictatorship.”

In short, the Soviet Union was tolerable to the US because it was manageable or, at least, much more manageable than the alternative, which was Germany. In addition, the way the Soviet Union handled things came with its perks, as he (169) points out:

“Who could be better equipped than the Stalinist police and their agents to control any excessively turbulent movements of the working class, the colonial masses, or any oppressed national minorities?”

So, in other words, not only was the Soviet Union much more manageable than Germany, being so rigid and predictable, but it was also very good at keeping the masses in check, you know, preventing them from doing anything that would be against the interests of the West. If some poor country, for example, a colony, wanted independence, it would have to toe the line, to know its place and adopt capitalism, which, of course, worked for capitalism. It could also go against the system, but that would be tough, too tough to do on it’s own, which meant asking help from the Soviet Union. The alternative wasn’t ideal for capitalism, but it made sure that the newcomers were kept in check, never having a chance to think for themselves.

How does capitalism function then? Well, to stay on Guattari, if the Soviet Union is a despotic molar machine, the National Socialist Germany is a fascist molecular machine, the US is a hybrid machine, happy to let everything be molecular but within certain molar limits or, rather, so that the molar limits are constantly renegotiated. The limits are therefore crossed, yes, but the limits themselves are always retained. It is, of course, worth noting here that the Soviet Union, much like it’s predecessor, the Russian Empire, had its molecular elements, just as the National Socialist Germany had its molar elements, as all societies always have both molar and molecular segmentarities, as already noted. Anyway, so, Guattari (169) explains how capitalism works in a world consisting of states:

“Unlike fascism, capitalist totalitarian machines manage to divide, particularize, and molecularize the workers, meanwhile tapping their potentiality for desire.”

Note here how he is, in fact, contrasting this on a molar level, on the level of states, so that fascism here refers to the Axis, and capitalism to the western Allies. I’ll let him continue (169):

“These machines infiltrate the ranks of the workers, their families, their couples, their childhood; they install themselves at the very heart of the workers’ subjectivity and vision of the world.”

Here we shift from the molar realm, from the state level macropolitics, to the molecular realm, to everyday micropolitics. This is the ingenuity of capitalism: the attention to detail. Anyway, he (169) continues:

“Capitalism fears large-scale movements of crowds. Its goal is to have automatic systems of regulation at its command.”

Exactly! The attention to detail is the key here. The best way to keep people in check is micromanagement. The thing with micromanagement is, however, that it tends to be resource intensive, which is why it’s often considered a pejorative in work environments. That’s why it needs to be automated. The role of the state is to keep things in order, to make sure that the limits still exist, whereas everything else is to be defined contractually, as noted by him (169). To give you a contemporary example, this is why businesses would prefer that the people involved weren’t defined as workers but as contractors. Any social upheaval, including wars, are to be particularized, confined to a limited area, to keep things manageable, to maintain a status quo, as he (169) points out. In summary, the thing is to prevent any mass movements.

Soviet style communism, what Guattari (169-170) refers to as Stalinism, was, in turn, really, really good at making sure that the masses knew their place. Everything was subordinated to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. It made sure that the military, the police and the economy didn’t run amok, which was the issue with National Socialist Germany that kept juggling all the plates at once, as he (170) points out. The problem with the Soviet system was, however, its rigidity. Like in Imperial Russia, everything took forever and failed to match the demands of the Soviet citizens, as acknowledged by him (170).

The limits and the failures of Soviet Union, and its allies, pose an interesting problem. As the Soviet Union became weaker and weaker, eventually breaking up (which is not mentioned by Guattari as this text was first published in 1974, based on a speech he held in 1973), the less and less the West could rely on it to keep those pesky third world countries in check. This is interesting, albeit, of course, also troubling, because this pushed the capitalist countries to seek alternatives to make sure that things keep running smoothly. He doesn’t further comment on that but it’s worth noting that any dictator will do, inasmuch that dictator can keep an iron grip on its population and knows not to go against the system. In the notes (307), it is added that this a major concern for capitalism:

“One of contemporary capitalism’s major concerns is the search for forms of totalitarianism tailored to the countries of the Third World.”

So, yeah, if you’ve ever wondered how this and/or that dictator still rules this and/or that country, well, there’s your answer. We can’t have those third world countries compete with us, now can we? I mean, to play the devil’s advocate here, it makes a whole lot more sense to make them play the game, but with really shitty cards, hence all the interest in meddling with the affairs of poor countries.

It’s also worth noting that this is still very much the case, even in the absence of the Soviet Union. Now it’s just a free for all. China has stepped in, filling in the void left by the Soviet Union, but without acting like the Soviet Union. China is a hybrid, yes, but it’s a hybrid of old school eastern communism and western capitalism, which is why it’s often called state capitalism. So, unlike the Soviet Union that just couldn’t meet the demands of its citizens, being too molar, China is doing that, meeting the demands of its citizens by adopting capitalism, using its molecularity to infiltrate its workforce, giving in to their demands, but, at the same time, managing those demands, channeling them and, by now, automating much of that process, which assures that the masses are kept in check.

To my understanding, and I could be wrong about this, China doesn’t seek to install puppets, nor does it even want to run the show. What it does instead is to secure access to these markets, yes, markets, to use a capitalist way of expressing it, by granting aid, lending money, pouring in capital, with few or, rather, seemingly few strings attached. The idea is, I guess, to give better terms than the western capitalist countries and their international institutions. I’d say it also benefits from not being a western country, lacking the reputation of being a former colonial power. These two factors sway leaders in these markets, which is, well, somewhat unsurprising, really, considering that the terms do appear to be better than what the people in these countries are used to.  That said, as these countries tend to be plagued by poor leadership, lax regulations and a lack of accountability, China is able to do as it sees fit, but in ways not unlike the western capitalist countries and multinational companies.

Is that good for those developing countries, to go with the East instead of the West? Well, what’s the difference? Okay, there are some differences, for example that the West needs to maintain a better image because its reputation got tarnished a long time in these countries, but capitalism is still capitalism and profit is profit. Capitalism is no charity.

If you want to check out a good documentary, check out Bram van Paesschen’s ‘Empire of Dust’ aka the adventures of Lao Yang and Eddy. It’s focused on Congo, on how China is building infrastructure, not out of the kindness of its heart, but to access its resources. It portrays the situation well, how the local leaders did little for their people after the independence, letting existing infrastructure deteriorate, which saddens Lao Yang, who, at the same time, is the man responsible for rebuilding part of that infrastructure. You’d think that he’d be more than happy to build more infrastructure, to do more and more, like a good capitalist, but, alas, he laments the loss of existing infrastructure.

The dictatorship angle is also interesting, because Guattari (170) manages to predict and comment on a fairly recent phenomenon (not that it’s new as such though), the so called European migrant or refugee crisis (as people have migrated and have had to seek refugee ever since people have become displaced):

“And so long as [new formulas of totalitarianism] are not found, capitalism will have to face struggles on unforeseeable fronts (managerial strikes, struggles of immigrants and racial minorities, subversion in the schools, in the prisons, in the asylums, struggles for sexual liberty, etc.).”

I won’t comment on the other examples listed by him, but, as you can see for yourself, he predicted what would happen if people like Muammar Gaddafi were removed. He (170-71) predicted what would happen:

“This new situation, which involves heterogeneous social groupings whose action is not channeled into purely economic objectives, is met by proliferation and exacerbation of repressive responses.”

Indeed. The problem that Europe faces with the crisis is exactly this. What to do with these people? What is their place? What is their role? Will their presence lead to a net benefit or a net deficit? How can Europe make money out of them? To be clear, I’m not saying this should be what Europe should be asking itself, but it is what Europe is really asking itself. Money, money, money. It would appear that there is little money to be made from the crisis, except, perhaps, in the short run, like from housing the people and making the taxpayers pay for it, which results in repressive responses, as predicted by him.

This all leads him (171) to further comment on fascism and especially how it has changed, becoming more and more widespread. This is why he (171) isn’t satisfied with thinking of it as an error, a mistake that marks the mid-1900s:

“We must abandon, once and for all, the quick and easy formula: ‘Fascism will not make it again.’”

The problem for him (171) is that this is just too quaint, all too quaint:

“Fascism has already ‘made it,’ and it continues to ‘make it.’”

So, as he points out, the problem is not forgetting the horrors of the past, but that by focusing too much on not forgetting the horrors of the past, we ignore the horrors in the present, as contradictory as that may seem. The horrors have just changed, becoming more and more molecular, more and more everyday, part of the very fabric of reality. In his (171) words:

“It passes through the tightest mesh; it is in constant evolution, to the extent that it shares in a micropolitical economy of desire itself inseparable from the evolution of the productive forces.”

He (171) is astounded by how naïve people can be:

“We must stop, once and for all, being misled by the sinister buffooneries of those socio-democrats who are so astonished that their army, allegedly the most democratic in the world, launches, without notice, the worst of fascist repressions.”

If this was the case back then, think of this now. Think of how, for example, people act all surprised when western soldiers and mercenaries, sorry, private contractors, to use the capitalist jargon, end up shooting civilians in some war-torn country. Oh, how could they? The answer is: easily. What did you expect? It’s part of the deal, or so to speak, as he (171) points out:

“A military machine as such crystallizes a fascist desire, no matter what the political regime may be.”

Don’t go thinking that there are good armies and bad armies, as anyone who has served in the military will point out to you. There are just armies, which do what they do, regardless of “their respective merits”, as he (171) goes on to add. This because there’s nothing that makes certain people or groups of people fascistic, as specified by him (171):

“Fascism, like desire, is scattered everywhere, in separate bits and pieces, within the whole social realm; it crystallizes in one place or another, depending on the relationships of force.”

It can manifest here and/or there, to this and/or that extent, depending on the circumstances, as elaborated by him (171):

“It can be said of fascism that it is all-powerful and, at the same time, ridiculously weak. And whether it is the former or the latter depends on the capacity of collective arrangements, subject-groups, to connect the social libido, on every level, with the whole range of revolutionary machines of desire.”

So, in summary, the thing with fascism is that it is about micropolitics, demanding order when something appears to be out of order. As explained by Michel Foucault (xiii) in the preface of ‘Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’:

“[F]ascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.”

This exactly why one has to be aware of this tendency, especially when one criticizes others. This is not to say that one shouldn’t criticize others, but rather that it’s one thing to oppose molar organizations such as hierarchies and another thing to recognize one’s tendency to oppose such in order to simply replace those who get to exercise power over others, which is exactly what the deal was with the Russian Revolution, as I’ve elaborated in a previous essay. This is why Foucault (xii-xiii) states that “[t]he political ascetics, the sad militants, the terrorists of theory, those who would preserve the pure order of politics and political discourse”, the “[b]ureaucrats of the revolution and civil servants of [t]ruth”, what Deleuze and Guattari often refer to as the priests or as the bureaucrats, are one’s tactical adversaries, the enemies you engage in combat with, whereas fascism is one’s strategic adversary, because it’s an enemy that is within us.

To be clear, combat does not mean war. It’s just something that Foucault uses to explain how it is one thing to oppose something and another thing to have reasons for opposing something. The former pertains to tactics, whereas the latter pertains to strategy, as anyone who is familiar with Carl von Clausewitz would know. The fight against something is what is known as combat. Clausewitz (131) explains this very concisely in his even more concisely titled book ‘On War’:

“From this arises the totally different activities, that of the formation and conduct of these single combats in themselves, and the combination of them with one another, with a view to the ultimate object of the war. The first is called tactics, the other strategy.”

So, as I pointed out, tactics is concerned with engaging in combat, the act of fighting in the battlefield, whereas strategy is concerned with its object, why it is that we fight in the first place and how we achieve that through combat by applying certain tactics. To make more sense of what Foucault states in the preface, it’s pointless to oppose something, coming up with tactics to be successful, unless you have a strategy, unless you know why you are fighting, what you are fighting for and how you might achieve that. Simply put, if you fight against oppression, you better be sure that you don’t end up being the oppressor in the process. You’d think that’s not difficult, but history will tell you otherwise.

Deleuze (132) also explains this in ‘To Have Done with Judgment’, as included in ‘Essays Critical and Clinical’, noting that combat is therefore not only combat against others, but also combat between oneself. Without the latter, the former will fail to change anything except who gets to run the show, which is why revolutions keep failing, as Deleuze points out when discussing the Left (G for Gauche) in ‘Gilles Deleuze from A to Z’.

This is exactly why I’m not a fan of speaking for others. This is why I’m so hesitant to give any advice, why I’m hesitant to get involved, why I don’t want to explain to people what they should or shouldn’t think about what I say or do. As far as I’m concerned feel free to think whatever of it and do whatever with it. If you find it useful, good, good for you. If you don’t, well, that’s too bad, find something else. It’s pretty simple really.

That does not, however, mean that I won’t oppose whatever it is that I feel like opposing. That’s what I do and I do it at my own expense, at my own peril. Unlike most people, I’m willing to put my neck on the line, which is, I’d say, why people don’t really want to associate with me, at least not academically. Is it dangerous? Yes. Sure. What about it? The stakes could not be higher. It’s all or nothing, no exceptions, no compromises, which is why most people don’t want to do it. That’s parrhesia for you!

To get back on track here, I chose a topic a very sensitive topic, wholesale mass murder, because I wanted to make point, but this all does apply to other topics as well. If you can agree on the principle, that there shall be no limit to the freedom of expression or thought, with emphasis on what is considered to be factual information (note how it’s considered to be information, not information as such) or opinions, which are not necessarily considered to be factual information, as opposed to speech acts that function to agitate or incite people against one another, then there shall be no topic that cannot be discussed, as Chomsky and Lipstadt would agree with me on that (they might, however, have their own reservations, so don’t think that I speak for them).

What I find (more) interesting is propriety and impropriety, i.e., what is considered desirable and undesirable in a society, which, can, of course be a state, a region, or a city as a society, but also any group of people. It can also be an academic field or a discipline, a school of thought, or a paradigm. Academics aren’t really constrained by many specific laws which specify that ‘thou shalt not’, whatever that may be, for example deny the Holocaust, but they are, nonetheless, constrained by the views held by the members of their own communities. Now, as I pointed out already, this is hardly surprising, considering that we are dealing with people. It is also worth reiterating that that applies to all fields or disciplines, including the natural sciences, regardless of how they are often presented as somehow not influenced by the very people who run the show. It is also worth noting that such views may not be shared everyone in those fields or disciplines as it is indeed the people who run the show, the people who are the top of the pyramid, the senior scholars, who get to have a say on what is deemed proper or desirable and, conversely, what is deemed improper or undesirable.

Foucault addresses this issue in ‘Fearless Speech’, as compiled from audio recordings of his lectures held at the University of California at Berkeley in 1983. He (11) notes that free speech, what I’ve referred to as freedom of speech, expression, though or opinion, is what the ancient Greeks used to call parrhesia. Related terms include parrhesiazomai or parrhesiazesthai, which refers to the use of parrhesia, to speaking freely, and parrhesiastes, which refers to the person who speaks freely, as he (11) goes on to add.

He (12-16) states that freedom of speech, i.e., parrhesia, involves a certain frankness or bluntness, like when you just speak your mind, without hesitation, without anything unnecessary in the mix, and, highly importantly, without fear. It’s all or nothing, no holds barred, no beating around the bush. Speaking one’s mind is not to be confused with idle chatter though. It’s about telling the truth, no, not the truth, what we contemporarily think to be the truth, but what the parrhesiastes, the speaker, knows to be true, which equals to what we’d contemporarily consider to be true. This is a tough one because it is just what one holds to be true and that’s it, which, well, isn’t, strictly speaking, what people consider to be true. The point really is that you just speak your mind about whatever it is, without reservations, having no doubt. There is a certain sincerity to it, backed up by courage to speak your mind, knowing full well that it might not be what others want to hear.

He (16) specifies that speaking the truth, what you consider to be true is not enough for it to be about parrhesia, about the freedom of speech. Why? Well, you may speak the truth, even in the modern sense, even though I’d doubt your conviction that you know the truth, but what about it? There’s nothing free or frank about that. What’s missing is the element of fear or danger. He (16) uses the example of saying something unpleasant to someone who doesn’t want to hear it, an inconvenient truth, if you will, like pointing out to a tyrant that his tyranny is the reason why everything is a bit shit. It’s the truth because, well, the tyrant can see it, but just doesn’t want to admit it, which is why the tyrant doesn’t want to hear others mention it either.

So, there’s an element of danger to this, a fear that one must overcome. In other words, to be a parrhesiastes, or a parrhesiast, as I like to shorten it, you must be dauntless. No conformity! To be clear, as he (16) goes on to add, being dauntless does not mean that it’s always about life or death. Sure, it can be about that, hence the emphasis on being dauntless, but it’s not always the case. He (16) provides us a more everyday example (like how often do you confront a tyrant?) involving upsetting your friend by speaking your mind. Your friendship is on the line, but, for you, a friend is someone who is willing to risk the friendship for the friend. You may, for example, disagree with your friend and point out that such behavior is considered unacceptable by others, which is why things aren’t going your friend’s way. You do this for your friend, for for your friend’s benefit. You could, of course, just let it slide, let it be, but, well, being a friend, it’s up to you, as a friend, to be there for your friend, even if that means upsetting your friend, even if that means risking your friendship. He (16) provides another example, when a politician does the unlikely thing, when a politician speaks one’s mind instead of doing what is expected, knowing full well that might go well with the others, perhaps even leading to a scandal. He (16) then reminds us that someone who does not stand to lose anything by speaking their mind, for example a tyrant, cannot be a parrhesiastes. A parrhesiastes is always a person who is in an inferior position in relation to someone who is in a superior position in relation to the parrhesiastes, as he (17-18) goes on to specify.

He (17) moves on to specify that parrhesia must always involve free speech, that is to say from one person to another, which means that, for example, trial testimonies do not count as parrhesia. Why? Well, because you are expected to speak your mind (unless you are accused of something), which, of course, may put you in danger. You are there for a reason, to do just that, to speak your mind, whereas a parrhesia is always something that you do because you feel like doing it, proactively, because it involves criticism of others or oneself, in relation to others, as he (17) goes on to emphasize it.

Parrhesia also involves a duty to speak your mind, as he (19) points out. This was already implied by what I pointed out, how, for example, a friend goes as far as to risk the friendship when speaking one’s mind, for the benefit of the friend. Conversely, those who are compelled to speak the truth, for example in a trial or during an interrogation, are not using parrhesia, as he (19) goes on to add. So, as odd as it may seem, even a duty always involves an underlying freedom, in the sense that you are free not to speak your mind, yet you choose to do so, at your own peril.

It’s sort of implied in what’s been covered already, but, to be clear, parrhesia is not a matter of rhetoric. As he (11-20) points out, the idea is not to do it for personal gain, so you don’t seek to dazzle your audience, nor to flatter or persuade them. Parrhesia is so bare bones that it doesn’t need anything else, as he (21) points out. It’s for those moments when you it appears clear to you that there’s too much idle chatter, nothing is getting done and it’s up to you to point out the complacency.

But who has the right to speak their mind? This is an important question and, I’d say, more important than ever, considering how people do speak their mind publicly on various social media platforms. He (72) addresses this question, noting that, on one hand, with parrhesia it makes sense that anyone can speak their mind, like why not, but, on the other hand, it also makes sense to limit it to people whose use of parrhesia benefits others. He (72-73) also notes that it also makes sense for only the educated or the trained to speak their mind. In more contemporary terms, should everyone be allowed to speak their mind or should it be limited according to certain criteria? Each has its pros and cons. If we prevent people from speaking their mind, then we end up with an elitist system where only the select few, the educated people have the right to speak and, more importantly, end up speaking for others, for those who are not allowed to speak for themselves, as acknowledged by him (78-79). If we don’t prevent people we may , and I’d say do, end up with a lot of negative uses of parrhesia, in his (73) words, “ignorant outspokenness.” Anyone who has used some popular social media platform can confirm this.

This is quite the conundrum, as he (77-83) goes on to point out. You either get self-serving elitists who run the show, not caring for the masses, or you get flatterers of the masses who aren’t able to get anything done, to make hard decisions, because it’s all about appealing to the masses. In the elitist or aristocratic system, you may have parrhesiastes, some who are willing to speak their mind, risking themselves, but it’s still more likely that at least most of those who run the show just end up looking after themselves, as already discussed earlier on. In the democratic system you won’t really find parrhesiastes, because people are generally unwilling to hear anything that goes against their interests. That’s elitism vs populism for you and, if we trust his account of that split, it hasn’t aged a day from what it was in ancient Greece.

How should one solve this conundrum then? Well, I’d say the legislators in this country have managed to strike a good balance. There are no topics that cannot be discussed, no take that’s too hot. That said, once you cross over to doing things with words, to what J. L. Austin (3-6) refers to as performatives in ‘How to Do Things with Words’, you are no longer in the territory of what he likes to refer to as constatives, debating whether this and/or that is the case or not. To be more specific, it’s probably not about that split, as such, as he ends up rejecting it in the end, but rather about how language, in its performativity, has to do with illocution, so that words have this and/or that force, pushing people to do something, and with perlocution, so that words have this and/or that effect, which may or may not match the illocution, depending on the circumstances. Pondering something is, in this view, of course still performative, having a certain illocutionary force, i.e., doing something, and a perlocutionary effect, inasmuch as there is a listener or a reader, but, in terms of illocution, the speaker or the writer is trying to make the listener or reader think, as opposed to doing, and, in terms of the perlocution, assuming that the circumstances are right, the listener or reader will end up thinking, debating whether this and/or that is the case or not, as opposed to taking it for granted and doing something in its stead.

I realize that speech act theory is something that I should address in more detail, as the whole constatives vs. performatives or just performatives issue deserves much more elaboration, but I’ll leave that to another time.


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  • Helvétius, C. A. ([1758] 1807). De l’esprit; or, Essays on the mind, and its several faculties. London, United Kingdom: M. Jones.
  • Höhne, H. ([1967] 2000). The Order of the Death’s Head: The Story of Hitler’s SS (R. Barry Trans.). London, United Kingdom: Penguin.
  • van Paesschen, B. (Dir.) (2011). Empire of Dust. Zaventme, Belgium: Bart Van Langendonck for Savage Film.
  • Wallop, H. (2017). Deborah Lipstadt: ‘Many would like to stand up to antisemites. I had the chance to do it‘. London, United Kingdom: The Guardian.

References (legislation / preparatory documents / reports)

  • Rikoslaki (Criminal Code) (39/1889).
  • Hallituksen esitys (Government Proposal) (HE 6/1997)
  • Suomen perustuslaki (Constitution of Finland) (731/1999).