Thomas Pynchon as a hacker

(Here’s another entry from the other blog, originally posted 05/02/2012)

You know the Anonymous. A mysterious, yet quite popular, loose collective of hackers/activists. That are to be expected or so they say. Since Pynchon’s identity is in fact unknown and his person is unreachable consequently that makes him as anonymous as it gets. However important is the case of reclusiveness and trying to hide from everyone for decades, this is not the main argument here. The point is that he invented a model of  ‘Anonymous network’ before they could ever learn what Linux was.

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Let’s do some investigating. In 1966 Pynchon had blown peoples’ minds with his second, peculiarly short novel – ‘The crying of lot 49’. I hope I can assume you’re familiar with it. Let’s get to the point then. Oedipa’s (who is the heroine) painful paranoia is fueled pretty much exclusively by the information about something, possibly a secret organization, called Trystero. It’s proudly using the symbol of a muted trumpet (and a dead badger too) for recognition . Now, we shell look through the information that we were able to gather about the subject. It’s a decentralized, concealed institution. The members are hidden behind a common symbol. There are no clear rules about who is in and who is not in it, which causes wild confusion about its very existence. The only common goal for those in is standing against the oppression, against the aggressive authority, against the unfair monopoly of the state. What is more they are obsessed with communication; they use an underground system to exchange information. They seem to be everywhere, in all instances at the permanent war with the state. Still it is easy to go on living with even knowing that they exist. Now, Anonymous…

After all these years, in 2012 we know that the struggle to create a monopoly in the field of communication is far from being over. More than that, with Internet being such a powerful tool the information war is just gaining momentum, spreading all across the globe. Note to self: obsession with connecting the dots results in paranoia sooner or later. Anyway I’m quite positive that Pynchon casually, effortlessly predicted Internet in ’66 and not only that. Welcome to the never-ending action. The implications are as indeterminable as ever. Enjoy.

Notes added in 2013:

After the ACTA/SOPA struggle the situation is toned down a little for a while. Pynchon is brilliant in showing that the fight for the control over communication started centuries ago. Of course it continues. Both in Tristero and in Anonymous there is no cetral power, so in fact every one can use the symbol. Therefore there is little more to do then diversion. All means possible for both is partizan war, there cannot be an enduring, strong, cooperative effort with such a lucid struture. From the point of view of the other side the enemy is an idea, something untangleable. As Anons say: you can’t arrest an idea. But an idea can cause a lot of trouble. Becouse it don’t have to be written on anybody’s uniform etc. It can only be pure action at some point in time, then disappear, only to reappear as another action suddenly. Like a flashing light, so hard to outline.

Another thing Pynchon shows is that when the state or anything else monopolizes communication (the post then, the Internet now) it can easily hide whole dimensions  of activity from most people. What I started to call an idea above, can only live in the enviroment of information being exchanged, as you can’t see it happily laying under the sun of the  material world. It can only be said, drawn, painted, heared, typed as these are the means of communicating our thoughts. Besides that it sits only in my mind and in your mind and few other minds. As I’ve said it don’t have to take any physcial form. Oedypa in ‘the crying of lot 49’ had an outdated mentality. She couldn’t cope with the fact that an organisation can exist only in the symbols communicated somewhere far from here view which was used only to approved TV channels and papers. It made her mind twist, this weird uncertainity.

The whole point is that you can act and share ideas of Trystero or not, you can do it once and never again, or a lot of times. But you can never be defined as a Trystero-member or not. Pynchon’s protagonist was devoted to the binary code, she spoke in ‘yes or no’ without a possibility of anything between, while the author himself seems to argue that the between can make the difference. The problem with the Internet is that the large companies enable more and more percentege of our communication. With Facebook/Twitter/Apple/Google devouring the market it is their decision to delete any content that is not according with the terms of use. It’s still better on computers than on the phones where android/ios control all the applications you can use. Anyway it’s not yet a slavery, it’s just a possibility of too much control at some point in the future. Maybe a day will come when people will need to create another, alternative system of communication. Maybe Pynchon will share some new, interesting advice in his new book set in 2000s, which comes out this year.

2 comments on “Thomas Pynchon as a hacker

  1. JAHirsch says:

    I really like your connection between Trystero and Anonymous – I hadn’t thought of that before. Now if only Anonymous would release fraudulent stamps that we could collect…

  2. :> more like some limited edition bitcoins :> thanks for reading

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