The Media & 'Open Secrets'

alec ramsdell a_ramsdell at
Mon Jul 20 13:13:52 PDT 1998

Yoshie Furuhashi writes:

what is at stake is less 'censorship'/suppressing the truth than the
>production of 'open secrets'


The "open secret" is something that's been on my mind lately. It is endemic to the "drug scene", both as a shield for crossings of legality and illegality in the drug economy, and as a way of making psuedo-anonymous space for those in treatment and recovery. And as far as popular representations of prison life go (I happened upon a stylized series on HBO now, watched about 5 mins.), I guess we're supposed to take pleasure in the spectacle of the violent (un)official drug economy there. (BTW, the folks I've talked to or heard speak on their personal experiences there all say that whereas getting drugs on the street may be difficult at times, it's difficult to avoid some involvement in prison--the drug commodity is a hinge-point for so much other activity).

One thing about the "open secret" is that it makes it difficult to gauge the realities, which no doubt is it's point. The relationship between the OS and the muddle of realities behind it is, I suggest, one of mutual reinforcement. Thus the OS and the realities behind it assume the form of a privatized "niche market", kept going on an internal economy of, for instance, relapse-treatment-relapse-treatment, and accomodated within the larger world of production and consumption.

Take a soft example, versus the example of, say, prison life. For the "addict" or "alcoholic" (and by extension any taxonomy of "sickness") in recovery this means a kind of negative self-absorption, a taking inventory of "personal defects" of a downright gothic morality. It is a kind of internalized surveillance, a soft device of social control. The essentialized "maladjusted" individual hears the oft repeated injunction of "do what you're told". We can see the usefullness of such bodies in the example of the NYC workfare ex-druggies. Such bodies are useful for menial production tasks. Since they are told, in so many words, that their "souls" are "diseased", they may be easy to exploit (or they may be getting more pissed off each day). Same with the criminal in prison, exploited for labor.

I guess what I'm trying to get at is the work of the media and the open secret of addiction is like the same with the Gary Webb story. It invites us to "don't go there" for certain reasons. Because that would touch on some delicate and crucial power relations, best for capitalism to be kept at bay.


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