Excerpt from Georges Sorel’s Wikipedia:
Sorel’s was a voluntarist Marxism: he rejected those Marxists who believed in inevitable and evolutionary change, emphasizing instead the importance of will and preferring direct action. These approaches included general strikes, boycotts, and constant disruption of capitalism with the goal being to achieve worker control over the means of production. Sorel’s belief in the need for a deliberately-conceived “myth” to sway crowds into concerted action was put into practice by mass fascist movements in the 1920s. The epistemic status of the idea of “myth” is of some importance, and is essentially that of a working hypothesis, with one fundamental peculiarity: it is an hypothesis which we do not judge by its closeness to a “Truth”, but by the practical consequences which stem from it. Thus, whether a political myth is of some importance or not must be decided, in Sorel’s view, on the basis of its capacity to mobilize human beings into political action; the only possible way for men to ascend to an ethical life filled by the character of the sublime and to achieve deliverance. Sorel believed the “energizing myth” of the general strike would serve to enforce solidarity, class consciousness and revolutionary élan amongst the working-class. The “myth” that the fascists would appeal to, however, was that of the race, nation, or people, as represented by the state.
Clearly, Occupy and Anonymous have enacted a myth in which a powerless government works under the yoke of a global corporate conspiracy to suppress 99% of the population while 1% lives in opulence. The not-so powerless “police state” is tracking all Internet communications globally and has virtual omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence. The core of this myth is that Democracy is dead, otherwise there would be no need for direct action. Chomsky, a stolid supporter, often describes this myth as “imagery.” It doesn’t do to tell a believer that, no, there is actually a much more complicated set of circumstances behind the perceived decay of American culture and economy, and the death of Democracy is only a part of a myth meant to bring about a global revolution.
Before going further, it’s helpful to take a look at another end of the “myth spectrum,” where America is the final bastion of freedom under constant threat of attack from government over-regulation, Mexican immigration, and Islamic terror. Quite obviously, this is much closer to the kind of myth fascists like Mussolini and Hitler employed. On the surface, this myth portrays a valorous Democracy standing in defiance to the forces of evil and terror, yet the siren call of its greatest adherents is really a funeral dirge for a Democracy that is already dead and must be revived through the act of voting.
This is not the world of Sorel or Mussolini, and there is not the same kind of disenfranchised laborers facing down despicable conditions imposed upon them by corporate overlords. Discontent, as expressed by Occupy and Anonymous, flows much more from a generalized feeling of dissatisfaction with simulacra than it does from actual economic repression. This manifests itself through wide-ranging general complaints against everything from environmental degradation to military imperialism, but it really flows from the culture’s inability to deal with media which presents increasingly falsified versions of reality.
The failure of Occupy to actualize the mythical revolution might be answered by Sorel with an adapted myth. Taking the successful twist employed by the right which promotes voting, even in the face of a “dead” Democracy, however, might require abandonment of the idea of revolution. Ideas, however, are plastic. Portraying voting as a truly revolutionary act, within the confines of the two-party system, is somewhat problematic, but not impossible to overcome. These confines, in any adapted myth, should be obliterated by new technology. The power of Social Media to draw huge amounts of publicity to those with no real financial backing is intensely important, potentially lending power to those who are not a part of either party.
But still, that is all a ridiculous dance in the world of fairy tales and simulacra. What is really needed is fundamental education about the myth itself. This is not just education, but meta-education. Not simply a prophylactic against misinformation and disinformation, as these are truly all that exists, but rather a collective self-awareness. It is not enough to know the way a politician will spin a yarn, or the way media will frame in bias. By self-awareness, I mean complete understanding that these are things we do ourselves, personally, every time we speak. To put the tendency for myth making on the “other” is yet another myth prone to all the grave consequences of violent Fascism. In short, Sorel’s view of the myth as the only way to inflict “ethical life” on the other is itself a myth.