the virus is the message

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José María Paz Gago

Updated:04/28/2020 15:39


The viral pandemic contains as many meanings as interpreters strive to unravel it these days of confinement from the point of view philosophical, sociological, anthropological or semiotic: announcement of the apocalypse, bacteriological dystopia, angry reaction of nature, divine punishment, anti-capitalist maneuver, laboratory creation, perverse effect of globalization … Thinkers and publicists, communicators, intellectuals and gurus of all kinds and conditions try to reveal the senses of the viral enigma in articles and interviews in the great international tabloids, magazines of thought or in prestigious blogs.

Giorgio Agamben It opened fire too early, in late February, when we barely knew what we were dealing with. In “l’invenzione di un’epidemia” he argued that everything was a mere invention, the ideal pretext for the restriction of liberties and for the creation of a state of collective panic that justified it. One of the most lucid French intellectuals, Jean-Luc NancyAlready aware of the seriousness of the situation, he qualified the risky opinion of his Italian friend. For Nancy, the problem comes from the current interconnectivity which has caused a kind of viral exception – biological, computer, cultural – that pandemic us.

The great provocateur, Slavoj Zizek, also at the end of February, he was publishing an opinion piece in Russia Today, minimizing the epidemic and wondering what would happen if a true global catastrophe were unleashed… With such a mistake, the opportunist Slovenian philosopher has already produced an ad hoc best-seller, «Pandemic ! ”, In which he proposes the brilliant solution to the huge crisis we are going through: abandon neoliberal capitalism and return to a kind of communist-type global solidarity. A revised communism would be the surprising consequence of this catastrophe.

Too Noam Chomsky insists that we are facing a massive and colossal failure of neoliberal capitalism as our absent Minister of Universities, the sociologist Manuel Castells, who from the pages of “La Vanguardia” considered the plague another perverse effect of globalization. The solution he proposes is the resetting of humanity, a collective reincarnation of our species to make way for another way of living and another economy. The nonexistent – in the sense that it gives Calvin at the end – the minister asks for a prioritization of the public in the organization of the economy and of society, that is, a disguised nationalization that he euphemistically calls massive public intervention.

For other more reflective ideological positions, the overcoming of this social, health and financial crisis must come from the determined commitment to human dignity and its inalienable values, individual freedom tinged by the sense of responsibility, together with spiritual and creative values, in the opinion of Javier Goma on ABC or Gilles Lipovetsky in statements to “Le Point”. Both Goma and Lipovetsky or Savater reject the conspiracy theories and attribute the epidemic catastrophe in Europe to more prosaic reasons: unpredictability, incompetence and even stupidity. Fernando Savater, from “Ethic”, believed that humanity’s social changes will not take place, because humanity does not change, compared to the position of the American sociologist Jeremy Rifkin, who predicts radical changes of a socioenvironmental nature in the magazine «Telos». For this famous activist and popularizer of eco-thought, we will only avoid a new extinction of humanity if we carry out the third industrial revolution based on technological, energy and epistemic connectivity.

“The virus is the message”, with this mcluhiano title published an incisive article, in the blog “Hipermediaciones”, the Argentine Sandra Valdettaro. Suggestive headline that is loaded with senses in the face of the interpretive, controversial and polysemic tsunami, which currently drags traditional and digital media. I thought that the biological virus had become a communicable communicable virus, until I became aware that coronaviruses, like all viruses, are literally messages. The virus is the message acquired a new, literal sense, in which the copulative verb expresses factual and bacteriological evidence. My old friend Dr. Salorio revealed to me that viruses are not really any type of beings, but pure messages in themselves, they are codes. Those codes cause infection by coming into contact with the recipient’s cells, causing the disease. If the digital communication that we know today and that has instantly relayed each incidence and each infection of the pandemic is per se viral, this expression is no longer metaphorical.

We are dealing with a communicative virus and a viral communication: the virus infects cells and multiplies rapidly in the patient to immediately infect other recipients. Similarly, in this logic of contagion, information about the pandemic has spread through the networks in real time, generating innumerable statistical data and scientific explanations, fake news and intentional hoaxes, medical reports, and interpretive trials. Like no other, this is a communication pandemic.

For Agamben it is an invented virus and for Zizek an ideological virus; virulent for Goma and apocalyptic for Rifkin; a futuristic virus for the Colombian semiologist Armando Silva that from the pages of “El Tiempo” he used the dystopias of the novel and the cinema to imagine the pandemic as a fiction, but a real fiction as life itself. It is not the interpretations – diverse, contradictory, controversial – it is the virus itself that constitutes the message.

Among the innumerable topics that are repeated these days, Fernando Savater referred to the only indisputable one: viruses do not respect borders because we live on a global planet and – he added – really the principle of cosmopolitanism is generalized infection. Perhaps the key is there, the virus expands as its message, on a planetary scale, infecting everything in a new bacteriological, technological and communicative cosmopolitanism. If these lines were inspired by the paraphrase of the famous Mcluhian axiom, we return to the visionary McLuhan from the hand of the philosopher Javier Gomá. In one of the most prestigious tribunes of the Spanish-language press, the Third ABC, the Basque philosopher sentenced: « There is only the global village: the virus, which does not use a passport, makes us cosmopolitan.



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