Claques and checks – CIPER Chile

«… there are those who try to control all reality around awards, recognition and applause; and, if they do not succeed, they despair and demand those responsible to make them pay for this alteration.»

sDid you know that when, in December 1945, Gabriela Mistral received the Nobel Prize from King Gustaf V of Sweden, she went far the most applauded of the awardees (among whom was Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin)? That the next day the Swedish newspapers put his face on the front page? That the Chilean work caused such an attraction that the Swedes ran out of Spanish grammars and dictionaries to be able to read it in the original? That the group of workers in Sweden proclaimed her “Queen of Poetry”? That during the gala dinner kings, princes, scholars, and dilettantes fought to converse with her? And that Gabriela Mistral was wearing a black velvet suit that she bought herself with the money from the same Nobel Prize that she was to receive?

It was undoubtedly a spontaneous demonstration. La Mistral did not pay any claque, nor was a checa organized to guard her back and open the way for her.

What is a clack? And what, a Czech?

The claque was how the group of people hired to applaud —and sometimes to boo— in theaters was known in the past. Many premiere actors had to pay for this protection if they did not want to fall for the attempt. What today we call “bots” is nothing more than a web version of the old clique. These not only work on social networks where political controversies take place, but also, and especially, on cultural platforms; to which, of course, conventional culture arrives late (when, to say it with Hegel, Minerva’s owl has already taken flight and only broken shells remain in its nest).

The claque had a sinister transformation in the checa. The Chekas were groups, often of idealistic young men, who snooped on people during the installation of communism in Russia. There were also, in a somewhat different modality, in the Spanish Civil War. They monitored, corrected and accused, and then carried out the sentences of their own summary trials. The cancellation system with which we live today is, therefore, a current manifestation of the old Czech.

There is a very interesting labor aspect both in the claque and in the checa; the same as between bots and cancellation agents. These are true employment exchanges typical of the cultural struggle.

In contemporary dynamics, the creation of a cultural product must be accompanied by these claques and checas. Do you want to make this or that referent visible? Well, let’s applaud him to rage, his genuine merits don’t matter. Isn’t that applause enough? Well then: we demolished your competitors.

In addition, there will be no lack of claque or check that they work for free, and they are paid with the affiliation to an identity and ideological belonging.

There are other memorable scenes in that sense. During the 20th century, Stalinism insisted on the “scientific” profile of its personalities. Stalin’s own studies on linguistics were not lacking in the libraries of the West. The practice reached its extreme in the Republic of Romania, where dictator Nicolae Ceausescu gave it to him from Henry Higgins, George Bernard Shaw’s character who in his comedy pygmalion transforms an illiterate flower girl into the most sophisticated lady in London, in order to win a bet. Ceausescu wanted his almost illiterate partner, Elena, to become one of the most prestigious scientists in the world. She spared no intrigues to fulfill that dream. She put adherent scientists to work and signed those alien investigations with her name. On her husband’s trips to Great Britain, the United States or Argentina, she demanded high recognition from local scientific societies. She earned honorary doctorates. Her character building leaked when she couldn’t pronounce the CO compound into words.2. In the farce of the trial that took place at the end of 1989 against her and her husband after the popular insurrection against her, an accuser asked Elena: “Who wrote you the papers?».

The case of Dr. (sic) Ceausescu was consistent with that of the willful constructions of the outstanding personality and its correlative cult. The so famous and frustrated speech of her husband trying to appease the insurrection was accompanied by hooray! that the present claque gave him, as well as the incursions on site of the Securității, the Romanian version of the old Czech (obviously professionalized) that suppressed the booing of detractors.

Manifestations of cultural spontaneity have all kinds of legends and artifacts. The poet Anna Akhmatova was an icon of the resistance against Soviet Stalinism. Canceled by the government, prevented from publishing, her poems circulated by word of mouth. Her husband, the poet Nicolai Gumiliev, had been accused of participating in a conspiracy against Lenin, and shot. During the purges of the so-called Yezhovchina, Akhmatova’s son, Lev Gumuliev, was kidnapped by security agents and held incommunicado for months. In this context, the poet wrote her most famous collection of poems, Requiem. In 1946, when Akhmatova appeared in a Leningrad concert hall to recite her poems, the crowd rose to cheers as soon as she entered. She did not know that her fame was so much. It was rumored that upon learning of this demonstration in favor of a poet who was clearly an enemy of the regime, Stalin asked: «Kto organizoval vstavanie?!» («Who organized the applause?»).

The theorist Alexander Zholkovsky surmised that this comment may never have occurred, and that it was Akhmatova who, in an allusion to Macbeth (act. III, esc. 4), began to run the plot. Just as Shakespeare’s character before the imaginary specter of King Banquo asks: “Which of you has done this?”, Stalin, tyrant like the Scottish usurper, would have asked: “Who organized the ovation?”

Be that as it may, reality or fantasy, the moral seems the same: there are those who try to control all reality around prizes, recognitions and applause; and, if they do not succeed, they despair and demand those responsible to make them pay for this alteration.

Zholkovsky’s conjecture is very significant because, one way or another, it asks about the origin of an installed idea. That question about applause, which Stalin asked as a result of his criminal paranoia, the professor asked precisely to keep an eye on new claques and checas. The fans of Akhmatova they accused him of trying to tear down her monument. He replied that he rather sought to discover the journey of the tributaries of his creativity.

That academic institutions, which due to their methodological requirements could supposedly have been freed from these advertising campaigns, lie —because that is the word— captured in their networks (or cobwebs) of dogmas and slogans, tells us that genuine thinking and learned knowledge take flight away from their increasingly better equipped facilities. Nothing new. Where did the “Age of Enlightenment” take place? Not precisely in their universities, which did nothing more than prolong the centuries of a scholastic decline. One of his exceptions was Kant, who did not pontificate from the chair of a first-rate institution, but rather a peripheral one.

The permanent standards of culture, those that are capable of awakening in a child the creative intelligence, and not the parasitic one, will surely make their way through other ravines. Meanwhile, in their confinement in a pre-Presocratic den, claques and checas will continue with their business. His efforts to destroy imagination and spontaneity in the name of the ideals of an apocryphal flattening justice—that forced cosmic balance—will continue.

We would like to say thanks to the author of this short article for this outstanding material

Claques and checks – CIPER Chile