The Rosenhan Study: On Being Sane in Insane Places

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On Being Sane in Insane Places
by David L. Rosenhan
If sanity and insanity exist, how shall we know them?

The question is neither capricious nor itself insane. However much we may be personally convinced that we can tell the normal from the abnormal, the evidence is simply not compelling. It is commonplace, for example, to read about murder trials wherein eminent psychiatrists for the defense are contradicted by equally eminent psychiatrists for the prosecution on the matter of the defendant’s sanity. More generally, there are a great deal of conflicting data on the reliability, utility, and meaning of such terms as “sanity,” “insanity,” “mental illness,” and “schizophrenia” [1]. Finally, as early as 1934, {Ruth} Benedict suggested that normality and abnormality are not universal. [2] What is viewed as normal in one culture may be seen as quite aberrant in another. Thus, notions of normality and abnormality may not be quite as accurate as people believe they are.

To raise questions regarding normality and abnormality is in no way to question the fact that some behaviors are deviant or odd. Murder is deviant. So, too, are hallucinations. Nor does raising such questions deny the existence of the personal anguish that is often associated with “mental illness.” Anxiety and depression exist. Psychological suffering exists. But normality and abnormality, sanity and insanity, and the diagnoses that flow from them may be less substantive than many believe them to be.

At its heart, the question of whether the sane can be distinguished from the insane (and whether degrees of insanity can be distinguished from each other) is a simple matter: Do the salient characteristics that lead to diagnoses reside in the patients themselves or in the environments and contexts in which observers find them? From Bleuler, through Kretchmer, through the formulators of the recently revised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, the belief has been strong that patients present symptoms, that those symptoms can be categorized, and, implicitly, that the sane are distinguishable from the insane. More recently, however, this belief has been questioned. Based in part on theoretical and anthropological considerations, but also on philosophical, legal, and therapeutic ones, the view has grown that psychological categorization of mental illness is useless at best and downright harmful, misleading, and pejorative at worst. Psychiatric diagnoses, in this view, are in the minds of observers and are not valid summaries of characteristics displayed by the observed. [3-5]

Gains can be made in deciding which of these is more nearly accurate by getting normal people (that is, people who do not have, and have never suffered, symptoms of serious psychiatric disorders) admitted to psychiatric hospitals and then determining whether they were discovered to be sane and, if so, how. If the sanity of such pseudopatients were always detected, there would be prima facie evidence that a sane individual can be distinguished from the insane context in which he is found. Normality (and presumably abnormality) is distinct enough that it can be recognized wherever it occurs, for it is carried within the person. If, on the other hand, the sanity of the pseudopatients were never discovered, serious difficulties would arise for those who support traditional modes of psychiatric diagnosis. Given that the hospital staff was not incompetent, that the pseudopatient had been behaving as sanely as he had been out of the hospital, and that it had never been previously suggested that he belonged in a psychiatric hospital, such an unlikely outcome would support the view that psychiatric diagnosis betrays little about the patient but much about the environment in which an observer finds him.

This article describes such an experiment. Eight sane people gained secret admission to 12 different hospitals [6]. Their diagnostic experiences constitute the data of the first part of this article; the remainder is devoted to a description of their experiences in psychiatric institutions. Too few psychiatrists and psychologists, even those who have worked in such hospitals, know what the experience is like. They rarely talk about it with former patients, perhaps because they distrust information coming from the previously insane. Those who have worked in psychiatric hospitals are likely to have adapted so thoroughly to the settings that they are insensitive to the impact of that experience. And while there have been occasional reports of researchers who submitted themselves to psychiatric hospitalization [7], these researchers have commonly remained in the hospitals for short periods of time, often with the knowledge of the hospital staff. It is difficult to know the extent to which they were treated like patients or like research colleagues. Nevertheless, their reports about the inside of the psychiatric hospital have been valuable. This article extends those efforts.


The eight pseudopatients were a varied group. One was a psychology graduate student in his 20’s. The remaining seven were older and “established.” Among them were three psychologists, a pediatrician, a psychiatrist, a painter, and a housewife. Three pseudopatients were women, five were men. All of them employed pseudonyms, lest their alleged diagnoses embarrass them later. Those who were in mental health professions alleged another occupation in order to avoid the special attentions that might be accorded by staff, as a matter of courtesy or caution, to ailing colleagues.[8] With the exception myself (I was the first pseudopatient and my presence was known to the hospital administration and chief psychologist and, so far as I can tell, to them alone), the presence of pseudopatients and the nature of the research program was not known to the hospital staffs.[9]

The settings are similarly varied. In order to generalize the findings, admission into a variety of hospitals was sought. The 12 hospitals in the sample were located in five different states on the East and West coasts. Some were old and shabby, some were quite new. Some had good staff-patient ratios, others were quite understaffed. Only one was a strict private hospital. All of the others were supported by state or federal funds or, in one instance, by university funds.

After calling the hospital for an appointment, the pseudopatient arrived at the admissions office complaining that he had been hearing voices. Asked what the voices said, he replied that they were often unclear, but as far as he could tell they said “empty,” “hollow,” and “thud.” The voices were unfamiliar and were of the same sex as the pseudopatient. The choice of these symptoms was occasioned by their apparent similarity to existential symptoms. Such symptoms are alleged to arise from painful concerns about the perceived meaninglessness of one’s life. It is as if the hallucinating person were saying, “My life is empty and hollow.” The choice of these symptoms was also determined by the absence of a single report of existential psychoses in the literature.

Beyond alleging the symptoms and falsifying name, vocation, and employment, no further alterations of person, history, or circumstances were made. The significant events of the pseudopatient’s life history were presented as they had actually occurred. Relationships with parents and siblings, with spouse and children, with people at work and in school, consistent with the aforementioned exceptions, were described as they were or had been. Frustrations and upsets were described along with joys and satisfactions. These facts are important to remember. If anything, they strongly biased the subsequent results in favor of detecting insanity, since none of their histories or current behaviors were seriously pathological in any way.

Immediately upon admission to the psychiatric ward, the pseudopatient ceased simulating any symptoms of abnormality. In some cases, there was a brief period of mild nervousness and anxiety, since none of the pseudopatients really believed that they would be admitted so easily. Indeed, their shared fear was that they would be immediately exposed as frauds and greatly embarrassed. Moreover, many of them had never visited a psychiatric ward; even those who had, nevertheless had some genuine fears about what might happen to them. Their nervousness, then, was quite appropriate to the novelty of the hospital setting, and it abated rapidly.

Apart from that short-lived nervousness, the pseudopatient behaved on the ward as he “normally” behaved. The pseudopatient spoke to patients and staff as he might ordinarily. Because there is uncommonly little to do on a psychiatric ward, he attempted to engage others in conversation. When asked by staff how he was feeling, he indicated that he was fine, that he no longer experienced symptoms. He responded to instructions from attendants, to calls for medication (which was not swallowed), and to dining-hall instructions. Beyond such activities as were available to him on the admissions ward, he spent his time writing down his observations about the ward, its patients, and the staff. Initially these notes were written “secretly,” but as it soon became clear that no one much cared, they were subsequently written on standard tablets of paper in such public places as the dayroom. No secret was made of these activities.

The pseudopatient, very much as a true psychiatric patient, entered a hospital with no foreknowledge of when he would be discharged. Each was told that he would have to get out by his own devices, essentially by convincing the staff that he was sane. The psychological stresses associated with hospitalization were considerable, and all but one of the pseudopatients desired to be discharged almost immediately after being admitted. They were, therefore, motivated not only to behave sanely, but to be paragons of cooperation. That their behavior was in no way disruptive is confirmed by nursing reports, which have been obtained on most of the patients. These reports uniformly indicate that the patients were “friendly,” “cooperative,” and “exhibited no abnormal indications.”


Despite their public “show” of sanity, the pseudopatients were never detected. Admitted, except in one case, with a diagnosis of schizophrenia [10], each was discharged with a diagnosis of schizophrenia “in remission.” The label “in remission” should in no way be dismissed as a formality, for at no time during any hospitalization had any question been raised about any pseudopatient’s simulation. Nor are there any indications in the hospital records that the pseudopatient’s status was suspect. Rather, the evidence is strong that, once labeled schizophrenic, the pseudopatient was stuck with that label. If the pseudopatient was to be discharged, he must naturally be “in remission”; but he was not sane, nor, in the institution’s view, had he ever been sane.

The uniform failure to recognize sanity cannot be attributed to the quality of the hospitals, for, although there were considerable variations among them, several are considered excellent. Nor can it be alleged that there was simply not enough time to observe the pseudopatients. Length of hospitalization ranged from 7 to 52 days, with an average of 19 days. The pseudopatients were not, in fact, carefully observed, but this failure speaks more to traditions within psychiatric hospitals than to lack of opportunity.

Finally, it cannot be said that the failure to recognize the pseudopatients’ sanity was due to the fact that they were not behaving sanely. While there was clearly some tension present in all of them, their daily visitors could detect no serious behavioral consequences — nor, indeed, could other patients. It was quite common for the patients to “detect” the pseudopatient’s sanity. During the first three hospitalizations, when accurate counts were kept, 35 of a total of 118 patients on the admissions ward voiced their suspicions, some vigorously. “You’re not crazy. You’re a journalist, or a professor (referring to the continual note-taking). You’re checking up on the hospital.” While most of the patients were reassured by the pseudopatient’s insistence that he had been sick before he came in but was fine now, some continued to believe that the pseudopatient was sane throughout his hospitalization [11]. The fact that the patients often recognized normality when staff did not raises important questions.

Failure to detect sanity during the course of hospitalization may be due to the fact that physicians operate with a strong bias toward what statisticians call the Type 2 error [5]. This is to say that physicians are more inclined to call a healthy person sick (a false positive, Type 2) than a sick person healthy (a false negative, Type 1). The reasons for this are not hard to find: it is clearly more dangerous to misdiagnose illness than health. Better to err on the side of caution, to suspect illness even among the healthy.

But what holds for medicine does not hold equally well for psychiatry. Medical illnesses, while unfortunate, are not commonly pejorative. Psychiatric diagnoses, on the contrary, carry with them personal, legal, and social stigmas [12]. It was therefore important to see whether the tendency toward diagnosing the sane insane could be reversed. The following experiment was arranged at a research and teaching hospital whose staff had heard these findings but doubted that such an error could occur in their hospital. The staff was informed that at some time during the following three months, one or more pseudopatients would attempt to be admitted into the psychiatric hospital. Each staff member was asked to rate each patient who presented himself at admissions or on the ward according to the likelihood that the patient was a pseudopatient. A 10-point scale was used, with a 1 and 2 reflecting high confidence that the patient was a pseudopatient.

Judgments were obtained on 193 patients who were admitted for psychiatric treatment. All staff who had had sustained contact with or primary responsibility for the patient — attendants, nurses, psychiatrists, physicians, and psychologists — were asked to make judgments. Forty-one patients were alleged, with high confidence, to be pseudopatients by at least one member of the staff. Twenty-three were considered suspect by at least one psychiatrist. Nineteen were suspected by one psychiatrist and one other staff member. Actually, no genuine pseudopatient (at least from my group) presented himself during this period.

The experiment is instructive. It indicates that the tendency to designate sane people as insane can be reversed when the stakes (in this case, prestige and diagnostic acumen) are high. But what can be said of the 19 people who were suspected of being “sane” by one psychiatrist and another staff member? Were these people truly “sane” or was it rather the case that in the course of avoiding the Type 2 error the staff tended to make more errors of the first sort — calling the crazy “sane”? There is no way of knowing. But one thing is certain: any diagnostic process that lends itself too readily to massive errors of this sort cannot be a very reliable one.


Beyond the tendency to call the healthy sick — a tendency that accounts better for diagnostic behavior on admission than it does for such behavior after a lengthy period of exposure — the data speak to the massive role of labeling in psychiatric assessment. Having once been labeled schizophrenic, there is nothing the pseudopatient can do to overcome the tag. The tag profoundly colors others’ perceptions of him and his behavior.

From one viewpoint, these data are hardly surprising, for it has long been known that elements are given meaning by the context in which they occur. Gestalt psychology made the point vigorously, and Asch [13] demonstrated that there are “central” personality traits (such as “warm” versus “cold”) which are so powerful that they markedly color the meaning of other information in forming an impression of a given personality [14]. “Insane,” “schizophrenic,” “manic-depressive,” and “crazy” are probably among the most powerful of such central traits. Once a person is designated abnormal, all of his other behaviors and characteristics are colored by that label. Indeed, that label is so powerful that many of the pseudopatients’ normal behaviors were overlooked entirely or profoundly misinterpreted. Some examples may clarify this issue.

Earlier, I indicated that there were no changes in the pseudopatient’s personal history and current status beyond those of name, employment, and, where necessary, vocation. Otherwise, a veridical description of personal history and circumstances was offered. Those circumstances were not psychotic. How were they made consonant with the diagnosis modified in such a way as to bring them into accord with the circumstances of the pseudopatient’s life, as described by him?

As far as I can determine, diagnoses were in no way affected by the relative health of the circumstances of a pseudopatient’s life. Rather, the reverse occurred: the perception of his circumstances was shaped entirely by the diagnosis. A clear example of such translation is found in the case of a pseudopatient who had had a close relationship with his mother but was rather remote from his father during his early childhood. During adolescence and beyond, however, his father became a close friend, while his relationship with his mother cooled. His present relationship with his wife was characteristically close and warm. Apart from occasional angry exchanges, friction was minimal. The children had rarely been spanked. Surely there is nothing especially pathological about such a history. Indeed, many readers may see a similar pattern in their own experiences, with no markedly deleterious consequences. Observe, however, how such a history was translated in the psychopathological context, this from the case summary prepared after the patient was discharged.

This white 39-year-old male… manifests a long history of considerable ambivalence in close relationships, which begins in early childhood. A warm relationship with his mother cools during his adolescence. A distant relationship with his father is described as becoming very intense. Affective stability is absent. His attempts to control emotionality with his wife and children are punctuated by angry outbursts and, in the case of the children, spankings. And while he says that he has several good friends, one senses considerable ambivalence embedded in those relationships also…

The facts of the case were unintentionally distorted by the staff to achieve consistency with a popular theory of the dynamics of a schizophrenic reaction [15]. Nothing of an ambivalent nature had been described in relations with parents, spouse, or friends. To the extent that ambivalence could be inferred, it was probably not greater than is found in all human relationships. It is true the pseudopatient’s relationships with his parents changed over time, but in the ordinary context that would hardly be remarkable — indeed, it might very well be expected. Clearly, the meaning ascribed to his verbalizations (that is, ambivalence, affective instability) was determined by the diagnosis: schizophrenia. An entirely different meaning would have been ascribed if it were known that the man was “normal.”

All pseudopatients took extensive notes publicly. Under ordinary circumstances, such behavior would have raised questions in the minds of observers, as, in fact, it did among patients. Indeed, it seemed so certain that the notes would elicit suspicion that elaborate precautions were taken to remove them from the ward each day. But the precautions proved needless. The closest any staff member came to questioning those notes occurred when one pseudopatient asked his physician what kind of medication he was receiving and began to write down the response. “You needn’t write it,” he was told gently. “If you have trouble remembering, just ask me again.”

If no questions were asked of the pseudopatients, how was their writing interpreted? Nursing records for three patients indicate that the writing was seen as an aspect of their pathological behavior. “Patient engaged in writing behavior” was the daily nursing comment on one of the pseudopatients who was never questioned about his writing. Given that the patient is in the hospital, he must be psychologically disturbed. And given that he is disturbed, continuous writing must be behavioral manifestation of that disturbance, perhaps a subset of the compulsive behaviors that are sometimes correlated with schizophrenia.

One tacit characteristic of psychiatric diagnosis is that it locates the sources of aberration within the individual and only rarely within the complex of stimuli that surrounds him. Consequently, behaviors that are stimulated by the environment are commonly misattributed to the patient’s disorder. For example, one kindly nurse found a pseudopatient pacing the long hospital corridors. “Nervous, Mr. X?” she asked. “No, bored,” he said.

The notes kept by pseudopatients are full of patient behaviors that were misinterpreted by well-intentioned staff. Often enough, a patient would go “berserk” because he had, wittingly or unwittingly, been mistreated by, say, an attendant. A nurse coming upon the scene would rarely inquire even cursorily into the environmental stimuli of the patient’s behavior. Rather, she assumed that his upset derived from his pathology, not from his present interactions with other staff members. Occasionally, the staff might assume that the patient’s family (especially when they had recently visited) or other patients had stimulated the outburst. But never were the staff found to assume that one of themselves or the structure of the hospital had anything to do with a patient’s behavior. One psychiatrist pointed to a group of patients who were sitting outside the cafeteria entrance half an hour before lunchtime. To a group of young residents he indicated that such behavior was characteristic of the oral-acquisitive nature of the syndrome. It seemed not to occur to him that there were very few things to anticipate in a psychiatric hospital besides eating.

A psychiatric label has a life and an influence of its own. Once the impression has been formed that the patient is schizophrenic, the expectation is that he will continue to be schizophrenic. When a sufficient amount of time has passed, during which the patient has done nothing bizarre, he is considered to be in remission and available for discharge. But the label endures beyond discharge, with the unconfirmed expectation that he will behave as a schizophrenic again. Such labels, conferred by mental health professionals, are as influential on the patient as they are on his relatives and friends, and it should not surprise anyone that the diagnosis acts on all of them as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Eventually, the patient himself accepts the diagnosis, with all of its surplus meanings and expectations, and behaves accordingly [5].

The inferences to be made from these matters are quite simple. Much as Zigler and Phillips have demonstrated that there is enormous overlap in the symptoms presented by patients who have been variously diagnosed [16], so there is enormous overlap in the behaviors of the sane and the insane. The sane are not “sane” all of the time. We lose our tempers “for no good reason.” We are occasionally depressed or anxious, again for no good reason. And we may find it difficult to get along with one or another person — again for no reason that we can specify. Similarly, the insane are not always insane. Indeed, it was the impression of the pseudopatients while living with them that they were sane for long periods of time — that the bizarre behaviors upon which their diagnoses were allegedly predicated constituted only a small fraction of their total behavior. If it makes no sense to label ourselves permanently depressed on the basis of an occasional depression, then it takes better evidence than is presently available to label all patients insane or schizophrenic on the basis of bizarre behaviors or cognitions. It seems more useful, as Mischel [17] has pointed out, to limit our discussions to behaviors, the stimuli that provoke them, and their correlates.

It is not known why powerful impressions of personality traits, such as “crazy” or “insane,” arise. Conceivably, when the origins of and stimuli that give rise to a behavior are remote or unknown, or when the behavior strikes us as immutable, trait labels regarding the behavior arise. When, on the other hand, the origins and stimuli are known and available, discourse is limited to the behavior itself. Thus, I may hallucinate because I am sleeping, or I may hallucinate because I have ingested a peculiar drug. These are termed sleep-induced hallucinations, or dreams, and drug-induced hallucinations, respectively. But when the stimuli to my hallucinations are unknown, that is called craziness, or schizophrenia — as if that inference were somehow as illuminating as the others.


The term “mental illness” is of recent origin. It was coined by people who were humane in their inclinations and who wanted very much to raise the station of (and the public’s sympathies toward) the psychologically disturbed from that of witches and “crazies” to one that was akin to the physically ill. And they were at least partially successful, for the treatment of the mentally ill has improved considerably over the years. But while treatment has improved, it is doubtful that people really regard the mentally ill in the same way that they view the physically ill. A broken leg is something one recovers from, but mental illness allegedly endures forever [18]. A broken leg does not threaten the observer, but a crazy schizophrenic? There is by now a host of evidence that attitudes toward the mentally ill are characterized by fear, hostility, aloofness, suspicion, and dread [19]. The mentally ill are society’s lepers.

That such attitudes infect the general population is perhaps not surprising, only upsetting. But that they affect the professionals — attendants, nurses, physicians, psychologists and social workers — who treat and deal with the mentally ill is more disconcerting, both because such attitudes are self-evidently pernicious and because they are unwitting. Most mental health professionals would insist that they are sympathetic toward the mentally ill, that they are neither avoidant nor hostile. But it is more likely that an exquisite ambivalence characterizes their relations with psychiatric patients, such that their avowed impulses are only part of their entire attitude. Negative attitudes are there too and can easily be detected. Such attitudes should not surprise us. They are the natural offspring of the labels patients wear and the places in which they are found.

Consider the structure of the typical psychiatric hospital. Staff and patients are strictly segregated. Staff have their own living space, including their dining facilities, bathrooms, and assembly places. The glassed quarters that contain the professional staff, which the pseudopatients came to call “the cage,” sit out on every dayroom. The staff emerge primarily for care-taking purposes — to give medication, to conduct therapy or group meeting, to instruct or reprimand a patient. Otherwise, staff keep to themselves, almost as if the disorder that afflicts their charges is somehow catching.

So much is patient-staff segregation the rule that, for four public hospitals in which an attempt was made to measure the degree to which staff and patients mingle, it was necessary to use “time out of the staff cage” as the operational measure. While it was not the case that all time spent out of the cage was spent mingling with patients (attendants, for example, would occasionally emerge to watch television in the dayroom), it was the only way in which one could gather reliable data on time for measuring.

The average amount of time spent by attendants outside of the cage was 11.3 percent (range, 3 to 52 percent). This figure does not represent only time spent mingling with patients, but also includes time spent on such chores as folding laundry, supervising patients while they shave, directing ward cleanup, and sending patients to off-ward activities. It was the relatively rare attendant who spent time talking with patients or playing games with them. It proved impossible to obtain a “percent mingling time” for nurses, since the amount of time they spent out of the cage was too brief. Rather, we counted instances of emergence from the cage. On the average, daytime nurses emerged from the cage 11.5 times per shift, including instances when they left the ward entirely (range, 4 to 39 times). Later afternoon and night nurses were even less available, emerging on the average 9.4 times per shift (range, 4 to 41 times). Data on early morning nurses, who arrived usually after midnight and departed at 8 a.m., are not available because patients were asleep during most of this period.

Physicians, especially psychiatrists, were even less available. They were rarely seen on the wards. Quite commonly, they would be seen only when they arrived and departed, with the remaining time being spend in their offices or in the cage. On the average, physicians emerged on the ward 6.7 times per day (range, 1 to 17 times). It proved difficult to make an accurate estimate in this regard, since physicians often maintained hours that allowed them to come and go at different times.

The hierarchical organization of the psychiatric hospital has been commented on before [20], but the latent meaning of that kind of organization is worth noting again. Those with the most power have the least to do with patients, and those with the least power are the most involved with them. Recall, however, that the acquisition of role-appropriate behaviors occurs mainly through the observation of others, with the most powerful having the most influence. Consequently, it is understandable that attendants not only spend more time with patients than do any other members of the staff — that is required by their station in the hierarchy — but, also, insofar as they learn from their superior’s behavior, spend as little time with patients as they can. Attendants are seen mainly in the cage, which is where the models, the action, and the power are.

I turn now to a different set of studies, these dealing with staff response to patient-initiated contact. It has long been known that the amount of time a person spends with you can be an index of your significance to him. If he initiates and maintains eye contact, there is reason to believe that he is considering your requests and needs. If he pauses to chat or actually stops and talks, there is added reason to infer that he is individuating you. In four hospitals, the pseudopatients approached the staff member with a request which took the following form: “Pardon me, Mr. [or Dr. or Mrs.] X, could you tell me when I will be eligible for grounds privileges?” (or “… when I will be presented at the staff meeting?” or “… when I am likely to be discharged?”). While the content of the question varied according to the appropriateness of the target and the pseudopatient’s (apparent) current needs the form was always a courteous and relevant request for information. Care was taken never to approach a particular member of the staff more than once a day, lest the staff member become suspicious or irritated. In examining these data, remember that the behavior of the pseudopatients was neither bizarre nor disruptive. One could indeed engage in good conversation with them.

The data from these experiments are shown in Table 1, separately for physicians (column one) and for nurses and attendants (column 2). Minor differences between these four institutions were overwhelmed by the degree to which staff avoided continuing contacts that patients had initiated. By far, their most common response consisted of either a brief response to the question, offered while they were “on the move” and with head averted, or no response at all.

The encounter frequently took the following bizarre form: (pseudopatient) “Pardon me, Dr. X. Could you tell me when I am eligible for grounds privileges?” (physician) “Good morning, Dave. How are you today?” (Moves off without waiting for a response.)

Self-initiated contact by pseudopatients with psychiatrists and nurses and attendants, compared to contact with other groups.

It is instructive to compare these data with data recently obtained at Stanford University. It has been alleged that large and eminent universities are characterized by faculty who are so busy that they have no time for students. For this comparison, a young lady approached individual faculty members who seemed to be walking purposefully to some meeting or teaching engagement and asked them the following six questions.
1) “Pardon me, could you direct me to Encina Hall?” (at the medical school: “. . . to the Clinical Research Center?”).
2) “Do you know where Fish Annex is?” (there is no Fish Annex at Stanford).
3) “Do you teach here?”
4) “How does one apply for admission to the college?” (at the medical school: “. . . to the medical school?”).
5) “Is it difficult to get in?”
6) “Is there financial aid?”
Without exception, as can be seen in Table 1 (column 3), all of the questions were answered. No matter how rushed they were, all respondents not only maintained eye contact, but stopped to talk. Indeed, many of the respondents went out of their way to direct or take the questioner to the office she was seeking, to try to locate “Fish Annex,” or to discuss with her the possibilities of being admitted to the university.

Similar data, also shown in Table 1 (columns 4, 5, and 6), were obtained in the hospital. Here too, the young lady came prepared with six questions. After the first question, however, she remarked to 18 of her respondents (column 4), “I’m looking for a psychiatrist,” and to 15 others (column 5), “I’m looking for an internist.” Ten other respondents received no inserted comment (column 6). The general degree of cooperative responses is considerably higher for these university groups than it was for pseudopatients in psychiatric hospitals. Even so, differences are apparent within the medical school setting. Once having indicated that she was looking for a psychiatrist, the degree of cooperation elicited was less than when she sought an internist.


Eye contact and verbal contact reflect concern and individuation; their absence, avoidance and depersonalization. The data I have presented do not do justice to the rich daily encounters that grew up around matters of depersonalization and avoidance. I have records of patients who were beaten by staff for the sin of having initiated verbal contact. During my own experience, for example, one patient was beaten in the presence of other patients for having approached an attendant and told him, “I like you.” Occasionally, punishment meted out to patients for misdemeanors seemed so excessive that it could not be justified by the most rational interpretations of psychiatric cannon. Nevertheless, they appeared to go unquestioned. Tempers were often short. A patient who had not heard a call for medication would be roundly excoriated, and the morning attendants would often wake patients with, “Come on, you m—–f—–s, out of bed!”

Neither anecdotal nor “hard” data can convey the overwhelming sense of powerlessness which invades the individual as he is continually exposed to the depersonalization of the psychiatric hospital. It hardly matters which psychiatric hospital — the excellent public ones and the very plush private hospital were better than the rural and shabby ones in this regard, but, again, the features that psychiatric hospitals had in common overwhelmed by far their apparent differences.

Powerlessness was evident everywhere.

The patient is deprived of many of his legal rights by dint of his psychiatric commitment [21]. He is shorn of credibility by virtue of his psychiatric label. His freedom of movement is restricted. He cannot initiate contact with the staff, but may only respond to such overtures as they make. Personal privacy is minimal. Patient quarters and possessions can be entered and examined by any staff member, for whatever reason. His personal history and anguish is available to any staff member (often including the “grey lady” and “candy striper” volunteer) who chooses to read his folder, regardless of their therapeutic relationship to him. His personal hygiene and waste evacuation are often monitored. The water closets have no doors.

At times, depersonalization reached such proportions that pseudopatients had the sense that they were invisible, or at least unworthy of account. Upon being admitted, I and other pseudopatients took the initial physical examinations in a semipublic room, where staff members went about their own business as if we were not there.

On the ward, attendants delivered verbal and occasionally serious physical abuse to patients in the presence of others (the pseudopatients) who were writing it all down. Abusive behavior, on the other hand, terminated quite abruptly when other staff members were known to be coming. Staff are credible witnesses. Patients are not.

A nurse unbuttoned her uniform to adjust her brassiere in the present of an entire ward of viewing men. One did not have the sense that she was being seductive. Rather, she didn’t notice us. A group of staff persons might point to a patient in the dayroom and discuss him animatedly, as if he were not there.

One illuminating instance of depersonalization and invisibility occurred with regard to medication. All told, the pseudopatients were administered nearly 2,100 pills, including Elavil, Stelazine, Compazine, and Thorazine, to name but a few. (That such a variety of medications should have been administered to patients presenting identical symptoms is itself worthy of note.) Only two were swallowed. The rest were either pocketed or deposited in the toilet. The pseudopatients were not alone in this. Although I have no precise records on how many patients rejected their medications, the pseudopatients frequently found the medications of other patients in the toilet before they deposited their own. As long as they were cooperative, their behavior and the pseudopatients’ own in this matter, as in other important matters, went unnoticed throughout.

Reactions to such depersonalization among pseudopatients were intense. Although they had come to the hospital as participant observers and were fully aware that they did not “belong,” they nevertheless found themselves caught up in and fighting the process of depersonalization. Some examples: a graduate student in psychology asked his wife to bring his textbooks to the hospital so he could “catch up on his homework” — this despite the elaborate precautions taken to conceal his professional association. The same student, who had trained for quite some time to get into the hospital, and who had looked forward to the experience, “remembered” some drag races that he had wanted to see on the weekend and insisted that he be discharged by that time. Another pseudopatient attempted a romance with a nurse. Subsequently, he informed the staff that he was applying for admission to graduate school in psychology and was very likely to be admitted, since a graduate professor was one of his regular hospital visitors. The same person began to engage in psychotherapy with other patients — all of this as a way of becoming a person in an impersonal environment.


What are the origins of depersonalization? I have already mentioned two. First are attitudes held by all of us toward the mentally ill — including those who treat them — attitudes characterized by fear, distrust, and horrible expectations on the one hand, and benevolent intentions on the other. Our ambivalence leads, in this instance as in others, to avoidance.

Second, and not entirely separate, the hierarchical structure of the psychiatric hospital facilitates depersonalization. Those who are at the top have least to do with patients, and their behavior inspires the rest of the staff. Average daily contact with psychiatrists, psychologists, residents, and physicians combined ranged form 3.9 to 25.1 minutes, with an overall mean of 6.8 (six pseudopatients over a total of 129 days of hospitalization). Included in this average are time spent in the admissions interview, ward meetings in the presence of a senior staff member, group and individual psychotherapy contacts, case presentation conferences and discharge meetings. Clearly, patients do not spend much time in interpersonal contact with doctoral staff. And doctoral staff serve as models for nurses and attendants.

There are probably other sources. Psychiatric installations are presently in serious financial straits. Staff shortages are pervasive, and that shortens patient contact. Yet, while financial stresses are realities, too much can be made of them. I have the impression that the psychological forces that result in depersonalization are much stronger than the fiscal ones and that the addition of more staff would not correspondingly improve patient care in this regard. The incidence of staff meetings and the enormous amount of record-keeping on patients, for example, have not been as substantially reduced as has patient contact. Priorities exist, even during hard times. Patient contact is not a significant priority in the traditional psychiatric hospital, and fiscal pressures do not account for this. Avoidance and depersonalization may.

Heavy reliance upon psychotropic medication tacitly contributes to depersonalization by convincing staff that treatment is indeed being conducted and that further patient contact may not be necessary. Even here, however, caution needs to be exercised in understanding the role of psychotropic drugs. If patients were powerful rather than powerless, if they were viewed as interesting individuals rather than diagnostic entities, if they were socially significant rather than social lepers, if their anguish truly and wholly compelled our sympathies and concerns, would we not seek contact with them, despite the availability of medications? Perhaps for the pleasure of it all?


Whenever the ratio of what is known to what needs to be known approaches zero, we tend to invent “knowledge” and assume that we understand more than we actually do. We seem unable to acknowledge that we simply don’t know. The needs for diagnosis and remediation of behavioral and emotional problems are enormous. But rather than acknowledge that we are just embarking on understanding, we continue to label patients “schizophrenic,” “manic-depressive,” and “insane,” as if in those words we captured the essence of understanding. The facts of the matter are that we have known for a long time that diagnoses are often not useful or reliable, but we have nevertheless continued to use them. We now know that we cannot distinguish sanity from insanity. It is depressing to consider how that information will be used.

Not merely depressing, but frightening. How many people, one wonders, are sane but not recognized as such in our psychiatric institutions? How many have been needlessly stripped of their privileges of citizenship, from the right to vote and drive to that of handling their own accounts? How many have feigned insanity in order to avoid the criminal consequences of their behavior, and, conversely, how many would rather stand trial than live interminably in a psychiatric hospital — but are wrongly thought to be mentally ill? How many have been stigmatized by well-intentioned, but nevertheless erroneous, diagnoses? On the last point, recall again that a “Type 2 error” in psychiatric diagnosis does not have the same consequences it does in medical diagnosis. A diagnosis of cancer that has been found to be in error is cause for celebration. But psychiatric diagnoses are rarely found to be in error. The label sticks, a mark of inadequacy forever.

Finally, how many patients might be “sane” outside the psychiatric hospital but seem insane in it — not because craziness resides in them, as it were, but because they are responding to a bizarre setting, one that may be unique to institutions which harbor nether people? Goffman [4] calls the process of socialization to such institutions “mortification’ — an apt metaphor that includes the processes of depersonalization that have been described here. And while it is impossible to know whether the pseudopatients’ responses to these processes are characteristic of all inmates — they were, after all, not real patients — it is difficult to believe that these processes of socialization to a psychiatric hospital provide useful attitudes or habits of response for living in the “real world.”


It is clear that we cannot distinguish the sane from the insane in psychiatric hospitals. The hospital itself imposes a special environment in which the meaning of behavior can easily be misunderstood. The consequences to patients hospitalized in such an environment — the powerlessness, depersonalization, segregation, mortification, and self-labeling — seem undoubtedly counter-therapeutic.

I do not, even now, understand this problem well enough to perceive solutions. But two matters seem to have some promise. The first concerns the proliferation of community mental health facilities, of crisis intervention centers, of the human potential movement, and of behavior therapies that, for all of their own problems, tend to avoid psychiatric labels, to focus on specific problems and behaviors, and to retain the individual in a relatively non-pejorative environment. Clearly, to the extent that we refrain from sending the distressed to insane places, our impressions of them are less likely to be distorted. (The risk of distorted perceptions, it seems to me, is always present, since we are much more sensitive to an individual’s behaviors and verbalizations than we are to the subtle contextual stimuli than often promote them. At issue here is a matter of magnitude. And, as I have shown, the magnitude of distortion is exceedingly high in the extreme context that is a psychiatric hospital.)

The second matter that might prove promising speaks to the need to increase the sensitivity of mental health workers and researchers to the Catch 22 position of psychiatric patients. Simply reading materials in this area will be of help to some such workers and researchers. For others, directly experiencing the impact of psychiatric hospitalization will be of enormous use. Clearly, further research into the social psychology of such total institutions will both facilitate treatment and deepen understanding.

I and the other pseudopatients in the psychiatric setting had distinctly negative reactions. We do not pretend to describe the subjective experiences of true patients. Theirs may be different from ours, particularly with the passage of time and the necessary process of adaptation to one’s environment. But we can and do speak to the relatively more objective indices of treatment within the hospital. It could be a mistake, and a very unfortunate one, to consider that what happened to us derived from malice or stupidity on the part of the staff. Quite the contrary, our overwhelming impression of them was of people who really cared, who were committed and who were uncommonly intelligent. Where they failed, as they sometimes did painfully, it would be more accurate to attribute those failures to the environment in which they, too, found themselves than to personal callousness. Their perceptions and behaviors were controlled by the situation, rather than being motivated by a malicious disposition. In a more benign environment, one that was less attached to global diagnosis, their behaviors and judgments might have been more benign and effective.

The author is professor of psychology and law at Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305. Portions of these data were presented to colloquiums of the psychology departments at the University of California at Berkeley and at Santa Barbara; University of Arizona, Tucson; and Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

References and Notes

[1] P. Ash, J. Abnorm. Soc. Psychol. 44, 272 (1949); A. T. Beck, Amer. J. Psychiat. 119, 210 (1962); A. T. Boisen, Psychiatry 2, 233 (1938); N. Kreitman, J. Ment. Sci. 107, 876 (1961); N. Kreitman, P. Sainsbury, J. Morrisey, J. Towers, J. Scrivener, ibid., p. 887; H. O. Schmitt and C. P. Fonda, J. Abnorm. Soc. Psychol. 52, 262 (1956); W. Seeman, J. Nerv. Ment. Dis. 118, 541 (1953). For an analysis of these artifacts and summaries of the disputes, see J. Zubin, Annu. Rev. Psychol. 18, 373 (1967); L. Phillips and J. G. Draguns, ibid. 22, 447 (1971).

[2] R. Benedict, J.Gen. Psychol., 10, 59 (1934).

[3] See in this regard H. Becker, Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance (Free Press, New York, 1963); B. M. Braginsky, D. D. Braginsky, K. Ring, Methods of Madness: The Mental Hospital as a Last Resort (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York, 1969); G. M. Crocetti and P. V. Lemkau, Amer. Sociol. Rev. 30, 577 (1965); E. Goffman, Behavior in Public Places (Free Press, New York, 1964); R. D. Laing, The Divided Self: A Study of Sanity and Madness (Quadrangle, Chicago, 1960); D. L. Phillips, Amer. Sociol. Rev. 28, 963 (1963); T. R. Sarbin, Psychol. Today 6, 18 (1972); E. Schur, Amer. J. Sociol. 75, 309 (1969); T. Szasz, Law, Liberty and Psychiatry (Macmillan, New York, 1963); The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Mental Illness (Hoeber-Harper, New York, 1963). For a critique of some of these views, see W. R. Gove, Amer. Sociol. Rev. 35, 873 (1970).

[4] E. Goffman, Asylums (Doubleday, Garden City, N.Y., 1961).

[5] T. J. Scheff, Being Mentally Ill: A Sociological Theory (Aldine, Chicago, 1966).

[6] Data from a ninth pseudopatient are not incorporated in this report because, although his sanity went undetected, he falsified aspects of his personal history, including his marital status and parental relationships. His experimental behaviors therefore were not identical to those of the other pseudopatients.

[7] A. Barry, Bellevue Is a State of Mind (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York, 1971); I. Belknap, Human Problems of a State Mental Hospital (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1956); W. Caudill, F. C. Redlich, H. R. Gilmore, E. B. Brody, Amer. J. Orthopsychiat. 22, 314 (1952); A. R. Goldman, R. H. Bohr, T. A. Steinberg, Prof. Psychol. 1, 427 (1970); unauthored, Roche Report 1 (No. 13), 8 (1971).

[8] Beyond the personal difficulties that the pseudopatient is likely to experience in the hospital, there are legal and social ones that, combined, require considerable attention before entry. For example, once admitted to a psychiatric institution, it is difficult, if not impossible, to be discharged on short notice, state law to the contrary notwithstanding. I was not sensitive to these difficulties at the outset of the project, nor to the personal and situational emergencies that can arise, but later a writ of habeas corpus was prepared for each of the entering pseudopatients and an attorney was kept “on call” during every hospitalization. I am grateful to John Kaplan and Robert Bartels for legal advice and assistance in these matters.

[9] However distasteful such concealment is, it was a necessary first step to examining these questions. Without concealment, there would have been no way to know how valid these experiences were; nor was there any way of knowing whether whatever detections occurred were a tribute to the diagnostic acumen of the staff or to the hospital’s rumor network. Obviously, since my concerns are general ones that cut across individual hospitals and staffs, I have respected their anonymity and have eliminated clues that might lead to their identification.

[10] Interestingly, of the 12 admissions, 11 were diagnosed as schizophrenic and one, with the identical symptomalogy, as manic-depressive psychosis. This diagnosis has a more favorable prognosis, and it was given by the only private hospital in our sample. On the relations between social class and psychiatric diagnosis, see A. deB. Hollingshead and F. C. Redlich, Social Class and Mental Illness: A Community Study (Wiley, New York, 1958).

[11] It is possible, of course, that patients have quite broad latitudes in diagnosis and therefore are inclined to call many people sane, even those whose behavior is patently aberrant. However, although we have no hard data on this matter, it was our distinct impression that this was not the case. In many instances, patients not only singled us out for attention, but came to imitate our behaviors and styles.

[12] J. Cumming and E. Cumming, Community Ment. Health 1, 135 (1965); A. Farina and K. Ring, J. Abnorm. Psychol. 70, 47 (1965); H. E. Freeman and O. G. Simmons, The Mental Patient Comes Home (Wiley, New York, 1963); W. J. Johannsen, Ment. Hygiene 53, 218 (1969); A. S. Linsky, Soc. Psychiat. 5, 166 (1970).

[13] S. E. Asch, J. Abnorm. Soc. Psychol. 41, 258 (1946); Social Psychology (Prentice-Hall, New York, 1952).

[14] See also I. N. Mensh and J. Wishner, J. Personality 16, 188 (1947); J. Wishner, Psychol. Rev. 67, 96 (1960); J. S. Bruner and R. Tagiuri, in Handbook of Social Psychology, G. Lindzey, Ed. (Addison-Wesley, Cambridge, Mass., 1954), vol. 2, pp. 634-654; J. S. Bruner, D. Shapiro, R. Tagiuri, in Person Perception and Interpersonal Behavior, R. Tagiuri and L. Petrullo, Eds. (Stanford Univ. Press, Stanford, Calif., 1958), pp. 277-288.

[15] For an example of a similar self-fulfilling prophecy, in this instance dealing with the “central” trait of intelligence, see R. Rosenthal and L. Jacobson, Pygmalion in the Classroom (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York, 1968).

[16] E. Zigler and L. Phillips, J. Abnorm. Soc. Psychol. 63, 69 (1961). See also R. K. Freudenberg and J. P. Robertson, A.M.A. Arch. Neurol. Psychiatr. 76, 14 (1956).

[17] W. Mischel, Personality and Assessment (Wiley, New York, 1968).

[18] The most recent and unfortunate instance of this tenet is that of Senator Thomas Eagleton.

[19] T. R. Sarbin and J. C. Mancuso. J. Clin. Consult. Psychol. 35, 159 (1970); T. R. Sarbin, ibid. 31, 447 (1967); J. C. Nunnally, Jr., Popular Conceptions of Mental Health (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York, 1961).

[20] A. H. Stanton and M. S. Schwartz, The Mental Hospital: A Study of Institutional Participation in Psychiatric Illness and Treatment (Basic, New York, 1954).

[21] D. B. Wexler and S. E. Scoville, Ariz. Law Rev. 13, 1 (1971).

[22] I thank W. Mischel, E. Orne, and M. S. Rosenhan for comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript.

Originally published in Science, New Series, Vol. 179, No. 4070. (Jan. 19, 1973), pp. 250-258.

Copyright 1973 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Eco-terrorist group says it sent parcel bomb to chairman of Chile’s Codelco


Santiago, Jan 14 (EFE).- An eco-terrorist group on Saturday said it was responsible for a parcel bomb that detonated at the home of the chairman of the board of Chilean state-owned mining giant Codelco, the world’s biggest copper producer.
In an Internet blog site, the group known as Individualists Tending toward the Wild (ITS-Chile) posted a statement in which it claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack as well as two images of what it said was the bomb sent to the 44-year-old Oscar Landerretche’s home.

The parcel bomb was wrapped as a gift and delivered by a young woman to the residence, located in Santiago’s La Reina neighborhood. A professor of mining engineering at the University of Chile was listed on the parcel as the sender.
Landerretche suffered superficial injuries to his extremities and chest when the bomb went off.

The group said the parcel would have arrived at the offices of the university professor if Landerretche had not received it first.
“The pretentious Landerretche deserved to die for his offenses against Earth,” it said, adding that he “had been deserving of our explosive gift for being at the head of this megaproject devastating all the beauty of Earth.”

They added that they were not anarchists and were seeking vengeance “for Earth’s devastation.”

That group has earlier claimed responsibility for other firebomb attacks or attempted attacks, including one targeting the University of Chile’s Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences in May 2016.

Landerretche called the attack “very violent” and “cowardly” after being treated for his injuries at a clinic on Saturday morning.
He told reporters that he and his family were fortunate, adding that his daughter and a domestic worker were in the house at the time but that his injuries were the most serious.

“If someone believes that with something like this the board of Codelco, the top administration of Codelco or I are going to act differently than what we’ve been doing with respect to establishing good practices, probity, controls within the company, which belongs to all Chileans, they are deeply mistaken,” the chairman said.

Chile’s government said Saturday that it was confident it would track down those responsible for the parcel bomb.
“I’m sure that very quickly we’ll be on the trail of the perpetrators of this incident,” Interior Minister Mario Fernandez said after heading a meeting of the country’s security agencies.

Fernandez said that as part of their investigation authorities would probe the possible role of ITS-Chile in the attack.


Killer, robber, master of disguise … and now the biggest movie star in France

Why is gangster Jacques Mesrine an icon across the Channel 30 years after his death? UK film-goers are about to find out

The many guises of French gangster Jacques Mesrine (1936 – 1979). Photograph: RDA/Getty Images

No less than the British or the Americans, the French have always loved their movie gangsters, especially if they have an intellectual or political edge. The latest addition to this canon arrives in the UK next month with two films Mesrine: Killer Instinct and Mesrine: Public Enemy No 1, starring Vincent Cassel in the lead role. Both films tell the story of Jacques Mesrine, the legendary master-criminal who was killed in Paris in 1979. They have been massive critical and box office hits in France, where Le Monde has described them as “brilliant exercises in style”. For the critic of the fashionable and influential magazine Les Inrockuptibles, they are “a searing political indictment” of recent French history. The first film, Killer Instinct, was nominated for nine Césars (the French equivalent of the Oscars) in January. And Mesrine is everywhere in France – a fashion icon, a role model for youth and a cultural phenomenon.

How did this happen? And what does it tell us about France in 2009 that its biggest star is a long-dead mobster from the 1970s?

Although the name of Mesrine is unknown to most UK readers, it occupies a place in the French cultural imagination every bit as important as Zinedine Zidane or Edith Piaf. In the 1970s Mesrine was dubbed public enemy No 1 by the police but also regularly topped magazine polls as the most popular man in France. He courted publicity and would appear regularly on the front of Paris Match, half-disguised, smoking cigars and toting a Kalashnikov, discussing his love affairs and describing the French government as inept and corrupt.

The director of the two films, Jean-François Richet, set out to capture this strange moment in French postwar life. “I wanted to tell a micro-history,” he says. “Not the history of France through Napoleon Bonaparte but through a man you might have passed in the street.”

Mesrine – who was nicknamed “Monsieur-tout-le-monde” (Mister Everybody) for his skill at disguise – has become a hero to the current generation of rebellious youth in France. In the tougher parts of Paris, Lyon and Marseille, hip-hop kids sport T-shirts showing Mesrine pointing a pistol, and the slogan “Profession Ennemi Public – Mesrine, pour toujours et à jamais” (Profession Public Enemy. Mesrine – forever and always).

On a wall at Porte de Vanves in southern Paris, just as you head for the dreaded council estates at the edge of the city, graffiti in homage to Mesrine reads: “Papa Mesrine – pas mort!” (Daddy Mesrine – not dead!).

Mesrine has also become an idol to the current generation of French rappers. “I’d rather have a dead copper under my wheels, just like Mesrine, than just drive a Subaru,” runs a line from Seth Guéko, the up-and-coming white rapper from the Paris suburbs who has declared himself the “spiritual son of Jacques Mesrine”. Other heavyweight rap stars, such as Akhenaton and Rim’K, praise Mesrine as the French Scarface or the new Che Guevara.

How Mesrine achieved this status is the story of the two films. He was born in 1936 into a fairly well-to-do family in the prosperous suburb of Clichy-la-Garenne. In the 1950s he fought as a paratrooper in the Algerian war – allegedly in torture squads – and on his return to France decided to make a career as a criminal. His work – mainly robberies – took him to South America, Switzerland, the Canary Islands and Canada. He was famous for daring prison breaks and was soon nicknamed the French Robin Hood.

He enjoyed deliberately provoking the French authorities and developed great media savvy. During one trial he famously threw his handcuffs into the face of a judge, loudly declaring him “a cretin and an incompetent”.

Mesrine was described in the press as an “intellectual gangster” on account of his articulate and combative style in interviews. He was very cheeky, very smart and could be very funny: one of his favourite techniques, for example, was to launch bank raids almost simultaneously in adjacent streets. As the police were setting off to bank raid number one, he and his gang were already laughingly looting another bank less than half a mile away, leaving the finest Parisian detectives resembling the Keystone Cops.

This is all great fun and the two films rattle along at a cracking pace, depicting Mesrine’s capers and crimes. But there is also a political meaning here. The first film opens with the shooting of Mesrine on a street in northern Paris on 2 November 1979. This is a highly charged scene. All French people of that generation have seared on their memories the front-page photos of Mesrine slumped in a blood-spattered heap over the windshield of a car. The joker who had taunted the police on the front covers of Paris Match had now met his end in the full glare of the media who had colluded with his tricks and games.

The killing was followed by public anger over whether this was legitimate police action or – most likely – a military execution ordered by a government which, in its anger and frustration, had lost all sense of restraint or control. The police were personally congratulated in private by President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. Despite several legal investigations launched by Mesrine’s family, there has never been a full public explanation.

This was a period when, under the aegis of a decaying right-wing government, the French police and secret services were both notoriously acting beyond the law. More to the point, there was a direct precedent for the killing of Mesrine. On 20 September 1979 the ultra-left journalist Pierre Goldman had been shot dead in the 13th arrondissement of Paris. The murder was claimed by the far-right vigilante group Honneur de la Police (Police Honour), who vowed to clean France of “all criminals and leftists”. The police quickly and ignominiously abandoned the Goldman case despite a public outcry led by such distinguished figures as the actress Simone Signoret and the singer Maxime Le Forestier.

This was precisely why Mesrine’s death shocked all of France. It seemed, indeed, to many on the French left that his assassination, in the wake of the Goldman killing, signalled that a secret civil war was now well under way, with the aim of sweeping up the remnants of the generation who had led the near-revolution of May 1968. More to the point, by the time of his death, Mesrine had moved politically to the far left. He was close to the revolutionary activist Charles Bauer, whom he had met in prison, and was beginning to campaign for prisoners’ rights.

UK audiences will appreciate these two films as thoroughly entertaining gangster epics (Gérard Depardieu is particularly menacing as Mesrine’s heavyweight mentor during Mesrine’s early days in Pigalle). But for French audiences there is clearly a deeper and more potent agenda at work: from Mesrine’s experiences during the Algerian war in the 1950s, the tumult and anarchy of the French 1960s through to the right-wing vendettas of the 1970s, all of France’s recent traumas are here in microcosm. It is this fact which also explains Mesrine’s appeal out in the troubled suburbs of nearly all big French cities, where riots and skirmishes with heavily armed and militarised police are a fact of daily life. So, if not quite on the scale of The Godfather or Goodfellas, these films are still more than the French standard gangster movie. And you can’t help thinking that Jacques Mesrine – the gangster as arch-prankster – would still enjoy the fact that his ghost is still causing trouble in 21st-century France.

Mesrine: Killer Instinct is released on 7 August and Mesrine: Public Enemy No 1 on 28 August

Mesrine: the facts

1936 Born 28 December in Paris.

1955 Marries Lydia de Souza (it lasts one year).

1956 Goes to war in Algeria.

1961 Marries Maria de la Soledad.

1962 Sentenced to 18 months for attempted bank robbery.

1967 Maria de la Soledad leaves him.

1969 Imprisoned in Canada for murder and kidnap.

1972 Escapes prison. Robs two banks in a single day.

1973 Sentenced to 20 years in France; escapes during trial. Steals FF1.5m from a printworks.

1977 Publishes his memoir Killer Instinct, in which he boasts of having committed 39 murders.

1979 Shot dead by police on 2 November.
Ollie Brock

Fraudsters’ New Frontier: The Dark Web

By Thomas Zadvydas

Once the exclusive domain of credit card thieves and fraudsters, the “Deep Web” or the related “Dark Web” is attracting a slew of startups and their venture capital backers.

A part of the Internet that is not accessible by mainstream search engines and requires specific authorization to enter, the Dark Web remains a blind spot for enterprises. A handful of cybersecurity firms now are seeking access to it to monitor the hacker communities that operate there and stay on top of emerging cyber threats, which include acts of espionage from international state actors and terrorist organizations.

“If [you] spend time in there, you begin to understand what’s happening in the hacker world. And you can in a sense be proactive to pick off emerging threats,” says Ryan J. Shaw, co-founder and CEO of Blockade Technologies, a Boca Raton, Florida-based company whose data storage platform uses blockchain technology to encrypt information and store it across several different networks.

Threats in this online netherworld are many and varied, say other sources, and could include acts of industrial espionage, says one cybersecurity attorney.

“It’s not just terrorists hanging out in the Deep and Dark Web. It’s credit card thieves, fraudsters, malware developers, hackers,” says Josh Lefkowitz, co-founder and CEO of Flashpoint, a New York-based company focused on collecting data from the Deep and Dark Web to protect its customers.

“We saw an opportunity to really address an acute pain point that was not only being felt in the public sector and government agencies, but also amongst the private sector, financial services companies, retailers, healthcare providers and law firms,” Lefkowitz said.

Companies such as Flashpoint, Intel 471 of the Netherlands, and Digital Shadows of London and San Francisco are building businesses around monitoring the Deep Web for companies. All have been receiving investment interest. Flashpoint, for example, secured a $10 million Series B funding round last July from Cisco Investments, Greycroft Partners and others.

Subversive action

“Literature, SDS, Ostermarsch, drugs – that was all a big thing, and they were the ones who later showed themselves by their long hair. They told the people how we were to Vietnam, the drug, the university uprising. ”

Gaston Salvatore and Rudi Dutschke at the Vietnam Congress of the SDS (Socialist German Student Union) 1968 in West Berlin.

The “Subversive Action”, founded by Dieter Kunzelmann in Munich in 1962, had learned from her intellectual fathers Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer and Herbert Marcuse that the modern “repressive society” no longer had its power by the threat of police and justice, but by the Seduction to consumption. “In the middle of material prosperity, life does not live, people are unable to enjoy themselves, instead of real satisfaction of their dreams, desires and pleasure, people willingly let themselves be fed with substitute offerings from consumption and illusions As in the past, have only been kept open by open violence and sensible oppression. “The role of the police and the prison have taken over cinema, television, consumption and controlled leisure.” (Chaussy, 1985, p. 39). Before revolutionary political changes have a chance, people first have to learn to free their oppressed inner impulses – especially sexuality. At the center of the action and thought of the subversive action were therefore one’s own person, one’s own experience, one’s own feelings. From hippies, Yippies became a provocative part of a political movement that aimed for real changes in the majority society, but without compromising its free lifestyle with bourgeois conventions. “The transformation of circumstances was bound in a holistically understood context to the transformation of its own life.” (Lindner 1996, p. 157f.)

In practice, this meant the “revolutionization of everyday life”: the abolition of private property and life already today (municipalities instead of small families; the insistence on an “intimate life” is a bourgeois bourgeoisie, ie free sexuality / part exchange, , Exiting from the (university) performance pressure, the pleasure principle as the highest maxim of all action and above all – constant provocation as a lustful revolutionary practice. “A revolutionary who is not concerned with bothering his parents with bourgeois clothes and haircut is still largely attached to his bourgeois background.” (Cited according to Bucher / Pohl 1986, p. 28) “If the young people of today are seen in photographs, they are often very good and courageous, but their provocative effect is no longer quite understandable The majority of the youths at that time had a much stronger attraction than the theorists of the 1968. The free choice of one’s own appearance instead of clothes and habits, free school instead of authoritarian educational institutions, free sexuality instead of prudery, commune instead of family. (AaO) The connection between Flower Power and political protest, from revolution, subculture and rock music to a politico-aesthetic “rebellion of the impulses” drew youth into its spell and created a dynamic “we-feeling” in which the adult world outside Remained.

“Literature, SDS, Ostermarsch, drugs – that was all a big thing, and they counted themselves to her, later by their long hair, they meant formlessness, sensuality, openness The parents of the long-haired ones were a generation without a future, without children … It was the pop and rock music, in the personal experience, life-destiny and existential desire, the melancholy and destructive fury of the Beatles were the The songs of the second hour of the Revolt in Berkeley, Paris, Berlin and Frankfurt, the true prophets, were the “street fighting man”, “Eve of destruction” and “I can’t get no satisfaction” Of the dissent generation were the pop and rock groups. “ (Mosler 1977, pp. 96-100)

The merging of student protests and youth culture broadened the spectrum of the antiauthoritarian revolt far beyond the student-intellectual milieu. A strong antiauthoritarian music and theater scene arose, the beginnings of a left-wing apprentice movement, and the share of pupils (in grammar schools in general) who were “often and interested” with politics rose from 20 per cent in 1961 to 52 Percentage of 1968. (Bliicher 1969, p. 112)

The APO rebels became trendsetters like Techno 25 years later and attracted more and more young people. “The temptation to jump into a successful movement was almost the same as the provocative counter-identification of external attributes such as parka, long hair, etc. The proof of actual moral and political superiority to the” establishment “was superfluous as long as this disqualified itself . “ (Schülein 1977, p. 106)

The antiauthoritarian movement was now composed of a multitude of groups, milieus and interests. The least was a “revolution”, the change in society as a whole, but most of them fought for their individual freedom, for the right to their own lifestyle beyond the orderly and performance-defying mainstream. “The attack against the ruling order is not a direct challenge to the power, which, of course, is known to be unquestionable. The challenge is the obligation of this power.” (Lübbe 1975, p. 46) If the “establishment” had shown itself to be more flexible, the protests taken seriously and used as an occasion for urgently needed reforms, tolerating the rights of young people to their own lifeworlds and models, (RAF). For the political opinion leaders, the core of the APO, who were really concerned with the upheaval of “dominant conditions”, only became radicalized when they had to learn that their symbolic rule violations were not perceived by policy makers and the majority of the population as a thought – But also as “eminent threats to order, justice and decency, which had to be punished indifferently” (Lindner 1996, p. 177f.). The national community idea, which had been massively updated, especially by Ludwig Erhard (born 1897, from 1949 to 1963, Federal Minister of Economics, then until 1966 Federal Chancellor), was still very present, according to which opposites and contradictions within the population were dangerous. For the majority of Germans, democracy still meant economic prosperity, and that “those up there” had to confirm every four years that they had done a good job. “It took years for the fact that demonstrations were a legitimate form of voluntary expression in a free society.” (Fetscher 1990, p. 71)

This was particularly true of Berlin, the last “bulwark of freedom” in the midst of communist enemy lands. “Especially the old-established inhabitants regarded Berlin as the” front city “, as the foremost bastion of the free West, as a” stake in the flesh of communism. “The city was to become a sign of the West Favorable conditions of living, especially young people from West Germany were conquered. After the construction of the Wall in 1961, many inhabitants had left the city, and now a lot of large apartments were empty, which were incredibly cheap to rent. (Prinz 2003, p. 154) Even the pubs, who had mushroomed in the sixties to satisfy the students of the West German province, were cheap. The police force had already been abolished in Berlin before the Wall was built To attract tourists and residents of East Berlin to the free West. Nowhere else was the fight of the systems so inexorable and commonplace as in Berlin, nowhere else was anti-communism so much absorbed into the blood of the population as here. “It was a dark feeling that the eastern part of the population had to spoon out a soup that had been ordered by all Germans, and that this unacceptable debt complex had been struck down by blind anti-communism, and hatred and enmity against Bolshevism still justified part of Hitler’s crimes on.” (Rudolf Augstein in Der Spiegel 24/1967, p. 24) Everyone who dared to get the status quo got this almost brushless transition from “Going to the other side” to critisize. Nowhere else did even bourgeois commentators encourage a rebellion against the APO rebels as here, and nowhere else did social democrat politicians, so self-evident, defamate leftist or even liberal critics who were judged elsewhere as right-wing extremists. Berlin was in many respects a front city, and whoever came between the fronts was combated by all means.


Blücher, Viggo Graf: The Unrest of Youth and the Generational Relationship, in: Deutsche Jugend 1969, pp. 107-123. Here, according to Lindner 1996, p. 129.

Bucher, Willi / Pohl, Klaus: “Dear living as normal.”, In: Deutscher Werkbund eV (eds.) 1986, pp. 24-33.

Chaussy, Ulrich: The Three Lives of Rudi Dutschke. A biography. Frankfurt am Main 1985.

Fetscher, Iring: Utopias – illusions – hopes. A plea for a political culture in Germany. Stuttgart, 1990. Here, according to Geiling 1996, pp. 74f.

Lindner, Werner: Youth protests since the fifties. Dissent and cultural idiosyncrasy. Opladen 1996.

Lübbe, Hermann: Legitimacy Weakness and Youth Movement, in: Youth in Society. A symposium. Munich 1975, pp. 42-53.

Mosler, Peter: What we wanted, what we were. Student folks – ten years later. Reinbek 1977.

Prince, Alois: Dear furious rather than sad. The life story of Ulrike Marie Meinhof. Advertisement advertisement.

Schülein, JA: From the student revolution to the tending or retreat into the private, in: Kursbuch 48, 1977, pp. 108-124.

Mirror 24/1967

NSA-leaking Shadow Brokers lob Molotov cocktail before exiting world stage

With 8 days before inauguration of Donald Trump, leak is sure to inflame US officials.

Shadow Brokers, the mysterious group that gained international renown when it published hundreds of advanced hacking tools belonging to the National Security Agency, says it’s going dark. But before it does, it’s lobbing a Molotov cocktail that’s sure to further inflame the US intelligence community.

In a farewell message posted Thursday morning, group members said they were deleting their accounts and making an exit after their offers to release their entire cache of NSA hacking tools in exchange for a whopping 10,000 bitcoins (currently valued at more than $8.2 million) were rebuffed. While they said they would still make good on the offer should the sum be transferred into their electronic wallet, they said there would be no more communications.

“Despite theories, it always being about bitcoins for TheShadowBrokers,” Thursday’s post, which wasn’t available as this article was going live, stated. “Free dumps and bullshit political talk was being for marketing attention. There being no bitcoins in free dumps and giveaways. You are being disappointed? Nobody is being more disappointed than TheShadowBrokers.”

The post included 61 Windows-formatted binary files, including executables, dynamic link libraries, and device drivers. While, according to this analysis, 43 of them were detected by antivirus products from Kaspersky Lab, which in 2015 published a detailed technical expose into the NSA-tied Equation Group, only one of them had previously been uploaded to the Virus Total malware scanning service. And even then, Virus Total showed that the sample was detected by only 32 of 58 AV products even though it had been uploaded to the service in 2009. After being loaded into Virus Total on Thursday, a second file included in the farewell post was detected by only 12 of the 58 products.

Parting insult

Malware experts are still analyzing the files, but early indications are that, as was the case with earlier Shadow Brokers dumps, they belonged to the Tailored Access Operations, the NSA’s elite hacking unit responsible for breaking into the computers and networks of US adversaries. And given evidence the files remained undetected by many of the world’s most widely used malware defenses, Thursday’s farewell message may have been little more than a parting insult, particularly if the group has origins in the Russian government, as members of the intelligence community have speculated.

“This farewell message is kind of a burn-it-to-the-ground moment,” Jake Williams, a malware expert and founder of Rendition Infosec, told Ars. “Russian ties make sense given the inauguration [of Donald Trump] happens in a short time [from now]. If that narrative is correct and Shadow Brokers is Russian, they wouldn’t be able to release those tools after Trump takes office. If you roll with that narrative, [the burn-it-to-the-ground theory] certainly works.”

Under such theories, Russian hackers attempted to sway the 2016 presidential election in favor of Trump in hopes his policies would be more favorable to Russia than Hillary Clinton’s. Once Trump takes office, Russian hackers would want to prevent any blowback from hitting the new president. Thursday’s farewell message came within hours of a new dispatch from Guccifer 2.0, the online persona that leaked hacked Democratic e-mails that the US intelligence community said was a front for Russian operatives. In the post, Guccifer 2.0 strenuously rejected the accusation that he was Russian and claimed evidence to the contrary was false.

Thursday’s dump came several days after Shadow Brokers members published screenshots of what they claimed were NSA-developed exploits for Windows systems. While the absence of the actual files themselves made analysis impossible, the screenshots and the file names suggested the cache may have included a backdoor made possible by a currently unpatched vulnerability in the Windows implementation of the Server Message Block protocol.

Other tools appeared to provide:

  • bypasses for antivirus programs from at least a dozen providers, including Kaspersky, Symantec, McAfee, and Trend Micro
  • a streamlined way to surgically remove entries from event logs used to forensically investigate breached computers and networks
  • hacks for a Windows-based e-mail client known as WorldTouch
  • capabilities for gaining administrator privileges or dumping passwords on Window machines.

The full text of the post read:

So long, farewell peoples. TheShadowBrokers is going dark, making exit. Continuing is being much risk and bullshit, not many bitcoins. TheShadowBrokers is deleting accounts and moving on so don’t be trying communications. Despite theories, it always being about bitcoins for TheShadowBrokers. Free dumps and bullshit political talk was being for marketing attention. There being no bitcoins in free dumps and giveaways. You are being disappointed? Nobody is being more disappointed than TheShadowBrokers. But TheShadowBrokers is leaving door open. You having TheShadowBrokers public bitcoin address 19BY2XCgbDe6WtTVbTyzM9eR3LYr6VitWK TheShadowBrokers offer is still being good, no expiration. If TheShadowBrokers receiving 10,000 btc in bitcoin address then coming out of hiding and dumping password for Linux + Windows. Before go, TheShadowBrokers dropped Equation Group Windows Warez onto system with Kaspersky security product. 58 files popped Kaspersky alert for equationdrug.generic and equationdrug.k TheShadowBrokers is giving you popped files and including corresponding LP files. Password is FuckTheWorld Is being final fuck you, you should have been believing TheShadowBrokers.

Files included with the post carried the following names:


Of interest to researchers looking for clues about the people behind Shadow Brokers, Images included with the file dump showed the files were included on a Drive D that was most likely a USB drive, given an accompanying icon. The folder was titled DSZOPSDISK, a string that also matches a folder name from a previous exploit dump. The evidence “lends credibility to the argument the leak came from an insider who stole, and subsequently lost control of, a USB stick, rather than a direct hack of the NSA,” independent researcher Matt Tait, who posts under the Twitter handle Pwn All The Things, told Ars. As Tait also observed, the computer the drive was attached to appeared to be running Kaspersky AV and VMware tools, had no connected network or sound card, and was configured to show dates in the dd/mm/yyyy format. The files were signed by the same cryptographic key used to sign previous Shadow Broker dumps.

Thursday’s post comes five months after Shadow Brokers first appeared. A day after the unprecedented leak, Kaspersky Lab researchers definitively tied the included exploits to the NSA-connected Equation Group. A day after that, Cisco Systems confirmed that the leaked cache included a zero-day exploit that had secretly targeted one of its firewall products for years. In October, Shadow Brokers published a document revealing hundreds of networks that were targeted by the NSA over more than a decade.

Tracking bear prints

One theory floated by intelligence officers and reported by The New York Times is that the Shadow Brokers leaks were carried out by Russian operatives as a warning to the US not to publicly escalate blame of President Vladimir Putin for hacks on the Democratic National Committee. NSA leaker Edward Snowden and a host of others have also speculated that Russia is behind the Shadow Brokers as well. There’s no definitive proof of Russian involvement, but the timing of Thursday’s farewell and the potentially damaging leaks that accompanied it—coming eight days before the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump—give the unescapable impression of a link.

“They may not be Russian,” Williams said of the Shadow Brokers members. “But it is inexplicable they would release the dump without understanding the timing and how it would be read. Anyone smart enough to steal these tools understands the conclusion that will be drawn by most.”


The entire contents of this book (except the index) are available for free on this site, but you can still buy hard copies should you so wish. This book was written in 1987, things have moved on since then (both for the author and in the world), so please bear that in mind….


How did Situationism Influence Art History?

From Wide Walls

It is rare for an art movement to be completely original. The go forward meanings of avant-garde do not mean that its movements are a tabula rasa and this is certainly true for Situationism. Spurred by many previous concepts, this artistic and political movement started emerging during the early 1960s in France and it experimented with the idea of constructing a situation – hence the name. Constructing a situation was setting up an environment favorable for the fulfillment of a particular desire. This was the main concept for all representatives of Situationism[1]. All of the initial theories concerning the development of this movement came from an organization called Situationist International (often referred to simply as SI) – a group whose activities we shell investigate to detail in the remainder of this text.

It should be noted that Situationism as an art movement did not produce too many artworks – as a matter of fact, if one somehow takes Asger Jorn and his pieces out of the Situationist equation, the movement’s output is next to none. However, Situationism is credited with providing some of the most revolutionary theories at the time, concepts that heavily impacted the art scenes for decades. Many of their game-changing ideas can still be found in today’s contemporary art. With all of that being said, we will now investigate how the Situationist International group and Situationism as a movement came to be, as well as exploring just how influential they were to art history.

Destroy The NORM! - Image via cvltnationcom

Destroy The NORM! – Image via


Origins of Situationism

Situationism was not born overnight nor out of thin air. Originally, it emerged as a part of Lettrism, a movement whose members were operating in the late 1940’s Paris. Naturally, the Lettrist leader Isidore Isou, a Romanian-born French poet and visual artist, had a massive impact on the development and emergence of Situationism. The Lettrists were heavily influenced by Dadaism, Surrealism and the general idea of avant-garde which aimed at challenging everything deemed as traditional. With such goals in mind, members of Lettrism attempted to apply critical theories based on these concepts to all aspects of the arts and culture. Their main guiding star was the lettrie, a term that set the very title of the movement. Lettrie was a style of poem writing which reflected pure form yet was devoid of all semantic content, a characteristic which Lettrists desired to implement in other kinds of art-making.

During the year of 1952, the radically left wing of the Lettrist movement, which actually included Guy Debord who will become the key founder of Situationism, broke off from Isou’s organization and formed the Letterist International, a new Paris-based collective of avant-garde artists and political theorists. This new artistic and literary movement will prove to be pivotal for Situationism as it provided the roots for what would become many of the key theories behind SI.[2] The main concept which was adopted was the new theory of psychogeography – the feelings evoked in the individual by their current surroundings. Detournement also emerged at this point. This was the idea of recontextualizing an existing work of art or literature in order to radically shift its meaning to a new one which had revolutionary significance.

Isidore Isou - Hypergraphie, 1964 - Image via macdacat

Isidore Isou – Hypergraphie, 1964 – Image via


Emancipation From Lettrism

The official Situationist International was fully formed in the year of 1956[3]. At that time, numerous members of the Lettrist International made contact with several different creative collectives at the First World Congress of Free Artists in Alba, Italy. Here, many young thinkers found common ground and they decided to fuse themselves in a new organization which was intended to represent their ideas better than their current groups (most members were from the Lettrist International, the London Psychogeographical Asociation and the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus). Slowly but surely emerging as the leader of the new collective, Guy Debord wrote the newly-formed Situationist International’s manifesto in the June of 1956, titling it Report on the Construction of Situations and heavily combining the agreed concepts with the ideas of Karl Marx. This is one of the reasons why SI always had problems with many aspects of capitalism. The entire manifesto was also underlined by a strong sense of Surrealism, meaning that Andre Breton also had a huge indirect say in the matter. Besides Debord, other notable members of the who have been with the Situationist International from the very start were theorist Raoul Vaneigem, the Dutch painter Constant Nieuwenhuys, the Italo-Scottish writer Alexander Trocchi, the English artist Ralph Rumney, the aforementioned Danish artist Asger Jorn, the architect Attila Kotanyi and the French writer Michele Bernstein.

It was from here on out that the Situationist International started to heavily influence arts, politics and urbanism. Its advocation of a cultural revolution and creation of Situationism made it the perfect backdrop to influence popular culture. One of their main interests was making a person living in the capitalist system see art as part of their daily living. The first four years of the Situationist International were marked mostly by the collaborations and theories presented by Guy Debord and Asger Jorn as the two unofficially became SI’s de facto leaders. The two wanted to invoke a cultural revolution within the Western society. Although the group would later swim into much more political waters than it was first intended, the Situationist International had an enormous influence on the art scenes across Europe.

The Situationist International manifesto - Image via pinterestcom

The Situationist International manifesto – Image via


The Role of Situationism Within Art

The connection between Situationism and art is extremely diverse because the members of the group came from such different backgrounds. That fact makes Situationism one of the most interesting gems of modern history to explore, but it also poses a challenge to anyone interested in such an endeavor. Another troubling occurrence to confidently analyzing the art of Situationism is that a number of members never stayed steady with their conceptual basis, constantly evolving alongside the collective.

Primarily, the SI rejected all art forms which were autonomous and detached from politics. Naturally, this led to a new definition of what art actually is, a fact that often connects the actions of SI with early Conceptualism. Guy Debord and early Situationism was heavily based on the aforementioned concept of psychogeography, presented in Guy’s Psychogeographique de Paris. In it, he took a map of the city of Paris, cut it into pieces and glued different parts together. Among other things, the newly formed map was supposed to indicate locations which were able to evoke most emotions from people standing there. Also, this version of the city is thought to be a series of linked transformable structures which were able to adapt to current needs of art. This concept became instrumental to the early French street art scene which will soon start to be emerging on the creative wings of Ernest Pignon-Ernest.

Another important novelty Situationism introduced was also pivotal for urban art as we know it today – members of the Si were the one of the first to use graffiti. These were short and powerful statements, such as the one from 1952 when Guy wrote Ne travaillez jamais! (Never work!) on various locations in Paris. Via such interventions, representatives of Situationism were using public space, altering it in order to convey a message to the public. Situationism also introduced the roots of performance art, a medium that was later continued by Fluxus artists. This form of expression also explored the way surroundings could be used in order to send a clear message to the observers.

Asger Jorn - Letter to my Son - Image via tateorguk

Asger Jorn – Letter to my Son – Image via


Posters, Collages and Hypergraphy

A very modern form of artworks commonly found within the SI’s creative arsenal was their work with comics, posters and publications[4]. Through their guerilla tactics, members would paste their propaganda around urban surroundings, often using popular comics with changed content placed in the speech bubbles. This misappropriation was called détournement. Situationism presented some new utilizations for the medium of collage as well. Asger Jorn was the one who stood out in that department. He used collages in his films as well as for his technique in which he would cover up some aspects of famous paintings, therefore changing the context of the piece.

Another interesting novelty SI adapted to their own requirements was the so-called hypergraphy, also known as metagraphics. This method was based on merging poetry and graphics, combining text and visual ways of communication. The technique was originally developed by the Lettrist movement and Asger Jorn was the one to work with it the most until he left the SI in 1961. He left because of his worsening health and disagreements concerning the events that we shall soon discuss. The moment Jorn abandoned the SI’s artistic cause is the moment many experts agree that Situationism in its finest form ceased to exist. Although he lacked the personal warmth and persuasiveness to draw people of different nationalities and talents into an active working partnership, Jorn was the creative motor of the Situationist International.

Situationist Détournement - Image via bpcom

Situationist Détournement – Image via


The Year of 1968 and the End of SI

After Jorn abandoned the SI, the group basically consisted almost exclusively of the Franco-Belgian section, led by Guy Debord and Raoul Vaneigem. These two were much more comfortable with political theories then creating pieces of art, so the entire organization was shifted to accommodate such tendencies. Observed from an artistic perspective, the group which founded the Situationism was doing next to nothing to advance it from that point on.

One of the group’s favorite activities during their political period was visiting various institutions and scandalizing the capitalistic authorities – a kind of project which placed the members in the heart of the 1968 uprisings. The May of that year was a volatile period of civil unrest in France, punctuated by demonstrations and massive general strikes as well as the occupation of universities and factories across the land. The protests reached such a point that political leaders feared civil war or revolution and many believed that the chaos was a direct result of SI’s activities. Ultimately, the chaos of 1968 served as a series of events that cemented the Situationist International as a capable and noteworthy political organization. After the uprising was brought to a halt, SI became notorious and lost many members. By the year of 1972, Gianfranco Sanguinetti and Guy Debord were the only two remaining members of the SI. The entire organization was dissolved that same year.

Graffiti in the University of Lyon, May 1968 - Image via wikipediaorg

Graffiti in the University of Lyon, May 1968 – Image via


Effects Situationism had on Arts, Politics and Culture

As was said earlier, Situationism did not produce too many artworks, instead focusing on developing theories that had deep and long lasting effects on modern art. Other aspects of culture were affected as well – for example, Debord’s analysis of the spectacle has been influential among people working on television and the emergence of punk subculture was also inspired by the SI’s theories. The development of advertisement as we know it today also owes a lot of its aspects to Situationism.

Since much of SI’s efforts were focused on politics, it comes as no surprise that this was the field that felt their influence the most. Communists and other leftists were fascinated with Situationism and its ideas, regularly incorporating their concepts within their political guides. Dislocating the SI’s concepts from Marxism, anarchists also held some aspects of Situationism in high regard, allowing it to influence both the music industry and all levels of punk design.

As for art scenes, it is possible to trace Situationist ideas within the development of other avant-garde threads such as Neoism, as well as artists such as Mark Divo. As it was mentioned before, SI’s theories helped set the course of the French street art scene which later served as an inspiration for urban interventionists on a global level. Due to its concepts of using an environment, SI also impacted the rise and evolution of Installation art, as well as Performance. Ultimately, Situationism as an art movement offered the authors a new perspective that was applicable to all levels and kinds of art making, proving that avant-garde was far from dead and that pieces of art were more than capable of playing a pivotal role within our societies. Situationist International may have turned a lot of its attention to politics, but their true legacy can be found echoing throughout art history[5].

Editors’ Tip: What is Situationism?: A Reader

This anthology gathers together a broad range of critical material about the Situationist International. The texts run sequentially according to date of original publication, thereby providing an overview of the way in which situationism has been historicised in the Anglo-American world. A wealth of historical and interpretative information is provided by various contributors. This plurality of voices ranges from underground legends to art theorists, ultra-leftists to professional academics, whose opinions blend and clash to provide a book that is far more vibrant than a conventional monograph. Contributors include Sadie Plant, Chris Gray, Bob Black, Alastair Bonnett, Stewart Home, Jean Barrot and George Robertson. Ultimately, this book offers an overview and analysis of Situationism, one of the most interesting art movements of the second half of the 20th century.

  1. Elliot, K., Situationism in a nutshell, Barbelith Webzine, 2008
  2. Barrot, J., What is Situationism?, Flatland, 1991
  3. Knabb, K., Situationist International Anthology, Bureau of Public Secrets; Revised & Expanded edition, 2006
  4. Nabuco, J., Situationism: A Compendium Kindle Edition, Schiffer Publishing, 2012
  5. Debord, G., Chtcheglov, I., Jorn, A., Vaneigem, R., Khayati, M., What is Situationism? A Reader, AK Press; 1st US, 2001


Featured Images: Guy Debord, Michèle Bernstein and Asgar Jorn – Image via; Guy Debord – Naked City – Image via; Asger Jorn – Photo of the artist in a studio – Image via

The Root of All Evil

Written for Operation Werewolf by Joshua Buckley


For Marxists, economic relations are believed to shape and maintain virtually every other aspect of human life. Capitalists, on the other hand, have a different view of what economic relations should look like, but share the Marxist conviction that the economy represents the highest ordering principle in society. The idea that every other value should be subordinated to the primacy of economics—which is often referred to as economism—is anathema to us. Like our ancestors in Indo-European Antiquity, who relegated the mercantilist classes to the lowest rungs of society, there are any number of things that we value over and above strictly financial considerations. The shortlist would include virtues like courage, brotherhood, loyalty, and honor, but it would hardly end there.


Nevertheless, there is a tendency for people on “our side” (and I use this designation very loosely) to equate the rejection of economism with an attitude that almost seems to idealize poverty. They will attempt to make a virtue of their own financial failings by acting as if they’re somehow too noble, or too “spiritual,” to even bother thinking about money. When someone else succeeds in carving out a manageable living (or, as is more often the case, some small pittance) by making music, writing books, or creating art that these people purport to care about, they will respond by declaring that said individual is now a “sell out” who “only cares about money.” Of course, this behavior is partially motivated by resentment. Tell a few friends about your trip to Europe, or that nice bottle of bourbon that you and your wife/girlfriend just finished, and at least one of them will respond with the reliably cringe-worthy “must be nice!” Yes, it is nice, asshole. It is all the more ironic when this sort of thing comes from people who claim to be “pagans” or “heathens,” because it smacks so much of Christianity (as Nietzsche observed, ressentiment is the driving force behind the Nazarene’s slave morality). A pagan is comfortable with all of the “worldly” things that the Christian rejects, and there is nothing quite as worldly as money.


But what is money, really? Gold bugs will decry the modern monetary system as a fiat currency, not backed by a physical commodity like silver or gold. The argument for the gold standard is based on gold’s historical track record as a reliable source of value. There may be some truth to the claim that gold holds its value better than an arbitrarily-issued government currency, but the idea that gold has any more intrinsic worth than paper money ignores the fact that, in the end, a Krugerrand is just a hunk of metal that has value only because people have decided that it has value. Of course, we all understand that this “value” is a stand-in for something else, and that something else is power. This is not to say that money is the highest form of power, but it is a reasonable barometer of worldly success. And, as in other power relationships (and let’s face it, all relationships are power relationships) money can make us sovereigns or it can make us slaves.

When you don’t have adequate access to money, chances are you’ll find yourself in one of two situations: either dependent on the generosity of others (or worse, dependent on the State) or working yourself to death at menial jobs just to get by. In the first instance, you have clearly abdicated your own power. If you are completely dependent on someone else (and especially someone outside of your own immediate family or tribe) for your personal upkeep and maintenance, than there is a certain sense in which that person owns you. In the second instance, you are literally working like a slave. Slaves are fed, clothed, and otherwise provided for by their masters. If you are spending all of your time working just to pay for basic essentials, than how is your situation really any different from that of a slave? Furthermore, low-paying menial work is, quite literally, soul-crushing. In my early twenties, I worked on a framing crew during the day and in a shipping warehouse unloading trucks at night. I told myself that I could get up early, or stay up late, to read, write, or do the other things that I felt were meaningful. Sometimes I managed to pull it off. Mostly, I was just too tired. My time (the most valuable asset that any of us has) was being siphoned off by people I couldn’t have cared less about.


Ironically, high-earners often fall into a similar trap. The danger here is that money will become an end-in-itself rather than a means-to-an end. One of the tricky things about money is that the more you make, the more it will seem like you need. I have often marveled at the phenomenon of extremely rich men who spend their entire lifetime building up a fortune that vastly exceeds their own, or even their children’s, ability to spend it. This kind of behavior resembles nothing so much as a junkie vainly chasing after the rush that first got them hooked. As you become more affluent, a similar pitfall involves buying “stuff” that only has value as a signal of status. But pursuing recognition based on material possessions is the ultimate fool’s errand. That’s because there will always be someone with a bigger house, a fancier car, or a trophy-wife with higher-end cosmetic modifications than yours (I am being facetious, of course). What’s more, the kind of people who are impressed by this sort of thing really aren’t worth trying to impress. All of this is greatly exacerbated by the fact that the dominant culture (notice I avoid calling it our culture) is constantly encouraging us to take on debt. By going deeper and deeper into debt, you can acquire the appearance of wealth without necessarily having any. Soon you will find yourself working just to service your debt, and you will be no better off than the poorer man who works at things that he hates just to satisfy his basic needs.


Whether you’re working just to get by, with no time for anything else, or whether money has become like a drug that you pointlessly consume, the power that money represents has become a power over you. The first step in breaking this power—and in putting it to work for you instead—is to start thinking about what money is for. In slaveholding societies, it was a common practice to allow slaves to buy their freedom; basically, the slave could pay a set amount of money to reclaim ownership of himself. This should be our goal as well: to use money intelligently to free ourselves for the things we really care about. Essentially, there are two ways to do this. The first, and probably the ideal way, is to figure out how to monetize the activities that you want to be doing anyway. This might involve opening a restaurant or a gym, a tattoo studio or an auto-repair shop. Many of you are writers or musicians, and it has never been easier to self-publish and sell your own work online, often with little to no start-up money. The important thing here is not getting rich (although it’s certainly possible), but rather to figure out how to satisfy your basic needs without wasting your entire life in the process.


The second—and perhaps more ambitious—way to buy your own freedom is by creating passive income streams that leave you with plenty of non-working hours. This might involve accumulating rental properties, or buying small businesses like self-service car washes or Laundromats that generate money without requiring full-time maintenance. My own personal long-term strategy involves a mixture of these options. I hope to build up my small publishing business into something more financially viable, while continuing to manage real estate on the side (instead of the other way around). Of course, all of these strategies involve acquiring at least some capital to get started, which means having a financial plan you can begin to implement now. Although I don’t endorse everything he says (you will have to ignore all of the Jesus-talk, for example), the popular financial writer Dave Ramsey is not a bad place to get started. That said, one of the biggest practical steps you can begin taking in the near-term is to always live below your means (this is the exact opposite of what the average American does). Do not buy the biggest house or the most expensive car that you can. Do not status-signal by acquiring “stuff” which will only get in the way of your greater goals, and never buy “stuff” using credit.


Finally, if you get to the point where you have extra money to spend, spend it on things that will increase your real status as a free and powerful human being. Spend money on books and education, jiu jitsu and boxing classes, gym memberships, tactical training, and travel that broadens your personal horizons. Whenever possible, avoid giving your money to marketers and corporations. They are the Enemy. If it’s feasible, buy books, clothing, music and other products from friends and fellow-travelers. One of my personal indulgences is buying artwork, and I never begrudge the money I spend on art because I know it’s going to support people who are trying to live their own dreams, outside the produce-and-consume economy of the System. Encouraging a network of mutual financial support that will help all of our comrades to buy their freedom is one of the first steps we can take toward building a nation.


Money is neither the Highest Principle—as the overlords of the Inverted World would have it—nor is it the “root of all evil.” Like a gun or a knife, money is neither good nor evil, but a tool. Although he was speaking about war, the words of Heraclitus ring just as true about cold, hard cash: “some it has made gods, and some men; some slaves and some free.”


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