Welcome, readers and writers of manifestos! We dedicate this document to you!
Recently I re-posted several Futurist manifestos from Bruce Sterling's blog. The Futurist manifestos are fun, argumentative pieces that demonstrate a way of thinking that while still sounding radical in some ways, is (almost) one-hundred years old.
This got me to thinking about Manifesto as a form: a literary piece that is meant to be publicized, meant to be re-published and distributed as widely as possible, and is meant to offend, confront, identify, and combat: whether implicitly or explicitly, by strongly identifying a position and those who hold the position.
In other words, it is many things that are represented in current Internet writing, but held by other areas of literature as examples of the amateur status of the Internet. So while the manifesto may have an ironic connotation to the mid-nineteenth century period of revolutionary movements, lasting until the popularity of post-modernism made such direct proclamation passe, that sort of brutal, first-person confrontational writing is making a come back.
And, when we research some of the lesser-known manifestos, we start to find that it never left.
Naturally, there are the well-known examples. Perhaps the most famous is Marx and Engels Communist Manifesto, of 1848 which while perhaps is one of the longest, most theoretically-rigorous examples of the art form, is often held up as the paradigm of revolutionary, inflammatory writing. Though this reputation is not totally undeserved, considering the political history of those who thumped their hands against its worn pages, it is still burnt and treated with derision, and carried as a red badge of courage by left-leaning students everywhere.
Those on the left are hardly the only one's to compose documents declaring principles in harsh terms. The Fascist Manifesto, written in 1919, while having certain Socialist roots, would be a founding document of Italian Fascism. There was also the Southern Manifesto, written in 1956 by Southern US States in opposition to the civil rights movements, accusing the Supreme Court of abuse of power in Brown v. Board of Education.
Other movements outside of politics found their causes requiring the sheer liturgical will embodied in such a document that set principles in the most rigid of tones. The Futurist Manifesto of 1909 was one art-oriented manifesto, and The Surrealist Manifesto of 1924 would follow.
Groups of that area were not the only ones to take up the pen as a sword, either, though they may embody the most famous literary-fighters. The 1960s political movements birthed a number of new documents, such as The Port Huron Statement in 1962, and The Libertarian Manifesto in 1970.
Recently, the explosion of new and controversial topics involving the digital revolution have made necessary many new propositions to one's fellow citizen. And furthermore, the Internet, which is the subject of many of these theses, are also the new means by which the authors can distribute their propaganda far and wide. Like the movable type press and the mimeograph before it, desktop publishing is promoting the trumpeting of ideas to ears that otherwise would not have known of their existence.
It could not be very easily argued that free-speech is more alive today than in past days, when the publishing of a statement is as much a open-call for abuse as it is a broadcast of subjective, partial knowledge--just as in the past. But one thing is true: there are still people with the brilliant ability to write, and the marvelous compulsion, an almost manic need to do so, throwing their ideas into the ring with the sheer bravery of an individual facing down a mob.
Whether history leaves the author broken and bleeding in the gutter or hoists the publisher onto its shoulders is an arena of social judgment that we will not endeavor to predict here. But we can celebrate the art form--one that certainly every writer has felt the desire to embrace, whether ultimately privately or publicly.
The manifesto is a rare form: one that thwarts convention and socially-acceptable standards in both substance and expression. It is often in the first person, either singular or plural. It will take up the second-person as well: to accuse, to call out, to insinuate, and to judge. It will most often reject the objective standards that modern rationality dictates, embracing the power and the inflection of the subjective. It will draw lines, some arbitrary, some reasoned, and it makes new definitions, denying old standards or ignoring them.
But at the same time that the manifesto draws itself a part from the rest of thought and writing by distinguishing itself in the harshest of terms, it also seeks to cast itself back into the sea of humanity, by justifying its existence in terms of history, or of humanity, or of some set of ideals by which it shows that it is not a crazy, outlaw document, but is visionary, tuned to a different or new truth of which the rest of society is presently unaware. And thus, it attempts to draw readers to it, to bring them in, to define and build its theoretical movement.
Some manifestos are more serious than others, and some, to the vast majority of readers, are quite deluded. But all of them are linked by their form, and by these characteristics either in whole or in part, which set the pen against paper and the ink against press. In the end, if it is a manifesto, it is a manifesto, and this what makes this perhaps the most manifest of humanity's writing projects.
Here on Welcome to the Interdome, we're going to try something new: a curated blog exhibition. There are many blogs that treat themselves as an ongoing exhibition of any number of topics. Welcome to the Interdome largely follows the interests of its author, wherever that may lead. But, for the next series of twenty-or-so posts (in hopefully quick succession) we're going to showcase some various manifestos found around the Internet. They are not comprehensive, not even representative of the full-breath of material that exists. But, they each represent something interesting about the form, and will be accompanied by curated comments.
None of the manifestos posted are posted with explicit permission. They are all found published on the web, free for any to read, and links will be provided to the original location. I am showing them out of the original context here, to first analyze the content. Then, one may proceed to the original site to look at other interesting things like host site, format, font, pictures, and other available materials.
We invite you to read, and to comment if you like. If you want to or have written your own manifesto, send it along! If it's interesting/funny/different we'll through it up there.
If at any time you want to see the full exhibit, click the tag "Manifestos Exhibition", below. That should take you to all the relevant exhibits, that all have the same tag.
Predictions for 2012
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