Our relationship with machines had always been a tricky one. We always seemed to want more from them, more than they were either willing or capable of giving back to us. Then came R.A.C.H.E.L – the algorithm, the chemical, and the vision. We talked to her and she talked back: a machine that gave more than any machine had ever given. Controlled by thought, protocols, and the government, she augmented and enhanced us but then she led us astray. She took us down a darker and much more dangerous path. R.A.C.H.E.L made us evil, cold and sad.
It’s 2019. The Black Operatives Department have been forced into hiding: not only was there no space for their covert advertising services in a world run by Trump but they are now considered a threat. The Alt-Right have swept across the United States and Europe’s "Coalition of the Right" have successfully implemented the “Wasteland Act” and digital border controls are firmly in place. Data and programs, it would appear, didn’t make us better, happier or safer. But the Black Operatives Department have been working quietly in the shadows on an antidote. They have decided to rise again as a resistance to the horror that they helped created: the horror of R.A.C.H.E.L.
Part performance, part satire, part dystopian parable of our times. This talk is a rallying cry for resistance, hope, romance and compassion and it builds upon the talks “The Snowden Pitch” and “Purpose of Entry”, both of which premiered at, and were specially written for the re:publica.
PREVIOUSLY AT THE RE:PUBLICA
The Black Operatives Department/ Collective
"Control the hearts & minds of billions by putting dystopian thinking at the heart of communications".
The Black Operatives Department is a fictitious advertising agency. Founded in 1956, it works solely for government organisations and has been responsible for clandestine marketing operations such as the Bay Of Pigs, Nixon, the Cambridge Five and Snowden. Marcus uses the agency to describe the world seen through the eyes of an advertising man: it's a dystopian world.
The Snowden Pitch - 2014. Marcus introduced the Black Operatives in his 2014 re:publica talk "The Snowden Pitch". This talk was set in 2008. The audience: 4 senior members of the NSA. The Pitch: The Black Operatives Department, had developed the advertising campaign "An Everyday Bond". The proposal: unleash a whistleblower into the world and guarantee the NSA and their surveillance products maximum visibility within the espionage community. The talk explored the Snowden case as a communications campaign and the world described, defined and manipulated by data. The talk predicted a cold war renaissance, cyber war and post-factual media manipulation.
Purpose of Entry - 2015 Set in 2018, "Purpose of Entry" explored future Europe's political shift to the right.The Black Operatives had been briefed by "the Coalition of the Right" to produce an algorithm that could control the newly developed, sovereign national internets and fulfil the terms of the "Wasteland Act". The product they developed was called the Real-time, Algorithmic, Chemical, Hallucinogenic, Enhancement, Lady, or R.A.C.H.E.L. for short. R.A.C.H.E.L. turned the human body in a tracking pixel, spoke directly to the user and permitted access to certain parts of the digital world. What could possibly go wrong? Written pre-Brexit, "Purpose of entry" explored the idea of Neo-Orwellianism and predicted Europe's shift the right, e-borders, Brexit and the rise of Bots.