who is hakim bey?
Steven Cook '98 (English 111, Brown University, 1996)
Who is Hakim Bey? A number of answers might do. Hakim Bey is, quite literally, no one. He is a pseudonym, a constructed identity. (I have a guess about who Bey really is, but it's not for public consumption; not only is it an invasion of privacy, but I'd be embarassed if I were wrong.) Any statements about Bey should thus be taken with a grain or three of salt; when constructing an author's identity, adding quirks & fobiles would seem to make one better copy for the press. Bey's got fobiles like nobody else. How many of them are genuine and how many are Frankenstein-like grafts, I don't know.
Bey is, at a level only slightly less removed from literal truth, the author of a number of books and essays that I (and I'm not the only one) consider fascinating. Bey is a mystic-cum-philosopher, enraptured by anarchy & ideas of freedom. He is fixated on a few central motifs (Islam, piracy, the Tong) which highlight his political & artistic ideology.
Bey is a media critic of an unusual nature. Taking the guerrila art of the 1960s and 70s one step further, he proposes "poetic terrorism"--art as terrorism, poetry as political assault. In this, he follows the dadaists and the Situationist International. Bey has written about "Immediatism," his artistic movement designed to resist co-option by the media through being impossible to replicate. (His example of a good immediatist performance is a dinner party or a quilting bee--activities that ideally produce no salable goods and require active participation.)
Bey's writings grow out of the anarchist political tradition. His work, however, is less concerned with recognizable politics or political action than with a sense of millenial madness, a desire to watch the weeds flourish in the cracks in the State. Bey's differences from, say, Rudolph Rocker, Emma Goldman, Mikhail Bakunin, or Noam Chomsky may be a benefit or a drawback, depending on one's personal view. I once described Bey's writings as "William S. Burroughs if Burroughs had taken more acid and less junk, then sat down to write a book on political theory." This should not be read as unequivocally complementary (or, for that matter, unequivocally negative--there's always room for people who remind us not to take everything so seriously.