Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Pseudo Intellectual Anti-Intellectual Reversion To Infancy, Or Peter Panism


Can Warszawa get a little light through the layers of fungal punning-as-ersatz-argument behind which the anti-intellectual pseudo-intellectuals cower? Can he elicit a rational, to the point, non-ad hominem reply from these devoted anti-intellectuals who declare themselves unable to know or understand anything and yet simultaneously, without tongue in cheek, assert their monopoly on intellect?

It may be hopeless; the assault on "symbolic efficiency" in the academy is too important to capital and too well rewarded to be discouraged by reason or an appeal to political commitments.



Here's Carlo Ginzburg's view of the state of affairs:

We recognise easily in this attitude [certain responses to negationism,] the radical rejection of positivism that has inspired scholars for several decades, especially Americans, as much in the domain of the human sciences as in that of literature. If everything is in the last instance narration, if every narrative can be judged in the same manner true or false - or if you prefer "true" in inverted commas - the only criterion for making distinctions between different narratives derives from the respective effects. I can't go into here the profound roots of this so prevalent sceptical attitude, based on a notion of rhetoric that not only ignores any idea of proof but opposes itself to it: a rhetoric operating under the sign not of Aristotle but of Nietzsche. I only want to remark that the sceptical response with regard to the denial of the [Nazi] genocide has stirred in American academic circles a certain disquiet: one has the impression that a boundary has been crossed, and one can't alleviate the disquiet by the division, at bottom so convenient, between the rejection of the negationist proposals at the moral and political level, and the non-acceptance of them on the intellectual level. It's not the negationist proposals themselves that are troubling; it is the weakness of certain responses to negationism. Over the past few years, we've inquired several times into this; I am thinking of the colloqium in Los Angeles organised by Saul Friedländer, Probing the Limits of Representation, but also of numerous conferences which took place, from Chicago to Berlin, on the notion of proof. These are little symptoms which may announce a change in the intellectual climate

.

This climate is manufactured. Surely everyone has to face at some time in life the realisation that Daddy NYTimes is not realiable. Generations of adult dissidents have gotten through this seperation from the Paper of Record without mental collapse - Howard Zinn, Angela Davis, Ralph Nader, Noam Chomsky, the list is long. But this generation is reverting to infancy rather than accept that it is because Daddy NYTimes doesn't love you that he does not feed you all the truth that's fit to print and save you the trouble of thinking for yourself. He has his own agenda.

But it is indeed disconcerting to see chronological adults react to this unavoidable awareness with fears for their sanity; it is disturbing to see this simple fact of life in mediatised capitalism precipitate announcements of the total collapse of the disillusioned's capacity for judgement. All this frenzied boastful confusion and bewilderment is an extreme, no doubt psychoanalysable, and cowardly, reaction to the discovery that Authority can lie and that one has to think without Daddy's help and even without his approval. In the US, grown men and women faced with the obvious mendacity of mass media are stricken with a degree of terror that can only be accounted for by a failure of the attainment of basic maturity, and go into denial about Daddy Mass Media's untruthfulness and deceitfulness, insisting instead that the non-correspondence between Daddy's assertions and reality must come about because both language and the human intellects which produce it do not function well anymore. It is, simply, a refusal to grow up, to remove the training wheels from the brain and think without Big BrOther. (It is not that Daddy is lying to you. Daddy still loves you, but can't be informed, can't fact check, can't evaluate evidence, can't tell you the truth, can't tell you what to think; thought and communication itself have degraded to the point of malfunction, and this inexplicable stormy weather in the symbolic order is why it may seem to you that Daddy neither approves of you, nor is quite attached to your wellbeing, and even sometimes may seem to knowingly mislead you, for sinister ends.)

12 comments:

  1. warszawa2:39 PM

    Thanks, qlip! It's truly bizarre. Anyone would think Chomsky had never written or published a word.

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  2. its the television.

    the babies of the US who are forty today were raised by television. It demanded their love and returned nothing. The loved this cold, mechanical thing. And it told them the quest for its approval was endless, endless conformity to fashion, endless attention to its new toys, and they try and they try and it will never love them back. But still they hanker for its approval. They cannot survive if it ignores them, if is doesn't reaffirm and reassure them that its love is still attainable, if they keep trying. George S Trow said It's the abolition of adulthood; knowledge and understanding is now the monopoly of television created psuedo-authorities (dr this, judge that, wolf blitzer,spokesgolems), and there is no more adulthood, everyone else is an infant seeking the package advice for the packaged problems (the psychosis of thinking you are a grown up with a mind capable of judgement and function independent of the pseudo-authorites). Philippe Mesnard noted its a postmodern thing, a seemingly spontaneous desire to genuflect to pseudo-authorities as if one's blind reverence alone could endow these pseudo-authorities with value.

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  3. SHOT OF FABULOUS OLD NEW ENGLAND INN. Look at the clapboards. So white. Look at that porch. So like New England, that porch. Why, Mrs. Martin, you're pouring Silt-Whip over that old New England cherry cobbler. Of course it's Silt-Whip; nothing else is good enough for Martin's Inn. At a certain moment, Mrs. Martin would have been whipped herself. A certain stern New England man would have taken her out and beaten her. And sent her out of town. But not now. She stands on the porch of her fabulous New England Inn with her artificial dessert topping, made from lard, engine oil, preservatives extracted from offal and animal screams. Why is she there? Liaison. She's doing liaison work. She stands on a little pivot. It's history. What she is is the purveyor of a motif. In her case, the motif is history used in the service of the force of no-history, and no-history is the force of the share, and the characteristic of the share, and the grid of two hundred million.

    What is it? It's television. It's a program on television. A little span of time. How does it work? It's a little span of time made friendly by repetition. In a way, it doesn't exist at all. Just what does, then? A certain ability to transmit and receive and then to apply layers of affection and longing and doubt. Two abilities: to do a very complex kind of work, involving electrons, and then to cover the coldness of that with a hateful familiarity. Why hateful> Becuase it hasn't anything to do with a human being as a human being is strong. It has to do with a human being as a human being is weak and willing to be fooled: the human being's eagerness to perceive as warm something that is cold, for instance, his eagerness to be part of what one cannot be part of, to love what cannot be loved.

    ****

    No Authority
    The important moment in the history of television was the moment when a man named Richard Dawson, the "host" of a program called Family Feud, asked contestants to guess what a poll of a hundred people had guessed would be the height of the average American woman. Guess what they've guessed. Guess what they've guessed the average is.

    "You said...."
    "Our survey said..."

    -- George S. Trow, Within The Context of No Context

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  4. sorry trow says "experts" (not "pseudo-authorities") replace the "authority" of the adult world, of adulthood.

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  5. god i read those comments and its just shocking. Now there is a retreat from the claim abotu 'symbolic efficiency' which if it refers to the lacanian symbomlic literally means the referentiality of words. Now there is well symbolic efficiency declne means a decline in consensus in the US. A it's untrue - there never was the golden age where everyone agreed on whether women were less competent than men, whether children should be beaten, whether black people had equal intelligence to white people, whether the leo what's his name killed that girl, or why we ought remember the maine. This posited state of symbolic efficiency which is now supposed to be just a trendy word for 'agreement and information' - what pomposity if that's really what its supposed to mean! its preposterous - never existed, and i doubt anyone - jodi or alain - would claim it had, so its just a dodge to get out of the idiocy of the premise and it unbelievable pomposity and opportunism as a pose for the condescending rhetoric-by-psychoanalysis. In fact, jodi could not have intended 'symbolic efficiency' to mean 'consensus' or 'agreement'; the whole argument is supposed to be happening under the sign of Lacan; what she alleges cannot be substantiated, is indeed entirely ludicrously bogus, and so now there is this revision - ""no by 'really big' I meant 'microscopic' obviously" - a cynical, dishonest gesture only possible for those waging war on symbolic efficiency, in the Lacanian sense and every other, in earnest.

    Yuk!

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  6. really what a dodge. other people, with whom I used to agree about everything, including whether abortion is murder, whether there was a genocide of native americans, whether smoking causes cancer, whether such a such a woman I know was raped or consented, whehter nixon was a crook, whether the CIA peddled crack in LA, whether the assassin of archduke FF was sponsored, who killed Rathenau, who set the reichstag afire, who kidnapped moro, whether people on welfare are lazy, whether that guy killed the lindberg baby, whether the jewish capitalist-bolshevik conspiracy was plotting the downfall of the german volk and nation, now can't be broguht round to my point of view. therefore something nifty must be happening, something new and postmodern, symbolic efficiency must be is in decline, otherwise, everyone would have one single harmonious thought delivered whole by Fox News.

    this is what thinking in 'the context of no context' means, the willful plunge into the nonhistory of 'no-history'.

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  7. I think that it has to be something a bit deeper than television. I mean, I am not 40, more like half that, but I was raised on television. I don't own one now, but I spent 3-4 hours a day in front of the shit while I was a teen & younger.

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  8. Of course, I read Zinn and Chomsky.

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  9. Anonymous9:51 PM

    I think for humanities intellectuals it's the TV plus the educational system. No history, barely any older literature, only the rudiments of the history of ideas and its relation to the larger struggles of history. Then at the higher levels, you get caught up in the heady Nietzschean tone--"We are Hyperboreans!" Furthermore, history-denying, humanity-denying structuralist linguistics get presented as if Saussure brought it down from Sinai. (Post-structuralism then becomes the New Testament.) So the final product of this military-industrial-media complex is a subject constituted entirely by external freestanding systems-- a subject whose intellectual vocation is bravely and hard-headedly to proclaim themselves so constituted. It makes slavery look necessary and glamorous. It lets people off the hook for lying, for not knowing anything, for not even being curious.

    It's all a part of the industrial world's return to feudalism: just as the church needed people to understand themselves as God-created and divinely ordained to toil in their estate, so too do the CEOs and the university administrators find it very convenient for intellectuals to preach the line that we are just uttering the machine voice of the unchangeable system. Intellectuals fall back on The Matrix model; that's the picture of reality.

    Reality isn't The Matrix. There is struggle and human agency at every level. Culture is dynamic, language and consciousness are dialectically bound up and capable of intervening in the world to change it, meaning is social and subject to verification and contestation and consensus. There is no need for this nihilism.

    But the notion of human agency has withered, from passive screen-watching and the intellectual headiness of believing that, like, wow, language is speaking all of us and in that bondage we are free. We may not be able to walk in our chains, but we sure can quiver! It's very hard not to be angry about it all.

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  10. The rap song done by Immortal Technique that Chabert and Lenin linked to recently has a nice phrase re: those who doubt agency: lethargic fucking devils.

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  11. "I don't own one now, but I spent 3-4 hours a day in front of the shit while I was a teen & younger. "

    yeah. I think though like anything which inundates a mass, a huge number of people, the effects will be seen in the majority of the class at which it is most precisely targeted but not everybody. There are dissidents from every culturally-produced norm. Not everyone accepted catholic orthodoxy in Europe in 1400, but most did; the whole system for indoctrination worked but imperfectly. Same with tv and education system. It's adequate to manufacture passivity and obedience in general; there will always be dissidents; repression will be exerted against them when necessary and is adequate; and many factors must go in to each case of resistance to indoctrination.

    But you see how viciously and automatically the deeply indoctrinated act against the dissidents, against any divergence from the norm of obedience and passivity. 'psychotics'! people who continue to consider themselves rational and capable of a certain knowledge and information-digestion independent of the mass media are denounced as paranoid psychotics. One has to accept the media is not truthful, but one is paranoid and psychotic to deduce that it is rationally, deliberately and perfectly explicably so, and that one can continue to think rationally despite the existence of propaganda and disinformation from the mass media.

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  12. Then at the higher levels, you get caught up in the heady Nietzschean tone--"We are Hyperboreans!" Furthermore, history-denying, humanity-denying structuralist linguistics get presented as if Saussure brought it down from Sinai. (Post-structuralism then becomes the New Testament.) So the final product of this military-industrial-media complex is a subject constituted entirely by external freestanding systems-- a subject whose intellectual vocation is bravely and hard-headedly to proclaim themselves so constituted. It makes slavery look necessary and glamorous. It lets people off the hook for lying, for not knowing anything, for not even being curious.

    yes yes exactly exactly. so well put.

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