David Thompson
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May 13, 2008

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AntiCitizenOne

I'm going to point my finger and be first to say "The empress has no clothes". Someone has to!

She has no idea what she's twittering about and is desperate not to be found out.

This is a prime example of BBB Bullshit Baffles Brains. She's not even good at it. "Always in flux, the shape of time’s transformation is a Möbius strip" is the new Total Quality Circle. She should resign and try and regain some pride.

pwyll

It is remarkable that complete nonsense is so frequently trotted out as insight. Strate's remark about guns and cameras is utterly stupid. Allow me to present an equally valid argument: "Guns and cameras both take photographs… that is why we talk about guns using words like point, aim, shoot, and load."

Guerin's remark, "In reality these attacks come from the inside out, for they mirror Western culture’s violence ..." is a lie. These attacks do not mirror Western culture; if anything they mirror the psychopathic nihilism of Islamist theology.

The Thin Man

How depressing it must be to be Guertin; to spend ones life stealing terminology from other disciplines as a way of disguising ones own lack of clear progress in achieving philosophical insight.

But Boris Lermontov ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0040725/ ) shrewdly observes that surely "it is far more disheartening to have to steal than to be stolen from": a lesson in magnanimity and nobility that we should not shirk from teaching to such charlatans and frauds.

David

What struck me about the Fast Capitalism essay was just how so much of it is bald assertion, word play, or citations of someone else’s bald assertion. As a pile of loose ideas, it’s not entirely irrelevant; but there’s very little in it that would qualify as convincing argument. (Still, it’s a different kind of bad to her ludicrous dissertation and I guess it qualifies as being “written from the vantages of viewpoint.”)

As I said a while ago, if a person can “earn” a doctorate with a dissertation that’s in large part gibberish – and do so apparently unchallenged - the environment they inhabit needs a major overhaul. Or possibly a purge. If a person can survive, even flourish, by randomly misusing esoteric terminology, that can’t be good for anyone’s probity and regard for coherence. Years of sleight-of-hand and taking liberties with meaning – or turning a blind eye to it - can blunt the critical senses and one’s sense of reality, perhaps irreparably.

Mark

And of course, her essay ends with the entirely predictable 'it's all our fault' conclusion -

"The more the United States engages in aggressive and bullying behavior—warranted or not—around the world, flexing its military muscles, the more we feel the backlash on the Home Front in the West (and not just in the United States)."

David

A real cynic might wonder whether she’d strung together lots of bald claims and facile associations in order to arrive at precisely that conclusion. I wouldn’t, of course.

Squid Vicious

That's basically a whole lot of word salad there. "From the vantages of viewpoint" has to be the best euphemism to come out of the academic and literary left in at least the last 15 minutes or so.

I think I'll try using that in my daily life.

Wife: So, I see you've managed to burn the living daylights out of dinner again. Your work in the kitchen is absolutely for shit.
Me: Well, that's what you might think, and that layer of carbon all over the roast might be a good indicator, too. Unfortunately, you just don't have the vantages of viewpoint. Sorry.

David

Squid,

Bingo. I guess abandoning any “pretence of objectivity” really loosens things up, rhetorically. (“Is that supposed to be a load carrying argument?” “Yes - for God’s sake, don’t lean on it.”) Reading this particular “viewpoint” is almost – but not quite – funny. It purports to be a serious academic essay, but basically it’s a series of flimsy speculations and bald assertions. For instance:

“This virulent sickness that is so insidious in our society is rage… Rage is a product of abuse and is a disease of the dysfunctional ego.”

This is followed by another bald assertion:

“The more we live connected in virtual worlds (in our minds or online) and disconnected from the real world the greater the potential mismatch between our egos and ourselves, between who we are and who we think we are.”

And yet another:

“The user-generated content revolution of Web 2.0, which includes blogging and other social network lifestyles, is in short fostering a new kind of egomania.”

And it goes on, paragraph after paragraph. It’s a lurid confabulation of jihad, blogging and Grand Theft Auto. Like I said, it’s almost funny.

Anna

It's practically Buntingesque.

David

Aye, it does call to mind our beloved Queen of Sorrow™:

“This epidemic of deep psychopathological emotions seems to be spreading…”

And,

“…this sweeping disease that plagues us, with rage sending out shockwaves like tsunamis in a time when moral, cultural, economic and political values are undergoing violent change on a global scale.”

And,

“In an age of user-generated culture, we run the risk of living in a culture filled with homicidal/suicidal ‘Armies of One,’ each puffed up with a sense of his own self-importance, where everyone’s concern is only for themselves…”

Gasp.

Well, this isn’t my experience of life, nor, so far as I can make out, of anyone I know. Yet we’re supposed to accept that serial killers and Facebook are linked (in ways never quite established) to some global rage phenomenon.

It’s piffle and fluff.

Markas Read

"...coined the term [cyberfeminism] to label their radical feminist acts and their blatantly viral agenda: to insert women, bodily fluids and political consciousness into electronic spaces"

I don't know about you guys, but I thought there was enough of that online.

Horace Dunn

"The contagion spreads", she says. And she talks about our being "bombarded by popular culture forms that require ever worse—bigger and more dramatic events—to feed its massive hunger" and so on and so on.

Inevitably, the reader has to ask himself whether he recognises the society or societies that she is describing. This reader has to say that he does not.

To be sure, living in a big city, I see frequent examples of - well, not human rage usually, but human grumpiness, rudeness, selfishness etc. but equally I see examples of human decency - good humour, graciousness, kindliness. It's hardly the society that anyone could infer from the Professor's description. But then I imagine one could write an equally convincing essay proposing the viral growth of human decency and kindness and linking it to the preponderance of fresh-faced boybands and cute animal programmes on the television.

Now there's an idea. I always fancied a PhD...

David

Here’s more of Guertin’s profundity. From “Wanderlust: The Kinesthetic Browser in Cyberfeminist Space” - from the Online Journal of Embodiment & Technology:

“The shuffling and unfolding of the information of her body in sensory space is enacted across a gap or trajectory of subjecthood that is multiple and present. Subjectivity is the lens and connector through which the spatio-temporal dislocation gets focused and bridged. The gap is outside vision — felt not seen — and always existing on the threshold in between nodes. Like the monster’s subjectivities, all knots in the matrix are linked.”

http://www.performancestudies.ucla.edu/extensionsjournal/guertin.htm

Oh, wait. Now I’m getting the rage thing.

clazy

David, you might want to visit this link
http://volokh.com/posts/1210685288.shtml
There's a discussion of "science studies" that is right up your alley.

One commenter just wrote, "All these generalities about "postmodernism" and "science studies" are just so much hand-waving. Does anyone here actually know anything about el-Haj's work? I've read several posters and commenters who, for various philosophical reasons, think it can't be any good, but they don't exhibit any familiarity with it. Can someone actually contribute something useful?"

I was immediately reminded of the many very precise assaults you've made on the postmodern, uh, octopus.

David

Clazy,

Thanks, I saw. But I’m still sifting through Guertin’s prose. It’s dizzying stuff. Like bad sixth form poetry. Can’t tear myself away…

“Nudged into motion, the meandering subject in cyberfeminist space is a comet in orbit around her own story, around her subjective experience of a text that keeps changing, spinning off into an uncharted future. According to Paul Virilio, we are no longer beings who inhabit a temporal plane. Instead, in Open Sky, he argues we have become passive agents who are acted upon like film — exposed, underexposed, overexposed — and are nakedly subject to the effects of light speed.”

Or,

“Resonance is a process that writes itself like turbulence on the body as the body is written by the memory of its movement in space.”

Or maybe,

“The textual voyage is alive and kinetic, fractal and in flux, birthed as she travels through its fullness.”

I could go on…

clazy

Are you sure Guertin is human, and not software?

Amos

"The textual voyage is alive and kinetic, fractal and in flux, birthed as she travels through its fullness."
LOL

David

Clazy,

Alas, she breathes. What galls, I think, isn’t just that she’s a shameless huckster; it’s that the academic environment she inhabits tolerates, even rewards, the brazen peddling of tat. She ain’t alone, and that’s the sin.

Man Born Man

"Like the monster's subjectivities, all knots in the matrix are linked."

OMG. It's fucking hilarious.

Steve in San Diego

You are forgetting that Marconi was the first vegetable engine.


Wonder how much she gets paid?

David

“It's fucking hilarious.”

Ah, but being heathens uninitiated in The Ways of Knowing™, we’re obviously missing the subtlety and, er, nuance…

“We inhabit our bodies differently when we are out of phase, oscillating in the turbulence of dynamic space, that space where the textual body is written as contextual knot. The ways of moving in virtual space are directed and mapped by the knots that span spatio-temporal rifts. Without movement, we cannot cross the space-time divide.”

Hm. Perhaps I should stop quoting this stuff. I can feel the pull of madness.

georges

I read quite a few popular science books, such as David Grinspoon's "Lonely Planets", and Ward & Brownlee's "Rare Earth" and "The Life And Death Of Planet Earth". These writers are often explaining very difficult concepts, yet they manage to communicate them with clarity and directness, and in Grinspoon's case, quite a lot of wit. Guertin is doing the exact opposite. She's trying to puff up pisspoor thinking with jargon

clazy

These selections from Guertin sound like entries to a Bulwer-Lytton poetry contest.

David

Georges,

“…yet they manage to communicate them with clarity and directness.”

Well, doesn’t that largely hinge on having something worth communicating and wishing to communicate it? There are, after all, other motives to consider - like deception, inadequacy, or wishing to seem clever, at least cleverer than one’s students. One shouldn’t overlook the possibility of vanity, pretension and scandalous bad faith.

There are plenty of books and papers that wrestle with fine, technical or unobvious ideas, and the good ones try to make it as easy as possible for the reader to follow the thinking and determine whether or not its sound - and if not, to determine where the doubt or error is. Such-and-such a mistake happens there. Or, this doesn’t follow from that. Or this other thing could be the case. It starts a process of critical thinking, or at least is amenable to it. This entails honesty and the risk of public correction, as opposed to mere chutzpah and the hope one isn’t rumbled.

Those ideals don’t appear too prominent in much of Guertin’s output, which actually seems intended to occlude and bamboozle - to hide the structure of the thinking, such as it is, inside a fog of non sequitur and pretty but random words. Like I said, it’s the peddling of tat.

Candice

I believe I would pay money to witness her perform these verses. I envision an auditorium turned comedy club. She would recite her verse, hilarity would ensue. That can be the only sensible reaction to her, other than rage. Rage that she is taken seriously by anyone who is not part of her cabal of linguistic terrorists.

Further,

Compare and contrast:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Chu

Mr Chu adheres to the notion of brevity being the soul of wit, unlike Ms. Guertin. Yet both are just as incomprehensible.

Suds46

Prof. Erwin Corey, is that you?

JuliaM

"...the academic environment she inhabits tolerates, even rewards, the brazen peddling of tat."

Rather like the modern art movement.

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