‘The Beer Went Mad’
Lynn Truss, in her ranty book, Talk to the Hand – which tries to do for everday personal interactions what her earlier book did for grammer an speling – quotes some remarks on their actions given by convicts to the cultural conservative and prison shrink Theodore Dalrymple:
‘The beer went mad’
‘The knife went in’
‘Something must have made me do it’
‘My trouble came on again’ (this uttered by a serial church burglar and arsonist).
He characterises remarks like this with the useful phrase ‘locutions of passivity’. Continue reading “Promoting Passivity 01”
The Term and the Figure ‘The Troll’
We’re all supposed to respect “community”, and – of course – respect itself. The negation of these warm and cosy things is often said to be ‘trolling’. Wikipedia is interesting on the origins of this; as is so often the case with etymologies, it’s not at all clear as to where it came from. There’s a fishing practice which involves dragging a lair along beneath the ship, and it’s documented that in 1972 US Navy pilots would go ‘trolling for MIGs’ ie try to decoy the fighter planes defending the Democratic Republic of Vietnam against the American invaders. Continue reading ““Trolls””
A Prescient Passage from Metamorphoses
Ovid, Metamorphoses, Bk Xll, Melville trans.
Remind you of anything … does it?
... Here Rumour dwells,
Her chosen home set on the highest peak,
Constructed with a thousand apertures
And countless entrances and never a door.
It’s open night and day and built throughout
Of echoing bronze; it all reverberates,
Repeating voices, doubling what it hears.
Inside, no peace, no silence anywhere,
And yet no clamour of voices, but muted murmerings
Like waves one hears of a remote sea,
Or like a far-away thunder rumble,
When Jove has clashed the rain-clouds.
Crowds throng its halls, mobs of liteweights
That come and go, and rumours everywhere,
Thousands of them, false mixed with true, roaming to and fro,
And words flit by, phrases all confused.
Some pour their trash into idle ears,
Some just pass it on, and as each
Gossip adds something new so the story grows.
Here is Credulity, here reckless Error,
Groundless Delight, Whispers of unknown source,
Sudden Sedition, Overwhelming Fears.
All that goes on in heaven or sea or land
Rumour observes and scours the whole wide world.
Peter Knight’s, Conspiracy Culture – From the Kennedy Assassination to the X-Files
This asks the question as to how the prevalence of conspiracism relates to the Postmodernish sensibility. This is not so much as a review, but a few notes on conspiracism.
Richard Hofstadter’s ‘The Paranoid Style in American Politics’ (in The Paranoid Style in American Politics – and Other Essays) written just as the modern version was really taking off (1963) takes the clinical notion of paranoia and uses it as a lens to examine the practice of conspiracist thinking. A rough summary of his thesis is that major sections of the American population had come to feel dispossessed of a nation forged in the two great struggles of a democratic-popular revolution and the war against the slave-owners. The ‘paranoid’ response to the feeling of dispossession has been that, rather than attempting a serious analysis, it constructs: ‘conspiracy as the motive force in historical events. History is a conspiracy, set in motion by demonic forces of almost transcendent power’. It’s a good read and points out things which, once pointed are obvious (but certainly didn’t occur to me), such as that ‘a fundamental feature of the paranoid style is the imitation of the enemy’, eg the Ku Klux Klan’s taking on aspects of Catholicism. Continue reading “Notes on Conspiracism”
In Defence of Tony Martin, Vermin Exterminator
Marx Comes First, And Looses
So, Marx has come first yet again. Marx has been voted ‘The Greatest Ever Philosopher’ for a BBC Radio 4 show In Our Time, following an online poll taken over five weeks. The show, one of the most respected intellectual shows on radio, offered the public an open vote on the 10 greatest philosophers. Marx polled 28% of the vote, easily outstripping second-placed David Hume with 13%, followed by Wittgenstein (7%) and then Nietzsche (6.5%). This has clearly excited a lot of people on The Left, with commentators being trawled out to bear witness to Marx’s relevance, his insights into globalisation, or why philosophy should take Marx seriously. In all cases an air of jubilation presides: what better proof of his importance, that Marx wins the BBC poll for the greatest philosopher. Continue reading “Marx ‘Wins’ a Vote”
Raphael Samuel Capitulates to Relativism
The late Raphael Samuel, formerly of Ruskin College, is a revered figure on the Britsh Left, one of the founders of the ‘history from below’ movement, of the influential History Workshop Journal, and a key influence on the ‘public history’ historiography promoted by Ruskin College. It is surely significant then that this figure publically declared – at a conference in 1987 to discuss the New Left of thirty years previous – that he had no wish to live in a socialist society, and that what socialism meant to him was the ‘community’ of what might be called ‘the actually existing socialist movement'(see http://www.livejournal.com/users/david_murray/1451.html). Surely it is also unsurprising, as his own historiography is founded on the denial of any disticntion between history and myth, and thus deprives the present of any critical purchase on the past, and thus on itself. This is how he capitulates to rampant relativism: Continue reading “Raphael’s Relativism”