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July 19, 2006


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Excellent, Jodi! These groups scare the daylights out of me and I'm not at all sure what is to be done. My first brush with this phenomenon happened years ago when I was still in highschool. A born again movement came through my town and somehow got everyone worked up. This had profound effects on the school itself. Within a year Orwell's 1984 had been banned from English classes due to its sexual content, they had shifted to abstinence only sex education, and were trying to take down the teaching of evolution. They actually burned copies of the Orwell in a trashcan outside the school.

It amazes me that this doesn't get more attention in the mainstream press. I think a number of people aren't even aware that it exists. They hear the signifier "Christian" and assume that the reference is simply to nice, wholesome churches. This makes things extremely difficult at the level of public discourse, as you constantly have to qualify what you're talking about.

But more perplexing is the way in which this gets little or no attention in the press, as is the case with extremist rhetoric on the right in general. It's baffling that someone like Coulter can write the things she does and get published in major newspapers across the country, whereas someone like HRC can make an offhand comment about plantations and has to publically apologize. Glenn Greenwald examines a variant of this phenomenon here:


Why is it that a free pass is given with this kind of talk.

In the last six years I've increasingly come to feel that theory, as practiced in the academies, is trapped in a myopic bubble. We get all worked up by what Negri and Hardt have written, or engaged in rarified debates between Foucaultians, Butlerians, Lacanians, Laclauians, Deleuzians, Badiouians, Laclauians, etc, but it's not clear to what degree many of these debates relate to what's actually taking place in the United States. To what degree are these tools realistically targeting the world in which we live? In a previous post to the diary on students and debate, I made a plea for preserving the notion of universalism and truth (though not very effectively). This diary underlines one of the major reasons for preserving these notions. I teach in Texas outside of Dallas, and regularly encounter students who come from these sorts of environments. If I adopt the stance that all is rhetoric, that everything is language games and differing symbolic universes, aren't I necessarily led to endorsing this rhetoric in my classroom. I'm with Paul on the need for a return to the Enlightenment. Not only do we need a return to Enlightenment ideals of reason, but we need to rescucitate the practice of militantly fighting superstition in its modern variants. I get the sense that a number of cultural theorists don't want to *choose*, that they are like beautiful souls that want a nice federation of peaceful differences. However, I don't see how we can avoid choosing and choice necessarily involves exclusion. Adopting Nietzsche's maxim to "will only what you can will to return eternally", I find that I cannot will the return of this.

McKenzie Wark

I second the call to a militant enlightenment, provided it is one that also turns the light on itself.

What neither universalism or 'multiculturalism' want to deal with is conflict. The former assumes it doesn;t exist, the latter assumes it can be wished away.

'Hybridity' is only part of the picture. It is by engaging in conflict that a 'culture' comes to know itself as something separate.

So two problems: firstly, to acknowledge that there really are conflicts, and

second, to determine what are legitimate and illegitimate kinds of conflict.

Fire arms, lynchings, mob violence -- bad kinds of conflict. Book burnings? More interesting case!


Jodi -

Really nice post. Actually, you have been kicking a lot of ... with your recent stuff.

Levy -

Really nice comment.

Kenneth Rufo

I'm with McKenzie. Might we spend some time parsing what marks legitimate militism from illegitimate? And, relatedly, is there a valuable form of antagonism without militancy?


I appreciate the comments, folks, thanks so much.

On Enlighenment: I actually thought that reflexivity was a characteristic of Enlightment thought (which maybe I'm overly blurring into German Idealism) so that self critique, or critique of one's own position, is part of it. And, I fully agree with Levi on the importance of choosing, of taking sides.

Antagonism without militancy: well, Ken, since I tend to think of antagonism as a constitutive element of the social, such that it's always present, I would say that we can have antagonism without militancy. So, I would reverse the terms and say that worse is a militancy without antagonism--so militany defenders of imaginary and fantastic figures and ideals.

Illegitimate and legitimate milantancy, perhaps not the same as legit and illegit forms of conflict.



Check out this YouTube clip...Ironic flip where Foxnews defends gay-rights against fringe right-wing group.

Movie Goer

Look, if you don't care about folks who have different, conservative ideas, and you really want to treat them as "the enemy", go ahead, "battle with much more militancy and ferocity."

But if you want to persuade and reach out, ditch these military metaphors. The 'left' (insofar as there is a unified left or right) would be much better off if it used more honey.

And don't think you're not reaching conservatives! I know - I'm somewhat conservative myself. I think you're blog is generally a good exemplification of considerate engagement with opposing ideas. An good example of how _not_ to constructively engage conservatives, and to do it militantly, would be Brian Leiter's blog.

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