January 22, 2009

The Daily Show, Obama, and cynicism or Jason Jones as a reader of Lacan In its coverage of the inauguration, the Daily Show ran a segment with Jason Jones reporting from DC. The structure of the sequence was as follows: Jones would describe how wonderful Obama's speech was and then Jon Stewart would play a brief clip of a Bush speech with highly similar rhetoric. Stewart was pushing Jones to say something about why this was change, why Obama was different. Haven't we heard these words before? (Like, what's the difference between 'I'm a uniter not a divider' and Obama's calls for unity?) Jones complained, saying Stewart was a buzz kill, that it's different because it's Obama, and then, the clincher: it's different because we don't think Obama means it. So we have here a situation where two statements seem to say the same thing. Their content seems indistinguishable. The difference is in the position from which they are enunciated, Bush v. Obama. A first reading would say that this means that there is no difference, that Obama does not provide any change at all, that in fact the one thing he does not provide is change (he provides everything but change). But, there is nonetheless a difference in the position of enunciation. The person is not the same; time has passed, etc. And this is where the Jones' point is surprising: we would expect Bush to be the cynic, but it seems that he is saying that Obama is or his supporters are. But Jones must be a Lacanian. The problem of Bush...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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