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July 30, 2009


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Bob Allen

I'm probably going out on a limb here, but I have to comment on this notion which I've thought about alot which is "going all the way down", as in "how far down does a fetish go? Answer: all the way down". But what if it wasn't simply about the loss of the Real, but in addition you could replace it with a Different Real, such as to subvert and replace the earlier notion/fetish that went "all the way down?". For example, my opposition to abortion went all the way down: the thing is alive one minute and now it's dead, how is that not like murder? But after the Marxian illumination, a secular baptism if you will, I now look at the issue in terms of women's oppression, forced pregnancies, patriarchy-- what is life worth, under the boot of this oppression? So now my opposition to forced pregnancy goes all the way down. I wonder if the suppression of Marxism has to do with the loss of the real? The point is, if this conversion can happen to me, it can happen to anybody-- and ironic that the "birthers" make me think of abortion....

Mehmet Çagatay

Hi Ms. Dean,

I intended to write comment to your post, but then I decided to put it decided to put it on my blog. Anyway, here it is:

I was studying the literature on Moon Landing Hoax a while ago, not because I’m concerned whether it is a hoax or not but just for its entertainment value. After a rigorous study of arguments from both opponents and proponents, I felt obliged to admit that it is really a hoax, to the extent that everyone believes in the last analysis his dissidents are part of a hoax, if not just a foolish victim of ideological manipulation at best. This peculiar situation resembles Lacan’s reference to the famous dream of Zhuangzi. Lacan revises the dream which in his account situates Zhuangzi in position of the butterfly who knows he is only dreaming and asks this crucial question: "Is it not here that the: I am only dreaming, is only precisely what masks the reality of the look?" In the both controversial cases of Moon landing and Obama’s birth certificate, seriously engaged subject is a hoaxter, who is rightfully aware that it is just a dream. But it is his very consciousness which masks the reality of situation, the Real, does not resides in validity of certificates or “R” marks on allegedly prop moon rocks. It inhabits the look which investigates reality in differences and irregularities of a situation.

The loss of the real in the decline of symbolic marks the consciousness of hoaxters, paraphrasing Hegel’s allusion in “Phenomenology of Spirit”, that a plant is a suspicious creature on which “bursting-forth of the blossom” negates the bud, and subsequently the fruit refutes the blossoming and the winter postpones the question just to be re-emerged in the next spring. Alain Badiou’s one of the four affirmations against ordinary philosophy is “Situations are nothing more, in their being, than pure indifferent multiplicities. Consequently it is pointless to search amongst differences for anything that might play a normative role. If truths exist, they are certainly indifferent to differences.” Doesn’t his assertion resemble Lenin’s refusal that there is no neutral political non-engagement in a society brutally divided by class antagonisms. The reality is there is no choice except we are either socialists or the proponents of bourgeois ideology. One might be a self-conscious butterfly, who knows he is a man, but as long as “I” remains as a stain on the scene that distorts the reality that he is a part of this dream composition, he completely misses the Real of what he sees.


I would just add that this is the pattern of the Republicans: Take your candidate's fatal defect and attack your opponent for it. So, we had W. "raising questions" about Kerry's war record and then Obama's citizenship status--McCain was born in Panama and was, under the U. S. law of the time, a mere "resident" not a "natural born" citizen at all. McCain only became "natural born" because of legislation passed long after he was born.


Jodi, you've written before, I think, on the 9/11 Truthers in the context of the decline of symbolic efficiency. It seems clear that the very term 'birther' is adapted from 'truther'. And each movement was and is, to a great extent, aimed at discrediting a sitting president. How do you see the relation between the Birthers and the Truthers?


That's a good question--one that I need to think about beyond viewing each as an example of the decline of symb eff, one veering more right, the other veering more left (truthers are a broader spectrum, I think). An interesting thing to note: the truthers had more support from academics, the birthers seem to have more support from members of Congress (again, that's not a comparison, just an observation).


I'm looking forward to reading your take.


Hi Jodi,
I'm new posting here, tho I've been reading for awhile. I think you're right that everything symbolic can be faked (there's even a Kenyan birth certificate generator circulating around the Web). I'm looking forward to hearing more from you about symbolic efficacy, which I find compelling and useful from what you've described. But I'm not sure if that's the issue with the birthers (which, btw, also sounds like Birchers).

Is the distrust around the birth certificate new? Seems like such distrust operates in full force around "old" (pre-Internet, or pre-Photoshop) conspiracies like the Kennedy assassination (is the autopsy "real"? is the corpse "real"?) Power never tells the real story for a conspiracy theorist. I'm more inclined to focus on the surety--and the intimacy with power--that the birth certificate represents. If I "know" that Obama isn't a real American citizen, then I'm in on a Really Big Secret. If I feel at all disempowered elsewhere in life (say, if my GM job just evaporated), I'm apt to feel both thrilled and empowered by having this inside secret. Moreover, the birth certificate issue cuts through waves and waves of ambiguity--about race, about class, about democracy--that Obama's election might otherwise represent.

Anyway, I'm really enjoying this blog, and thanks for sharing your work with us in an informal venue.


Andrew, I don't think the Obama thing --or any conspiracy theory--is well explained by a status deficit argument. I think this because of a bunch of empirical work I did on conspiracy theory, primarily around alien abduction, but others as well.

Birthers does sound like Birchers--it would be interesting to know if there is overlap among them (I would guess that there would be). On the overlap between 9/11 truth and birthers, I wonder if Alex Jones goes both ways (I haven't looked this up, so I don't know the answer).

Anyway, the thesis of the decline of symbolic efficiency doesn't rest on photoshop etc--those tech-y things amplify and extend it. The Kennedy assassination is interesting--maybe a cusp. On the one hand, there is distrust of the Warren Commission report and the other official explanations. On the other, there is a faith in some kind of actual explanation--figured by the 'smoking gun'; so, it seems like the decline is less in this instance; there are conditions of possibility for credibility (but maybe this is just me--I'm not convinced by the lone gunman explanation).


Kennedy researchers do seem endlessly obsessed with facts/science/documents, so perhaps there is more faith in a stable symbolic field around that event. Agree that lone gunman is not convincing.

Now I'm going to have to return (happily) to _Aliens_ re: CT and status. I still think there's something different about the birth certificate--seems to function as a kind of kernel of desire more than, say, the Ayers stuff did.


what about rather than a kernel of desire its an operator of rejection, a contingent point of attachment that, momentarily, enchains a variety of distinct rejections of Obama on grounds of race and party affiliation?

Recall, Clinton was not accepted as the legitimate president by the far right, either. Their initial focus was on Arkansas scandals (Clinton was referred to as a criminal) and then they used moral failings until they were able to move to impeach.

Truth Monger

Well, this was a major dissapointment. I googled birth certificates looking for information about the state birth certificate that enslaves us and makes us property of the state and yet creates an account worth millions for us to use if only we can find out how. Some have and then "they" change the rules again. So while trying to solve a real problem I come across this accademia of ignorance. It reminds me of those that waatch a woman being raped and beaten to death and instead of taking difinitive action to stop what is self evedently "wrong", choose instead to have a discussion about wheather she might have gotten pregnant if only she had survived. Much like gamblers betting on the outcome of a death match where one party is forced into the fight. What a waist of good brain power!!!! You all should be ashamed!! Look at the facts and evidence. make a determination and then act upon it having faith in your ability to descern. Faith without action is worthless. Retoric without results is like farting in the wind! Take a stand, have meaning, count for something!
I suppose the children at Waco had it coming philosophically somehow, and the baby at Ruby Ridge, well you would say the baby got in the way of the bullet meant to kill an unarmed woman. What about New Orleans? You'd say it was a necessity to blow up the levies, confine the people in order to "eliminate" the less than worthy because they weren't really living anyway or at least some other discussion would ensue. Answer me this, If 911 was not an inside job how is it possible that a staunch American predicted it would happen and that it would be used to take away rights and freedoms and a terrorist organization would be blamed, two years before? Oh, and Ooops even the Bush administration was "disappointed" they did not find weapons of mass destruction....
I could go on but "having ears they hear but can not understand, having eyes they see but can not comprehend"


Answer me this, If 911 was not an inside job how is it possible that a staunch American predicted it would happen and that it would be used to take away rights and freedoms and a terrorist organization would be blamed, two years before?

lol--terrible about the blame, eh old boy? oh, and 'two years before'...

sha sha belcar

I don't think Obamas' faked his birth certificate. He knows he will get caught eventually.

carlos smith

i just hope this O thing is not about his color? is it? why don't we ask someone in the Vital office (is anyone from that office, here? Lol), provide us some link? such as http://www.replacementbirthcertificate.org but this one is for getting a replacement.

Carlos Smith

please check this site http://www.replacementbirthcertificate.org

s belcar


Randy Stickler

For christ's sake, Obama is an american, deal with it.

Sha Belcar

conspiracy theory? we have lots of those, from the 1st man on the moon, alien, area 21, now obama?

Stephen Lodge

Sha, who is talking abut conspiracy theory?


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