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July 07, 2010


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...and yet.

Complexity does transform certain dynamics into not-only-unpredictable states but occasionally even contrary ones. I'll use one of your major examples to ask this question: what is the "publicity" of Wikileaks? It exists within a network of bloggy exposition, and claims parrhesia for itself, it does not recognize national security claims. so what do you make of it? (Maybe this is a blog post in itself, or a chapter that I have not yet seen....)


Neographite - why do you choose this example? In the recent "whistle blower" case the individual in question is being prosecuted for sharing video of a war crime. Are you suggesting that the government's claim of "national security" is in anyway legitimate? Is it really all that complex a case? I personally do not reject the notion that there may be times where national security would justify a claim to "state secrets." But it is hard to see how this case would come justify the assertion.

And isn't this Jodi's point? That the claims of "complexity" are really an excuse to conceal what is obvious and further erode the common notion of responsibility?



I choose this example precisely because it is such a hard one re: Jodi Dean's theories about publicity. It's easy enough to be skeptical of something like the Tory torture "inquiry" as complicity in a publicity/concealment dynamic that serves state power: "Oh," the British govt. says, "we have investigated that and found some irregularities and it is now all in the past."

But Wikileaks takes a different analytic, I think (and I'm assuming you do too.) They seem to be all about exposure for exposure's sake; information must be free; the truth will out, etc. They are the good guys, on the side of exposure, not only in the example you give but in all that they do.

But Jodi (and Foucault, and Derrida, and Zizek) have taught us to be suspicious or at least critical of such openness: information circulates both for and against particular forces and according to certain logics that are not at first discernible. Which is, I think, what makes it such an intriguing example. What happens with that information, the video you reference? So far, it seems not to have slowed down the war-machine but has instead make a circuit of escape: "here," we say to ourselves and others, "here, finally, is a typical example of what the war is about. Now people will know, and that is a good thing." And thus we link to it, and we have done something (we tell ourselves) to stop the war.

Only one possible critique, of course.

Jodi Dean

These are interesting remarks--thanks to you both. On complexity: my sense is that over the past 30 years or so, this has shifted from a theoretical approach that emphasizes interconnections, feedback, and emergent structure to become a term that says regulation, understanding, and responsibility are wrong/impossible/unnecessary to become a stand-in for generalized inaction.

My own view of publicity is that it is a useful tactic in politics rather than a vital left goal. Insofar as it contributes to communicative capitalism, it's left efficacy is diminished, particularly as publicity takes the place of collective will formation.

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