Sunday, March 23, 2008


I thought it would slip into the mist of my academic amnesia like a hundred other jargon-l(e)aden talks I've sat through over the years. I didn't expect it to bug me so much. But a seminar paper about mimesis, counter-mimesis and war has really bothered me for days afterwards. I'm not sure if it was the writer-presenter's fault or success. I'm sure I misunderstood since I don't really 'get' the Lacanian lingo and the Zizek cult. So I'm not slagging off the scholarship. There were some useful resources on the military-industrial-media-entertainment network. I can deal with Slavoj's columns and repetitive academic prose in small doses but I can't fully fathom it and, to be honest, can't be arsed to work out how psychoanalysis apparently tells us everything. It bothers me that it's a secular religion for some graduate students. On the day after the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war to end an hour's talk with a powerpoint image of the George Bush action figure, and say that this is what the war is about - the 'fantasy' that veils the 'real' - was dismaying. I guess that was the provocation of the paper - the whole point was the hollowness of the war behind the semiotic overdrive. This little action man, twelve inches high, that was it. But it made me queasy. In any case the juxtaposition of this kind of mimesis with Hamas children's TV propaganda and its anti-semitism seemed an unconvincing ideological symmetry for the sake of the argument. Bush and Hamas are not equal and opposite reactions. The Q & A session following the seminar paper descended into a litany of obvious grandstanding points about US foreign policy (the kind you'd make in a pub after a few pints) and ended with simplistic anti-Americanism when others in attendance added that the USA has, unlike Europe, 'no alternative political imaginary'. Euro-, or rather, Brit smugness makes you just want to sing the praises of the home of the brave on the one hand and big up the anti Brit insurgencies on the other. Gobsmacked, I wish I'd said something like: What about the mimetic foreign policy of the UK in Iraq and Afghanistan? I like a smattering of semiotic irony and culture jamming meself, but I'm glad I research, write and teach about an 'insignificant thing' like popular music when war academia is an excuse to test out your continental theory toys on blood for oil. For language games, I'd rather read this sort of stuff. And then Theory goes to war Strike 1. Or Theory goes to war Strike 2. No symmetry though. Sometimes I wish I was a librarian instead.

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