Monday, July 12, 2004

literal exegesis and vicious bitchin' hate speech

The other day Ray Davis mused about a correlation between playful speech and hostility:
how the verbal dance between meaning and surface mutually instigates and supports the social dance between individual aggression and communal solidarity.
This is very suggestive, given that the predictable ploy in fractious political discourse is for the opinionator to pretend to be speaking plainly, while his/her opponents are invariably full of rhetorical flatulence.

E.g., from the no shit, shylockia dept. comes news that politics is contoured by the aesthetic considerations of film and rhetoric:

That's what modern presidential campaigns are, after all -- elaborately staged big-budget productions in which every line that's uttered, every piece of scenery, is carefully calculated to win over the public.

Two things dismay about this level of commentary:

1. It's uncontestedly assumed that some modes of representation are less rhetorically configured than others. (The school system really needs to be reintroduced to reading.) The rhetorical mode common to broadcast news, commentary, documentary, certain traditions of realism (as well as to much science and more blogging) is that objective, impartial, literal rendering of some shared reality is not only possible, but is in fact the norm. I.e., like the fabled cretans, the dominant fiction of such discourse is that it is not fictive.

Get over this. Read some Plato. Some Nietzsche. Some Walter Benjamin. Some Krazy Kat.

2. Probably even more annoying is the prospect that the pollution introduced into the world by Bush-Cheney -- the linguistic aggression that is their pathology, and which has spawned a virtually infinite chain reaction of not simply dumb and dumber but devious and deviouser political discourse -- will not end with the uprooted shrub. Mr. Powers' saliva certainly suggests that we can look forward to years of rabid tripe about Kerry, his wife, his running mate and their appurtenances -- a fiesta of venemous bilge to keep the matrix batteries well charged.

(I'd offer Popeye as a candidate for Ray's examples, which include Lewis Carroll, Walt Kelly, Krazy Kat, and Finnegans Wake.)


Blogger Ray Davis said...

(Responding purely to the parenthesis for now: Yes, add E. C. Segar by all means! The introduction of Popeye kicked life into "Thimble Theater", but as clincher there's the strip's later revitalization via Poopdeck Pappy.)

7/13/2004 7:40 AM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

There is also a kind of witless wit in the language of Iago that might qualify. But I'd rather hear you talk about it.

7/13/2004 3:19 PM  

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