Saturday, September 24, 2005

a blockquote blog about chatting, still powerless, nothing new; or, why do long titles always suck? (there are enough DFW's in DFW already)

It's been said before on blogs, and will be said again, but here it is in print (well copied from the freshly-inked pages of the singularly worthy n+1 #3)...François Cusset on the EU Referendum vote in France:
I'd call it the paradox of the chatroom society: a post-industrial, post-social universe where general anomie and new technological devices have promoted and at the same time terminally devalued dialogue. "Dialogue" is not the ultimate existential commodity; entering into it offers one's only chance to have sex, it supplies the moral justification for the herds of pollsters and market analysts hungry for your opinion on anything, and it cloaks politics in a performative construction of the "general will." Yet dialogue has changed from a key element of socialization to the familiar companion of a billion lonely lives. Think of chat as the end of dialogue, or on-demand dialogue as the end of social life. The chatroom society, where you meet and work and purchase and negotiate through (mostly online) dialogue, may well be "more" democratic than Athens's agora or the free meetings of 1960s student movements, as far as numbers are concerned, but it only proves that democracy is now just the noise drowning out the stead hum of real power. "Democracy" confiscates democracy in the very process of pretending to pass it on, offering it as an individual fetish to each single voter (or chatter, or consumer) the better to hide that it's all being decided elsewhere. No matter how we voted on May 29, the pluto-technocrats were going to have their way with our countries. You can always chat forever, since dialogue is no longer what power is about. Habermas still promotes the "ethics of discussion," but all we have is the spectacle of it. In the chatroom society, where you'll be famous for fifteen minutes and then will chat online the rest of the time, you still have the annoyance of being with others–as soon as you step out into a nervous crowd after two hours of these surrogate dreams on the monitor. Which recalls an old existentialist experience: you stare at someone in the train to the point of feeling you are that person, and then wake up from this fantasy hating both the upset Other, now raising his eyebrows, and your cowardly self, lost in confused apologies. You explain: I wish I were you–not for your objective qualities, stupid!–just to not have to face you or even look at you any longer.

François Cusset (one certain to crustate on the wishlist, there, or flipped through some tired afternoon, there)

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