Thursday, April 3, 2014

Conspiracy Theories

This still doesn't explain if or why conspiracy theories are a predominately American art form. 

From Todd McGowan:

Confronting the inconsistency of social authority is not an easy task 
for the subject. Many try to sustain a belief in its consistency through an 
imaginary construction that represses contradictory ideas. The problem 
with this solution is that these ideas become more powerful through their 
repression, and the result is some form o f neurosis. Another possibility 
is the paranoid reaction. Rather than trying to wrestle with the problem 
of the gap in authority, the paranoid subject eliminates it by positing an 
other existing in this gap, an other behind the scenes pulling the strings. 
As Slavoj Zizek explains it, “Paranoia is at its most elementary a belief into 
an ‘Other of the Other,’ into an Other who, hidden behind the Other of 
the explicit social texture, programs what appears to us as the unforeseen 
effects of social life and thus guarantees its consistency: beneath the chaos 
of market, the degradation of morals, and so on, there is the purposeful 
strategy of the Jewish plot.”36 The comfort that paranoia provides for the 
subject derives solely from this guarantee. For the paranoid subject, the 
surface inconsistency of social authority hides an underlying consistency 
authorized by a real authority whom most subjects never notice. Paranoia 
simultaneously allows the subject to sense its own superiority in recogniz­
ing the conspiracy and to avoid confronting the horror of an inconsistent 
social authority.


But Stone is not the only leftist to turn to paranoia. Many do so in order 
to confront forces that they otherwise couldn’t identify. Among those who 
suffer from political oppression, paranoia and conspiracy theory serve as 
vehicles for thinking through systems of control and even mobilizing action 
against those systems. As Peter Knight points out, “Conspiracy thinking has 
played an important role in constituting various forms of African American 
political and cultural activism.”38 When it directly produces activism, the 
political valence of paranoia seems to tilt more clearly to the left than it 
does in the case of Stone’s film.39

Marxist Fredric Jameson focuses on a related aspect analyzes the paranoid film in The Geopolitical Aesthetic. In this work, Jam e­son aligns conspiracy theory with what he calls cognitive mapping — the attempt to think the global capitalist system in its totality. The diffuseness of global capitalism prevents the kind of cognitive mapping that was possible in earlier epochs. Today, in order to think the totality at all, subjects must resort to the idea of a conspiracy. As Jameson points out in his analysis of 
All the President’s Men, “The map of conspiracy itse lf... suggests the pos­
sibility of cognitive mapping as a whole and stands as its substitute and 
yet its allegory all at once.”40 Jameson’s statement reflects his ambivalence 
about conspiracy theory and paranoia — even though it allegorizes cognitive 
mapping, it also substitutes for it — but he nonetheless sees its usefulness as a strategy for the Left, especially when facing the global capitalist leviathan.

The problem is that even when it works to mobilize subjects to fight 
against an oppressive system, paranoia has the effect of depriving subjects 
o f their agency. By eliminating the gap in social authority and filling in this 
gap with a real authority who effectively runs the show, paranoia deprives 
subjects of the space in which they exist as subjects. The subject occupies 
the position of the gap in social authority; it emerges through and because 
of internal inconsistency in the social field of meaning. The extent to which 
paranoia allows the subject to experience social authority as a consistent field  is the extent to which it works against the subject itself. Even if it manages 
tangible political victories, emancipatory politics that relies on paranoia 
undermines itself by increasing the power of authority in the thinking of 
subjects and decreasing their freedom. W hat’s more, it doesn’t actually 

No comments:

Post a Comment