sometimes…

all we need is to make a memory.

~

I had just finished tweeting who knows what into the whatever. Something about holding each other. I was shivering in the cold, knowing I needed a sweater if I was going to continue writing this uselessness of the thing (draft 9 of the blasted thesis proposal). 8 long months writing and rewriting the same 3.25 pages. Yea, a sweater is what I needed.

Walking back into the living room, I knew I needed to hold my son. He knows that I forget sometimes, forget to hold him, forget to smile. I forget to function like a human in our relationship. He knows his mother isn’t there even when she is. Not in the way most think. But he doesn’t know why and where she goes. He just knows she isn’t.

So I had to hold him to both remind him I am here, and remind myself that I can be there. Here. Wherever we are.

Because escape is just another place.

I sat down beside him on his bean bag. The boy. He let his Wii remote go, and knew.

“I need a hug, buddy.” I said, forming it mostly like a question. He hugged me sweetly.

And just like my mother used to do, I began crying quietly. His fingers didn’t shift; he never moved. There we sat holding one another.

I reflected on what this must mean–me, as a parent, crying on my son’s seven-year-old shoulder.

“What is hurting you, mom?”

“Money. Stress. Christmas. I don’t think we’re going to have one this year, love. Will you still know mommy loves you if i can’t get you anything?”

“But I want to help!” he cried, pulling away to look at me, trembling and upset. I was about to interject, tell him that it was me failing him, and that had nothing to do with him. But then he continued, “I want to help decorate our tree.” Thank goodness for the fake donated tree a once-friend gave us two years go. Their kindness lives on.

“Of course we can do that. I don’t know about buying gifts. We might not have much under that tree.”

The kid just smiled softly at me and went back to hugging me tightly.

“Mom, I love you most always. And next I love my Jay. And next I love who makes you happy because you smile. It’s going to be okay,”  he whispered, kissing my cheek.

sometimes…memories make us.

 

“Rhetorical self defence” and ego-hunting

My dearest friend and fellow rhetor-in-life, @sargoth, wrote this great piece titled “Rhetorical self defence” this morning, and asked me to go rhetor on it for her—to make sure she wasn’t being entirely unkind to the ancients. Her exact words to me were: “yo. I could use some rhetorical input on this hack of a post. am I butchering the Ancients too much? :3”.

Nah, @sargoth, you were doing them a justice, and I’m going to tell you why.

The ancients did a good thing; they defined rhetoric as a thing long, long ago. My field is as ancient as thought. Mostly, this is a source of pride for me. Social standing back in these times was based upon how well a white man could argue. He was a ‘who’ if he could outwit his fellow white man with words.

Not too much is different now, is it?

@sargoth makes a few global moves in this post, and I’m going to get at them to ensure she is doing what any great rhetor should (my own subjective adoration of her skills both withstanding and not). So, @sargoth points out that there are two ways to do rhetoric: the old-fashioned, social epistemic way of the ancients and what she does in her cheat sheet. This dichotomy helps her perform what I read through my own rhetorical lens as ‘self-aware meta-rhetoric’.

Her natural skills of rhetorical analysis allow her to write this cheat sheet with its clever and applicable 6 pointers to “do good rhetoric” in an argument. Yes, kiddies, anyone can rhetor—and this cheat sheet can help you.

But why would you want to do a thing like that? Why rhetor at all?

Well, to know rhetoric is not only to see the world, but to make it. Rhetoric is power. Power of the highest order (if one believes in hierarchy; and, in this world, all is hierarchy). See, not too much is different these days. Rhetoric is still practised by white men (and others) in positions of authority; @sargoth points to a few.

Our world is controlled by people (men) who use rhetoric to persuade us to their motives, reflections of libidinal desires (pissing contests, essentially), and goals of domination. You master language, you master others.

I often get tired and slightly not compassionate when I see people attempting to push their rhetoric on the world. Most of the time, I am practising a counter-rhetoric on rhetoric—to limit oppression and repression of people by those more dominant.

One way to win this battle is to empower others to become rhetors and own their own language, both the way they read and intake language, and how they can speak back into the world. True ethical rhetoric gives, does not impose. This is at the heart of @sargoth’s self-aware meta-rhetoric. Yet, you can’t know that until you go rhetor in the first place.

Before we go there, I need to get Derridean. You see, I sleep next to two books: Foucault’s Archeology of Knowledge and Derrida’s Margins of Philosophy. If I was trapped on a desert island (a dream of mine), these texts would be with me. I’d probably use them on the other (combating boredom, you know.). In Margins of Philosophy, there’s this essay Derrida wrote, “White Mythology”. It’s a favorite. And in this essay, there’s a sub-essay titled “Flowers of Rhetoric.” Why don’t we take a look at it…

I’m not going to discuss the entirety of this essay because we’d be here for an eternity. However, Derrida asks,

Metaphor then is what is proper to man. And more properly each man’s, according to the measure of genius—of nature—that dominates in him. What of this domination? and what does “proper to man” mean here, when the issue is one of this kind of capacity?

After this, Derrida tells us that to answer these questions comes down to a “protocol of reading”, and I would agree. But what are we reading?

In the case of existence and living, we must read everything. We must read “man”. @sargoth is showing you all how to do that with her cheat sheet; she is reminding you that you can. This is performative rhetoric at its best and most ethical.

“Okay, Les, now when we read man, what are we reading exactly?” you ask.

Ego is the easiest part of a man to read. Simple as that.

Read the ego.

I know you are going to ask me how to read the ego, so I’m going to teach you before you can ask me. Derrida says,

Nothing prevents a metaphorical lexis from being proper, that is, appropriate (prepon), suitable, decent, proportionate, becoming, in relation to the subject, situation, things. It is true that this value of properness remains rather exterior to the form—metaphorical or not—of discourse.

?! My Derrida is telling us that men use rhetoric to affirm a “properness”; they bait us with language in an effort to show us what is “right”. The problem with this is that, usually, what men in power feel is proper is generally not. But how can we ever know that? You got it: we need rhetoric. Think about how doctors in the 30s used to give women methamphetamines like it was a natural stimulant for parenting. Yea, what those women needed was some solid rhetoric, not speed.

The second bit of that statement from Derrida I want to attend to: men use metaphor as a tool to inject their own agenda, but that proves that what is true behind all clever language is exterior to the form of their language. Derrida is telling us that we need to remove the form of man’s use of language and the metaphor itself. We need to uncover the value of the language.

To do that, we can use @sargoth’s cheat sheet. We can look closely at the man, read his ego. I’m going to give you an example, a metaphor. I encourage you to go rhetor on me.

The other night, I read the timeline of a “friend” in twitter. He was extolling a good deal of judgment on some new people to the discourse community in which he frequents, and has adopted a credible, long-standing reputation in order to do so.

He is a man in power in this community.

But instead of approaching those he feels could benefit from some learning and experience directly with a cheat sheet or education, he chose to subtweet them and subvert their authority. Derrida: Let us not forget that this sense of sovereignty is also the tutelary sense of kurion. To break down Derrida’s Greek, the person to whom I am referring did not produce a discourse that guides these incomers toward liberatory knowledge. Instead, he used their inexperience to flaunt his own reputation in this space.

Ironically, reputation is multi-faceted. I was watching, and was immediately saddened by this man’s drive of ego. I’d like to think he is smarter than this. It is not a terrible thing to be new to a discourse community; we all embody this position throughout our lives. And, often (if one is reading closely), sometimes the very speech acts that determine an identity come from a place one might not expect. Do entertain oppositions. The ego tends to assert itself when it judges others without actually entertaining conversation with another.

I am going to wrap this up now with a few global points of my own. @sargoth’s work is necessary and ethical. She resists the plight of her own ego by encouraging education, and sharing her knowledge-base with others. This is the kind of rhetoric she embodies when she rhetoricizes the rhetors of yesterday and today. @sargoth practices the very 6 parts of her list in her list. It is quite brilliant if you take a look at it.

She has the overall goal of education as she does this. That is her motive, her purpose, her libidinal desire. This is why I respect her highly. My own libidinal desires are showing, aren’t they? *winks*

I leave you all with some parting gifts of speech: if you are going to go rhetor on anyone, know why you are doing so before you figure out the why of the fellow rhetor in question. This will keep your ego front and center—and make you the better rhetor in the argument. And if you find yourself being rhetor’d by another, remember to make it open for everyone.

Sharing conversation is the least egotistical metaphor of all.

What is Scaffolding?: Y Marks That Spot

What is Scaffolding?: Y Marks the Spot

Up until this quarter, I didn’t know scaffolding was a “thing”. I never really gave the syllabus any serious consideration as a student, merely happy just to go along and read as required. Looking back, I see how foolish and naïve that is. Of course I have had to seriously consider scaffolding when I began planning my own syllabus. This led me to realize how fundamental a good treasure map is to the success of a class.

Let’s embrace this metaphor of a treasure map, assume I am a pirate professor[1], and hunt for the ‘Y’, not the “X”.

For me, scaffolding goes hand-in-hand with curriculum, my philosophies on writing and reading—and plagiarism—, as well as teaching. You all must surely know by now that I practice critical pedagogy, that I believe in my students as agents of their education, and relinquish as much authority as I can in order to foster their ways of thinking, being, and seeing. That last one, seeing, is where my boundary between authority figure and democracy agent meet. If I am anything these days, it is a pirate professor with looking-glass in hand.

Ira Shor leads me to see this when he says in ‘Empowering Education’, Although students expect a teacher to assert his or her authority, they also resent the unilateral power presented to them. They may feel adrift if the teacher does not impose structure; they may feel dominated if the teacher does. This dilemma is complex because teachers who don’t assert their authority invite chaos at the worst and testing student behavior at the least, as students probe the soft rules to find what the limits are. In a class without traditional discipline, students can doubt the seriousness of the course, thinking that real education is not going on here because the teacher’s authority is low-profile and nontraditional. Students have not had much chance to practice mutual dialogue, co-governance, self-control, and cooperative learning. (Shor 157)

Reading this again near the end of the quarter, it is heartwarming to know that what I have done in my class has created much of this, and that I am not alone in my feelings that often move between chaos and authority. But one state has proved its overarching stasis in my class: a feeling of piracy.

We have combated the fear of this dilemma—my students do not always feel our class is that of chaos or overbearing authority. I find that we have arrived at a place where we all see each other for who we are in class. This consciousness of identities—mine, my students, and us as a community—has come about because I have dared to venture into the unknown seeking gold.

To me, the treasure I have been seeking is a form of pedagogy piracy. Shor also says /in the same place/: To navigate the conflicts, to win some constructive participation in dialogue, it helps for the teacher to take a negotiating posture. It seems I have adopted this, especially in my scaffolding. Again, what got me there was a form of piracy of my own plans. Let me elaborate…

Scaffolding (to define this as a “commonsense” in the Bartholomaeic sense) is how a teacher builds specific materials into some structure that leads to definite learning happening; these can be called “student learning outcomes” (SLOs) for those of us modernists still holding to un-nifty little data packages that replace critical thinking. Oops, I pirated my own purpose again. To continue. You see, I greatly dislike structure, unshakable plans, and outlines. The syllabus, by its very nature, disrupts my calm creation of uncertainty. However, and no matter that my teaching identity is that of “low-profile and nontraditional”, Shor reminds me that I am a pirate professor, and why: I can be a negotiated teaching self. This requires that I do provide a syllabus with some form of structure, even non-structure is a structure (hi Derrida). Thus, I set out to determine what kind of scaffolding I want to define. The sea of possibility.

When I work to create my syllabus of uncertainty, I put a good deal of effort and care into it. All of this comes down to emphasizing agency, my own loss of authority, and fuel for thinking. You got it: I am the captain of this ship, and I know what needs to go in it. I may have a general idea of where we’re headed (we do have a map); I may be steering on occasion; but I am not the only one making our journey possible; I am merely responsible for all of these people for whom I care greatly.

So where are we going? Well, we will write essays, and we will make things. All of us, together. I firmly believe in doing my assignments with my students, and I have. Before we can do the assignments, though, we have to get to our various destinations on the way to Y. To get there, we must enjoy the refreshing spray of the ocean, battle the kraken, stay afloat in storms, plunder colonized territories, and stay up late playing poker in the mess hall. What?

That’s right. I am advocating a lot of messing around. The Derridean in me makes my captaining of this ship grant us the leisure and work of reading, writing, and doing some amount of nothing prior to each essay or project. These practices are as much about learning as they appear not to be. Part of the time I decide what we are doing. After all, I am the captain; I am responsible for these writers and humans; and I know where we are going.

Sometimes, I have to show my students the map.

Other times, I need to let them decide how we are getting to Y. So I keep much of my syllabus open. I grant them the space to determine our direction on days. This service does two things: it relieves me of the pressure of authority when it becomes too imposing, and it teaches students that they have a say in their education just as much as I do. The pressure bit is a good one, and my scaffolding clearly denotes regular intervals of what I call student-guided days. Both my students and I feel better on days when they decide what we do. And that, mates, is agency. We may not be able to give it, but we surely can grant it. Remember: acknowledgment is the first step to ethics.

Are you wondering why I have used the ‘Y’ in place of “X”? I have done this because questions and questing are at the heart of piracy. Venturing out to sea is a quest of daring. One must embrace courage to go full pirate. I learned this invaluable verb ‘questing’ from my mentor. Reading Shor, realizing I am a pirate professor, all stems from the fact that I was granted democracy in the classroom throughout this program. Simply put, my teaching is what it is because I was allowed to learn who I am here. I have a few great Captains of my own.

So when I set out to scaffold my syllabus, I lunge us toward the Y. My students and I get to decide where we are going, and how we are getting there. My job is to make sure we have everything we need when we leave.

I chose to embrace this rather cliché metaphor to emphasize one important part of my teaching philosophy. When I set out to teach a class, I want to never assume what will happen, or who my students are. To think of myself as a pirate professor, I am able to embody the identity of an ‘anything goes’ mantra. Yet, I can also trust my experience and my knowledge of my job. Letting go of imposing suppositions of what teaching must be in favor of what it could be encourages a responsibility toward granting my students to be their own captains one day.

reading between the borders

What is Reading?

The struggle has always been inner, and is played out in outer terrains. Awareness of our situation must come before inner changes, which in turn, come before changes in society. Nothing happens in the ‘real’ world unless it first happens in our heads. ~ Anzaldúa

 

Here I am again looking at another looming question. I want to get at this from so many positions, in so many ways, but I don’t want to get stuck. Or worse, lost. Naturally, I do what I normally do; I go to Derrida. When I took theory as a lowly undergrad, I remember being told to read rigorously the week we read him. And it took reading with rigor to read him. But I muscled through Derrida with a diligence I didn’t know I had. Now, he and I are affectionate occupiers of one another’s time.

Yet, this does not answer the question—yet. I do have a point; you’ll find it somewhere. I want to touch on a few things around it before I state it, and lose you all again. Are you reading? We are reading Kristie S. Fleckenstein’s “An Appetite for Coherence: Arousing and Fulfilling Desires” this week. I read the title closely, and was pretty excited. That is, until, I got two paragraphs in. But before I go all rhetor on Fleckenstein, I want to talk about my students. You see, Fleckenstein thinks she means well, and she may very well mean well. Yet, Fleckenstein does not know my students—even if she thinks she does.

My students do not like reading. I’ve spent the entirety of this quarter both figuring out why and trying to coax, force, beg, trick, and facilitate their reading of our texts for class. Nothing I do works. That made me question why. Was it me? Most people said no; it was them. Okay, so why aren’t they reading? Assuming they’re lazy is a cop-out. They are not lazy. These students write beautifully when asked. They work several jobs, many of them. They come to class (mostly). It isn’t laziness.

I started realizing something: it is what they are reading.

My students have been overburdened with the white man’s social, economic, and academic discourse for years. It is in everything they read. Yep, even in Fleckenstein.

She says, “Helping students create coherent texts is one of the most difficult jobs that composition teachers have. Part of that difficulty lies in the fact that coherence is as much a reader-based phenomenon as it is a writer-based creation” (Fleckenstein 81). Even if Fleckenstein is right and this is “one of the most difficult jobs” in our field, she is missing the reason why it might be difficult—at least if she had my students.

In her “Tolerance for Ambiguity”, Gloria Anzaldúa writes, “Cradled in one culture, sandwiched between two cultures, straddling all three cultures and their value systems, la mestiza undergoes a struggle of flesh, a struggle of borders, an inner war. Like all people, we perceive the version of reality that our culture communicates” (2099). Anzaldúa tells us what Fleckenstein misses—that our students are cultural readers and writers. They have the perilous task of floating and performing between the borders of all the discourses of their world, when academia only oppressively operates under one. Fleckenstein, like many in the university, might simply be failing to perceive the culture of her students through her own culture’s haze.

I have evidence for this. In Fleckenstein’s little sample of Sally on page 82, we see what is deemed an “incoherent paragraph.” No, it does not quite make sense. Thankfully, Fleckenstein is there for us—and her students in class—to give us one more sentence that will magically make it all make sense. Wrong. (side note: the Burke quote doesn’t make sense grammatically and syntactically either, but she doesn’t really point that out.)

Fleckenstein comes to her students’ rescue, which, she promises, does the following: “Students discover that this sentence provides them a context to draw from. Now, they can use their background knowledge about human motivation, neighborhood irritations, and offensive strategies to build relationships within and between sentences” (83). I read this rigorously, and I wanted to let Fleckenstein know that not all students will discover this. Not all students have this happy, middle class, suburban, patriarchal, and passive-aggressive “background knowledge” to make the connection. For me and all of us la mestiza, we do not see what Fleckenstein will see.

Moreover, is it always necessary to make sense? What if a writer is not seeking for their readers’ approval? Anzaldúa identifies la mestiza:

These numerous possibilities leave la mestiza floundering in uncharted seas. In perceiving conflicting information and points of view, she is subjected to a swamping of her psychological borders. She has discovered that she can’t hold concepts or ideas in rigid boundaries. The borders and walls that are supposed to keep the undesirable ideas out are entrenched habits and patterns of behavior; these habits and patterns are the enemy within. Rigidity means death. Only by remaining flexible is she able to stretch the psyche horizontally and vertically. (2100)

By simply attempting to learn in the university, la mestiza embraces this flexibility. She comes to our classes reading and writing by stretching herself into the dominant discourse of academia, while trying to keep herself. Meanwhile, the institution seeks to confine her to its walls and borders, pushing her undesirable ideas down into a box of “coherent” discourse.

Fleckenstein purports that she can fix this lack of coherence by teaching an on-the-surface, easily understood task. Her motive relies upon this premise:

To judge the success or failure of a particular passage requires the writer to step out of his or her shoes as a writer and examine the passage as a reader. Writers need to perceive the desires or expectations their texts arouse in their projected readers and then check to see if those desires are satisfied. (82)

How helpful it might be for Fleckenstein to realize that her own readers may not have their desires met. These may be the readers of her class, reading her class and her teaching. Has she expected this of herself when she composed this text or her classroom? Maybe Fleckenstein should read rigorously. Anzaldúa might help.

And I will say she does. Let’s read her: “All reaction is limited by, and dependent on, what it is reacting against” (Anzaldúa 2100). This is how I’ve come to realize why my students resist reading; they are reacting against all of the fashioning of themselves into a package they never saw coming when they filled out those dauntingly stark and box-filled college applications. I would ask Fleckenstein and all others who feel judging the success and failure of a poorly written passage to consider how they might not be meeting their students’ desires and needs.

This comes down to a level of reading. To read means to look at one’s world, to critique it, and/or question it. Anzaldúa shouts out herself on the page, and lets me leap with her. She declares, “Soy un amasamiento, I am an act of kneading, of uniting and joining that not only has produced both a creature of darkness and a creature of light, but also a creature that questions the definitions of light and dark and gives them new meanings” (2101). Anzaldúa urges us to read questions upon everything—both the light and the dark. In between the borders.

Before you think I’ve been a little hard on Fleckenstein, and I have, I will entertain a place where she attempts to read her class. She says, “Uncover the second sentence and ask the students to decide if this sentence is consistent with their expectations. Discuss differences in opinion, but without attempting to arrive at any premature closure” (83). Hmm. This is a good place where Fleckenstein attempts to mean well. Except, she is a bit bossy. These are declarations, not suggestions. It may be good and fine to discuss differences in opinion, but Fleckenstein does have a closure: coherent writing. And, in the case of Anzaldúa and myself (and many others, I suspect), our expectations are not similar to those who may engage in neighborhood war battles utilizing our knowledge of infidel crab grasses. Often, the infidels are the ones telling us how to write and how to read. No wonder we don’t wanna.

But we continue to try—if we stay in academia. We adopt its voice into our own, secretly hoping and praying we do not lose ourselves in the process. As I read Fleckenstein, I fear this appetite for coherence seizes upon teaching composition as well. I am in this class to learn how to teach writing and reading. I am in this class reading and writing in the academic voice. When I slip from this, when I embody la mestiza, I am criticized and encouraged to become more coherent, more understandable—to the academy. But for whom am I doing this?

My attempts to discuss what I see as a direct violation of ethics comes through everything I read, and thus all I write. This is where I am at these days. I cannot read otherwise; I do not feel it is beneficial to attempt differently. If I take anything away from this class (and this quarter), it is that Composition has a lot of work to do. I found out how to come to terms with that. I have also come to terms with the fact that it may happen with or without me. However, I leave with a reading in my mind.

This step is a conscious rupture with all oppressive traditions of all cultures and religions. She communicates that rupture, documents the struggle. She reinterprets history and, using new symbols, she shapes new myths. She adopts new perspectives toward the darkskinned, women and queers. She strengthens her tolerance (and intolerance) for ambiguity. She is willing to share, to make herself vulnerable to foreign ways of seeing and thinking. She surrenders all notions of safety, of the familiar. Deconstruct, construct. She becomes a nahual, able to transform herself into a tree, a coyote, into another person. she learns to transform the small “I” into the total Self.

 Se hace moldeadora de su alma. Según la concepciόn que tiene de sí misma, así sera.

~ Anzaldúa

 

Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Eds. Vincent B. Leitch, et al. New York: W.W. Norton & Co, Inc., 2010. 2095-2109. Print.

Fleckenstein, Kristie S. “An Appetite for Coherence: Arousing and Fulfilling Desires.” CCC 43.1 (1992): 81-87. JStor. Web. 12 Nov. 2012.

— p.s. It is quite ironic and timely that my students’ most recent essay assignment is titled “‘Dear Academia, This Time, You Read Me’”

watch your own language: I say hello to Gawker and Jezebel, officially

I haven’t written a polemic in a while. This truth has been sitting with me for a few weeks, waiting for the right time and event to socially deconstruct. I have wanted to comment on Adrien Chen’s use of d0xing to “save the internet” from the exploitation of underage girls, but I didn’t have the time between my myriad of jobs and grad school to do that topic justice.

However, a new event has provided me with an opportunity to comment on Chen, and link what I see as completely unethical behavior in the Internet.

Seems Gawker’s sister, Jezebel (Chen writes for Gawker, if you’re wondering about my connection here), has joined in their little “save the internet from the people” campaign by not just exposing underage tweeters vocalizing some completely racist tweets, but using the internet to interfere with these children’s lives.

Yes, I use the word “interfere” here, and with full awareness.

Before I go tirade on this, I am linking the article for your own use: http://jezebel.com/5958993/racist-teens-forced-to-answer-for-tweets-about-the-nigger-president?utm_campaign=socialflow_jezebel_twitter&utm_source=jezebel_twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

You may read this article, and wonder why I am so upset. Clearly these kids are publicly declaring the worst of racist hate speech. Oh, they are. And I am not rationalizing this. By no means. I will never endorse speech acts of this kind—of linguistic violence and oppression.

But I know something that Gawker/Jezebel obviously does not: that attacking those embodying speech acts does not stop the actual problem. That is, I will argue, just another form of the same violence and oppression.

You see, Chen thought he was some great internet vigilante on the side of Justice when he went after Violentacrez of Reddit (here’s the link for that: http://gawker.com/5950981/unmasking-reddits-violentacrez-the-biggest-troll-on-the-web ). Not many argued against Chen’s exposing of Michael Brutsch. Any who did were predominately of the same cut as Violentacrez. For those of us aware of the situation, we saw the dissolution of any ties between Reddit and Gawker. Blocking and deleting of any connection abound. Then discussions of what “free speech” means circulated among and within many of my technology-discourse circles. I paid close attention to all of these. In fact, Zeynep Tufekci, @techsoc, provided some really great conversation on what exactly free speech is, and what we do with it in the Internet.

But I have to move from agreement, even with her, at this moment, and say that something profoundly disturbing is happening when we challenge free speech in this way.

I would now like to turn my analysis to what both Chen’s article, and Tracie Egan Morrisey’s for Jezebel, are actually saying. Yep, it is time for some good ol contemporary-fashioned rhetorical, critical discourse analysis.

The first paragraph of Egan Morrisey’s article is where the trouble begins. She utilizes a clever form of rhetorical masking right away: “Calls were placed to the principals and superintendents of those schools to find out how calling the president (ahem, should be capitalized)—or any person of color, for that matter—a ‘nigger’ and a ‘monkey’ jibes with their student conduct code of ethics”. Great job, we do see how offensive this language is. Egan Morrisey has captured our attention immediately. Yet, I want to point out how. The language these students used, being displayed here, does that. But so does the lacking of any pronominal authority. Who placed those calls? And why did they do that?

Oh, this is where words get tricky…

Jezebel placed those calls. Egan Morrissey tells us so when she uses the all-inclusive “We” there in the first sentence of the next paragraph. Too bad we already have the subconscious intimation that no ownership of this act is made from the first paragraph. This is an act of burying Jezebel’s responsibility for their interference in this matter. The “We” is a denotative marker that includes us readers. Egan Morrissey uses this pronoun in an engagement of audience-assimilation.

And it feels natural that she does so. Right? I mean, it is terrible what these children have said. And, ohmygosh!, these kids have to account for their schools’ code of ethics.

Wait, what?

This is where I remind everyone of Foucault. In his Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Foucault exposes the dominant mode of our entire society—surveillance and judgment. “The judges of normality are present everywhere,” he says. Jezebel and Gawker’s Chen designatingly feel that they are agents of Internet safety and “ethics” when they are actually mere pushers of a cultural norm very much aligned with the type of oppression they are regulating.

Foucault tells us that norms uphold standards, and that anyone who strays from the standards are deviants. In this case of social Internet infrastructure, racists, bigots, pedophiles, and horny sexists are constitutively deviants. This is nothing substantially different than in real life, mind you. Naturally, then, those standards need people to uphold them. This is where Jezebel and Chen step in—to “save” us from those deviants.

Foucault: The carceral texture of society assures both the real capture of the body and its perpetual observation; it is, by its very nature, the apparatus of punishment that conforms most completely to the new economy of power and the instrument for the formation of knowledge that this very economy needs. Its panoptic functioning enables it to play this double role. By virtue of its methods of fixing, dividing, recording, it has been one of the simplest, crudest, also most concrete, but perhaps most indispensable conditions for the development of this immense activity of examination that has objectified human behavior.

What I am trying to point out relies upon seeing beneath Chen’s and Jezebel’s own behaviors. No, they are not doing us or these children any good either for exposing a troll or by connecting teens’ public personas to their schools’ code of ethics (where is the society where we are not whittled into body representations of an institution? umm…hmm…). Jezebel and Chen are just reiterating the status quo of policing indoctrination; their act of collecting information is also unethical.

D0xing is harmful and a violation of human rights, no matter the purpose. I say this with such bold affirmation because I see the inherent structure of the carceral society at work in it. D0xing fits into Foucault’s definition of capture; it seizes the people exposed regardless of whether their information is easily accessible or not.

I continue to be bold in my affirmations because I can further elaborate on what it does to the people involved, and why it doesn’t actually fix anything. Sure, we can d0x social deviants whether they are of age and exposing the underage, or are underage humans participating in a cultural phenomenon of racism. *slyly smiles*

Sigh. So, Jezebel, it is legitimately okay to expose underage individuals participating in a behavior you think is justifiably wrong in our culture? They are underage, you know this, yes? I would like to point out that when Violentacrez and others took and posted pictures of young girls wearing revealing clothing, he/they were exposing underage individuals participating in a behavior not many feel is justifiably wrong in our culture. “We” (at Chen’s bidding) decided the adults involved were the ones wrong. Odd, isn’t it?

To continue, I have some non-rhetorical questions for Jezebel: who put you in charge of policing? Do you have a license? Is someone paying you? For whom are you sanctioned, and why?

These teens decried speech acts morally wrong in the culture of the Internet, yes. We may all acknowledge that; racism is not acceptable. Alas, in other cultures, theirs included, racism is a dominant discourse. And in Violentacrez’s case, his dominant discourse is pedophilia endorsement and misogyny. We think this not okay. We are not the only source of judgment, though. To assume that we are is unethical and continues the very systems of oppression that make these discourses of racism, misogyny, and child pornography exist.

Foucault: That in the central position that it occupies, it is not alone, but linked to a whole series of ‘carceral’ mechanisms which seem distinct enough—since they are intended to alleviate pain, to cure, to comfort—but which all tend, like the prison, to exercise a power of normalization… That,, consequently, the notions of institutions of repression, rejection, exclusion, marginalization, are not adequate to describe, at the very centre of the carceral city, the formation of the insidious leniencies, unavowable petty cruelties, small acts of cunning, calculated methods, techniques, ‘sciences’ that permit the fabrication of the disciplinary individual.

Gawker and Jezebel can use and endorse their “journalists” to combat these violations of the social norm in the name of curing the Internet of its social ills. But, they’ll be at it forever, just like the police and governments have failed to eradicate us from the social ills that plague humanity in the “real world”.

Because we have all failed in participating in what really eradicates these violations of human rights—we have not figured out how to attack the discursive formations of infrastructure that perpetuate these behaviors. We can call out individuals for embodying the speech acts that expose and espouse identities we culturally feel are unethical, but this will not stop the behavior. The behavior is cultural too. And to destroy that part of our culture, we have to take a good look at ourselves, our language use, and the roles we play in making them stronger.

To do that, we could try keeping one another safe while teaching each other safer ways to correspond with one another. That, my friends, is another blog post forthcoming. Until then, remember who you write for before putting a “We” in my name. I do not work for the carceral network.

I love it when someone says it better than I ever could. Solidarity.

Echoes of Eternity

People will probably die of exposure this weekend as a Noreaster dumps a foot of snow on New York and New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. People are still without heat and have been dumped out into the streets, or mercy of family/friends and homeless shelters. And I have to ask myself, are we really willing to turn so blind an eye to the plight of an entire region so quickly?

In less than two weeks, it seems that the passing mentions of real Sandy problems have failed to mobilize a response across the country.  Americans are a battered and weary people, I get that. We’re used to having things easy, we’re now reaping the returns on generations of lavish spending and quick fixes. We’ve under-invested in infrastructure, and over-invested in getting things cheap and easy.

I’d like to get into the ethics of storytelling and media, but I’m not…

View original post 841 more words