Paranoia’s Radical Openness

Levi Bryant recently worried about teaching suspicion in critical thinking:

I worry about this with the humanities classroom. Is there a chance that we might be creating “dogmatists of suspicion”? That is, are their pedagogical strategies that risk turning suspicion into an axiom, such that our students become critically immune to any facts or evidence?

And given my inclinations towards rehabilitating paranoia (and a paranoia-critical method), I thought to offer a brief defense of suspicion. In teaching suspicion and doubt (and the heuretics of paranoia, the formulation of the method taken to its extreme that I am developing) there is, indeed, the possibility of creating a dogmatics of suspicion. It is unfortunate.

Indeed, in radical openness and undecidability there is always the threat of the backlash. When you open up the possiblity knowledge such that more things can count as knowledge, such that invention might be a part of academic research, there is the possibility of dogma and epistemic closure. Fear is deeply ingrained. Ideology is difficultly shed.

Paranoia (positively aligned) can trace novel paths, invent associative connections and meanings where they may or may not “exist”, move past and through (disciplinary) boundaries. A paranoiac method that resides in radical openness, that strives towards disrupting research paradigms that would ignore the anomalous and particular for those that might revel in it, and use the anomaly to subvert ideology, is the opposite side of the coin from the backlash of conspiracy theory and private (traditional conservative) truth. Doubting climate change is not, after all, radical doubt. It is doubting science and doubting the government while, in equal measure, trusting big business, capitalist consumption patterns, and religion (the dominion of man, &c).

Can you have radical openness without some retreating in fear to “tradition” and “family values”? I don’t know. It is worth it if a backlash is unavoidable? Is the backlash merely a slower reaction, the first stage grief? This is the dark side of the method I want to develop and it will be necessary to keep the threat in mind as my research continues.

Bespoke Noise (the stroll of the apostate)

Consider, for a moment, the man and the machine.



Cyborg replication is uncoupled from organic reproduction.


The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality, the two joined centres structuring any possibility of historical transformation.


So my cyborg myth is about transgressed boundaries, potent fusions, and dangerous possibilities which progressive people might explore as one part of needed political work.


Donna Harraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto”

Noise then is an intervention at the level of meaning, on that challenges existing meanings and patterns, leading to questioning (and therefore highlighting the attribution of meaning) and, eventually, if not always, in the recuperation of noise as new system.


Noise is that which remains the outside of these systems – but not just as opposite: noise is the process of interference between music/sound and ‘its’ other.


The danger is that we impose both a coherence and a teleology which, if it is present, should not be.


Also, the passage through technology, through the willful creation of waste, of objects that emerge as and from residue, is hyperecological – that is, freed from nature, it can act ecologically.

Paul Hegarty, “Noise threshold: Merzbow and the end of natural sound”

Consider again the noise of the machine, of the man, of the hybrid. And the politics of the outside, the myth of its possibility.

Misrecognizing the Hypnotic Text

This came up on my Google Reader and it got me thinking.

While I think the style is inherent to the theory and that the play of méconnaissance is a vital aspect of (mis)understanding and working with a text, I do understand the point of this. Especially the enthralling aspects. Only my ego mania (my object petit a is to be not to interpret a great thinker) keeps me from the trap.

I am one to think that theory is necessary for a politics, for a stance against entrenched power. When theory alienates the masses, I tend to want to blame the masses for failing to understand a theory, for falling into an anti-intellectual stance or falling back on a failed education system that did not or could not teach critical theory skills. Clearly this is elitist. Where, then, is the appropriate ground. Or is the answer something else?

Perhaps the answer is a polyvocal style. Perhaps the answer is conveying a message in multiple ways: academic papers, monographs, theory fiction, op-eds, blogs, manifestoes, treatises, tweets, & rants. Perhaps. The medium is the message and to each according to their desires.

This Machine Stares into the Abyss

“This Machine Stares into the Abyss”

It’s the phrase I intend to brand my basses with. Channelling Woody, Pete, and Friedrich. Evocative. But considering Thomas Ligotti’s The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror (2010) it takes on new implications.

And o’erthrew them with prophesying

– Arthur O’Shaughnessy, Ode

The pieces are unusable, and display too much tendency toward uncertainty.

– René Daumal, Pataphysical Essays

It is the very delusion of the misanthropic beautiful soul, casting out onto the world the disorder that constitutes his being.

– Jacques Lacan, “Agressiveness in Psychoanalysis”

Someone, you or me, comes forward and says: I would like to learn to live finally.

– Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx

Florida Man Declares Life Malignantly Useless.

I get a lot of milage out of Florida Man. And while people down here have gained a reputation since hanging chads, there is a rather significant difference between Ligotti’s philosophy and the fact that he seems to live in Florida and “Florida Man Claims It’s His Constitutional Right To Rape A Donkey.” Have I already dodged the question with humor and coincidence?

from the text:

Whether you think consciousness to be a benefit or a horror, this is only what you think – and nothing else. But even though you cannot demonstrate the truth of what you think, you can at least put it on show and see what the audience thinks.

This is the tragedy: Consciousness has forced us into the paradoxical position of striving to be unself-conscious of what we are – hunks of spoiling flesh on disintegrating bones.

Best to immunize your consciousness from any thoughts that are startling and dreadful so that we can all go on conspiring to survive and reproduce as paradoxical beings – puppets that can walk and talk all by themselves.

It also reminds us that no one can make a case that every individual’s birth, or any individual’s birth, is a good in itself.

Even highly educated readers do no want to be told that their lives are an evolutionary contingency – and nothing else – and that meaning is not what people think it means.

He is content just to exist, and equally content not to exist.

Considering, then, is the machine the bass guitar or the man behind the strings? One wonders, one doubts. Which is of course part of the point. Because just as the optimists cannot convince or lay claim to the inherent value of life, the pessimists cannot guarantee meaninglessness. The abyss always smiles at me.

ex nihilo dubito.

Can machines doubt? Was Cripple Shu malignantly useless? How does one take a trip through a Zaphodian Infinite Perspective Vortex?

ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn

Sometimes, though, you just have to fly off in your invisible, noiseless, wing-shaped bomber singing “Oh well. What the hell.” with the other dead fictions.

Opaque Memes

I began not long ago an art experiment. Armed only with my 8 megapixel iSight camera, SwankoLab “darkroom” app, and Meme Generator app I sought to create a question.

Art is what you can get away with.Image

The question was: What is a meme? and what can it do?


Now I know the Dawkins definition (it’s the first quote in the OED) and I don’t quite buy the idea that memes travel between brains in quite that fashion. But the study of memetics is a growing field and they can battle out how ideas travel and free will and inheritance in imitation all they want. I’m more concerned with the play and the politics.


Now clearly I could explain what I was trying to do in each of these images. But the general sense is that image macros play on the closure of signification (they use a simple enough image and tack on a text that is meant to be clear, that is meant to offer a juxtaposition with only one (or at least a narrow few) possible reading). I played with that idea. The images are impossibly dull. The text opaque, too obvious or too obtuse. Because what is a meme? Or is it only its popularity? Because I don’t think these are catching on…

Image2013-02-09 13.00.21 2013-02-06 14.11.312013-02-07 22.19.00

When the Internet was Serious

An “authoritative Web site” is an oxymoron.

– Jay David Bolter, Writing Space

This revelation will come to everyone: that every form is absurd once taken seriously.

– René Daumal, The Pataphysical Essays

I have had this blog for nearly a year now. I only know this because it is reminding me to pay up for the privilege of having tacked my name on the Internet. Tax write-off, I suppose. Or it will be, one of these days. The price of doing business. Branding the academy. Just in case anyone is wondering, the adjectivalization of my name is “Zwintscherubic.”

I’ve had this blog for a year and put up 10 posts. Because the internet must needs be serious. Because the trivial and unrelated cannot sully an official website of a would-be academic. And there is something to that. One has to maintain a consistent front lest society find itself unable to sort you into the appropriate box. There is no other path to understanding.

And yet.

And yet the theories that I am proposing, the ephemeral thoughts that I scribble on reciepts, ramble into the iPhone voice recorder, type into word docs that get lost in a less than ideal filing system are specifically about tracing the trivial, the third meanings, the unintentional, the signification of the insignificant. So why, indeed, would I wait until I have fully formed thoughts before I put them out to a potential audience? That only serves to let the ideas drift, melt away, become forgotten or half remembered as deadlines approach and other concerns take precedence (generally the concerns of life and authority).

So an idea of the possibility of a potential for change.

As history confirms, people will change their minds about almost anything, from which god they worship to how they style their hair. But when it comes to existential judgements, human beings in general have an unfalteringly good opinion of themselves and their condition in this world and are steadfastly confident they are not a collection of self-conscious nothings.

– Thomas Ligotti, The Conspiracy against the Human Race