Speculative Thievery

Do not take me for some conjuror of cheap tricks! I am not trying to rob you.

 – Gandalf the Grey


A conjuration, then, is first of all an alliance, to be sure sometimes a political alliance, more or less secret, if not tacit, a plot or conspiracy.


For to conjure means also to exorcise: to attempt both to destroy and to disavow a malignant, demonized, diabolized force, most often an evil-doing spirit, a specter, a kind of ghost who comes back or who still risks coming back post mortem.

– Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx

In conjuring specters, in delving into the haunted realities of culture and its general milieu (do ghosts feel the anxiety of influence?) one finds oneself in the ever on a threshold, always in a liminal zone, the zone of the interface, the demesne of the ghost, the topos of juxtaposition.


This, though, is the opening of invention, of heuretics, of the possibility of (re)creation. Being with and creating with the ghosts, the rotting corpses of the past, the desiccated flesh of the present. This is remix. This is building new bodies, new selves, from the background noise. This is carving a home from the bare mountainside and meditating till your arms and legs waste away from disuse. Useless: never used.

And so, towards the furtherance of a conspiracy, let us spiral further down, add a new layer of irony, a new distance of doubt.

What does it mean to play on the question of the meme (the Arrested Development macro specifically) with the question of philosophy. The trick. The question and space of play. Did you know Siggy had an affair with the White Lady? Is the meme itself a play, is all juxtaposition play? Interplay and intertext, the flux of values and power structures, hierarchies and hegemonies. To what end? To what politics? To what disruption, what space of rupture, what possibility of invention?

Of course there are no answers in the demesne of the ghost. Tiresias and a warm cup of blood are but tales to protect a fragile mind from an indifferent universe. The injunction to speak will offer no guarantees, for we must make our own way, and benefit or fail under the Sisyphean task. A man walks into a hanging … But lacking rules and guarantees only offers the paranoiac a greater openness in the act of creating the (cultural? ideological? phenomenological?) universe anew.


Speculation is always fascinated, bewitched by the specter.

– Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx

Paranoia: mise en abîme, wyrd to your mother

It ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe
It don’t matter, anyhow
An’ it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe
If you don’t know by now.

B. Dylan, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”

Paranoia has profoundly negative connotations within culture. It is generally associated with irrational suspicion and, perhaps, mental disorder.

Paranoia – follow a certain Greek etymology – is παρα (by the side of, beside) and νόος (mind, intellect, intelligence). Naturally, one can abuse etymology (i.e. paranoia is that which is beside the mind, outside thought and intelligence, and therefore the threshold of thought and madness, the representation of a mode or method of though that is external yet parallel to intellect & the mind, paranoia is that stream of philosophy that has been suppressed, elided, and pushed to the side). Let us then rehabilitate this thought, this trace, this echo.

The issue, though, with this echo is that paranoia in thought mirrors (méconnaissance) the irrational suspicion. There is no end to the echo just the point at which our instruments become incapable to distinguishing the signal from the background noise. Paranoia is a mise en abîme of thought that cycles many and most into conservative reactionary politics, conspiracy theory, and naïve doubt. Yet the road goes ever on. If one only doubts the systems and structures that one has been taught to doubt (government, religion, capitalism, white men, minorities, foreigners, the Illuminati, the Other) but stops shy of doubting all structures, doubting the doubt, and spiraling gleefully into the abyss, it is, indeed, the conservative/reactionary outcome that will result. And more the shame.

Perhaps looking into the abyss, becoming abyssal, is no longer sufficient to deal with the increasing noise and feedback of a system (beyond/of) control. How then does one stop? How would/could one decide one has reached a/the destination? Any port in the storm? The stipulation of a political end? Luck, chance, anarchic fatalism?

I would argue for the political ends. For paranoia as method with specific ends in mind. Perhaps this trusts overmuch to fate or perhaps this is the beginning of the New Wyrd.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

– B. Baggins, Overheard  (no date)