Thursday, April 17, 2014

What I'd like

What I'd like to do today is to talk about how using first person pronouns in exploratory, argumentative prose can create the false impression of a lack of distance between author and reader. See, when I verbally fret about what I'm "trying" to do, it can make it appear that there's a different kind of communication occurring than there really is, while simultaneously making me appear humble. When talking about divisive topics, there's often a modern expectation that this be done--that the author express humility by breaking the fourth wall and making it easier for her audience to digest something.

This is falseness; it's lying; it's marketing; it's an attempt to soften a blow, like a white lie. It's redundant, and unnecessary, because everyone sitting at their computer reading a blog--or sitting in a lecture hall, or eavesdropping on the bus--is aware that they are listening to, or reading, someone else's thoughts, and aware that other people have opinions about reality that may be incorrect. There is no fourth wall in this kind of communication, which is why breaking it is so disingenuous. We all know that other people have opinions, so the whiny little precursors offered by others just get in the way, sort of like a DJ saying, "Now I'd like to slow things down a bit." The DJ should probably be shutting up and moving his vinyl a little faster, rather than interjecting commentary into the transition between hard house and Kenny G, but at certain social events, where the music's switching quickly, maybe it's appropriate to pay someone for filler.

Not so blogs, newscasts, or news articles, where the habit developed as a way to create false intimacy and cause ideas to be swallowed on feelings of connection with the speaker, rather than the substance of the idea--or product. That's right, it's a marketing technique; it's consumerism; it's bullshit greased with snake oil, sort of like a literary version of Karl Rove. Sadly, we've so many of us become infected by it: we speak and write this way, now, because we're parroting the pseudo-news advertisements we were raised on. We think that breaking the fourth wall (e.g., wasting space with banal tripe) is the soul of humility and honesty, when really, it just shows how hard we fell for the marketing line of the twentieth century. We shame ourselves when we try to write--lie--that way.

The evil counterpart to all of this pronounical hemming and hawing is that, if you don't say, "I've been trying to unpack the issue of ___ today," you seem unduly arrogant and "in your face." Because, after all, everyone's supposed to spend at least 10% of their lives downplaying what they're doing, so if you go right to the subject, you appear rushed, pushy, et cetera. A climate of indecisive fear surrounds writing, now, which is why, when your friends react to that latest media tragedy on Facebook, they sound like news reporters--even though they're not being paid to do so. We're out there "feeling pain" and shredding our T-shirts in anguish like so many Bill Clinton cum Hulk Hogans, speaking empty words to "connect" with an audience that's only using us to pass the time until the next show.

4 comments:

  1. Are people who defend billionaires who's foundations support eugenics projects caught up in the same mechanism? I have a dear friend who claims oligarchs rule the US, but when I named some examples (specifically Bill Gates) he defended him to the hilt because of his philanthropic desires. Apparently only the positives were attributed to him and the negatives were the fault of others and he was helpless with his billions to stop it.

    It was a discomforting conversation with someone who does see a lot of the ills of society.

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    1. There's a powerful correlation between our sense of despair, and our willingness to do anything to believe that some lord and lady, somewhere, are still being "proper nobles" and taking care of us, despite their immense wealth and world-shaking power. The fantasies that we play at and watch stoke these fires, which is why they are so consistently popular--and why elites are more than happy to produce the same stories, over and over.

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  2. Oops, this was supposed to go under Dungeons & dumber. My apologies.

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    1. Copy and paste it to there if you want it moved, and this one'll delete the redundant one here ~

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