One Star

Oh, what fun. We have an unfavourable review of the dictionary at Amazon – a very unfavourable review. Really doesn’t like it at all, this reader doesn’t. Thinks it’s bad and awful. Well what’s so fun about that! you ask. Well if you look at the review you’ll see. Or don’t bother, I’ll just quote heavily, because I don’t suppose Amazon reviews are exactly copyrighted, are they, and anyway the reviewer is semi-anonymous.

Another trite and innocently framed attack on those intellectuals who are trying to decenter the–and here is a phrase they make fun of–dominant hegemonic discourse, that is so corrosive and debiliating to our civilization. The authors of this book hark back to a mythical Baconian age of deductive logic. They insist on the heroic processes of logic and reason. All of this other stuff is just poo poo, lets make fun of it because we know that a.)not only can we make money off it–logically and reasonably in a consumerist world that they admire–but, b.) we can at the same time admonish complex and careful thinking–that either they are jealous of the individuals who were able to construct such complex arguments, or they actually don’t really understand them–to the realm of the ridiculous and unreasonable, the illogical. Its a powerful little book, that is far more subversive then it pretends to be, by making ‘cute’ ‘funny’ attacks on the ideas they oppose in favor of a western hegemonic ideology.

There, I quoted so heavily that that’s the whole thing. So you see why it’s fun.

Those (read: brave, heroic, embattled, misunderstood, etc) intellectuals who are trying to decenter the dominant hegemonic discourse, that is so corrosive and debilitating to our civilization. Oh them. Now, I would say, if asked, that I spend a fair amount of time here trying to do something – not decenter, particularly, but something – to the, let’s call it, dominant rhetoric of politics and various media. Call it hegemonic discourse if you insist. I would also say, even if not asked, that I do a better job of it than people who talk or write the way Ryan (the reviewer) do. In other words, I would claim that I am at least as interested in pointing out the hidden agendas, deceptions, mistranslations, euphemisms, evasions, manipulations and the like of public rhetoric as the hegemonic-discourse-decenterers are. So the implication (and it is an implication – quite manipulative and rhetorical in fact) that the dictionary attacks decenterers because they try to decenter hegemonic discourse, is nonsense. On the contrary – it’s because they do such a damn bad job of it.

Then the bit about harking back to a mythical Baconian age – where does he get that, one wonders. And the insistence on the heroic processes of logic and reason – again: really? Where? In other words, more rhetoric. The time-honoured tactic: when at a loss for an argument, just make stuff up. And then the flattery about ‘complex and careful thinking’ and ‘such complex arguments’ – familiar stuff, for instance from the old ‘difficulty’ defense that always crops up in discussions of Bad Writing. This stuff isn’t a lot of jargony polysyllabic neologistic babble disguising an empty box, no, it’s complex careful thinking and complex arguments. Yup uh huh.

And as for more subversive than it pretends to be – I beg your pardon?!? We make no pretense whatever not to be subversive! Subversion is exactly what we have in mind. Tsk. I guess we should have had ‘A Subversive Project’ for our subtitle. You have to spell things out for some people.

Okay, that was just my little fun, but there’s a slightly serious point too. That review is quite symptomatic – as I’m sure all of you who are familiar with this kind of thing will recognize instantly. It’s pure boilerplate, pure formula, and utterly empty. And that’s why things like the FD are necessary at the moment. Until would-be intellectuals get back in the habit of actually saying something instead of just stringing vacuous cliches together, well, the rest of us will just have to keep mocking.

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