Acephalic movement causing pundits to lose their heads

Occupy Wall Street is occupying the attention of news agencies, and frustrating them at the same time. This according to Dahlia Lithwick’s article in Slate:

How OWS confuses and ignores Fox News and the pundit class. – Slate Magazine.

The gist of the argument is that it is crazy for the news media to expect Occupy Wall Street (OWS) — or Occupy X (OX), I suppose, given that Wall Street is hardly the only place being occupied — to boil its message down to a convenient sound bite.

But convenient sound bites are the currency of today’s media pundits, so folks like Bill O’Reilly distill the message of OWS for us: “they want your stuff.” Way to say things that reinforce our deep-seated fears, Mr. O’Reilly. Better than simply claiming they want more and bigger government, I guess.

Star Parker on OWS

Even little ol’ Occupy Denton can’t get its message straight, suggesting they’re interested in everything from natural gas fracking to student loans. Sounds like pro-big-government, wealth-readjusting anti-capitalism (aka communism) to me.

Or maybe the whole movement is just incoherent. I mean, if you can’t boil it down to a sound bite, it must not be anything, right?

I admit that I’m still trying to get a handle on the OX movement. The closest I’ve come, perhaps, is to think of it as a kind of counter-neolberalism. That certainly captures, in some sense at least, many of the disparate messages I’ve seen coming from various participants in OX, including the original “candidate” message posted here: DEMOCRACY NOT CORPORATOCRACY.

It may also explain, at least in part, why the OX message seems so incoherent to many. Neoliberalism is so globally pervasive that it is instantiated in many different ways (including, by the way, natural gas fracking and student loans). If we think of OX as counter-neoliberalism, then we have a way of lending coherence to these seemingly disparate demands.

Of course, the desire to come to some sort of understanding of OX is itself understandable. But we ought to consider, too, the idea that in rendering OX coherent, we actually fail to do it justice. Maybe part of the point of acephalic movements is to defy understanding. NON-KNOWLEDGE LAYS BARE, according to Bataille, the original bad boy of Acephale.

Aha! Now I get it — WAIT!


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4 Responses to Acephalic movement causing pundits to lose their heads

  1. Keith Brown says:

    Your use of OX reminded me of the old Tao-Chan story of the Ox and the Herder.

  2. Indeed. The images are even the same.

    “If anyone should ask the meaning of this,
    Behold the lilies of the field and its fresh sweet-scented verdure.”

  3. Robert Frodeman says:

    Seems like a false opposition to me. Just because we dont want to boil it down to a stupid soundbite does not justify a general lack of focus or coherence.

    • If my reading of OX is correct (or defensible), then I would say they are communicating in what Bataille calls the “strong” sense of communication, even if they are not communicating in the normal, everyday, “weak” sense of communication. It is the latter that demands, as Bataille says, that we “appear penetrable” to one another — that is, coherence.

      So, it is not that we choose to be incoherent just so that we can’t be boiled down to a stupid soundbite. Rather, the fact that we can’t be boiled down to a stupid soundbite indicates that we are no longer communicating in the normal, weak sense of the term.

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