On sniping

One of the minor reasons that prompted me to start this blog was the background of sniping about Foucault that seems to take place daily across the web. This is a kind of opposition to Foucault and his work that never actually engages with him, or even seems to know much about him.

It’s a kind of dogmatic opposition where Foucault is hauled out to represent something the writer is opposed to. The topics vary: poststructuralism, postmodernism, history, sexuality, you name it.

I call this sniping as the writers never take a risk of exposing themselves to Foucault’s actual thinking but hide safely behind generic insults. The characteristic of sniping then is a distinct refusal to engage.

Often Foucault is “listed”–a list of names are trotted out, Derrida, de Man, Baudrillard, with which he is supposed to have something in common or to share common faults with.

Examples abound, but here’s some from this week’s crop:

Christianity, Judaism, Vedanta, Taoism, even Buddhism — each of these embodies a core of timeless wisdom that far surpasses anything postmodernism has ever produced. Michel Foucault will not be read in 1,000 years. In fact, I know of no serious person who reads him today, except as a perverse curiosity. Just look at how the man lived — which we will not get into here, since this is a family blog.

The author “can’t get into it” because he’s got nothing but his anti-intellectualism.

Or try this, at least with an actual quote:

This Orwellian inversion of “bias” is nothing new. The far Left has been excusing its biases the same way for more than 30 years. In 1978, leftist intellectual Michel Foucault argued that the age of consent should be repealed: “We may even agree that it was (the child) who seduced the adult.” If the kid’s offering, why not go for it? How can society presume to judge the pedophile?

Foucault’s compatriot Jacques Derrida even defended a Nazi propagandist. When it was discovered that his friend Paul de Man had written nearly 200 anti-Semitic articles for a pro-Nazi newspaper during World War II, Derrida retorted that “to judge, to condemn the work or the man … is to reproduce the exterminating gesture which one accuses de Man of not having armed himself against sooner.” In plain language, the person who judges the Nazi is the one who really committed the Holocaust.

“Leftist intellectual”: the disdain is apparent, the interpretation merely confirmation bias.

No one reads Foucault, yet he cannot be taken seriously because he is, regrettably, “fashionable“:

When I mentioned I had just reread Emerson’s essay on Montaigne, and that Montaigne was among my literary heroes, she delivered a lecture on Foucault’s dismissal of the great essayist. I countered that Foucault was a degenerate not to be taken seriously by intelligent people, and so another literary conversation foundered on the shoals of politics and fashionable theory.

Hey, if Yogi Berra can say “no one goes to that restaurant anymore because it’s too crowded” why not!

Is sniping the fate of any famous person? Is it a sign of the inevitable politicization of discourse (people are opposed for the views they supposedly hold)? Is it a sign of rampant anti-intellectualism?

One Response

  1. Well, it looks from these examples as though it’s not just anti-intellectualism: there’s also a good strong dose of homophobia. Their ‘moral’ and intellectual judgments are clearly inseparable in their minds, mutually reinforcing; they think that by saying Foucault is a ‘degenerate’ (and therefore) ‘not to be taken seriously by intelligent people’ they’ve delivered a fatal blow in a debate. No need for further engagement.

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