Truth is Beauty, Beauty Truth

Every once in a while something happens that is so beautiful, so right, that it makes you cry big great big baby tears of joy and appreciation. Some students at MIT submitted a paper to a conference. The paper was randomly generated nonsense produced by a program they had built. The conference was a typical craptastic academic knuckle-monkeying. Needless to say, the paper was accepted into the conference.

Some years ago, an NYU professor named Alan Sokal, stitched together a pastiche of rubbish and buzz words and submited it to an academic journal called Social Text. It too was accepted.

It’s my belief that every literary and academic hoax is, at heart, a critique of the intellectual life of its time. (That sounds like a lot of crap, but you’re going to buy it and you’re going to like it.)

People have come to believe that if something sounds like nonsense it must be their backwardness (not enough Foucault for instance, or a Kristeva-deficiency). When they do recognize it as rubbish, they are afraid to point it out for fear they will be condemned as intellectual reactionaries. In other words, the liberals have claimed the ground of relativist gibberish and the conservatives have claimed the graveyard and in between are the majority of us wondering why our choices consist of indulgence or petrification.

What we need now is a journalistic version of these academic hoaxes. So far all the hoaxical elements in journalism have been incidental to the goal of the self-aggrandisement of the perpetrators; people like Steven Glass and Jayson Blair and Patricia Smith.

The fact that these, and others, were able to publish nonsense and not get caught for months or years, indicates journalism is ready for a good old-fashioned hoaxical pantsing.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s