Monday, March 15, 2010

The Power of Projection

@snowded @rotkapchen @euan #history #texas .

Dave Snowden saw Euan Semple's tweet Texas Conservatives Win Vote on Textbook Standards (original story and commented "Depressing HandMaid's Tale here we come".

When Paula Thornton said "Yes we did", Dave replied "deepest sympathies, do you need to emigrate?". Paula corrected him "Perhaps you missed my intent -- I'm proud of the action and was backing in. We believe in the pursuit of truth."

This vignette is interesting at many levels. Dave appears to have formed a negative judgement about the Texan vote, possibly based on little more than a somewhat unsympathetic report in the New York Times, and seems to have expected Paula to share his view. It can be extremely tempting to project our own opinions onto other people, especially those we consider intelligent and well-informed on other matters, and it is often a surprise to discover someone we like and respect turns out to have opinions that strongly clash with our own. Perhaps that's why we often avoid discussing politics and religion with work colleagues in the first place.

As for the pursuit of truth, political battles between liberals and conservatives over American history will probably reveal more about historical truth than any amount of imagined objectivity on either side, for those who understand how to interpret it, but I just wonder how many Texan schoolchildren will get this.

Following further debate on Twitter, Dave identified two positions: direct political/populist control and going with the academics. His appears to side with the latter option.

If we look at this in terms of Lacan's Four Discourses, "going with the academics" is what Lacan called Discourse of the University. I guess populism counts as Discourse of the Hysteric, because the Texan vote appears to be a response to a Master Discourse perceived as being controlled by the "liberal establishment". But where is the Discourse of the Analyst?

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