November 19th, 2005

Trying To Tie Threads Together

Date: Tue, 7 Sep 93 07:50:16 PST
From: "Charles Leonard Bertsch" <>
Subject: Trying to tie threads together

I've just spent the last hour reviewing days of messages to this list, trying to make sense of birth pangs. This is my first truly public mailing list (for economic reasons--I log on long distance) and I admit to being a little taken aback by it.

Writing to people all over the place--I'm not even sure where--makes me both giddy and paranoid. Not surprisingly, then, there are strange ways in which the talk-show thread prompted me to 'read into' our own situation at _Bad Subjects_. If the guests on talk shows are radically different from the mainstream, while the audience is picked to reflect it--as noted by Clarence Brown and coganman@soda--, then my feelings that this mailing list is a little like a talk show takes on new significance. The paranoid side of me is seduced into thinking that our silent audience out there is 'normal', while we are performing our radicalism for them and in relation to their normality.

Of course, I realize that, for the most part, this is only a function of the mailing list's structure. There is, however, an element of truth in m Yparnaoia. Much of what we at _Bad Subjects_ take for granted is far from self-evident to even the well-educated, institutionally-affiliated--thanks Steve Rubio for your reminder that the Internet shuts so many people out-- sorts of people who thought this mailing list would be worth subscribing to. Thanks Nicola Bourne for reminding us, in your puzzled response to Joe Sartelle's _Jurassic Park_ piece, of the need to explain ourselves: I'm sure other subscribers to the list have experienced analogous confusion. Hopefully the postings of our new manifesto and other statements by members of the collective will clarify our position (and help me to worry less about whether this is a sort of talk-show!)

In response to the Susan Sontag thread, let me just say that one of the things _Bad Subjects_ definitely stands for is qustioning apparentl Y'obvious' situations. It is 'obvious' to the sort of well-heeled readers Clarence Brown mentions in his "Ink Soup" column that Susan Sontag is being a self-sacrificing good Samaritan in keeping high culture alive in a war zone. In pointing out the problematic nature of this self-sacrifice, in questioning the obviousness inherent in the presentation of Sontag, you arrive, Clarence, at a position much like the sort a 'bad subject' would arrive at.

Another thing _Bad Subjects_ stands for is the firm conviction--as Joe Sartelle and Steven Rubio pointed out--that popular or 'mass' culture matters precisely because it is popular *and*--and this is the crucial part--that its popularity is not just evidence of the masses stupidity or their being enmired in 'false consciousness'. I'm glad you raised those questions, Nicola, because our position here can't be stated enough. I must emphasize that it's not just the product of guilty graduate students desire to be one with the proletariat. Years of both teaching undergrads and interacting with people outside the university have convinced members of the _Bad Subjects_ collective that taking popular/mass culture seriously is one of the best, if not *the* best, ways of making people politically aware. But you don't just do this by telling them that everything they like is unequivocally bad or unworthy of contemplation: you do it by both validating the pleasure they take in it *and* by calling into question the political consequences, implications of that pleasure. You don't assume that b Y'converting' people to 'good' taste--see our new mainfesto--that you convert them into subversives with the right politics, for in so doing you would only be changing the *object* of their cultural affections without ever altering their *relations* to that object. At _Bad Subjects_ we believe that we have to alter people's *relations* to their world.

I just took a break and found Ted Friedman's new message in response to Joe's "Jurassic Park" piece. You make an excellent point about the constraints on our imagining of alternatives, Ted.

Anyway, I'll chime in with more later. Thanks for listening and contributing, everyone--wherever you are!

Charlie Bertsch, who got up very early in the morning to read Stephen King and type this message.

Football Alert

If you like college football at all and you're reading this, you should turn on the USC-Fresno State game now. I'm ever so glad that I didn't give up on the Bulldogs after the USC post-halftime surge. 42-41 Fresno State right now in the Coliseum!