I invited a former colleague, Dr Biff Bondarchuk, to offer a comment on the Craig Thomson affair. His thoughts:
To begin, we need not detain ourselves on the self-evidently circular nature of the Feignstream Media’s (FSM’s) campaigning on the Thomson issue; capitalism is innately self-reinforcing, based on convincing consumers to purchase goods which create problems requiring further purchases of other goods. Let us merely note that in this case, while relying heavily on the promotion of sex as a core marketing tool, the FSM judges harshly those perceived to have reacted too positively to that promotion, via purportedly transgressive, non-nuclear family forms. Just so.
Nor should we delay our thinking on the fundamental absurdity of a union official “misusing” union funds. I speak not in the obvious neo-liberal economic sense that the transfer of savings from a wealthy organisation such as a trade union to socially, politically and economically marginalised sectors such as sex workers is an economic and ethical positive, but in the (perhaps equally obvious) sense that, as tools of the innately reactionary social democratic project of manufacturing working class consent to an exploitative economic system, trade unions cannot by their very nature be “defrauded”, being fundamentally a fraud on the working class themselves.
This produces the serio-comic, wholly theatrical drama of purported “Fair Work Australia” (as if the basic concept of work was not inherently exploitative) producing a dense urtext purporting to pass judgment on a vehicle the very purpose of which is, like that of the alleged “Fair Work Australia” (so-called) to distract, misdirect and confuse the working class, rather in the manner of a pantomime judge passing sentence on a pantomime miscreant, circulating upon circularity reinforcing itself, for the entertainment of a child-like audience (“children in years, and children in understanding”, as Reformation apologists carefully distinguished).
(Readers may be aware, parenthetically and tangentially, of my previous writing on why circular, self-reinforcing logic is, far from being the logical dead-end portrayed by reactionary epistemologists, the only systemically valid form of “truth”, an otherwise fundamentally reactionary, oppressive concept designed to serve ruling élites (see, most recently, “‘That’s Not A Fundamentally Reactionary Construct. Now This Is A Fundamentally Reactionary Construct’ – Hoges and Strop Meet The Taxman: Deconstructing Media Coverage of Project Wickenby” in Ebonics Today, LXVII, 2011). I have been criticised (most notably by Frenzalrhomb, Schnellfenster 2004) for arbitrarily favouring vaginocentric epistemological forms over phallocentric narratives, in which circularity is preferred over the innately phallic “linear” logical form; this is not the place to re-prosecute that debate, save to note that Craig Thomson himself, a man accused of another form of phallocentrism, in presenting a sort of “evil twin” or “doppelganger” defence in which an unnamed party is conducting a vendetta against him, appears to have opted for a third form of narrative, that of the binary or Shadow).
Nor should we accept complaints based on artificially privileging the concept of “policy” in public discourse over “personalities”. The complaint that the FSM, and various tools of it such as the so-called “Press Gallery” (the word gallery of course being loaded with élitist constructs) have wrongly emphasised simplistic narratives about errant individuals over “important” narratives relating to public policy, both misses the point that the purpose of the FSM is to support incumbent élites and that nebulous references to “policy” are themselves élitist constructs primarily designed to privilege the user in relation to discourse; that is, to complain about “personality over politics” is to merely attempt to elevate oneself (perhaps to another, higher form of “gallery?) above standard discourse.
Just so. None of these things should detain us from examining the real issue beneath the Thomson affair which, of course, is that there is no “real issue”. Drill down, deconstruct and unpack the affair as much as one wishes, it will be the narrative equivalent of slicing through multiple layers of icing in pursuit of a non-existent cake (if the employment of a fundamentally misogynist construct such as “cake” can be forgiven). The attempt to find meaning in such events is yet another attempt to impose a reactionary linear narrative, an obsessively logic-centric fool’s errand wittingly or otherwise in the service of ruling élites.
This is, ultimately, the slippery slope to genocide. One begins by seeking “meaning” in events, then imposing such meaning on recalcitrant realities, an inherently violent act that establishes the precedent for oppressing not merely other forms of truth, but ultimately other people. As Heine might have said, and indeed possibly did say since I don’t wish to impose my own constructs on him, where one oppresses falsehood, one eventually oppresses people. This is the lesson of the Thomson “A”ffair.
Dr Biff Bondarchuk is Associate Professor at the School of Traditional and Modern Cultural Studies at the University of Western Sydney and author of Looking for Delta: The Semiotics of Celebrity in Post-Convergence Australia