Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Have Your Say

You have to laugh at the headlines that tell us about a "new" Iraq "debate", or the demands of 'climate change sceptics' for a proper "debate". We seem to be doomed to endless calls for further debate from people who have already lost the argument, as a means to forestall any real decision. And it isn't merely a rhetorical tactic, it is something embedded in modern political life. There is too much debate. You can't look at a news website or even a service provider front page without some bastard telling you to Have Your Say about something totally inane. There is much cheap television inviting people to 'debate' and have their say about everything from politics to the emotional incontinence of guests on Trisha Godard's show.

In this sort of situation, where refutations are supplied daily, liberal commentators earnestly insist that the endless interchange of opinion is the hallmark of a thriving democracy. The only decision that is permitted here is reflexive rather than determinant: vote to tell us whether you like this, approve of that, would purchase the other. As Badiou points out, this is the parliamentarist answer to the politics of (Leninist) Truth. Truth is automatically univocal, intolerant, exterminationist, and so it is best to stick with opinion and perspective and Having Your Say, while technocrats continue to manage the polity and economy. What is more, one isn't entitled to assess the opinions of others normatively: they not only have the right to their opinion, they have the right to escape censure. There's too much 'debate', and the wrong kind at that.

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