February 5, 2011
Response to "Knowledge Distorted By The Masses"
The post discussed offers up a great possibility of revealing how knowledge as a tradition is passed down through history although I disagree with the notion that populations are mobilized and governed through fear, although for the purposes of this response fear can be seen as a tactic of the topic about to be discussed below. First, I want to refract the conversation towards the question posed of why/how people have come to know things in this way. This is a daunting question that will require more than a simple post to acquire the sufficient understanding. Knowledge is disseminated by those in civil society with the Power to overcome the complexities and chaos of nature and produce subjects by defining them, studying them, and formulating the basis of their subjectivity(or objectivity). Historically this comes in the form of institutions, and affluent populations who have held a position of influence(Power) in society. This is the same situation being discussed in this former post. The Bush Administration through the Power it attained by simply being part of a previously accredited institution(The Government) and by accessing a whole tradition of knowledge from pervious experiences, texts, and discourses was able to produce knowledge in the form of a paranoid xenophobia. The general population receives knowledge of places, cultures, and populations such as Iraq, and Afghanistan as objective truths that can be applied as a generalized way of understanding such a subject in its totality. Foucault explains this phenomenon in "Society Must be Defended":
It became a tactical instrument that could be used not only by the nobility, but ultimately in various different strategies. In the course of the eighteenth century, and subject to a certain number of modifications at the level of its basic propositions, historical discourse, eventually became a sort of discursive weapon that could be used by the adversaries present within the political field. In short, I would like to show you how this historical instrument must not be seen as the ideology or an ideological produce of the nobility or its class position, and that we are not dealing with an ideology here we are dealing with something else. What I am trying to identify is what might, if you like, be termed a discursive tactic, a deployment of knowledge and power which, insofar as it is a tactic, is transferable and eventually becomes the law governing the formation of a knowledge and, at the same time, the general form of the political battle. So the discourse on history is generalized, but in tactical sense
The administration was able to access this well of knowledge and like so many before them adapted it and reformatted it with a specific objective purpose. This relationship between Knowledge/Power is essentially what allows "fear mongering" to continue. This is not knowledge "distorted" by the masses but rather the masses are being mis-informed by the different "tactics" employed in the war over knowledge which is deployed to achieve a goal or end. This war like so many before, seeks to destroy the former to establish a predetermined latter(end). In this precarious situation the "regime" is produced which Foucault describes as the "group that rules society" which for this responses purpose can be seen as the Bush Administration. But, as the courageous youth of Egypt have shown us, all regimes are susceptible to revolt. We end with a final word from Foucault in a late interview "The Concern for Truth":
"The work of an intellectual is not to mould the political will of others; it is, through the analyses that he does in his own field, to re-examine evidence and assumptions, to shake up habitual ways of working and thinking, to dissipate conventional familiarities, to re- evaluate rules and institutions and to participate in the formation of a political will(where he has his role as citizen to play)."