john mccreery's 'more on epistemology'

Fri, 21 Jan 1994 01:32:24 EST

I had in mind. I was not thinking about knowledge claims or truth claims
or credibility. What I was talking about was the very *existence* of Trends,
Megatrends, Microminiaturized Megatrends, Avant Gardes, Styles, Antistyle
Reactions, Subcultures at time of media exposure maximization, Catcwords
such as Now or Joy or Peace or Laidback or Me Generation or New Community
or Politics of Meaning (how hyposemic), and only somewhat more greatly
existing entities, like this list.

One of the most minimally existing entities it has been my pleasure
to participate in was a tiny subculture institutionalized in the Stony
Brook Literary Underground, <SBRHYM-L@SBCCVM.BITNET>, whose stars were
a pair of writers, Chris Headington, employed by the Northwestern
University Computing Center, and his love interest, a graduate student
in mathematics at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom,
whose first name is Brid and her last, alas, is Irish Gaelic and
sufficiently long that I cannot recall, spell, or pronounce it. As
their at-first hobbyistic literary talents blossomed, so did their
courtship; and united at last on the same system at Northwestern, they
lived together, were married, and very soon after that, Chris Headington
died tragically of an aneurysm. Meanwhile, the support for the original
list at SUNY Stony Brook, this University, disappeared; the subcult
migrated en bloc to the New Ways Of Thinking List, <FNORD-L@UBVM.BITNET>,
our sister station; also only a few dozen subscribers. The listowner of
that one went onward in his occupation; and the new one, a prominent
member of the much-mentioned-here <> and hostile
to the hardly definable style of writing on FNORD-L, expelled the principal
writers, who now, without their star writers but with fierce loyalties,
have rigged up a list distributed by distribution lists I call "cybersamiz-
dat," by the name of DONKEY-L; whose central activity is raiding and seeking
to destroy FNORD-L to avenge both the purge and the Messiah-like figure of
Chris Headington (as he has become).
*Did this mini-Thingie ever really exist*? Just barely!

From this level, we move up to more real entities like ANTHRO-L, whose
impact upon its membership's predominant occupation *is yet problematic*.

All these subcultural entities, networks, Trends and Megatrends,
transitory fads, and so on, up to the level of the *macrosocial*, are
infiltrated and observed, of course, by social scientists, critics,
market researchers, bureaucrats emmployed by all levels of the State,
journalists, trendspotters, focus-group applied psychologists, advertising
people, political activists attempting to "organize," say, Unitarian-
Universalist congregations in the direction of saving the Spotted Owl
or whatever. At whatever level of objective reality, it may be difficult
to distinguish the Observer from the Participant or ordinary social actor.
And indeed, so complex is society's self-monitoring activity that each of
us spends some time in some situation being *monitored* by an Observer
who may be an Explainer or report to one. All managerial and professional
employees, that is, get to be on both sides; the vast majority of their
subordinates or the less-prestigiously employed are, however, exclusively
passively monitored by Observers and Explainers. Even the unemployed and
the destitute are monitored and infiltrated by police, drug agents, youth
workers, social workers, social scientists, health workers, mental health
care system operatives, and the rest of the relevant social control

The result of the preceding, I maintain, is what I call "information
pollution," which casts an additional pall of unreality over all *monitored*
or *potentially monitorable* social behavior. I further hold that the latter
- both monitored and monitorable - is *qualitatively different* from any
hypothetical (since unobservable) *naive* behavior, that is, where
nonmonitorability is guaranteed or is assumed, perhaps falsely. Also
that the *qualitative difference* cannot be quantified or accurately

This is a hall of mirrors, folks. Ah, I recall how one of the great
pleasures of posing as a devotee of the Divine Light Mission, carrying
my tape recorder, all the easier because devotees habitually carried
around tape recorders and cameras, making sure thereby to capture forever
each word of *satsang* (cliched utterances alleged spontaneous, "from the
heart") given them by other brothers and sisters, was the discovery of
*other social scientists also posing as devotees*.

Daniel A. Foss