Gonzaga Debate Institute 2011 Mercury Conspiracy Theory

Challenges Governmentality

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Challenges Governmentality

Foucauldian concepts of the state intervening in science’s epistemology

Wendt, Minnesota – Professor of International Relations and Duvall, Ohio State - Professor of International Relations, 8

(Alexander and Raymond, “Sovereignty and the UFO,” August 2008, Political Theory Volume 36 Number 4, http://ovnis-usa.com/DIVERS/Wendt_Duvall_PoliticalTheory.pdf,JSkoog)

In thinking about the problem of rule, political scientists have traditionally focused on either individual agents or institutional structures, in both cases treating government as a given object. In contrast, Foucault’s concept of governmentality is focused on the “art of governing,” understood as the biopolitical “conduct of conduct” for a population of subjects.45 Thus, governmentality concerns the specific regime of practices through which the population is constituted and (self-)regularized. “Modern” governmentality marks a shift in discourses of rule away from the state’s sovereign powerits ability to take life and/or render it bare—and toward its fostering and regularizing of life in biopolitics. The object of government is no longer simply obedience to the king, but regulating the conditions of life for subjects. To this end biopolitics requires that the conditions of life of the population be made visible and assayed, and practical knowledge be made available to improve them. As a result, with modern governmentality we see the emergence of both panoptic surveillance and numerous specialized discourses—of education, political economy, demography, health, morality, and others—the effect of which is to make populations knowable and subject to the regularization that will make for the “happy life.” A constitutive feature of modern governmentality is that its discourses are scientific, which means that science and the state are today deeply intermeshed. Through science the state makes its subjects and objects known, lending them a facticity that facilitates their regularization, and through the state science acquires institutional support and prestige. Despite this symbiosis, however, there is also an important epistemological difference between the two. Science seeks, but knows it can never fully achieve, “the” truth, defined as an apolitical, objective representation of the world. To this end it relies on norms and practices that produce an evolving, always potentially contested body of knowledge. The state, in contrast, seeks a regime of truth to which its population will reliably adhere. Standards for knowledge in that context privilege stability and normalization over the uncertain path of scientific truth. Although science and the state are allied in the modern UFO regime, we suggest in conclusion that this difference opens space for critical theory and resistance.

Key to Citizen Participation

Conspiracy theories allow for the most basic right of a citizen in a democratic society: the pursuit of gathering information

Dean, Hobart and William Smith Colleges - Professor of Political Theory, 97

(Jodi, John Hopkins University Press “The Familiarity of Strangeness: Aliens, Citizens, and Abduction” , Theory & Event 1:2, Project MUSE, JSkoog)

Conspiracy thinking is a method for thinking critically when caught within the governing assumptions of a public sphere. So the problem with conspiracy thinking is not its failure to comply with public reason but its very compliance, a compliance that reiterates some of these assumptions even as it contests others, a compliance that demonstrates all too clearly the paranoia, surveillance, and compulsive will to know within the ideal of publicity. Thus, conspiracy theory rejects the myth of a transparent public sphere, a sphere where others can be trusted (and, importantly, conspiracy theory doesn't claim with certainty that no one can be trusted; it claims an uncertainty as to whether anyone can be trusted), although it continues to rely on revelation. In so doing, it demonstrates the constitutive antagonism between transparency and revelation, the antagonism of a notion of the public that ultimately depends on secrecy: if everything and everyone were transparent, there would be nothing to reveal. We might say that, by reiterating the compulsions of publicity, conspiracy's attempts to uncover the secret assemble information regarding the contexts, terms, and conditions of surveillance, discovery, and visibility in a culture where democracy is conceived within a hegemonic notion of the public sphere. When publicity feeds the mediated networks of the information age, conspiracy theory challenges the presumption that what we see on the screens, what is made visible in traditional networks and by traditional authorities, is not itself invested in specific lines of authorization and subjection. Make links, search for truth: within these injunctions one is forced to be free insofar as one is forced to gather information. More powerful, more persuasive, than market and consumerist conceptions of freedom, freedom as information gathering confirms a conception of democratic engagement long part of the ideal of the public sphere: the public has a right to know. Citizens are free, in other words, so long as nothing is hidden from them. Thus, they must watch, surveill, expose, and reveal. Conspiracy theory or the version of democracy that supports the information age? I can't tell the difference. I guess I'll have to look on the Internet.

Key to Dissent

Conspiracy theories should be understood as questioning the gatekeeping of official media and information, opening space for dissent beyond the mainstream

Alvarez, staff writer Rutgers Today, 2008 (Ashanti M., “Panic over the unknown: New book examines the collective anxiety surrounding conspiracy theories” Rutgers Today, April 23, http://news.rutgers.edu/focus/issue.2008-04-09.1171885477/article.2008-04-23.8077404311, SL)

A cultural studies scholar who takes a critical look at popular culture (one of his recent areas of study is reality television), Bratich says that recent conspiracy theories are born out of the investigative vacuum created by institutional failure and filled by grassroots access to technology. “A lot of my undergrads really light up when I start talking about secret societies," Bratich said. "They are feeling the alienation and skepticism that young people have had for many generations, and now it’s taking this other shape, too, through social network media.” Indeed, ideas surrounding conspiracy theories have invaded the consciousness of millions, especially young people, through the popularization of alternative media websites and particularly through video embedding and sharing. The documentary Loose Change, which promulgates the notion that the U.S. government was involved in the 9/11 attacks, spread like wildfire across the internet and prompted an equally well-known debunking by Popular Mechanics magazine. That a failed film school student from upstate New York and a magazine dedicated to automotive technology and used cars engaged in a debate about what happened that day points to a larger failing by government commissions and the mainstream media to answer the public’s many questions about the tragedy. Where are the investigative bodies that we can turn to to trust and do these investigations and research?” Bratich asks. “Investigative journalism has been gutted over the last 15 or 20 years. Government-appointed bodies ... their work is not just full of holes but has all these closed door meetings. “Now we are faced with how to reorient ourselves around this new version of investigative research,” he says. When he arrived at Rutgers from the University of New Hampshire in 2003, Bratich settled in Princeton. “I was accustomed to college towns,” he said. But a year later he decided to move to New York’s Lower East Side, just across the lower tip of Manhattan from Ground Zero. “That actually changed a lot of my work, moving to New York City,” Bratich said. The last chapter, which deals with the 9/11 attacks, came from Bratich’s experience at 9/11 truth movement meetings taking place in lower Manhattan. “I wanted to see how they were trying to organize politically. Being on the Lower East Side plugged me into a set of activists and activist organizations, which made me think about how to analyze the truth movement in as far as how it links up to the left.” Conspiracy theories are neither exclusive to the left nor right side of the political opinion spectrum. Instead, certain types of skepticism have become attached to extremism of either wing, rendering the askers of questions marginal. In Conspiracy Panics, Bratich is mostly concerned with mainstream left media outlets that act as gatekeepers in an attempt to regulate discourse surrounding conspiracy theories and retain legitimacy. He puts forth the idea of a “sphere of legitimate dissensus. It’s about what kinds of claims and knowledges can appear on the range of possible opinions,” Bratich said.

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