The ‘Web’ is a problematic non-space, this we all know. Or, if you don’t, spend a few minutes reading Youtube comments, another non-space where racial epithets and homophobic speech seem to breed and thrive. At times it appears as if some valve holding back the flow of all the petty self-reflective hate has been cranked wide open. Natalia Cecire tackles this space, and intellectual writing’s place there, in her “Everybody’s Authority,” naming the specific concern among analytical writers that their carefully wrought arguments mix with these comments. A proverbial statement goes as such, ‘when one argues with a fool, at a distance it becomes impossible to tell who’s who.’ And it doesn’t take scads of imaginative prowess to envision an academic hesitating to publish work, real work, and risk even sharing the slightest space with the ever-present storm of irresponsible language. Quoting Jodi Dean, Cecire notes the “[b]loggers’ ability to remove certain physical barriers to access” and the “confrontation with the intractability…of other, less arbitrary barriers” (Cecire 455).
Cecire is correct in bringing attention to yet another reason why…well, everyone, not just scholarly writers, should pause before publishing anything that’s separated from anyone at any time by a mouse click, thumb tap, or Enter key. If I, for instance, speak of race, or roll around the age old question of a Mark Twain’s, or Zadie Smith’s for that matter, use of those words that feel like knives in the ear canal, will some bodiless set of ten fingers take me for some Neo National Socialist shining light, because it doesn’t understand what I’m critiquing, how I’m critiquing it, or (stay with me) WHY I’m critiquing it?
As Cecire makes a clear, “the fantasy of a universal, context free civility…is ultimately unavailable to the semipublic intellectual” (458). So this is how it is. Just as freedom means risk in the physical world, so goes the non-space, revealing itself to be more and more like the flesh-and-blood world as it evolves. An upside exists. Somewhere, amidst the flow of never-ending 1’s and 0’s, we as opponents to the illness, the anti-knowledge of hatred and persecution, need to work to discover Cecire’s new “poetics” and move forward (458).
Cecire, Natalia. “Everybody’s Authority.’ PMLA 130.2 (2015): 453-458. Print.