Pit Schultz on Wed, 30 Sep 1998 06:54:33 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Re: Oliver Marchart: Greetings from Neutopia (reply by author)

[Oliver asked me to forward this, as a reply to Alan Sondheim first,.
according to dejanews, there are >5500 of messages containing
"Doctress Neutopia", the first one appearing in March 1995 (probably the
beginning of archivation) and "there are 1137 unique messages by
neutopia@genesis.nred.ma.us"  plus a few more from other accounts. /p]

Thank you for reminding me that there might be a real person behind
Doctress Neutopia. Yet nobody can guarantee that you are not simply
playing the same troll too. This was actually exactly what I wanted to
illustrate by chosing that example, that is, a "troll": the contingent
nature of _political_ and _ideological_ discourses in respect to
epistemological questions. For I see the Neutopia cult (the
eco-loveolution-new age discourse of the net) not simply as a joke but
as a contribution to a certain new age ideology of the net. My point
was, that it would not lose its ideological character by being a joke -
by the same token it would not lose its ideological character by being
serious. That's the problem of all hidden cynicism, that it just
silently contributes to what it makes fun of.

So, there might in fact be a "real" person who thinks she is Doctress
Neutopia, as there are persons who think they are Napoleon. The only
thing is, it doesn't matter. A troll is a particular "parodic" discourse
which tries to look indistinguishable from "real" or "serious"
discourses (in this case an eco-global-brainspace-cult, which we can
find elsewhere in completely un-parodic discourses). This "looking
indistinguishable" (which does not amount to "being the same") is what
characterizes ideology, in my view. Get me right, I did not want to make
a cheap postmodernist point about the fictional character of all
reality. My argument - given at the end of the paper - was even more
radical in a way. My point was: In terms of the _ideological_ and
_political_ (not epistemological) effect of a given discourse it does
not matter whether that discourse is a troll or not. It still is
ideology, since it transports the same contents as the respective
"serious" discourse. And a troll is especially suited to illustrate this
point, since a troll is a form of parody which seeks to erase the traces
of its own genre (parody, that is). While parody still wants to be
perceived as being parody (it wants to look "distinguishable"), a troll,
on the other hand, does _not_ want to be perceived as a troll (except
for the insiders). This is exactly how ideology works. Ideologists are
not necessarily "serious" in the way they think of themselves. The
Republicans in the US-Congress for instance know perfectly well that
they are hypocrits. They in a way are playing a troll on Clinton and the
American public.

The point, again, is that this doesn't matter in terms of political and
ideological effectivity. The troll cannot simply be denounced and the
"reality" made public as the usual ideology-critique would have it ("we
just have to de-mask the hypocrits and their ideology will break down in
pieces"). By its very nature the effectivity of a troll consists in
resisting any denials, or even affirmations. And this is the second
reason why I think that the "troll model" could provide a much more
liberating effect since the only thing it points at is not reality, but
the very contingency of ideology. If nobody wants to keep us from
thinking that the Neutopian cult is "serious", then, on the other hand,
nobody _can_ keep us from thinking that Sardar's moralist discourse (the
net being a big pornographic "toilet wall") is a huge troll too. The
moralist pornography-disourse, the colonial "ideology of the Internet",
the new age variants of net-dicourse - even if they are not parodies
since they donít want to expose themselves to laughter - these
discourses still could all be "trolls" (sometimes I think they are). And
it is precisely their contingent status, on the other hand, which
implies that they are open to emancipatory re-articulations (not to mere
"disclosures" of an assumed reality behind). Maybe the Neutopia cult was
a bad example for trolls but it was still a good example for the
eco-globobrain-colonial ideology of the net.
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