Today, inspired by Andrew James Weatherhead’s now removed post at htmlgiant, I had a conversation on gchat with Mike Kitchell about privacy, gossip, and gays. Below is the unedited transcript of said chat. Cross-posted to htmlgiant.
did you pay attention at all to this post on htmlgiant
where andrew posted like anonymous quotes from his mfa class
and then the UNIVERSITY MADE HIM REMOVE IT?
Tim: they did???
Tim: I saw the post and was reading comments
Mike: i would DROP OUT if that happened
mfa programs are SO STUPID sometimes
i hate academia
yet it’s so convenient
i don’t understand people
there are always haters in posts
WHAT MAKES YOU THINK YOUR BANAL MINDLESS COMMENTS IN A PUBLIC FORUM ARE SO SPECIAL THAT NOBODY ELSE HAS THE RIGHT OT USE THEM FOR WHATEVER THEY WANT?
Mike: i should probably write an entire post about it
maybe we should just keep chatting about it and then i’ll post the chat log
that seems “fitting”
Mike: of course right now i have to shit
so let’s “pause”
actually how about this
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS TIM
Sent at 1:01 PM on Thursday
Tim: I understand the idea of communities creating mutual agreements abt ethics and holding one another to those, I’m not sure I see how that’s the case here, though, since we’re talking abt an informal social conversation before class, not anything that happened in the collective space, yeah? There is something troubling about treating all public social interactions as “confidential” in this way that kinda turns them into property, and it seems kind-of dependent upon this lie, right, that an institution can control something that is fundamentally uncontrollable, and that probably SHOULD be allowed to be a little more fluid or whatever. There’s a certain arrogance to thinking you can control what social utterances move beyond the space where they are uttered. I also think there is an element of community that really depends upon gossip for sustenance, and if nobody talks about anyone, communities wither. I like what you are saying too, that so much of what people say is totally inane, and it’s sort of ridiculous that people get so fixated on claiming ownership over that kind of speech.
sorry, that was really long
Mike: oh it’s okay it’s good
It sort of reminds me of that big “outrage” a while ago, about that ISSUE ONE pdf which featured, what, like 70000 poets and poems in it? and there were a bunch of poets’s names used, and clearly the people did not write the poems attributed to them, and “issue one” was not for sale, rather it was just a sort of conceptual art thing, but then people started getting ridiculously angry and like demanding to be removed from the issue?
like, ron silliman posted the grad student’s like home phone number and shit
ultimately i think you’re right though, in the sense that it comes down to the ideas of possession & ownership, private property, and the idea of Ideas themselves as commodity
but the problem with that is when an idea is reduced to a commodity it’s exchange-value is looked at before it’s use-value, right?
i mean are we making art or are we making money here
but more to the point
and i should note that i only made it through about 25 comments before i got pissed
but andrew james weatherhead did not even use names
and all of the comments were basically variations on a theme
“i didn’t write” “i didn’t write either”
what exactly are we “protecting” by taking them down?
Tim: I agree — I did not understand what about the comments was especially indicting, I spend most of my day yelling at myself about not setting aside more time to complete all the projects I’ve got going.
Tim: I can see why the institution would feel threatened, though
Mike: that seems ridiculous to me as well– the idea that “oh shit one of our students is a little bummed about his classmates and posting about it on a moderately well trafficked (in terms of the bigger picture) lit blog”
Tim: By foregrounding the tuition, he sorta situated it as disappointment in the institution, even though he backpedaled on that in the comment thread and talked about how much he loves the school
Admissions departments get insecure about that kind of shit.
Mike: still, it’s a valid opinion to have, and it’s kind of bullshit that he doesn’t have the agency to voice said opinion without worry of the school itself gettingo n his ass
Tim: Maybe “I’m no surprised the institution felt threatened” is what I mean, rather than “I understand why they felt threatened.”
Mike: haha yeah
Sent at 1:18 PM on Thursday
Mike: i feel like
there is a level of discourse that has always been occuring, specifically at this level, and the only thing that is changing is the potential visibility via it being “online”
and i think your idea of gossip is important &&& i know you got this idea (i think i remember your bigother post about it) from the new narrative writers
where, clearly, community is & always has been important, and also is still vibrant after 30-40+ years of actually being a community
Sent at 1:23 PM on Thursday
Tim: totally. ONe of them said it somewhere — and I can’t remember if it was Robert Gluck or Dodie Bellamy or Bruce Boone — and which intro essay to which book I read it in — in a way, I think confusing them all is weirdly appropriate — but something about how when you write about actual people, you make the writing bigger than just yourself by implicating this larger network of folks, when people see representations of themselves in a work, whether they love or hate it, it matters more to them, the writing matters more the more more people have a stake in it
Sent at 1:27 PM on Thursday
Mike: i agree with this. while i sort of obsessively have a tendency to refuse to let anything i write ever be construed as fact, even if there are specific events referred to in it, i think there is a level of the audience (the community) itself– someone is going to pay more attention, internally, to the work, when they know the stories, the people, and can follow it and compare it. it’s like another level of interaction i think. & if you don’t want people thinking about or talking about you, you probably shouldn’t ever leave your house, or at least figure out how to become invisible.
Tim: For sure. I know a lot of people feel differently, but honesty and self-reflexivity abt how much we all talk about one another feels like a much better strategy than this idea of discretion, which always feels like a lie to me and I think ultimately sews dischord because of partial information and assumptions.
Mike: yeah, it falls into a sort of repression, and of course in my ideology repression is terrible
Tim: I also feel like the norms in terms of privacy and secrecy are going to HAVE to shift in the next several decades. I sometimes wonder who from our generation and younger can honestly say they have not disseminated something via social media that incriminates them in some way or another — who is going to be President if the norm doesn’t shift?
Mike: exactly. and being uptight is not a solution to the problem
our LIVES and shit are so entangled within this rhizomatic interconenctivity, there is literally no escape
we are priviliged because we have the internet
i feel like that is another claim that should be self-evident in these discussions
that should be a segue i don’t mean to derail
Tim: Now that the conversation hasheaded in this direction, I feel like it is also important to note how privacy is attached to privilege, race privilege, class privilege, etc.
okay good save
but, i feel like often people get most angry when something ‘stupid’ or ‘racist’ or ‘insensitive’ gets quoted on the internet
Tim: People of color, queer people, poor people, have never had the same access to privacy, to not having their business fucked with, inspected, dissected, put on display, etc.by the state, or the medical establishment, or the media, whoever.
Mike: as if the documentation of it is what makes it offensive versus the fact that it was said in the first place
Tim: for sure
and there is also this issue of reducing systematic systems of power and domination to people saying mean things.
Mike: [i’ll move these lines so the convo is more linear]
[or maybe not who knows]
Tim: but I think sometimes conversations about racism, for instance, on the internet, do focus more language because it is a language-based medium. But it is important not to reduce these institutional and structural issues to language alone.
Tim: brb — I need to grab food\
Sent at 1:39 PM on Thursday
Mike: oh dang
Tim: That was my nickname in prison
Mike: good nickname
i have been thinking about how i want nothing more than cheese pizza
but i cannot have cheese pizza being vegan
Tim: I think I saw a tofutti cheese pizza at the corner store just now
Mike: fake cheese is sometimes disgusting, sometimes allright
it is definitely not the same as straight up ‘cheese pizza’ tho
part of me things that due to the fact that the Othered/marginalized parts of humanity lacking the privacy that the (ultimately) priveliged holds has ultimately shaped a sort of collective ideology– i think it supports an idea (that is not “full,” of course) of community, something that ties the marginalized together
does that make sense or did i throw in too many modifiers there
Tim: I think it makes sense
Mike: i’m not sure how true it is, but i feel like it’s an element
Sent at 1:48 PM on Thursday
Tim: I think there is a question whether marginalized communities gossip more, or whether the things we talk abt are seen as more gossipy, b/c there is a way that power shapes what is seen as gossip vs. what is seen as more legitimate social exchange. I think it’s some of both, and there is maybe a back and forth between the two.
Mike: yeah, i agree
i like how gossip is being built up here as ultimately subversive & anarchistic
anarchistic i think
Tim: Like queer gossip, for instance, that leveling kind where it’s like, Girl, don’t get on your high horse b/c you’re down here in the muck with the rest of us…
Tim: is I think part of what michael warner, after eving goffman, calls a stigmaphile queer identity
which is clearly shaped by what the dominant culture heeps on the marginalized group, but in a way where he claim that and use and transform it or whatever
like the idea of the effiminite, “swishy” walk being a way to reclaim public space as queer space
Sent at 1:54 PM on Thursday
Mike: &, you know, the idea is that, just because you’re a ‘socially acceptable fag’ because you’re famous, doesn’t mean you aren’t any less gay (which, as an aside, a quick ‘fuck you’ to stephen meritt for saying you shouldn’t come out if you want to be famous)
Tim: Did he say that?
Mike: yeah in some dumb article that i couldn’t make it through entirely
mostly because i was ilke “oh please”
i would be able to find it if facebook hadn’t changed their damn layouts and you could still look at all of peoples’s links
Sent at 2:00 PM on Thursday
Tim: I didnt know they’d done that.
speaking of privacy
i saw some image macro the other day
with a picture of jullian assange that is subtitled “i steal corporations secrets and give them to you for free, and i’ve a villain” and then there was a picture of mark zuckerberg or whatever the facebook bro is that said “i steal your secrets and sell them to corporations, and i’m time magazine’s man of the year”
Mike: SEEMS PRETTY INDICATIVE OF THE CURRENT CLIMATE AND SHTI
Tim: I was weirdly turned on/inspired by Julian Assange’s story abt grinding up coffee ground and water and making a paste he spread over his neck and shoulders so the woman he was dating, who was addicted to coffee, would associate his body with her dopamine cravings.
I mean — total batshit, but weirdly hot.
Mike: hahaha yeah for sure
i can grok that
but i like crazy
i mean the relationship in zulawski’s szamanka seems ideal to em
Tim: So I used it in a very short fiction I wrote that is going to be in Thunderclap!
Mike: win win situation
Tim: the exclamation mark is part of the magazines name
Mike: that is a good sign
doesn’t pere noir! have an included exclamation mark too or something?
or pear noir! i don’t remember what the mag actually is
Tim: yeah, I think they do
are we done talking about gossip
i don’t know if i have anything else to say about it without it being ‘forced’
Sent at 2:11 PM on Thursday
Mike: oh ps i made my mix for artifice called “(DON’T) SHAMPOO YOUR HAIR IN THE 1990s”
and it’s all ‘indie rock’ and ‘alternative’ music from the earl 90s
that is perfect
i thought ti was funny
Tim: Yeah, I think I’m done-ish
i will probably post this without editing anything
in the name of pure gossip
Tim: Do you think we could cross-post at BO and the Giant? I feel like that fits our theme
Mike: yeah for sure