Ecstasy; Or, Further Remarks on Cultural Appropriation

Justin E. H. Smith at his own blog:

Justin E. H. Smith

I recently published a short piece on cultural appropriation in Persuasion. Some of my fears about its reception quickly came true. Within hours of its posting, I had the singular misfortune of being linked approvingly by the odious cornball Ben Shapiro. In no time at all I was being followed by all manner of know-nothing right-wing riff-raff, people I do not respect and do not at all wish to affirm in their flimsy little construction of a belief system. This made me think it would be worthwhile to dilate somewhat more longwindedly on the topic here, in the hope of making it clear to those people the many respects in which I am not one of them, and also in the aim of reflecting a bit on how it is that we have arrived at this strange conjuncture, where defense of cultural appropriation is interpreted as a right-wing talking point, and on why I still believe it is essential to win it back from them.

I’ll say in passing, before getting to the main part of my reflection, that in part I blame the structures of information-flow, in which we are all forced to (pretend to) communicate today, for the automatic channeling of this topic to the side of the right. The algorithms on which the social-media parody of a public sphere operate are dichotomous in nature, and every statement has to be channeled in the one direction or the other. You can fight against these structural constraints, speaking your mind as your conscience dictates, etc., but all the forces are against you. Persuasion is itself an effort to defy the dichotomy, and so far, from what I have seen, it is maintaining a rather delicate balancing act. As for me, I find that my conscience comes through most clearly when I am writing on my own website— but this is only because it stands somewhat further apart from the structures that support all media interventions in the proper sense. Which is to say that the only way for me to say what I really mean, and not to be misunderstood, is to accept that I will be read by far fewer people.

More here.