A review and critique of "some of the senses in which 'verbal conduct' is thought in a proposed hate speech regulation
while Affirming that language does act, even injuriously

Most fundamentally, language "does not directly or causatively 'act on' the addressee in quite the way that proponents of hate speech legislation describe." The argument is analogic, and this "may be precisely what keeps [advocates for a particular form of regulation of hate speech] from saying what they mean to say or doing what it is they say." (p. 72)

This problem has everything with
  1. the reliance on the individualized subject of the liberal democratic state;
  2. the positioning of the speaker as wielding sovereign power;
  3. the deferral of a response to the state,
  4. the state requiring the concentration of sovereign power to act decisively on the matter.

"...when the courts become the ones who are invested with the power to regulate such expressions, new occasions for discrimination are produced..."

"...in which the courts discount African-American cultural production as well as lesbian and gay self-representation as such through the arbitrary and tactical use of obscenity law." (p. 75)

"What happens when we seek recourse to the state to regulate such speech?" (p. 77)

"My concern is...with the peculiar discursive power given over to the state through the process of legal redress." (p. 77) [sorry James]

"...the state produces hate speech... the category cannot exist without the state's ratification, and this power of the state's judicial language to establish and maintain the domain of what will be publicly speakable suggests that the state plays much more than a limiting function in such decisions; in fact, the state actively produces the domain of publicly acceptable speech, demarcating the line between the domains of the speakable and the unspeakable, and retaining the power to make and sustain that consequential line of demarcation. The inflated and efficacious utterance attributed to hate speech...is itself modeled on the speech of a sovereign state, understood as a sovereign speech act, a speech act with the power to do what it says. This sovereign power is attributed to hate speech when it is said to 'deprive' us of rights and liberties. The power attributed to hate speech is a power of absolute and efficacious agency, performativity and transitivity at once... The problem, then, is not that the force of the sovereign performative is wrong, but when used by citizens it is wrong, and when intervened upon by the state, it is, in these contexts, right." (p. 77)

"...power is no longer constrained within the sovereign form of the state.... [very long elision] .... the law requires ..." (p. 78) "...a reduction of the agency of power to the actions of the subject..." (p. 80) "...the power to make happen what one says..." (p. 82)
Question for discussion: How does a law require something? How is agency constrained? With all this concern about performativity, I'm curious about exactly what the performances are that make a law require some action be performed or prohibit an action from being performed. I know Foucault, subject formation, blah, blah, blah... And I know that in Foucault, he performs a catachresis on policing. But what performs biopower when all this subjectivation blah blah blah fails?
"...words of the state that perform the very action that they enunciate." (p. 81) ... So when the judge, the one with "the ability to use words efficaciously" (p. 81, my emphasis), who "sentences" or "pronounces" me, does my reliable subject formation dutifully make me willingly walk into my cell, where I presume the guard is watching me from the tower, so I follow all the rules? What if Idon't walk into my cell? What if I'm melting and filing down combs to shank the guards? Being beyond sovereignty in Foucault doesn't mean is stops existing, but it does mean it's uninteresting to him and to many of his scholars. Always left in this shadow cast by discourse is victim of police brutality, the millions of incarcerated Americans, the hundreds of thousands of deportees in ICE holding cells, the children thrown into juvi for skipping school. The focus on the discursive is as if to say, "yeah, sovereignty still exists, but it almost doesn't really need to, because power functions reliably enough through biopower, technologies of the self, etc." Except, everywhere we are shown that these are not reliable and sovereign power is held, and readied, and wielded.

What does it mean for "as a judge backed by law in a relatively stable political order has the power to do" to be placed in a parenthesis (p. 82)? Is this also just a banal notion, just like the banal expectation for liberatory theory that Wilson scoffs at? "... do we attribute to the illocutionary force of that utterance imaginary state power, backed by the police." (p. 82)

"This idealization of the speech act as sovereign action (whether positive or negative) appears linked with the idealization of sovereign state power or, rather, with the imagined and forceful voice of that power. It is as if the proper power of the state has been expropriated, delegated to its citizens, and the state then reemerges as the neutral instrument to which we seek recourse to protect us from other citizens, who have become revived emblems of a (lost) sovereign power." (p. 82)

Two weeks ago, I got fingerprinted as part of a background check for a teaching job.... Because of this.

the tech.jpg

The Tech, MIT, October 9, 1998, p. 22

I was found not-guilty of assault on the basis of a successful self-defense defense. However, I was found guilty of "disorderly conduct." What was that conduct? I physically removed the belongings of this person in order to remove him from a space, to deny him a platform to speak. The judge said I should have notified police to perform this action, and therefore I had committed a crime. I failed to perform my responsibilities as a subject of the liberal democratic state by soliciting the power of the sovereign via the state's uniformed police, and in doing so must subject myself to the violence of the state. I now have a record that continues to subject me to this state. Sovereignty and shit.

Even if...what would we know then that we don't know now?

"Whatever account it may give of its own motivation, paranoia is characterized by placing, in practice, an extraordinary stress on the efficacy knowledge per se -- knowledge in the form of exposure. Maybe that's why paranoid knowing is so inescapably narrative." (Sedgwick p. 138)

"It's strange that a hermeneutics of suspicion would appear so trusting about the effects of exposure, but Nietzsche (through the genealogy of morals), Marx (through the theory of ideology), and Freud (through the theory of ideals and illusions) already represent, in Ricoeur's phrase, 'convergent procedures of demystification' and therefore a seeming faith, inexplicable in their own terms, in the effects of such a proceeding." (p. 138-9)

"What does a hermeneutics of suspicion and exposure have to say to social formations in which visibility itself constitutes much of the violence?" (p. 140)

"The paranoid trust in exposure seemingly depends...on an infinite reservoir of naivete in those who make up the audience for these unveilings. What is the basis for assuming that it will surprise or disturb, never mind motivate, anyone to learn that a given social manifestation is artificial, self-contradictory, imitative, phantasmatic, or even violent? As Peter Sloterdijk points out, cynicism or 'enlightened false consciousness' -- false consciousness that knows itself to be false, 'its falseness already reflexively buffered' -- already represents 'the universally widespread way in which enlightened people see to it that they are not taken for suckers'." (p. 141)