Scot McPhee on 7 Sep 2000 13:58:40 -0000

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<nettime> sledging mckenzie wark

Well, recently noticing a tendency on nettime for some rather hot debates
centering around various topics that Ken Wark has contributed to, I present
to nettime;


by Catharine Lumby

shamelessly stolen from Strewth! magazine
(with apologies to McKenzie, Catharine, and the editors of the fine magazine
that is Strewth!).

The last issue of Strewth! featured a strident attack on my good friend and
colleague McKenzie Wark. As rabid assaults on Wark go, it was a fair first
attempt which included many of the standard tropes of the genre - a
malicious anecdote, a gratuitous attack on the subject's physical
appearance, and an utter failure to grasp even the rudimentary ideas which
underpin Wark's work. Unfortunately a closer reading of the piece suggests
that the author is obviously unfamiliar with the wider literature in this
exciting new field. (He or she failed, for instance, to spend a paragraph
confusing my own work with Wark's and implying there's no need to read one
of us if you've read the other since we're more or less the same person.) So
for the benefit of future aspirants in the field, I've assembled a quick,
rough guide to the art of Wark-knifing which, with a minimum of effort, can
be easily adapted for splenetic assaults on any jumped-up left-leaning
writer who's been unduly influenced by books published after 1975. 

1. The Guardian of Culture Approach

 Notice that your last five newspaper columns have been sustained attacks on
South Park and decide that it must be time to lament the existence of
McKenzie Wark again. Fortunately he has a new book out. Quickly read the
cover blurb, scan the index for telling references to amoral thinkers like
Foucault and Deleuze and begin your review. Observe that the book includes
no references to the following: Mozart, Shakespeare, Picasso, or table
manners. Observe that inattentiveness to the preceding has been the downfall
of Western civilisation. Blame McKenzie Wark for distracting people by going
on television and praising South Park.

Suggest that he's also responsible for the rise in drug abuse, nihilism, rap
music, divorce and university students who can't spell. Finish with a stern
quote from Plato, run a spellcheck over your column, and file.

2. The Marxist Filmmaker Approach

 Turn on Channel 10 by mistake one night and discover that Hollywood is
brainwashing young people with capitalist fantasies about the benefits of
blonde hair. Drink 56 cans of beer (local not yuppie crap) and scribble some
angry notes on your King Gee shorts for that panel you're meant to appear on
tomorrow night at the film festival. Arrive to find some trendy Chardonnay
drinking egghead with girly hair-McKenzie Whore or something-defending
Channel 10. Remind him about the existence of Campbelltown. Demand to know
why he's never made a documentary film there. Ask him how much Rupert
Murdoch pays him to invent words like 'vector'. Call for an end to
globalisation. And when that McKenzie bloke asks why working class men
prefer playing Tomb Raider to watching your recent documentary exposing the
Sony corporation, consider punching him-but go to the pub instead.

3. the Disgruntled Student Approach 

 Learn that the odds of getting a job as a lecturer in History/English/Fine
Arts when you finish your thesis are roughly the same as marrying JFK Jnr.
Notice that McKenzie Wark not only has a teaching job but that people ask
him to speak on panels with noted Marxist filmmakers. Attribute enormous
cultural and social power to the man. Practice lampooning him at dinner
parties. Discover your routine goes over well with other postgraduate
students. Write down all the nasty things you've thought, heard or said
about Wark. Offer it to a small satirical magazine. Invent a pseudonym to
avoid being held intellectually or socially responsible for your resentful
outpourings. Publish the piece and gleefully point it out to your friends
while swearing them to secrecy about the author's identity. 

The above represent only a random selection of stereotypical approaches to
bucketing Wark and his kind and by no means exhaust the genre. Aspiring
sledgers should consult the broader literature for other approaches and may
even wish to invent their own variations by combining one or more genres.
There is, however, one thing all aspirants to the art of malicious sledging
should studiously avoid: under no circumstances publish a book of your own.
The experience of researching and writing a lengthy text only to find (as
all authors do) that some reviewers are more interested in scoring points or
making personal fun of the author than engaging with your ideas tends to
have a dangerous 'softening' effect on writers and makes them vulnerable to
overly sympathetic critical practices like actually reading books carefully
before they review them. In the worst cases, some writers find that writing
books empties them of career anxiety to the point that they lose all
interest in the art of sledging for the sake of sledging. With this crucial
caveat in mind, then, sharpen your pencils and go for it: there are scores
of emerging writers out there begging to be sneeringly dispatched with a
collection of one-liners. And who knows, if you get really good at venting
your spleen, you might even end up with a column in a reputable broadsheet. 

Catharine Lumby.
copyright 1999 the Strewth! Institute Inc.
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