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We is Stupid

Remember the online Bruschetta storm last month? David Aaronovitch came up with the phrase ‘Bruschetta Orthodoxies’ to describe those articles of political faith one might get into trouble for challenging at a dinner party where tomatoes on toast was likely to be served up.

You know the sort of thing – “Iraq – actually it’s all about Oil you know” or “A chap in the Foreign Office told me Al-Qaeda was invented to frighten thick Yanks to vote for George Bush again”.

Harry waved some virtual pomodoro e pane around on this site and in doing so enraged certain quarters of the blogosphere where scoffing foreign food is considered a sign of intellectual gravitas. A denizen of that quarter retaliated:

‘Bruschetta’ has the added advantage of sounding foreign – there is always something somehow foreign and unpatriotic about these intellectuals, non? Thus, the phrase glides along grooves ideologically pre-prepared. It is little more than a Barthesian mytheme.

Then the BBC got in on the act and the phrase ‘Barthesian Mytheme’ scampered out from between the pages of a sociology text and found a home in the wider world. I for one, considered myself a little more educated than I had been before the phrase entered my consciousness.

That should have been the end of the matter but wandering aimlessly around the darker recesses of Blogland earlier today I came across a blog called K-Punk. The author of that site hasn’t got a high opinion of those of us who only came across Barthesian Mythemes during the bruschetta wars:

What marks this out as definitively petit-bourgeois is not the ignorance itself, but the will to ignorance. Of course, Mark’s piece is perfectly clear; almost certainly the sneerocrats are well aware of the meaning of a ‘Barthesian mytheme’. The point, though, is they have to pretend that they don’t. The comment, ‘By ‘eck we never ‘ad those in Bolton when I were a lass’ is especially revealing. The – parodied but identified-with voice is that of a working class Other, the Other who does not know. It is is this – defiantly ignorant – Other who is the figure to whom anti-intellectual derision must appeal. Needless to say, this Other is the product of anti-intellectual discourse, the fantasy figure around which it is structured.

Er, sorry comrade sociology graduate but I really hadn’t heard the phrase before. Am I really alone in my appalling ignorance of mythemes – Barthesian or otherwise?

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