Earlier this week I was reflecting on the varied forms of discourse in which I'm engaged in any given day. I spend a great deal of time communicating online, which means I do everything from idle babble like a teenage girl to highly technical Geekinese. I write differently in my blog depending on whom I'm writing for--I'm currently writing for you. And then there's what might happen on the phone (I was interviewed a few times this week, had various teleconference meetings, etc.).
I was made most aware of this when I had a chat with a Ph.D. student this week, looking for ideas on his thesis. I spent a long time learning how to talk like him in grad school ("...I'm interested in trying to unpack the tension between...Yes, Heidegger is in there too" -- I probably don't need to write any more and you know what I'm talking about). I've now spent an equal amount of time learning to not talk like this, although I enjoy it as much as I enjoy eating cake with icing one-inch thick and sprinkled with every kind of nut you can imagine, which is to say, a lot.
Last night I was reminded of this again. There's a form of writing that I admire more than any other. It is a way of writing that you aren't supposed to do: shocking, raw, clever, aggressive, incredibly well written, vernacular. It is something I encounter here and there, in the blogs of friends, for example. Reading boingboing last night, I stumbled on this link to Matt Taibbi's piece in Rolling Stone about AIG: The Big Takeover-The global economic crisis isn't about money - it's about power. How Wall Street insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution. Here's some of what I'm talking about:
It's over — we're officially, royally fucked. No empire can survive being rendered a permanent laughingstock, which is what happened as of a few weeks ago, when the buffoons who have been running things in this country finally went one step too far. It happened when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was forced to admit that he was once again going to have to stuff billions of taxpayer dollars into a dying insurance giant called AIG, itself a profound symbol of our national decline — a corporation that got rich insuring the concrete and steel of American industry in the country's heyday, only to destroy itself chasing phantom fortunes at the Wall Street card tables, like a dissolute nobleman gambling away the family estate in the waning days of the British Empire.
The latest bailout came as AIG admitted to having just posted the largest quarterly loss in American corporate history — some $61.7 billion. In the final three months of last year, the company lost more than $27 million every hour. That's $465,000 a minute, a yearly income for a median American household every six seconds, roughly $7,750 a second. And all this happened at the end of eight straight years that America devoted to frantically chasing the shadow of a terrorist threat to no avail, eight years spent stopping every citizen at every airport to search every purse, bag, crotch and briefcase for juice boxes and explosive tubes of toothpaste. Yet in the end, our government had no mechanism for searching the balance sheets of companies that held life-or-death power over our society and was unable to spot holes in the national economy the size of Libya (whose entire GDP last year was smaller than AIG's 2008 losses).
I'm not allowed to write like this, and I'm sure you're not either. For that matter, Taibbi likely isn't either. That's part of what I enjoy about it, as someone whose discourse has forever been confined to particular acceptable norms. It's not an appropriate way to write about most things; yet what's happening in the US with companies like AIG isn't most things. It's something that warrants the vernacular.