March 17, 2016
I’m finally hammering that Suey Park piece (Part I, “Suey Park and the Afterlife of Twitter") into shape, and thought I’d share some excerpts.
This section is from the introduction, which discusses the ways in which Twitterati like Suey Park engage in “monetising” and “branding” themselves within a neoliberal framework.
Neoliberalism insists that we are all responsible for ourselves, and its primary characteristic is the privatisation of resources — like education, healthcare, and water — once considered essential rights for everyone (for at least a relatively brief period in human history so far). Within this severely privatised realm, choice emerges as a mantra for all individuals: we can all now have infinite choices, whether between brands of orange juice or schools or banks. This reverence for choice means that we are continually pushed to think of ourselves as not just rewarded with choices in material goods and services but with choices in how we constitute our very selves in order to survive. The contemporary emphasis on “monetising” and “branding” oneself emerges from this neoliberal sphere, where people are required to craft themselves into investment commodities. Twitter and other forms of social media play a role in this construction of the self as a money-making enterprise, with millions hoping to become profitable brands.
In all this, neoliberalism engages in a classic bait and switch: the choice is not a choice but a demand. You have no choice but to choose. In education, for instance, neoliberalism first decimates public schools, then installs charter schools as the only alternatives, then convinces parents in those decimated neighbourhoods that choosing charters is a right. You have no choice but to choose, and the choices are always tilted in favour of the entity that most profits from your “choice.”
This is about Park’s lasting presence, (I’ve left out the details of a television show in which the Colbert campaign is referenced but not named).
Park’s presence thus literally forms the backdrop to conversations about representation. Like the light from a dead star that remains visible long after the corporeal mass has burnt out, her hashtivism and its ultimate ineffectiveness remain seared on the consciousness of all such efforts thereafter.
This one is towards the end, where I discuss this “conversation” between Arthur Chu and Suey Park.
At the end, the two of them are more like Mean Girls, the Reunion. Years later, both have aged and weathered. They meet not in an arena surrounded by adoring fans but in a dingy diner near the reunion venue. It is late at night, they are the last ones left, and the waitress begins to set chairs for the next day. Somewhere near them, a fading fluorescent light crackles and dims, dims and crackles. They stare at each other, quietly aware that they have little in common except recollections of the slowly softening din of battles long ago, battles fought for causes no one can recall and triumphs that now seem so exaggerated as to be rendered untruths.
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