Monthly Archives: March 2006

Intellectual jackassery

Jane McGonigal has devised a yet another way people can make jackasses of themselves. Like there aren’t enough ways already. Her method consists in visiting a local bookstore, locating the copies of Orwell’s 1984 and reshelving them into “Current Events”, “Politics”, etc. Yeah, yeah, she leaves a card mentioning the new location where the books used to be but I still think that’s jackassery.

It seems McGonigal’s goal is to make a political point: 1984 is not fiction; we’re living it, etc… I think that is her message. While absolutely equating the current US administration with Big Brother is an exaggeration, I agree with the general idea that the US government has become remarkably more oppressive towards non-citizens and citizens alike since Bush took power. By all means this opinion should be voiced. However, I do not support obnoxious methods of voicing that opinion.

There there is the matter of efficacy. I think this is a rather poor method for propagating a political opinion. Creative? Yes. Effective? No. Heck, I’m sure McGonigal’s blog has done much more to propagate her views than any reshelving has done. For the reshelving to have any effect, people would have happen to walk into a location where the reshelving was done. They’d have to be looking for 1984 or stumble upon the reshelving notice or reshelved copies by happenstance. They’d have to understand the message. That is, they’d have to know what 1984 is all about and how the reshelving is making a statement regarding the current administration. They’d have to not have previously thought about 1984 in relation to the current political climate (otherwise, McGonigal’s message is redundant). All in all, I think the effect is minimal. In fact, attempts to maximize the effect would in all likelihood maximize the jackassedness of the method for it would most likely involve more reshelving.

People reading this blog entry may be wondering why I’m annoyed by McGonigal’s reshelving operation. As a scholar-in-training in the field of Religious Studies (Buddhism and Hinduism, mainly), I need to be able to find books easily and quickly. Reshelving qua “political message” is an impediment towards this goal. Anybody who’s been in a doctoral program knows that the last thing a Ph.D. candidate needs is more impediments.

And proving that jackassery is not the province of any specific ethnic group Tristan Mendès-France adopted the idea.

The whole thing via La Feuille.

Edited 2006/03/04: Corrected “Tristan Mendès” to “Tristan Mendès-France”.