SEMIOTIC RUPTURE

It’s time to take this blog to its origins for a moment.  As the latest political season is upon us, authenticity becomes ever more an issue.  Critical theory and semiotics is the basis of this blog.  Semiotics is the study of words and meaning.  It is a deep and extensive linguistic study; we can only touch upon it here.

It begins with the study of the word and its object.  Often known as the signifier and the signified.  When simple and concrete, it is not very sophisticated.  Teaching the child the words “mama”, “papa”, apple, orange while pointing to its object is simple and direct.  When the object is no longer in the room, the signifier gets more complicated.  Equally when the signified is an abstract idea, the signifier becomes ever more elastic.  You can already see how the vastness opens before us.

Our world has become vastly more complicated and abstract.  Words struggle to capture things accurately.  So…many of the topics in the news today suffer within this context.  The Iran nuclear deal is a complete semiotic swamp.  Objectively, it doesn’t exist.  It can’t exist.  There are a thousand Iran nuke agreements.  One for every participant and scribe.  There are thousands more for every interpreter and critic.  There are only Iran nuke simulacra.  There is no original.

The same is true of Clinton’s emails.  The same is true of who and what Isis is.  It is the same for who and what Congress is.  They are ephemeral figments.  All truth and accuracy is lost or veiled.  Any connection to truth is lost or evasive.  The signifier no longer accurately describes the signified.  The connection between word and object has been ruptured.  Sometimes that is the sorry result of poor articulation; sometimes it is the very purpose.

The candidates themselves are also prone to this very rupture.  Authenticity is the accurate pairing of signifiers that define and represent the signified.  I believe that that is what is drawing people to Sanders and Trump.  They believe, at least so far, what you see is what you get.  A refreshing authenticity.  You can decide later whether you can live with that particular authenticity, but at least you feel it is honest.  Hilary is probably the least authentic candidate in that her semiotic rupture is the widest and most damning.  Lack of “trust” could be defined as the rupture between signifier and signified.

This topic gets only deeper and more complex.  Today I leave the above as food for thought.  We can come back around.  But for the reader to grasp this fundamental semantic idea is to have a fresh view of what we feel haunts us everyday as we try to relate to our political climate.  Semiotic authenticity or lack of same explains our current political malaise and doubt.  I hope it adds an arrow to your quiver.  I hope it illuminates the political haze.

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4 thoughts on “SEMIOTIC RUPTURE

  1. Yes! Also known as B.S, which seems to run rampant in its fancy form with the politicians. I think Ben Carson also seemed to win people over with his ability to seem authentic in the last debate. He seems to choose his words carefully and directly. i think you are right..people are craving more of this directness.

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    1. Yes, I concur…..Ben C is perhaps the most wholesomely authentic. But you have to reach out to it. Difficult in the flush of campaigns. The more aggressive “authenticity” OF Trump and Sanders comes readily across the footlights.

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  2. Thank you for this guidance. The word “rupture” is perfect. I imagine a vein between the the word and the object. It bursts. Its essence is dispersed, both word and object grow weak. I wonder if the fitness of a culture is related to the strength of the collective connection between the signifier and the signified. In other words, do we understand each other? Or not? Do we share the common thread between the word and the object? Your teaching here applies to the individual too. Do we understand ourselves? That’s where, as you write. the “rupture” is most destructive and needs our constant attention. Your post helps me to recall Pres. Clinton’s infamous statement,”it depends what the meaning of ‘is’, is.” Perhaps the ultimate “rupture” to taint the verb “to be”. There can be great sport to see how far the thread or vein can be stretched between word and object, a sort of linguistic acrobatics, but little good comes of it because what suffers, what gets corrupted is that most precious of human sustenance, understanding. It seems in our personal lives, we need precision between word and object. Politicians who operate in the public realm, need extreme “elasticity” in order to appeal to the greatest range of voters. I feel better armed by your post. However, I wonder about Trump or Sanders. We’ve heard it before. The straight-talker. Ross Perot. It’s good theatre, but is it authentic? Is it another position, reactionary at worst. The ride is starting. At least we don’t have to go it alone! Thank you.

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    1. Your comment contains a variety of wise observations and extensions of my premise. But one perhaps holds everything together….the very fitness of our culture is premised on the authentic connection of signifiers and the signified. That may be the heart of the matter. The vector that we all seek. Thank you, Sam.

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