Knowledge goes pop: from conspiracy theory to gossip by Clare Birchall

By Clare Birchall

A voice on past due evening radio tells you quickly nutrition eating place injects its nutrition with medicines that make males impotent. A colleague asks if you happen to imagine the FBI was once in on Sept. 11. An alien abductee on the web claims extra-terrestrials have planted a microchip in her physique. "Julia Roberts in Porn Scandal" shouts front web page of a gossip magazine. a religious healer claims he can remedy power fatigue syndrome with the energizing energy of crystals . . . What do you suspect? wisdom is going Pop examines the preferred knowledges that saturate our daily event. We make this knowledge after which it shapes the best way we see the area. How legitimate is it in comparison to reliable wisdom and why does such (mis)information reason rather a lot institutional nervousness? This publication examines the variety of information, from conspiracy thought to standard gossip, and its function and impression in our tradition.

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1993: 198) Popular knowledges, in this way, ape more legitimated knowledges (mirroring their legitimating strategies, for example). Fiske describes scientific rationalism as ‘uni-accentual’, that is to say, ‘it does not serve its interests by accommodating subordinate knowledges, but by repressing them’ (1993: 182). According to Fiske, popular knowledges, on the other hand, are ‘multi-accentual’ in that ‘they cannot escape the knowledge that attempts to repress and invalidate them: they can only exist in relationship to it and never exist in autonomous independence of it’ (1993: 182).

Such literature has usefully placed non-‘mainstream’ social practices onto the agenda and theorized the relationship between such practices and the ‘parent’ culture as well as mass culture. The political meaning and, often, resistance to be found in the signified values and alternative consumption modes of subcultures have been a guiding theme in subcultural studies since the Birmingham School’s collection, Resistance Through Rituals (Hall and Jefferson 1976). 6 In this way, subcultures were very much seen as symptomatic of a social ailment: racial inequality, say, or an emasculated, unemployed underclass.

In early cultural studies coming out of a socialist tradition, a Marxist concern over false consciousness dominated the discussion. Subjects had, it would seem, an inaccurate picture of society; they adopted ‘official’ knowledge (or the popular, ‘commonsense’ knowledge – from position B in Figure 1 – which supports the ‘official’ knowledge) about their place in the world, naturalizing social inequality and the subjugation of the working class. But cultural studies has now shifted from the assumption that subjects harbour the ‘wrong’ kind Know It All 17 of knowledge, towards a desire to locate practices which display the ‘right’ (at least in progressive terms) knowledge: towards, that is, knowledges displaying resistance to the dominant ideology.

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