detail from Labels for Hair Ribbons by Manuel Ocampo a delectable selection of oriental appetizers
Monday, May 21, 2001

: . A column on progressive news sites by Eric Alterman in this week’s issue of The Nation reminds me how mainstream my own readings are. The magazines I subscribe to, for example, can hardly be called ‘alternative’ publications. Despite my radical posturing, I read pretty much the same bland stuff as can be found on the coffeetables of liberal, northeastern WASPs: The New Yorker, Newsweek, The Nation, The Atlantic, and Brill’s Content (a gift subscription from a friend who has yet to identify her/him self). And let me not forget the ever-atrocious Filipinas magazine. I’ve come to realize that the only purpose my own readings serve is to allow to me nod knowingly whenever I watch the political talking heads on Sunday mornings or on weeknights with the insipid Charlie Rose. This is part of the seduction of mainstream knowledge: recycling its sanitized, focus-group tested products into trivia which then form the basis of discussions on ‘serious’ talk shows or the list of questions on The Weakest Link, Jeopardy, or Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? With its bits and pieces served up in this manner, mainstream knowledge attains the high gloss of exclusivity satisfying the thinking man’s craving for membership in the tight circle of those ‘in the know.’ Hence one of the more lucrative and self-preserving mind-games of the information age: mainstream knowledge, carefully expurgated and vigilantly circumscribed, delimits itself in order to curtail any inquiries on its delimited claims to truth.

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