"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 26 January 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Textual Conduct Unbecoming

[ever find things in your life disappearing suddenly?]

The interpretive furor over the

president's carefully worded

denials he ever dicked someone

proficient in WordPerfect for

Windows reminds us of nothing so

much as how ridiculously hot and

bothered we used to get catching

a glimpse of cheerleader panties

during pep rallies: It was

titillating, sure, and we may

have even stooped and strained

hard to see more, but it didn't

change the fact that we were at

a fucking pep rally, for

chrissake, stomping on rickety

bleachers and rooting like total

idiots for the home team.

So if, as they claim, members of

the Washington press corps don't

want to "rush to judgment," (a

phrase used most memorably by

one of the first JFK conspiracy

buffs), then why, in the words

of one Clinton aide, all the

"bizarre Talmudic analysis" of

each nanosyllable and ropy cord

of saliva dripping from every

high-profile lip? (Also, for

extra credit: since when is

Jewish religious analysis an

appropriate metaphor for

perversely absurd

overinterpretation - or is this

as opposed to the sober,

restrained Talmudic analysis to

which White House statements are

usually subjected?)

Poor Mike McCurry took the

brunt of it on Tuesday. In

answer to nearly 40 minutes of

questions about an initial

nine-word statement - "He's

never had any improper

relationship with this woman" -

McCurry had to keep repeating,

over and over and over again,

the same 10-word response: "I

won't parse the statement. It

says what it says." To any

viewer not stoned out of his

gourd - or maybe just drunk with

glee at the thought of Lewinsky

sucking the chrome off the

presidential trailer hitch and

then lying about it under oath -

the whole circus became tiresome

rather quickly. Then again, we

never had that much interest in

the O. J. trial either, and the

very idea of impeachment

hearings without a bloody glove

or Kato Kaelin scares us more

than the renewal of Dharma and



[there are objects i used to have and now suddenly i cant find them]

"There is no improper

relationship." "There is not a

sexual relationship." These

statements by the president to

the winsomely useless Jim Lehrer

on Wednesday afternoon only

redoubled the feeding frenzy.

Why "is"? Was "is" legally

distinguishable from "was" in

this context? Does "is" merely

mark the absence of a past

"was," and thus call attention

to the past's presence via its

absence? Or does the past's

naturally having become the

past, and then become the past

again by being marked in

language by its elision, mean

that the president's past coming

(of which there may or may not

be a residual linguistic or

otherwise semiotic trace) has

somehow doubly unbecome?


By spending countless hours

engaged in reading between such

minimally meaningful utterances,

the mainstream media seems

finally to have caught the case

of extreme textual paranoia

that's been ravaging the Flight

800 conspiracists for nearly two

years. One has to grant, of

course, that there's a certain

twisted logic to the networks

working up their own

less-than-authentic version of

the Web's homegrown semiotic

skepticism. After all, when 70

percent of Americans actually

believe ads have subliminal

messages in them, you've got to

figure news divisions all over

the country are seeing Nielsen

nirvana over the latest (as yet

irrelevant) revelations. So far,

however, they're flogging to

death charges so wildly

underconfirmed that they make

the Roswell alien autopsy photos

look like proof of Archimedes'



[im tired of buying things twice, or not being able to replace other missing items. where so they go?]

Most importantly, what the

mainstream media has failed/is

failing/will fail to realize is

that O. P. P. - other people's

paranoia - is not really all

that much fun in the first

place. The whole point of being

a paranoid, in fact, is the

whole DIY aesthetic of the

thing, the active personal

choice to fly one's freak flag

upside-down and backwards and

smeared with drool and other

precious personal fluids for all

to see. Like Ignatius' soiled

bedsheet in A Confederacy of

Dunces, our crazed obsessions

bear the stains of our humane

intimacy with the world. When

Sam Donaldson starts sounding

like J. Orlin Grabbe, though,

well, what's the fucking point

of having a homepage at all?


Meanwhile, the current

instability (unavailability,

unverifiability) of the

Tripp-Lewinsky tapes makes for a

remarkable instance of

performative language: Even if

the charges of sexual misconduct

recorded on said tapes go

unproven, mere reference to the

existence of the tapes at this

point fucks the president. But

maybe turnabout is fair play.

All current questions of sexual

and legal impropriety aside,

Clinton's tireless penchant for

legalese and oh-so-careful

equivocating are doubtless

responsible, at least in part,

for a culture so adept at


nuance-finessing, and irrelevant

pop-cultural hermeneutics that

tomorrow's State of the Union

address seems a mere boring

distraction from the real

business of entertaining the

country. When the history of our

era is finally written, well,

... just don't bother asking us

to read it.

courtesy of LeTeXan