Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cheating and Swine Flu

Did I mention that I don't care about cheating? Check. Did that already.

Of course, if you read the earlier post, you know it's not so much that I don't care about cheating as it is that I don't care about policing cheaters. (Read linked blog-post for my amazing argument in support of said apathy.) Anyway, I found myself caught in another conversation about the "pandemic" of cheating/plagiarizing again today. (Snore.) The discussion was, per usual, framed as one of those "how concerned should we be about this?"-type discussions. (My answer: on a scale of one to ten, about a 3.) It didn't seem like a good use of my time to unpack my whole diatribe again, so I pretty much played the spectator in today's deliberations. The funny thing was, though, that the longer the conversation went on, the more it sounded to me exactly like the recent discussions of swine flu. (Yeah, yeah, I know. It's "H1N1." Whatev.) That is, it sounded hyperbolic, conspiratorial, millenialist almost, too in thrall with its own fear and trepidation. In sum, a little crazy.

Now, I'm not saying that cheating isn't a serious problem, nor am I saying that swine flu isn't serious... but it seems to me that the language in which these phenomena are discussed is WAY out of whack with the phenomena themselves. Thank goodness for Theory Teacher, who just today posted a great analysis of the swine flu craze. (From Tokyo, no less!) Theory Teacher suspects (and I suspect right along with him) that swine flu is a distraction-- "a metonymic displacement and metaphoric condensation"-- helping us to relieve a little pressure from the over-worked valves that regulate our feelings of control. It's a good hypothesis, in my view, especially since we have no shortage of anxiety to displace at the moment.

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