Since 1996

Perhaps academia is more screwed up than I thought

By Dave Menendez
Friday, August 22, 2003, at 1:31 AM

Summary: A look into the wacky world of film theory. (Also the Pentagon’s short-lived policy analysis market.)

A recent Kuro5hin discussion sprang from the premise that the Pentagon’s cancelled policy analysis market was a good idea. While I personally find the idea that a futures market for upcoming political events will be a good predictor somewhat dubious, I’ll admit that it doesn’t sound as insane as it did when I first heard of it. The media seems to have spun it as being more abhorrent than it actually was: you weren’t betting on terrorist attacks or assassinations. From a purely practical standpoint, I’m still concerned that the second-level effects of such a market might overwhelm its accuracy. During the internet bubble, how many investors truly believed that those dot-com companies were really worth that much as opposed to thinking they were overpriced but hoping to make a profit by selling to someone else before the market collapsed?

Anyway, I bring this up because in the course of the discussion, someone mentioned this look at film school, specifically at the wacky world that is film theory. (Think “wacky world” is too harsh? Roger Ebert is quoted in the article describing film theory as “a cruel hoax for students, essentially the academic equivalent of a New Age cult, in which a new language has been invented that only the adept can communicate in”.)

I’ve seen people, usually conservatives, rant about structuralists and post-modernism and how our colleges are filled with weird irrelevancies, but I always wrote them off as nuts. After all, my college education was fairly sane. I never saw any sign of the dreaded Marx.

But then, I was an engineering student. Who can say what’s going on in the humanities?

As one student puts it:

The great thing about UCSB is, I could have gone to USC and sat around holding a microphone boom pole, but then I wouldn’t understand the theory behind filmmaking, to understand how film exists in relation to our lives. We learn how film psychologically manipulates us, and the power inherent in the language of cinema. It can be two things, a useful propaganda tool in a communist revolution, or part of the capitalist superstructure, a way of lulling the working class into a haze to subdue them and give them an escape from the pressures of reality.