Hillary, Iago, the FBI–and Wittgenstein

This is where it gets real. It’s now the FBI’s call, and the investigators will probably make it before the Republican convention starts on July 25th. Sometime over the next two weeks Hillary either reaches orbit on her way to becoming the first woman President of the United States–or she utterly crashes and burns, forced from the race in disgrace, under indictment. I have no idea which way it will go. It’s like that scene in No Country for Old Men, where the killer flips a coin in the country store of an old man and says, “Call it.” And I think of Iago at the end of Act 5:1 of Othello: “This is the night / That either makes me or fordoes me quite.”

So this raises an issue of language games (in the Wittgensteinian sense). Sometimes our languages are merely imaginative, indifferent or irresponsive to facts on the ground (think of a sci-fi novel or a cult group in cognitive dissonance). Other times, our language games derive their plausibility from direct appeal to facts, and if those facts change, the language game we’re playing has to adjust–or even be abandoned altogether. Here’s Wittgenstein on this latter sort of language game:

Certain events would put me into a position in which I could not go on with the old language game any further. In which I was torn away from the sureness of the game. Indeed, doesn’t it seem obvious that the possibility of a language game is conditioned by certain facts? (On Certainty, aphorism 617.)

This is one of those moments for the Hillary-candidacy language game: it’s possibility being “conditioned by certain facts.” All along, the Hillary narrative has been that the email controversy is a Fox News-generated faux controversy. This narrative is now getting its stress test. How responsive is the Hillary narrative going to be to this sort of reality testing? Can the language game that has built up around the Clinton candidacy go on sustaining itself in the face of whatever new facts the FBI now brings forward?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
This entry was posted in donald trump, feminism, hillary clinton, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

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