Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sinclair Questions

  1. Use Passionate Politics to analyze Bachelder's relationship to US! foregrounding key concepts form chapters you read (Ch 1 & 2)
Bachelder's relationship to US! and Upton Sinclair is based purely on his own personal admiration for the socialist ideologue. Passionate Politics describes the importance of emotions for a political movement. When the emotional and rational can combine around a particular issue or event, a social movement can gain power "inside a social attention space" (Collins, 27). While Bachelder could be interpreted as portraying his love for Sinclair and the love of his followers who continue to resurrect him as irrational, Craig Calhoun in Passionate Politics, argues that emotions are not inherently "irrational" despite how social scientists may portray them (Calhoun, 5). Even though Sinclair's followers continue to resurrect him in the hopes that this time, against all odds, Sinclair will be able to make a real difference in creating a utopian and socialist America, Calhoun argues that scientists should not discount the "capacity to achieve a common understanding shaped by feelings as well as thinking" (50). Sinclair also fails to gain credence within the "social attention space" and his movement never really succeeds in getting off the ground. Bachelder also plays off the idea that "a social movement begins to make headway against its targeted injustice, when its activists are subjected to a well-publicized atrocity," because even though Sinclair keeps getting murdered in heinous ways, Americans are just getting more and more accustomed to his murder and then eventual resurrection rather than becoming drawn to the socialist movement (Collins, 33). Bachelder plays off his own emotions and emotional politics to create a satirical novel about the optimism of reformers.

2.  Describe three modes of satire/parody used by Bachelder in US! in loving fashion about Upton that you think would be useful for your tactical media project. Draft one form of parody
  •  Bachelder interjects fictional telephone transcripts of people reporting their Sinclar sightings to the U.S. tip line beginning on page 17. The calls originate from all over the country, and is a satirical portrayal of both the type of people who use the number (kids prank calling, people trying to kill Sinclair) and the ridiculousness of the existence phone line itself.
  • The letter to President Reagan on page 73 was very amusing. In it, Sinclair sends Reagan a copy of his book asking when he should visit the White House. Sinclair also writes a letter to Arnold Schwarzenegger, as he once ran for California governor as well, and begins falling asleep while he dictates it. This was a parody of Sinclair's own naivety and belief in his cause and a satire of his writing style.
  • On page 78, Bachelder inserts a page of customer reviews of Sinclair's many books. Almost all of them don't have one (as Bachelder wants us to assume nobody has read them). The reviews that do exist include a high schooler calling Sinclair "old and gross," a poem about seeing Sinclair at a laundromat, the GMCGA responding to his book which describes the evil of genetically modified corn and claiming it was all false, and somebody confused who is reviewing actual corn.
If I were to make a parody about speech codes, I could do so by mimicking an Emory forum about something pretty non-controversial and then have all the comments alternatively banned for being "offensive" or "could be offensive" or "insensitive." It would follow in the same manner as the third parody I describe. The topic could be on something as uncontroversial as getting better toilet paper or something and the replies could range from furious, to banned, to completely random.


  1. I agree that although at times Bachelder writes up situations that look unsupportive of Sinclair, he really has an admiration for Sinclair, but not to the extent in which you do. I think Bachelder is almost trying to play on emotions to take the emotional biases in Sinclair's writing out of what Sinclair's trying to say. Bachelder sees Sinclair's point and side as a socialist, but at the same time, realizes that Sinclair's writing is very one sided and quick to judge. He's trying to renew Sinclair's point of views and writing by bringing him to the new generation's attention, and editing and re-expressing what Sinclair was originally trying to get across.

    Maybe another idea you could use for your media project would be to identify those who don't want free speech as the right conservative, and the ones that do want it as the left liberal, and you could show both sides arguing with each other in an exaggerated manner that is slightly humorous but at the same time, does express the real opinions of both sides. Obviously, in your video, you want the left to make a better point because your project is for free speech.

  2. I think that Laura's analysis of Bachelder's use of emotion is interesting. She argues that emotion is not irrational, and in fact it is necessary to social movements. I remember reading the same chapter in Passionate Politics. However, I didn't recognize the parallel to Sinclair's resurrection. Laura's quote, "a social movement begins to make headway against its targeted injustice, when its activists are subjected to a well-publicized atrocity," really is a contrast to what happens in Bachelder's novel. The socialists see atrocity again and again. Eventually, their movement must die out as it gets less and less prevalent. The atrocity seems to have the opposite effect from what it should. I think what Laura notes is that though Bachelder uses emotion, he uses it in a different way, and he plays on the reader's emotions while highlighting the character's emotions too.

  3. Similar to what Jenny commented, I feel that the entire book is not about Bachelder's admiration for Sinclair or even for socialism. Bachelder writes his book in order to mourn the downfall of radical politicians in today's Capitalistic society. What Bachelder does celebrate is the role of extremist politicians in American politics. Yes, his novel is satirical, but he truly does appreciate the extreme nature of Sinclair (not to be confused with him appreciating Sinclair's socialist platform.) I also agree with Natalie's comment that the socialists in Bachelder's story do not make enough leeway to have a successful campaign. Their platform does not become more successful, even with the repeated resurrection of Sinclair.

  4. I like how you pointed to the telephone transcripts and Sinclair's book reviews as your examples of satire. I think one of the reasons why Bachelder uses these two examples is to show how the general public is uneducated about many politics related issues such as Sinclair's socialistic ideas. For instance, in the telephone transcripts most people almost everyone only treats Sinclair as a celebrity without even knowing the importance of his works. I think one thing you could use in your tactical media project was make a satirical video of interviewing people who claim to know about "Free Speech" at Emory and show them as foolish and how everyone needs to be educated on this topic and how great of an impact it can have on our campus.


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