‘Misrecognition is not ignorance. Misrecognition represents a certain organisation of affirmations and negations, to which the subject is attached. […] There must surely be, behind his misrecognition, a kind of knowledge of what there is to misrecognise.’ — Jacques Lacan, Seminar I
Smiley Culture’s nephew, Merlin Emmanuel, reiterated the unofficial name for the British IPCC – ‘the Independent Police Covers-Up Commission’ – at a meeting entitled ‘Defend our young people, give them a future’, which was held directly after the hottest moments of what were billed the ‘UK riots’, on 15 August 2011, at North London Community House in Tottenham. ‘Complaints’ is of course the word that officially stands in the stead of ‘Covers-Up’ in the organisation’s name; however, when it comes to police forces the ‘Western’ world over, in specific relation to their – and their investigatory bodies’ (often made up of former police themselves) – consistent failures to bring cops to justice over the killings of, predominantly, young, black, unarmed men, the replacement C-word is acutely resonant. As in Ferguson, Missouri, the trial for the killing of Michael Brown has returned the decision not to indict the police officer responsible for shooting him, Darren Wilson, and protests erupt all over the US, as well as in solidarity elsewhere, memories of the same result in the Mark Duggan inquest (skewed from the very beginning by the IPCC) are evoked. And over the past few days another black child has been shot by a police officer in Cleveland, Ohio, for waving a BB-gun that the witness who notified the police albeit claimed was ‘probably fake’. Such stories abound, as they have over so many decades, and we’re seeing responses to them being made – through uproar and protest – concerning structural institutionalisation of racism, and its slurry of cover-ups. Indeed, for there even to be conditions for protest chants, placard slogans and hashtags such as ‘black lives matter’ to necessitously come about demonstrates the need for not only the assessment but the upheaval and overturning of such conditions: as Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’
And now we are also beginning to see yet another slew of news items about seemingly State-sanctioned paedophilic crimes in the highest echelons of the British establishment. After the revelations concerning Jimmy Savile in 2012 and the spread of Operation Yew Tree’s branches to hang so many celebrities out to dry, claims implicating more VIPs – including prominent Tory MPs in the 1980s – in murderous paedophilic crimes are coming out, and even being called ‘only the tip of the iceberg’ by Home Secretary, Teresa May. As this media snowball rolls quickly into the avalanche it will become – picking up along the way the names of Dolphin Square and Elm Guest House, and the stuff of what yesterday could only be thought of as nightmare or conspiracy theory (the seeming impossibility of finding someone not linked in some way to the matter to investigate it: from the fiasco of Elizabeth Butler-Sloss to that of Fiona Woolf; the Dickens dossier pertaining to the ring, which conspicuously went missing from the Home Office; declinations by institutions such as the BBC to follow up leads they were alerted to by figures such as Crimewatch’s Jill Dando) – cover-ups of the past are shining a bright interrogatory light on the present.
In the case of the abovementioned provision of evidence to the police concerning the Westminster paedophile ring its whistleblower anonymously reported their information to the police only on the proviso that they were accompanied by journalists, from the Mirror, who would break the story. The reason for this seems to be the fact that there have of course been so many accounts of police ignoring or covering up such information, especially historically in these high-profile child sex scandals, and not least concerning the killing of eight-year-old Vishal Mehrotra in 1981, in connection with the ring. Thus, the securing of the information’s dissemination through the media is a necessary step, and in the age of high-speed information dissemination via the internet – whilst it has its own pitfalls (not least in terms of assurance of the credibility, validity and veracity of certain sites, though this is no more than an exacerbation of pitfalls of previous information ages) – the guarantee that news can immediately reach a wide public disturbs the old possibilities of its guarded management. There is no doubt then that the fast and vast disseminatory capabilities of internet connectivity have thus been able to sweep certain carpets – under which skeletons in cupboards have been swept – from under the feet of those in whose interests it has been to cover up home truths that hit home. Thus, the tightening of restrictions concerning the freedom of the internet by governmental and ‘security’ bodies in this respect is then of course something that must be resisted.
However, there is also an issue in online dissemination involving something of what Jacques Lacan termed ‘méconnaissance’ – or misrecognition – that perhaps needs flagging and discussing. It puts paid somewhat to the theory of the six degrees of separation, in terms of social media. Misrecognition being that involved in the mirror stage – in which the infant misrecognises his- or herself in their reflection, through the ego imposing a sense of autonomy and wholeness on that reflection – there is perhaps a similar misrecognition occurring in our social-networking worlds, which we are able to create and craft to such an extent ‘in our own image’ (with the almost unlimited powers of addition and deletion). There is then the risk of them leading us to believe that everybody else must be on the same (home)page as us. However, should – by whatever chance – we hit upon any number of online groups or communities structured around racism, classism or any form of oppression or exploitation, this should perhaps startle us into the realisation that it is the very structure, however unconscious, of the customisable individualisation of our online worlds that is able to keep such networks commonly hidden, or covered up, whilst they thrive in such close online proximity. Misrecognition, then – as an essential structuring element of subjectivity – should at least alert us to what’s involved, and what can systematically be elided, in connectivity.