Having a bit of time on my hands to catch up on some reading, I found this amusing (but quite astute) description of Bill Gates, by Slavoj Žižek in the LRB (read the article for full context, but ‘reflexivization’ refers to one result of the so-called risk-society, by which, in Žižek’s own summary, ‘All our impulses, from sexual orientation to ethnic belonging, are more and more often experienced as matters of choice. Things which once seemed self-evident – how to feed and educate a child, how to proceed in sexual seduction, how and what to eat, how to relax and amuse oneself – have now been ‘colonised’ by reflexivity, and are experienced as something to be learned and decided on’):
‘Reflexivisation has transformed the structure of social dominance. Take the public image of Bill Gates. Gates is not a patriarchal father-master, nor even a corporate Big Brother running a rigid bureaucratic empire, surrounded on an inaccessible top floor by a host of secretaries and assistants. He is instead a kind of Small Brother, his very ordinariness an indication of a monstrousness so uncanny that it can no longer assume its usual public form. In photos and drawings he looks like anyone else, but his devious smile points to an underlying evil that is beyond representation. It is also a crucial aspect of Gates as icon that he is seen as the hacker who made it (the term ‘hacker’ has, of course, subversive/marginal/anti-establishment connotations; it suggests someone who sets out to disturb the smooth functioning of large bureaucratic corporations). At the level of fantasy, Gates is a small-time, subversive hooligan who has taken over and dressed himself up as the respectable chairman. In Bill Gates, Small Brother, the average ugly guy coincides with and contains the figure of evil genius who aims for total control of our lives. In early James Bond movies, the evil genius was an eccentric figure, dressed extravagantly, or alternatively, in the grey uniform of the Maoist commissar. In the case of Gates, this ridiculous charade is no longer needed – the evil genius turns out to be the boy next door.’
Lessons to be learned? Beware of people next door. (Especially Rachael Ray).