While the choice between secrecy and transparency has political and cultural salience, this paper questions the logic of such an opposition. Through a consideration of the different attitudes towards secrecy embedded in the Bush and Obama administrations, this paper argues that both positions fail to understand their own relation not only to secrecy itself, but also to each other. They are caught, that is, within the same commonsensical idea of the secret: one that assumes the secret is secreted away, waiting to be exposed. By introducing a third term – Jacques Derrida's “unconditional secret,” a structuring secrecy beyond the logic of revelation – this article questions transparency's link with democracy and its cultural place today as a force of good. Through Derrida's work we must face the proposition that although the choice between secrecy and transparency is presented as one between lesser and greater democracy, both are in fact beholden to democracy's enemy: totalitarianism. This article ends by asking what a post-secret politics might look like.
“There's Been Too Much Secrecy in This City”: The False Choice between Secrecy and Transparency in US Politics
CLARE BIRCHALL IS LECTURER IN CULTURAL STUDIES AT THE UNIVERSITY OF KENT. SHE IS THE AUTHOR OF KNOWLEDGEGOES POP: FROM CONSPIRACY THEORY TO GOSSIP (BERG 2006), COEDITOR OF NEW CULTURAL STUDIES: ADVENTURES IN THEORY (EUP 2006), AND EDITOR OF A SPECIAL ISSUE OF CULTURAL STUDIES ON SECRECY (21(1), 2007). SHE IS THE REVIEWS EDITOR FOR CULTURE MACHINE AND IS INVOLVED WITH VARIOUS ONLINE PROJECTS INCLUDING LIQUID THEORY TV (HTTP://WWW.CULTUREMACHINE.NET/INDEX.PHP/CM/ARTICLE/VIEW/384/407), LIQUID BOOKS (HTTP://LIQUIDBOOKS.PBWORKS.COM/FRONTPAGE) AND THE OPEN HUMANITIES PRESS (HTTP://WWW.OPENHUMANITIESPRESS.ORG/).
Clare Birchall; “There's Been Too Much Secrecy in This City”: The False Choice between Secrecy and Transparency in US Politics. Cultural Politics 1 March 2011; 7 (1): 133–156. doi: https://doi.org/10.2752/175174311X12861940861905
Download citation file: