And I do, sort of. The essay on wrestling is apparently pretty famous and I can see why. It does really nail what watching wrestling is all about (not suprisingly it's not about sport). I also enjoyed the piece about the Blue Blood Cruise, which reminded me of the time the royals did It's A Knockout. Here's an excerpt:
"[K]ings have a superhuman essence, and when they temporarily borrow certain forms of democratic life, it can only be through an incarnation which goes against nature, made possible through condescension alone. To flaunt the fact that kings are capable of prosaic actions is to recognize that this status is no more natural to them than angelism is to mere mortals, it is to acknowledge that the king is still king by divine right."
Spot on Ro-land.
Other bits of it are less convincing, and seem to be more about Barthes identifying his own message in an event/product/trend. Still, overall it seems like quite an interesting look at the messages within culture. And somehow I was reminded of this when I was reading Janet Daley's latest opinion piece in the Telegraph. It's this section that really stuck out:
The notion that Big Government (whether in the central or the local form) could solve all social problems, and through its interventions achieve absolute justice and harmony, is collapsing. And in its last moments, in its disbelief and agony at its own failure, it is lashing out in every direction: if the earlier measures haven't dealt with crime/public disorder/anti-social behaviour/under-performing hospitals/insufficient recycling, we must add yet more layers of official interference.
It's the second sentence that is the key one. The alarm bells always go off when I read someone trying to personify an idea. In more subtle versions of this people try and associate ideas with particular types of people. But the version above is great because it actually suggests that an idea itself can have some sort of physical manifestation - one that can feel 'disbelief' and 'agony' and is capable of 'lashing out'. No doubt lots of people will read the column without giving this a second thought, and may even perhaps imagine terrified, confused, theoreticians/bureaucrats to be the ones feeling the agony and doing the lashing out. But in the article itself it is clearly an idea doing this, something which is obviously impossible.
I'm never quite sure with examples like this which way the influence runs. Is the writer seeking to attach negative imagery to the idea deliberately? Or is their resistance to or dislike of the idea so great that they imagine it as a 'bad' person? Either way it is a poor way to write/think.