In a recent meme, a woman wants to know a man’s astrological sign. He responds by dismissing her interest in signs as “made up nonsense”. Soon after, he is fascinated by the presence of something (supposedly comparable to astrological signs) and exclaims “So true!!!”
One version of this meme put Lacan’s “graph of desire” as the fascinating presence. I made a version with Saussure’s sign (consisting of the signifier “tree” and the signified tree) because it’s literally “the sign”:
What’s the message of this meme? Obviously, it makes a sexual association. What fascinates the man is a Master-Signifier which has the status of an exceptional truth (remember the Truth-Event which intervenes in Being according to Badiou ). For the woman, “There is nothing which is not truthful” which is why astrological signs are not dismissed as pure nonsense, they can have partial truth like anything else.
In my version of the meme, there is another message: The man is fascinated by the universal form of the sign, whereas the woman is interested in the particular examples of signs. We can paraphrase Brecht here: What is an interest in false signs compared to the fascination with the “erroneous” (as Lacan calls it in Écrits) Saussurean model of the sign?
Remember the difference of a sign from a signifier: A sign shows something to someone, whereas a signifier represents the subject to another signifier . This is why the “sign” (both astrological and Saussurean) emerges as the misleading temptation as depicted in the meme: A signifier’s reference to another signifier brings about the difficult enigmatic gap that is the subject, whereas a sign can easily show some fascinating presence to conceal the subject’s gap. The meme is right in that a sign is always misleading insofar as it attributes meaning.
The topic of the meme is “signs”. But the meme itself is a signifier. Lacan: “Every real signifier is, as such, a signifier that signifies nothing. The more the signifier signifies nothing, the more indestructible it is.” (Seminar 3) Of course this determinate nothing is the subject. The meme represents the empty place of the subject in its sexual difference, which makes it indestructible.
Işık Barış Fidaner is a computer scientist with a PhD. Admin of Yersiz Şeyler (Placeless Things) blog, Admin/Editor/Curator of Žižekian Analysis, and one of the admins of “Žižek and the Slovenian School” group on Facebook. Twitter: @BarisFidaner
 It is unfortunate that Turkish Lacanians use the word “gösteren” (which means “shower” i.e. something that shows) to refer to a signifier. The correct Turkish word for the signifier is “imleyen”. See “Signifier Neden Gösteren Değil İmleyen Olarak Çevrilmeli”