Igor Yopsvoyomatsky, editor of paranoiaisfact.com and columnist for the DE answers readers' questions.
|"He's a post-modern ironist," my son said|
My son came home for winter break with a new culture hero--Slavoj Zizek. Zizek had taken his university by storm, giving two sold-out lectures and sitting for an online interview that lasted hours. "He's a post-modern ironist," my son said. It was nice to hear him use words I didn't think he knew. It was great that he went to hear a philosopher-any philosopher- give a lecture. But then I read some of Zizik's essays and I was appalled. Zizik says that Islamic terrorists are not fundamentalists or even revolutionaries, but the casualties of global capitalism. That on 9/11 a paranoid America got what it had been fantasizing about for decades. That Mohammad Atta and his terrrorist hijackers represented the "good as the spirit of and actual readiness to sacrifice in the name of a higher cause." That when prisoners were tortured in Guantanamo they were really being initiated into the true essence of American culture. And if Americans really believed in Democracy they would not vote themselves, but would let the rest of the world choose their leader. My son says I should
My son says I should lighten up. It's just a big joke-"post modern, dad-" meant to make people question conventional assumptions. But then I read an article which calls Zizek "the most dangerous philosopher in the west." Is this paranoia or fact?
Shaker Heights, Ohio
|Is this paranoia or fact?|
First...If you want to cure your son of his post-modern tendencies cut off his allowance.
Now to your question. This is pure paranoia. If Zizik were dangerous you would never have heard of him. The capitalist culture welcomes and rewards only harmless iconoclasts, who do not challenge the economic order. To Zizek goes the lucrative honor of being this generation's token anarchist.
Slavoj Zizek is Slovenia's most famous culture hustler. (Admittedly, it is a small country.) You could say he is the Jon Stewart of the academic lecture circuit. He plies a nice trade on the well-endowed campuses of the world, making statements that seem to be outrageous, but are really clever panderings to the politics of his audience. He is a living oxymoron-a best-selling philosopher. He publishes prodigiously dense, obscure musings, but always inserts a sensational easy-to-understand headline about the US, Nazism, Stalinism, Jihadism, Christianity, Zionism, Anti-Semitism (a particular favorite) which creates controversy and adds to his box office appeal.
If Zizek didn't exist, Woody Allen would have had to invent him. He is the subject of a full length documentary, has had a punk band (Laibajh) and a virtual nation (NSK) founded in his honor. He has his own academic journal (International of Zizek Studies,) has written copy for the Abercrombie and Fitch Catalogue and is recently married to a beautiful Argentine model.
He cultivates publicity, responding to every request for a quote or an interview. He loves to tweak Americans and Jews because they can be counted to respond with howls of injured indignation. In his book The Borrowed Kettle he is quoted as saying: "Better the worst Stalinist dictatorship than the most liberal capitalist democracy." He is modishly anti Israel, saying that Nazism and Zionism were allied in their programs to "change violently the ratio of ethnic groups in a population." He has been quoted as supporting the view that "the only true solution to the Jewish question is the final solution (their annihilation) because the Jews are the ultimate obstacle to the final solution of history of overcoming of divisions in unity and flexibility" while offering an exemption from extermination "to Jews resisting identification with the state of Israel." When challenged he responds with rhetorically raised eyebrow that Jews are "the majority of my friends and theoretical collaborators."
Zizek's politics are shared by many on the lifestyle left. But he stands out because of his clever use of American popular culture to disarm his critics. He is an expert on Hitchcock, finds great significance in the Matrix trilogy and leavens his diatribes with movie references, jokes and humorous anecdotes. How angry can you be at a man who claims to see the world as a Marx Brothers' out take?
In the spirit of Zizek I can offer you an anecdote for consolation. In my student days I worked as an orderly on the psychiatric ward of the Pinsk hospital. A man marched back and forth, a sheet wrapped around him like a toga.
"He thinks he's Julius Caesar," a nurse said with a smile.
Another man stood by the window, whining and strumming on an air guitar..."Thinks he's Bob Dylan," she said.
In a shadowy corner a man sat crooning to himself, while he rocked back and forth on a pile of soiled, fetid sheets.
"Who does he think he is?" I asked.
"An intellectual," the nurse said.