“Ars longa, vita brevis”

Mr. Žižek Goes to Left Forum


No Platforming strikes Left Forum 2016.

Not long ago, Slavoj Žižek was the darling of the art house left. His excessive pessimism and mastery in conveying simple, if counterintuitive, observations in the similarly opaque parlance of the Lacanian and Hegelian traditions elevated his status to the very apex of the bohemian radical milieu (in an atmosphere where form often exceeds substance, such is hardly surprising). Žižek’s charmingly misanthropic and eccentric personality, in addition to his vulgar sense of humor—ever observable in his public lectures—also broadened his appeal to less academic audiences, atypical for someone from his intellectual background and significantly contributing to his fringe celebrity.

But the Slovenian philosopher’s reputation has suffered a precipitous decline, transitioning from relatively famous to infamous in a matter of months. Predictably, the source of discontent centers on the least objectionable aspect of his work, to wit, his cogent—albeit limited—critiques of political correctness and unrestrained immigration.

To summarize the controversy, over the last year, Žižek has criticized the effectiveness of speech censorship in fostering multiculturalism and questioned the wisdom of the lenient immigration policies a number of EU countries have adopted in response to the Syrian refugee crisis, both of which are tantamount to heresy on the New Left. With intimate knowledge of the utter hysteria this coterie has the capacity to exhibit, Žižek sought to forestall hostile reactions by repeatedly qualifying his statements and reassuring his audiences that he unequivocally shares their cosmopolitan values, thus emphasizing that his is merely a tactical dispute. But the old man critically underestimated the extent of their dogmatism. Anecdotes of non-white activists who concur with his assessment of political correctness, and cautioning that the New Left’s wholesale endorsement of lax immigration policies is, in point of fact, bolstering far-right parties across Europe, weren’t nearly adequate enough to prevent Žižek’s detractors from labeling him a “racist” and a “fascist.” (Suffice it to say, it’s becoming increasingly evident that the more assumptions one professes to share in common with these characters, the more viciously they assail, should one diverge from their specific conclusions.)

This rabid and concerted offensive against Žižek reached a new height at the closing plenary of the Left Forum on the 22nd of May, where he delivered a lecture entitled “Rage, Rebellion, Organizing New Power: A Hegelian Triad.” Amy Goodman provided a particularly nauseating self-righteous introduction, which consisted of the usual left-liberal ritual celebration of all things ethnic and fringe, presumably so organizers could establish distance between the Left Forum and Žižek’s controversial positions. Before the talk began, however, a handout was circulated among attendees, laced with unpopular quotes by Žižek and distorted synopses of his stances, in order to poison the well, as it were. What followed was a series of attempted interruptions engaged in by a segment of the audience, obviously undertaken in an effort to deplatform the man. Fortunately Žižek managed to successfully complete the lecture despite the shrieks and jeers wailed by these hypersensitive fanatics, but given the contemporary left-liberal reactionary opposition to freedom of speech and association, I suspect it won’t be long before this maniacal mob succeeds in either eliminating his ability to deliver public lectures altogether or in intimidating him to the point he can only salvage his career via self-censorship.

To be clear, I’ve long been of the opinion that Žižek deserves to be challenged on a number of fronts. Inter alia, his unjustifiable rejection of value theory and historical materialism, unsubstantiated dismissal of libertarian communist economic models, and elitist Lacanian perspective on “ideology,” all seriously call into question Žižek’s Marxist and, indeed, communist bona fides, as far as I’m concerned. The proper terrain to conduct this campaign, however, is in the written word, formal debate, and/or organized speeches. Succumbing to the strategy the right pioneered, i.e. speech censorship, will do precisely nothing to actually demolish those views. As blasphemous as it will sound to many, I will even go so far as to contend that the no platform policy was never a sensible tactic. Incorrect and dangerous ideas are not extinguished by fiat, they are vanquished only by superior ideas; hence, in the eyes of the public, those who attempt to censor speech appear to require force out of sheer intellectual ineptitude.

In an environment as irrational and toxic as the radical so-called ‘left’ has become in Western Europe and North America, perhaps Žižek can take solace in the fact that virtually every heterosexual Caucasian male is, at some point, suspected of harboring racist, sexist, and fascistic sympathies. I will surely be, once my own papers on immigration, intersectionality, and the national question are complete. So be it.


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11 thoughts on “Mr. Žižek Goes to Left Forum

  1. amen on said:

    “Predictably, the source of discontent centers on the least objectionable aspect of his work, to wit, his cogent—albeit limited—critiques of political correctness and unrestrained immigration.”

    No it doesn’t. It centers on Zizek being a racist and saying things like “my black friend told me I could call him n—-r.” That’s the most objectionable aspect of his work.

    Here, this person seems a lot smarter than you:

    • Of course people like yourself consider it the most objectionable aspect of his work, because you’re the sort who think enforcing speech codes are the alpha and omega of political activism. Žižek relaying a story where a black guy told him, “now you can call me nigga” doesn’t render him a “racist” by any logical measure. If he had added something along the lines of, ‘and, by the way, blacks are a biologically inferior race who deserve to be oppressed,’ then I’d be inclined to agree with you.

      Anyway, I’ll be sure to read the blog you linked to when I have the time and am in need of a laugh. Thanks for chiming in.

      • amen on said:

        “You’re the sort” is such a lazy way to argue. putting words in my mouth about “enforcing speech codes.” Who is “people like me?” exactly? I personally am not a “Stalinist” or “SJW” or any of these buzzwords… but I can see why that “sort” has agreed with me on this issue.

        Zizek has told this story dozens of times, if not hundreds, in many variations including one in which a cab driver pulls over to embrace him after he makes a joke about pederasty. Do you believe this story, where he made a joke about black people having big dicks and the black guy said “You can call me nigga”? I mean really, did it happen? Would you try making this remark to a black acquaintance, using Zizek’s logic?

  2. >“such a lazy way to argue”

    And insulting my intelligence and linking to some inane blog post isn’t?

    >“Who is ‘people like me?’ exactly? I personally am not a ‘Stalinist’ or ‘SJW’ or any of these buzzwords… but I can see why that ‘sort’ has agreed with me on this issue.”

    Based upon the grievance you cited with Žižek, I assumed (correctly) you’re an SJW. Even if you don’t identify as such, the fact you’re comfortable stating you’re a fellow traveler (“I can see why that ‘sort’ has agreed with me”) is revealing.

    >“Do you believe this story, where he made a joke about black people having big dicks and the black guy said ‘You can call me nigga’? I mean really, did it happen?”

    I really don’t care whether it happened or not. Critical theorists have an extensive history of distorting events and employing anecdotes, in lieu of empirical evidence, to lend credibility to their assertions, and Žižek is no exception. Having said that, I certainly think the story is plausible. He may recite it differently at times, as a consequence of his recollection or catering it to the particular audience, but I don’t doubt that he may have been involved in a personal engagement along those lines.

    >“Would you try making this remark to a black acquaintance, using Zizek’s logic?”

    Not verbatim, as I find it rather strange to discuss penises with other men (I don’t have the Freudian background Žižek does), but I would have no misgivings whatsoever about utilizing what Žižek refers to as “progressive racism”—I already do so on a regular basis, because that’s how proletarian men actually converse with one another. Does it possess the ability to establish solidarity between individuals of different ethnicities, as Žižek claims? In my personal experience, absolutely, although it can also generate conflict, depending on the sensitivity of the individuals involved. In any case, I don’t think it’s racist in the standard definition of the term, nor do I believe it augments actual racist sentiments in society.

  3. Marko L. on said:

    First of all, it is good to see you back with another post, Michael.

    The hysterical reaction to Žižek’s innocuous and alleged remarks hardly surprises me at this point. The New Left and its maladjusted progeny have proven themselves to be not only total ideological failures in the Western world (or anywhere else for that matter), but utterly reactionary in the final analysis. While completely ignoring the Enlightenment origins of modern socialism/communism, Marxism, and traditional working class struggle, these pathetic creatures eschew rational debate under some misguided assumption that it will strengthen the left and displace the right, as the individual who replied above aptly demonstrates. A meaningless accusation of “racism” and link to a vacuous article by another feminist nobody on the internet was all this simpleton could offer in response to your cogent commentary. Žižek should not have been treated as he was over something so trivial, but his pusillanimous assurances to these hypersensitive twits are not worthy of respect.

    This disgraceful behavior is rather widespread, as has been witnessed during recent university conferences (e.g., the deplatforming of Richard Dawkins, the censorship of gay journalist and critic of political correctness Milo Yiannopoulos, hysterics by feminist scum in general), mainstream political rallies (witness Bernie Sanders’ pitiful capitulation to Black Lives Matter losers as an example of what not to do), and social media events in general. Instead of enfeebling the far right, this shameful behavior has contributed to a climate that has allowed neo-reactionary forces to proliferate at an unprecedented pace since the end of the Second World War. Far-right parties now represent the fastest growing political segment in Europe. The ossified New Left and its spawn have evinced near total impotence in grappling with the modern realities of Western capitalism. Even this is too generous an assessment, for impotence implies a power struggle where none has taken place. This worthless strain of “leftism” has failed to even articulate a credible response to the profound public discontent surrounding mass immigration, the deterioration of the working class family, and basic questions of nationhood, which plays directly into the hands of the neo-fascist resurgence. Instead, the infantile members of this long irrelevant sect retreat to their safe spaces, wallow in inane intersectional identity politics, and screech in protest of rational speech and free association.

    It is time to ready the Hyperloop to Siberia for these degenerates. In any case, keep enjoying your “white male privilege,” comrade. Heterosexual white men are the only segment of the population capable of actually galvanizing the revolutionary left into a meaningful force in the world, as history makes abundantly clear.

  4. amen on said:

    You’re a “proletarian man?” It looks to me like you’re in Florida. I assume you’re conversing with migrant workers? Otherwise I think you meant, “that’s how racist Americans actually converse with each other.” Also, talk about your inane blog posts, have you noticed that I’m the only person who’s read yours? At least I am taking the time to engage you and point out how this “progressive racism” of Zizek’s is still a reproduction of racism. Trying to smear with a near-meaningless catchphrase like “SJW” doesn’t advance a real point or discredit the idea that Zizek is selling racism to young western male academics like yourself. Ayn Rand did something pretty similar in her day.

    • Marko L. on said:

      >>”You’re a “proletarian man?” ”

      Yes, he is. The sarcasm is pointless.

      >> “I assume you’re conversing with migrant workers?”

      That’s irrelevant, and illegal immigrants have no revolutionary potential in the United States regardless.

      >> “Otherwise I think you meant, “that’s how racist Americans actually converse with each other.” ”

      That’s cute, but it doesn’t bolster your nonexistent argument in the slightest. How exactly is it “racist,” pray tell? Your definition of “racism” is broad to the point of meaninglessness. Even if I were to concede that this is “how racist Americans converse with each other,” as Michael has already suggested to you earlier, it is an innocuous sort of “racism” that does not inflame racist attitudes in society.

      >>”At least I am taking the time to engage you and point out how this “progressive racism” of Zizek’s is still a reproduction of racism.”

      If you call your hitherto performance “taking the time to engage” his argument, then you needn’t have bothered. You’ve wasted everyone’s time with your silly and mediocre rants. Michael has already utilized his superior reasoning abilities as a white male to mansplain to you why he does not believe Žižek’s “progressive racism” is harmful in society.

      >>”Trying to smear with a near-meaningless catchphrase like “SJW” doesn’t advance a real point or discredit the idea that Zizek is selling racism to young western male academics like yourself.”

      You are an SJW. Admit that you’re a hypersensitive twit with no intellectual substance and we can make some progress.

      >>”Ayn Rand did something pretty similar in her day.”

      It’s amusing that you would mention Ayn Rand, as the proud white male comrade Michael has produced far superior critiques of her sordid philosophy on this very blog than you and your irrelevant cohorts will make in your entire lifetimes.

      You’ve made no points apart from emotional accusations. Michael already dismantled your petty replies. Your definition of “racism” is vague to the point of meaningless, and since both Michael and I reject idealist conceptions of social power, such as white male privilege, which the nonsense article you linked raises to the status of a dogma, you have nothing more to offer. Stop wasting time with asinine replies.

      (If you could ever find a girlfriend, she would sleep with a white male alpha behind your back.)

    • >“You’re a ‘proletarian man’?”

      Correct. I’m a wage laborer (i.e., a proletarian) who barely lives above the poverty line—not that the latter has any bearing on my class position. Would you care to share your class and income level with everyone?

      >“It looks to me like you’re in Florida. I assume you’re conversing with migrant workers?”

      It appears as though you espouse a liberal or Maoist Third Worldist-esque conception of class, based upon this remark. I’d prefer to avoid wasting time repeating things I’ve thoroughly discussed elsewhere, so see my remarks on class here. If you’d like to explain why you reject the Marxist conception of class, we can debate the matter in the comment section of that post.

      >“Otherwise I think you meant, ‘that’s how racist Americans actually converse with each other.’”

      If you’d like to dismiss everyone who has ever facetiously used racist stereotypes in order to establish a social bond with a member of a separate race (i.e., engage in what Žižek calls “progressive racism”) as a “racist” in the conventional sense of the term, that’s your prerogative. Actual racist sentiments have been on the decline for decades, and I assure you it’s not due to the efforts of your fellow speech censors.

      Since you brought up Florida, allow me to describe to you how proletarians casually speak with one another here. My hometown of Miami, for example, largely consists of residents who immigrated from a number of Hispanic countries in Latin America, each of which possesses its own range of ethnic stereotypes. As someone of Spanish descent myself, Hispanics in Miami would generally assume I’m Cuban or Argentinian, since that’s where the preponderance of Caucasian Hispanics arrive to South Florida from. Thus I would occasionally be accused of exhibiting typical ‘guajiro’ characteristics, and so forth, by non-Cubans.

      In a work environment or casual setting (e.g., a barbershop or bar), it’s not uncommon for men who are acquainted with one another to jocularly great each other by exchanging stereotypical insults. If one should, say, make a mistake on the job, we also jokingly attribute it to their ethnicity at times, etc. Again, this is how ordinary working people converse with one another in multicultural environments. There’s no sinister intent involved. (Incidentally, I have noticed that women tend to abstain from this custom, for whatever reason.)

      >”Also, talk about your inane blog posts, have you noticed that I’m the only person who’s read yours?”

      In light of how infrequently I post, my blog generates a respectable amount of traffic—it can’t be gleaned solely by viewing the number of comments each post receives. My posts on cultural “Marxism” alone provide traffic far in excess of what most WordPress blogs have. Try again.

      >”Trying to smear with a near-meaningless catchphrase like ‘SJW’ doesn’t advance a real point or discredit the idea that Zizek is selling racism to young western male academics like yourself.”

      The notion Žižek is “selling racism” is hilarious. Again, for him to be justly accused of doing so, one would have to demonstrate instances of him having published or publicly stated that he believes a hierarchy of races exists, and that inferior groups within that hierarchy are worthy of oppression. I, for one, have yet to come across a single text or lecture by him which has advocated anything to that effect. However, being that individuals like yourself see racism behind any and all utterances Caucasian males make, that likely makes no difference to you. In the opinion of your lot, the fact a racial achievement gap exists at all is evidence of ongoing “white supremacism” and “structural racism.” I’m still awaiting the irrefutable empirical evidence for each, though.

      Also, considering I have no institutional affiliation whatsoever, it’s erroneous to label me an “academic.”

  5. Marko, it’s delightful to hear from you, comrade.

    Thank you for the kind words and for your insightful contributions to the ongoing discussion. I suspected that, as with so many other topics, our perspectives on this subject would be in harmony, for our respective Weltanschauungs were, after all, forged by our joint readings of key Marxist texts and having endured very similar experiences in bourgeois society. I must, however, insist that you issue trigger warnings before writing such incendiary comments on my blog. You’re in danger of advocating positions indistinguishable from those forwarded by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels—two heterosexual white males who would surely be condemned as irredeemably “problematic,” were they publishing in today’s climate.

    Speaking of which, it may interest readers to know that Marx and Engels regularly practiced something akin to Žižekian “progressive racism” among individuals they respected. For example, Engels once wrote that Paul Lafargue’s trace amount of negro ancestry was a sufficient reason for him to be provided a position on the Municipal Council of the Paris Zoo, because it rendered him “a degree nearer to the animal kingdom than the rest of us.” (They also espoused literal racism on a number of occasions, but that can be reviewed in this post.)

    • Marko L. on said:

      Michael, thank you for replying to my post. Our worldviews do indeed run parallel across a wide range of (related) subjects. After taking the time to reflect upon my initial comment and the subsequent reply to the special snowflake above, I must confess that I am inclined to agree with you. I should have included a trigger warning beforehand so as to spare the fragile sensitivities of “marginalized and oppressed voices” in society who might otherwise stumble upon your blog, examine my comments, and scarcely recover from the microaggressions contained therein—though one would then be left wondering whether such an encounter had truly impacted their already miserable lives for the worse.

      My fundamental position is clearly a dangerous reflection of the views held by virtually all respectable radical leftists prior to the 1960s (viz., real leftists). Of course, I am aware of the ignominious remarks by both Marx and Engels that would, were they alive today, not only render their work “problematic,” but indeed “violent” (for to use “oppressive language” in a world of omnipresent institutional oppression is nothing short of violence against the innumerable “intersectional axes of identity” that white heterosexual men—better known by the socioanalytical term “cisscum shitlords”—repress), and I could add a few of my own, including statements by Engels insisting upon the existence of “non-historic” peoples and some that highlight Marx’s shameless use of the adjectives “savage” and “barbaric” to describe peoples he deemed inferior. In addition to outright bigotry, these men were also practitioners of what today’s enlightened minds, when venturing outside of their safe spaces, would call “benevolent sexism.” This history is a modern blasphemy that naturally invalidates the totality of their work on any subject. Needless to say, the classical anarchists do not fare any better in this regard.

      The only viable course of action is for me to “check” my white male privilege and proceed to self-censor, self-flagellate, and prostrate myself before those courageous enemies of free speech, lest I be accused of “selling racism”—a charge from which I could never recover.

  6. Pingback: America’s Populist Moment | COMMON RUIN

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