The Clown Of Counterpunch: Gabriel Rockhill

General notes on a trash article by ‘Gabriel Rockhill’ that I call out as nakedly reactionary, pseudo-critical, cherry picked, extremely bad faith bullshit:

I’m not equipped to handle even this much Zizek, but Gabe’s text seemed almost masturbatory. Hidden under what appears to be a deliberately obscure and convoluted writing is a ‘rethink’ that doesn’t appear to be any more than oversimplified reinvention of terminology

– Paraphrasing a Goodreads review of Gabe’s minor mental pamphlet “The Politics Of Ranciere”

// First off – other than what seems like yet another random white sour grapes Academic desperate to scrawl another stunningly obvious tabloid hit piece for intellectual clickbait dollars – who exactly the fuck is Gabriel Rockhill, and why does he appear quite so butthurt by Zizek? Why has he chosen this particular moment to speak up, tiny intellectual hatchet in hand, singular voice of reason in the pro-Zizekian wilderness, against The Evil Popcult King? (Oh, wait up; seems like Gabe’s got another hot forthcoming book project on ‘the Intellectual World War’. Sounds terminally boring though YMMV, I guess.)

// According to Gabe, Zizzy rose to fame in the ‘global theory industry’ (whatever that is) by promoting ‘Pomo Radlib Theory’ against the.. blah blah strawman-whatever. Strange how it isn’t in fact strange at all that ‘pomo radlib theory’ sounds like the exact same kind of paranoid, corner-of-the-mouth frothing that Jordan ‘Professor Kermitballs’ Peterson regularly gets a chubby about. Shirley not P.R.T, Gabe? Anything but P.R.T!

// Say if a turgid bunch of nakedly right wing Capitalist fucknuts, in a pathetic attempt to ‘enfold you into their circle as one of their own’ in other people’s eyes, idly decide to list you in their bullshit, random Top Ten list. Does that automatically mean Gabe’s successfully critiqued the shit outa you, because your simply on that list? (Or indeed on any list?) Or perhaps there’s merely some lingering, rancid green smell of envy because he isn’t on these kinda lists, rubbing shoulders with the big white theory boys? [1]

// That Gabe’s article, apropos of nothing, a NASA rocket trembling with anticipation, instantly launches into pissing and moaning about nicely vague yet oddly ultra-specific, conveniently ultra-decontextualized (/lesser) aspects of Zizek’s thought, without having first said, eg. “I simply can’t stand Zizek, think he’s full of it – and here’s why” should make anyone’s critical Spidersense tingle. There’s literally no other context possible for why such a B.S article should even exist. Certainly whatever sleepy dolt over at Counterpunch (an otherwise excellent site, btw) who happened to be on the desk on the day this crappy hit piece was published, also had no damn clue what Gabe was trying to say, if anything. Perhaps Counterpunch were bored for a second and thought Zizek was long due for quick piss take. Taken down an un-gentle peg or three. I mean sure, why not take a swipe at the King you placed on the thrown for convenient target practice? But, alas, Gabe’s spectacular swing-and-a-miss just isn’t it. Major phail there, sunshine boy.

// Gabe’s mention of Zizek’s discussion about the horrors of Communism smacks of standard, right wing pseudo-critique, and ironically seems ideology at it’s purest (as in raw sewage): “Such information is of no import, however, to this theorist since he operates on the assumption that the worst ‘crime against humanity’ in the modern world was not Nazism or fascism, but rather communism.” Good grief, Charlie Brownshirt.

Now, I’ve heard other brain stunningly idiotic old interviews with Zizek, in which witless journalists (who’ve never read any of his books) have also laughably attempted to hint at ‘how teh Left is actually the worst kind of fascism’TM – and Gabe’s hugely decontextualized spotlight is no exception to this kind of brain dead non thought. (Just look up one of the early dreadful documentaries about Zizek, in which the documentarian points out the picture of ‘Uncle Joe’ on Zizek’s apartment wall. Attentive viewers with actual working brains will quickly realize Zizek is many things, but an uncritically Communistic, pro-genocidal, non anti-fascist or an idiot he is most certainly not. He is in fact simply wicked smart. To suggest otherwise is simply projecting one’s own intellectual insecurities. Gabe.)

// The whole sad key to Gabe’s fiasco of an article lies in the following quote – a sentence Psychoanalysts could at least have a minor field day with: “As a young philosophy student in the United States in the early 1990s, I must admit that I was hoodwinked by this huckster and the system that promoted him.”

Why wasn’t this the very first sentence of Gabe’s article? At last, the path to parsing Gabe’s particular Zizekian themed ass-weed is clear; he’s pathetically jealous of Zizek’s ‘fame’. In fact Zizek was clearly an inspiration to Gabe – but as a subsequent Zizek Stan (who probably ripped off a lot of Slavoj’s excellent ideas, clever arguments and keen cultural observations) eventually grew deeply (/sexually?) frustrated at the lack of his own (Strictly Academic)TM rise to lofty intellectual heights. All those fancy cheese and wine publishing parties. And so he now imagines far greater thinkers like Zizek must have been ‘promoted’ by “The System”, man. Ooh, not that dirty System at work again? Hang on Gabe, what’s that noise – do you hear tiny violins playing?

// But for Gabe, apparently it was all a bad mistake, and now ol’ Zizzy has simply gone too far with his naked-emperor MTV style global Designer Commie brand: “However, as I continued to educate myself, I began to tire of his repetitions, theoretical superficiality, and rote rhetorical moves.” Yeah, well I’m dog tired of the intellectual weaknesses Gabe shows in his lousy article. For a hit piece this fucking weak to appear in Counterpunch ‘of all places’? (Maybe they were just in a bit of a rut when they decided to publish. Fair enough, perhaps.)

There exist far better ways to critique Zizek – ways that directly speak to the vital sociopolitical needs of those leaning Left, right here and now. Needs that Gabe simply doesn’t appear to give much of a shit about, because he’s too busy weeping into his Strictly Academic leather elbow patches about how much of a big commie bully Zizek is in the Publishing-Fame-I-Never-Got-Wah world.

// More Trumpian whining by Gabe. “His hot takes, while they sold like hot cakes, paled in comparison to rigorous materialist analyses of the history of U.S. imperialism and the machinations of its national security state, if it be in the work of Noam Chomsky.” Bollocks. This brings to mind Bianca O’Blivion, upon meeting greasy Max Renn for the first time at the church in Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983. Blame Canada.) “Oh yes,” she replies with droll recognition. “You said some very superficial things. Violence, sex, imagination, catharsis. Zizek as a CIA stoolie.” (I added that last bit. Now that would be cool.. a career with real mythic resonance, as Burroughs would say.)

First off; sure you can compare Zizek to Chomsky. But to set them distinctly apart, even at philosophical odds with one another is surely some Conservative divide-and-conquer bullshit. It’s something Chomsky certainly likes doing, because despite being consistently accurate and displaying much philosophical truth, his work is also often (to coin a phrase) ‘dryer than dog biscuits up Ayn Rand.’

Chomsky often hates on Zizek, because – hey just like Gabe – teh Left constantly eats it’s own, and has a pathological fucking need to play “Who’s the Mostest Realist Leftist”TM bullshit – something the far Alt Right loves to watch while stuffing popcorn and watching others undermine their own (often entirely wasted, uselessly duplicated) efforts for A Better World For All. Chomsky hates on Zizek, because he’s everything Chomsky never was or really could be; fun, popular, vulgar, daft, irrelevant, vulnerable perhaps – ie. unafraid to walk around without a fifty foot academic stick of Righteous Historically Deterministic Marxist Logic stuck up himself. People’s front of Judea? Fuck off, Gabe.

But most of all it’s because Zizek talks about Psychology – something the historical mummified academic Left seems borderline terrified to admit exists – or that at least has real world political efficacy. That facts alone aren’t enough to change hearts unknowingly blinded by ideology, that people aren’t only capable of rationality, that’s there’s an inherently fuzzy, dangerous discontent and deep schism at the dark burning heart of Culture per se. As Freud said. (Exactly likewise of course, if only Zizek had positively name dropped some of Zizek’s early classic books about Anarchism and anarchist thought, and laid off talking about Kung Fu Fucking Panda for a while. Sure Ziz, rhetorical strategies need to change with the times, but..)

Gabe then seeks to counter Zizek’s heinous falsehoods by throwing around Big Numbers – something Chomsky does by default, not just because accurate numbers are important but because Chomsky semi-secretly loves to bore his enemies to death by drowning them in relevant data. Gabe’s own glaring error here however is that Gabe proves absolutely nothing, shows us nothing to remotely suggest that nobody should be looking at what Zizek is doing as a whole. Despite the numbers and the facts. Zizek is obviously and overwhelmingly a net good in this world.

I mean common, let’s be honest even Zizek’s name evokes bizarre, oddly cool, behind-the-iron-wall era academics working under the wire, under total state surveillance, drinking bad coffee without milk / cream. Images of Dellio-esque Eastern European decay (and the white nerd thrill of post-apocalyptic sociocultural urban exploration through other people’s recent historical misery), and so on. A universe without red pens.

“Gabriel Rockhill” however sounds like the name of an Insurance Salesman – someone who once remotely and hopelessly romantically imagined they had ‘cornered the market’ in some willfully desiccated area of academic study – and was now all-too willing to share with the world the sorry tale of their ongoing ‘intellectual incarceration’ at hidden Communist freemarket hands. It’s almost like a Sun newshitpaper headline: “I Was Cancelled By Zizek’s Unearned Fame.” sips tiny glass thimbles of white academic tears

// Is Zizek an actual charlatan, getting mo’ benefits off that dirty Capitali$t dollar? How about a far more interesting and politically challenging position: “What exactly about Zizek displays charlatan like characteristics?” This seems a far more useful (Zizekian!) question. As Gabe’s eye-rollingly desperate little article stands however, Gabe has sadly betrayed himself as a painfully unaware inhabitant of Cerreto (look it up on Wikipedia, where I often shamelessly copypasta such facts from.)

// The mere use of the phrase ‘the Elvis of cultural theory’ should tell you everything about Gabe’s total lack of honest engagement with the Wacky World Of Zizek. For what does the phrase really mean – if anything? What exactly for Gabe is so inconceivably awful about being ‘the Elvis of cultural theory’? Elvis was hip and trendy – symbolically racist sure, but undoubtedly a great performer ;-) Ironically, Zizek has discussed Populism before – and by possible implication his own popularity. Gabe however seems woefully ignorant of this fact. [2]

// Gabe’s shameless hit piece goes on an on. (I admit, I lost all interest and hope half way through.) Apparently Gabe has little in his skull but a massive bag of King Zizek potatoes on his weakling’s shoulder; that he was forced to accept a Zizek intro for a shitty translation he once did. Or something. (Probably because it wouldn’t have sold as nearly as the small number it did without a Zizekian stamp of Systemic Commie approval? Or something.)

Basically this is Gabe on Zizek in a nut’s shell: “He’s capitalism’s court jester: aping the figure of the Marxist-qua-antisocial-fanatic, he encourages disdain for the real-world project of socialism, while advancing his career by hawking the wares of Western consumer society & the global theory industry through his pop cultural mash-up.” [3]

Wait up a goddam second. So what if Zizek’s career has indeed advanced? It’s not a crime to have one, thereby directly spreading one’s challenging ideas theories and cultural commentary far wider than they would of been otherwise under Communism. Are every one of Zizek’s ideas good, 100% accurate, useful, or even interesting? Are Gabe Rockhill’s? What is Gabe’s actual beef here? Why does Zizek ruffle Gabe’s soft manageable greying hairstyle to the degree it currently seems to?

These alas seem questions only Professor Gabe can answer. Everyone else remotely progressive in their secular, humanist, atheistic, pro scientific, spiritual, sexually exciting outlook already seems to thoroughly enjoy Zizek as a gruff, friendly and genuinely humane being. But they enjoy him, dear Gabe, precisely because they’re already critical, and clued in – about Zizek, and the current awful state of the world he positively engages with and critically responds to.

For deadpan laughs, skim over Gabe’s Twitter-Hellsite thread and the (all too telling) amount of fascists and tankies posting there; chomping and drooling at the bit in comically useless efforts to denounce another enemy they’re obviously too fucking ignorant to understand. Almost as brain damaging as Gabe’s shitty article.

// Finally, check out Gabe’s nut blasting interview with some random bald grinning schmuck. Hard to watch – it’s so performative and wokescolding. Rockhill: “As far as I know, there isn’t another Leninist out there, who’s supporting Donald Trump [..]” What the actual shit, Gabe?

[..] On the one hand it’s not that I am for, in any sense, for Trump. But – maybe this is my widely Leninist, speculative, brutal mind – I am always obsessed by this idea – I don’t blame them, they can be well meaning and so on – that again, as you said and I said, the problem is, the disintegration of this old, centrist, liberal democratic consensus. That – and this is what is really in crisis. And I see Trump, as somebody who, further undermines this consensus, and that creates a need, and even a chance for a new consensus. I claim, no Bernie Sanders, and so on and so on, no Democratic Socialists, without Trump. Now, I know, this is an extremely dangerous game, because some idiots who criticize me at this point use this idea – “But this is the same as to say” – and some crazy Communists did say in ’33, “It’s better to have Hitler in power” – now the fronts are clear – no. I am not saying this. It’s a specific statement about [the] United States.
– Slavoj Zizek talk at Cambridge Union, 2018

// If Mr. Rockhill and his ilk also want to progressively add to the positive ongoing Zizekian conversation, they could do far better than acting like one of those tiny red faced Magic Academic Elves who, armed with their tiny arrows of intellectual misfortune, poke uselessly at one’s ankles. Puffing themselves up to appear somehow remotely relevant. So, in the words of populist Hiphop: run a checkedy-check, Gabe; you just played yourself. The long and the short of it is that Gabe’s article stinks of just another Strictly Academic grifter in denial, and should politely just go fuck itself. Zizek’s cool, strange lifetime body of socially progressive critique effortlessly pisses on such trolls from a great height. Try harder, you mook. Next!

References & Links

  1. Notes Towards A Satirical Examination Of Ray ‘Batshit Jumblewords’ Brassier
  2. International Journal Of Zizek Studies: Is there a leftwing anti-populism? Meet Slavoj Žižek