The Times Literary Supplement Hit Piece On Slavoj Zizek

RND// To consider notes toward a response re: the desperately blatant ad hominem hit piece on Slavoj Zizek and his book Pandemic! (Becca Rothfeld, Times Literary Supplement, February 5 2021.)

Note to anyone living outside Dismaland: The T.L.S is a corporation owned cultural institution of supposedly progressive, actually just reactionary, pseudo-liberal, conservative (small and big C) literary commentary and associated commentary. Internally it imagines itself as some corner of a foreign field, forever stinking of warm beer, nuns riding through the mist for morning worship, the sound of leather on willow, and the intensely erotic, terminally dull memoirs of some small-potatoes dean at Oxford, left unread in an antique oak drawer. Basically it’s just incredibly fucking posh, prim and proper and quietly up its own ass – but contains the bare minimum of socially ‘inclusive’ writers and subjects that Guardian reading tossers will imagine it wholesome, sytlistic and non-offensive. The barely-hidden fear and disgust the upper middle classes have for an intelligence like Zizeks is to be all-too expected. Poor dears.

Zocialist-Communizm: Zizek Brand Soviet Era Propaganda Poster (via Robert What)

Ideology is strong exactly because it is no longer experienced as ideology [..] we feel free because we lack the very language to articulate our unfreedom.”
– Slavoj Žižek, In Defense of Lost Causes

* It’s all in the ridiculous title: “Agent non provocateur: How Žižek was tamed by Covid-19.” Interesting that ‘inciting agents’ were historically used (illegally and immorally) by union busters. What particular political opponents (other than say ‘happy stupid people’) does the writer imagine Zizek is (/now) non-provocative against? One potential irony here of course is that such blatantly skewed, badly researched articles appear as an naked ideological incitement to dismiss Zizek out of hand, thereby catching them inside the paper thin web of right wing polemic they love to (/media) spin.

* Re: the particular image used of Zizek: hair ruffled, possibly deep in philosophical contemplation / having a quick doze / feeling world weary of the same old right wing bullshit?

* “The most offensive thing about Pandemic!, Slavoj Žižek’s hastily composed monograph, is that it is not especially offensive.” This sounds vapid at best. (The rambling, privileged hissing of Karens is offensive.) ‘Hastily composed’ it may well of been – but better to be hasty and meaningful than deliberate and spiteful, right? The writer seems offended by the not-especially-offensive nature of Zizek’s text, possibly indicating deep confusion caused by the experience. (In fact the whole article is at least potentially interesting, in that it expresses precisely so little about Zizek, or his book.)

* “Despite its cover (outfitted in shrieking magenta, with five of the title letters enlarged to spell out ‘panic’) [..]” As though being a wickedly intelligent Commie humanist wasn’t already bad enough – a shrieking magenta cover! Oh, the cosmic horror. Imagine being seen in public with such a publication (let alone discovered reading it.) Sounds like magenta’s under the bed again. The ‘shrieking magentas’: a possible new term for what naked Zizek-haters get.

* “[..] its sensationalist subtitle“, yeah nothing like the classy, low key article title actually used in the T.L.S.

* “Sobriety is the last thing we have come to expect from Žižek.” ‘Drunken philosophy’ sounds like a cool deadly ancient internal Chinese Taoist martial art, though in comparison such articles appear positively pissed to the gills with the drooling love of attacking Zizek.

* “The jacket blurb brags that he is ‘the most dangerous philosopher in the west’“. This material obsession – about the garish cover, its design aesthetics, the jacket blurb – all make it sound like someone who idly picked up a physical copy in the local hipster supermarket of Culture, casually turned it over only to think ‘urgh, what a pulpy little publication’ and dropped it back on the rack with snobby manicured fingertips. OK. But why tell anyone? How does this consumerist attitude help us weight up Zizek’s words and ideas on a hugely important subject? Has he nothing to say on the subject of Covid 19? As for being the ‘most dangerous’, it’s just that – standard marketing blurb, a casual double blind because a) he isn’t, and b) what’s the point of being either the second most dangerous philosopher – or one who (to quote the mighty Chuck D) doesn’t come with the hard jams, treat it like a seminar, teach the bourgeois and rock the boulevard?

* “[..] usually also one of the most entertaining“. Yeah, that is, Zizek as merely a clown, never to be taken seriously. (Indeed, the only thing that must be taken perfectly seriously, is that one never take Zizek seriously.) Ironically such an attitude would be laughable, if it weren’t repeated so often by the ideologically conservative press. They’ve got to get some new material.

* “The author of countless blockbusters“, as though Zizek was merely some Barbara Cartland figurine, another hack cranking philosophical Da Vinci Codes by the pound. Sour grapes much?

* “[..] renowned for his stylized negativity“, shit I’d say that was a plus – at least when compared to hopelessly sarcastic sniping from the strictly-academic trenches.

* “[..] performative dishevelment“, what like the UK’s very own charlatan Dr. Johnson and his blond buffoon’s mop? Really?

* “It can be difficult to tell whether Žižek is a parodist or proponent of the dense Lacanian and Marxist theory he champions in print and in viral videos.” Only for some. The point about ‘viral videos’ feels bizarre – this obvious, elitist disdain for vulgar (shrieking magenta) populism – when such articles could have easily been pinched off by any gross, Harvard uneducated Trump supporter. And yet Zizek’s (barely) popular enough to be considered casually spitting at by holy literary-political rags like the T.L.S? Seems Slavoj can’t get a break in either camp.

* Mention of the excellent, thought provoking “Pervert’s Guide to Cinema” (2006) here is again information content zero. A willful avoidance of saying anything of actual substance (or genuine interest) about Zizek and-or his work. A thin diversionary tactic.

*At his best, Žižek is more of a performance artist than he is a philosopher.” Why is one Bad and the other Good? And what would be so bad about being both? The writer appears both genuinely confused and excited by the prospect of encountering either.

* “Several passages have been ‘shamelessly but gratefully lifted from Wikipedia’, and the footnotes contain not citations but website URLs.” Again, this sneering, thin-lipped hiss at Popular Culture (let alone the lack of House Style) – this time the Internets itself, on which their awful little article was published (sorry – first it was published ‘properly’, on paper by Very Important Rich White People.)

* “Its guiding sentiment, insofar as it has one, is anti-capitalist.” One is suddenly reminded of Walter Sobchak’s “Say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.” The guiding sentiment of the writer’s article appears to be thoroughly, nakedly Capitalist. And yet so utterly toothless (ie. appearing harmless, when in fact it’s deliberately composed with intent to attack, to undermine with feigned casual dismissal.)

* “That Pandemic! is digressive and derivative is only to be expected. What is unforgivable is that its conclusions are so sensibly presented.” What nonsense. The article as a (deeply fractured, internally divided) whole, seems torn between being forced to at least minimally acknowledge Zizek as a cultural force, and forcing others to swallow the notion that nothing he says is remotely worth anyone’s time at all. Perhaps the virus of Ideology has infected and warped the authors brain more than they realize (which is precisely how ideologies work)?

*Nonetheless, while we are overrun with commenters eager to tell us what we already know [..]” This innocent yet all knowing ‘We’ smacks of Nixon and Ronnie’s great ‘silent majority’, the big innocent Other that must be protected at all costs. As for being overrun with commentators from Conservative publications informing everyone about those desperate Magenta individuals *not* worth knowing about, well..

* “[..] that the economy is broken and that it is imperative for us to distribute resources more equitably in the future” is precisely what Zizek never tells anyone. Broken implies ‘fixable within the ideological horizons of the current system itself’, which is nonsense; Capitalism can’t be patched or O.S updated by the mere ‘equitable distribution of resources’. Anyone remotely familiar with Zizek’s work would realize he’d never suggest something as asinine.

* “When Slavok Žižek’s is the voice of reason, the world must be very sick indeed.” Unlike of course the hyper-rational voice of ideologues, cold calling the faithful though dense philosophical fog toward the sane, clear light of the fucking Times Literary Supplement. Christ.

* “Becca Rothfeld is a PhD candidate in Philosophy at Harvard University.” Well that’s all white then.

Had any writer – in an unguarded moment of mewling Ben Shapiroesque cosplay – submitted such a term paper to a University actually worthy of being called a place of learning, chances are they’d get unceremoniously told it wasn’t worth a gob of Covid infected spit on the end of Rush Limbaugh’s rotting, pencil-end eraser dick. Try harder, T.L.S, et al. Pulling that sort of shit helps nobody out of this Covid mess:


// how to play big science