More Innocent Times

Elsewhere (7)

Adam Kirsch runs a rhetorical knife across the ridiculous Slavoj Žižek:

The curious thing about the Zizek phenomenon is that the louder he applauds violence and terror - especially the terror of Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, whose “lost causes” Zizek takes up in another new book, In Defense of Lost Causes - the more indulgently he is received by the academic left, which has elevated him into a celebrity and the centre of a cult. A glance at the blurbs on his books provides a vivid illustration of the power of repressive tolerance. In Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle, Zizek claims, “Better the worst Stalinist terror than the most liberal capitalist democracy”; but on the back cover of the book we are told that Zizek is “a stimulating writer” who “will entertain and offend, but never bore.” In The Fragile Absolute, he writes that “the way to fight ethnic hatred effectively is not through its immediate counterpart, ethnic tolerance; on the contrary, what we need is even more hatred, but proper political hatred”; but this is an example of his “typical brio and boldness.” And In Defense of Lost Causes, where Zizek remarks that “Heidegger is ‘great’ not in spite of, but because of his Nazi engagement,” and that “crazy, tasteless even, as it may sound, the problem with Hitler was that he was not violent enough, that his violence was not ‘essential’ enough”; but this book, its publisher informs us, is “a witty, adrenalin-fuelled manifesto for universal values.”

In the same witty book Zizek laments that “this is how the establishment likes its ‘subversive’ theorists: harmless gadflies who sting us and thus awaken us to the inconsistencies and imperfections of our democratic enterprise - God forbid that they might take the project seriously and try to live it.” How is it, then, that Slavoj Zizek, who wants not to correct democracy but to destroy it, has been turned into one of the establishment’s pet subversives, who “tries to live” the revolution most completely as a jet-setting professor at the European Graduate School, a senior researcher at the University of Ljubljana’s Institute of Sociology, and the International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities?

Christopher Hitchens on fashionable bigotry:

Here’s a thought experiment: you get an email telling you that all the Anglo-Saxons left the World Trade Center just an hour before the planes hit (not having merely stayed away with all the benefit of their advance warning, but having actually gone to all the trouble of turning up at 8am and trustingly assuming that the terror-strike would take place just on schedule and thus give them time to check their Rolexes for an orderly and early departure). See what I mean? It’s just not such a thrilling hypothesis. When directed at the Jews, however, it at least adds insult to injury, and the true bigot knows that every little helps.

Eamonn McDonagh on The Guardian Position™, dutifully assumed: 

[Guardian writer, William] Dalrymple’s portrait of the killers, as well as the sections of Muslim opinion he sees as supporting them, is based on a profound failure to treat them as morally autonomous and equal to himself. They are boiling with rage, they can’t be expected to reason or to have any respect for the lives of bystanders. When it all gets a bit too much, well, it’s the most natural, though regrettable, thing in the world for them to set out on a Jew hunt or mow down commuters in a railway station. Under no circumstances should we, rational Westerners, seek to apply the same critical standards to the Mumbai murderers and their supporters as we do - haltingly and insufficiently - to our own actions and those of our leaders. What we have to do is understand and empathize with their feelings and, as we can’t expect them to dilute their rage with reason or to seek methods to vindicate their claims that don’t involve hand grenades or AK 47s, we must make ourselves constantly ready to indulge their homicidal tantrums. Above all, we must never, ever treat them as our equals. It’s a pretty pass that certain elements of liberal cultivated opinion have come to.

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