Arthur and I were pointing and laughing via email last week at Slavoj Žižek’s recent press appearances. Here’s one of Arthur’s contributions to the discourse:

You’re right that he’s quite savvy, a smart, opportunistic self-promoter who has carefully crafted himself a persona and a celebrity custom-made to appeal to a disenfranchised niche of lefties, greens and aging hippies who still can’t believe the proletarian revolution isn’t going to happen, that global capitalism keeps blithely and monstrously blossoming like a toxic orchid despite being endlessly critiqued and deconstructed, and are wondering what in the unholy name of Ronald Reagan happened? Isn’t he the ultimate Bo-Bo, though? Insisting on being photographed with a portrait of Stalin behind you. Criticizing good ole Uncle Joe (as FDR called him) and Pol Pot for not killing enough people in the name of an amorphous radical break with tradition and a “new form of community” (whatever the fuck that’s supposed to be): to engage in this sort of provocation-for-effect, you really have to be either crazy or bottomlessly cynical (I favor the latter interpretation) and to admire him and take him seriously suggests a level of jadedness and/or desperation on the part of the remnants of the Left that is positively ominous.

His rebuttal to Gray’s review is more damning almost than anything Gray says about him. To call Gandhi more “violent” than Hitler because he effected a more radical break with established bourgeois-colonialist power is blatant silly-putty word-play and a clear signal that this is a man more to be laughed at than laughed with. But, you know, he’s “charming” in person, what with the blow-job jokes with his 10-year-old son and all. If it seems breathtakingly un-self-aware to criticize Americans for telling strangers about their sex lives and in the next breath tell a stranger about your own, that’s just the ruse of reason and the do-I-contradict-myself-very-well-I contradict-myself-I-am-large-I-contain-multitudes dialectics. To write twelve hundred pages explicating a semi-charlatan who toadied to state power and reduced violence, blood, sweat and tears to the algorithmic self-solution of Absolute Reason’s inner contradictions (leading to the final solution – Absolute Reason’s triumph), it helps to be a complete charlatan. But Zizek’s offensive clarity only signals in great flashy block-letters what is more discreetly wrong with the Left in general: that uncomfortable (for anyone but Zizek, it seems) coexistence in the same world-view of personal elitism and theoretical empathy for the downtrodden. “Being crazy” and saying “fuck you” to the world below your rooftop Singapore hotel paradise while claiming to represent advanced liberatory post-Marxist politics: the joke about this is that it isn’t a joke, just pretending to be. He mentions somewhere that he once put on a mask to frighten his son, took it off and explained it was only a mask, then put it back on and provoked the same frightened response. The lesson he draws from this is that there is no inside, we are only what we say and do. This is ridiculous. Of course there is an inside; it is called introspection, and everything about what this guy says and does indicates he’s a total stranger to it.