Thursday, 15 July 2010

Music from the Other Side of the Fence

I don't know what possessed Te Graun to host an interesting video with an interesting person, but this Zizek piece is essential viewing (h/t Anatoly). Not quite up there with the opportunity to watch Peter Mandelson tributes of course, and he is talking drivel, albeit amusing and engaging drivel.

The weird thing, I thought when watching this was what a great demagogue Zizek would make, and ironically, how the capitalist system could prepare people for such a figure. Who cares if he praises Lenin and Mussolini if he comes up with such great one-liners? Think by contrast of Te Graun's man of the hour, Peter Mandelson, a smug little dullard who they adore because he reconciled the Labour party with being 'filthy rich'. All very well, but will the free-market love Mandy back and reward Te Graun for unrolling the red carpet for him? Will panting lefties be racing for the news-stands to grab their copies of Te Graun before it's all sold out, just so they can read about their hero? Imagine the collective sigh of relief when they find they've picked up the very last one?

By contrast, I think Te Graun grudged giving a few milimetres of internet to Zizek. His self-conscious interesting nonsense certainly upsets the humanist vicars, who are less interested in dialectical playfulness than pointing the J'accuse figure. And no doubt the blogosphere will erupt that Te Graun has come out as a friend of Stalinism or whatever self-righteous delusion appeals to them.

Perhaps strangely, Zizek reminds me of one of my favourite literary characters, Peter Stepanovich Verkhovensky in Demons. This character was very prophetic in my opinion, because he was attracted to anti-establishment politics just to be a troublemaker rather than for any concern about the poor of the earth.

Perhaps Verkhovensky is a favourite character because he knew this, unlike Christopher Hitchens say, whose observations of the American right led him to notice that caring about the world's poor was no prerequisite for self-righteousness.

I don't know if Zizek is any more idealistic than Hitchens, and his holding onto the commie card is probable a tactical masterstroke (so as not to join the clapped out last-chance saloon of lefty neo-cons: Henri-Levy, Hitch, Julie Burchill etc, who don't even know they're clapped out), but it is precisely because Zizek knows that he is a clown first, that as a consumer from a consumerist culture, I find him an appealing figure.


  1. Interesting video. I am not too familiar with Zizek, but I can see your point about him making a good demagogue. I have a strange fascination with demagogue-like figures. We have a lot of them in the United States, mostly inhabiting the strange and wonderful world of right-wing talk radio. Glenn Beck and Michael Savage are my favorites. I often find them extremely funny, even though they spout a lot of nonsense, sometimes bordering on the truly insane.

    The key question, though, is are they serious or are they paid clowns? It is becoming harder and harder to tell these days. Zizek is apparently a real philosopher, so I guess he believes what he says, but who knows.

  2. @John
    I think that is one of the greatest differences between the crazy right in Britain and the USA: our rightwing nutters tend to be cold, moderately inverted, charmless and largely unpopular. With the Daily Mail, for example, I don't think that many Mail readers actually idealise Richard Littlejohn or Melanie Phillips but they just like reading what they want to read.

    In America, by contrast, there seems a deeply hypocritical demagoguic, almost game-show side to it (which is why I think The Running Man is such a masterpiece ;-), and I suspect in truth Brit conservatives would probably in personal terms be immensely uncomfortable with them.

    My favourite bigmouth demagogue nutter has to be Bill O'reilly. His 'we'll do it live' clip and his 'debate' with Gerardo Riviera are hilarious.

    As for whether they're paid, I don't know. I think the executives who employ them probably seek out insecure and stupid, but very arrogant, people who turn the debate into a yelling match and (ironically) can make stupidity into a useful weapon by asking foolish questions.

    Noam Chomsky speaks very well about this.