Next Act: One of the crusaders to cleanse the LRB of racist animal imagery wrote recently in the Guardian that "The near-hairless pinkishness of pigs makes them easy targets for human comparison." Are we not pigs and brothers? Well yes you are clearly "pig", but "human" is pink. (It has not yet occurred to this Marxist culture critic that anthropomorphised pig imagery in modern mass media has contributed to the construction of the race ideology which enables "pinkish skin" to function as a sign, for her, of "humanity" to the Authority of which she remains in uncritical thrall).
This is not all just bad cabaret because it is part of a praxis: white supremacist patriarchy is a praxis. And a praxis is not merely the combination of some ideas and a few actions guided by them. It is the unity of theory and practise. In the case of Zizz' and Zizzians' white supremacy, the praxis is the unity, the interconnected functioning, of employment discrimination, the control of budgets at public and private cultural institutions (universities, publishers) and their monopoly by a personally white male Euro-American and politically white supremacist clique, and the discursive violence issued by this same clique, which is abundant, and produced in multiple genres, which specifies, refines, elaborates the theory of this praxis, which justifies it, describes its fantasies to seduce recruits and flatter members, endows the relations produced with images and forms and fragments of narrative, portrays the nightmarish phantasmagoria of its avoided alternatives. That is, the praxis of white supremacy is the unity of the real exclusion of black women and communists from the concrete resources of culture production, the erasure of black women and communists from history and silencing in public fora and the publications monopolised by male white bourgeois dissidents, and the presence of their caricatures (the product of despotic control by the white caricaturists) in the mockery of that exclusion accompanied by the laughter, self-contratulation, mutual support and bonding ("network") of the protagonists of this praxis. Together this is the praxis of white supremacy; it is determined by class, its core structure, and as a superstructure this praxis reproduces race and hierarchy and in turn superintends and sustains class, the base from which it springs. And thus the first act of the practitioners when defending this praxis is to dismember it and insist on considering each facet, act, text, and utterance in isolation and relating only to the subjective intentions and experience of the individual practitioner closest to it.
Anyway, this praxis is the context for the latest Zizz clique intervention in the Guardian, by Zizz himself.
So today Zizz offers his signature fare, a lurid racist pageant in his usual landscape where all human subjects are white and all non-white human figures are objects over what to do with which white people argue. And today, perhaps in honour of Adam Kirsch whose slightly modified wraith has provided him with a meat puppet for his self-promotion (otherwise he would have had to perhaps attribute this to "Arthur Feldmann, a Viennese-Jewish writer"), concludes with a blatantly anti-Semitic provocation about regressing from Christian love to loyalty to "the tribe". This after offering Robert Brasillach as the model for "liberal multiculturalism".
For those who still don't understand how this multidirectional digital-age propaganda works, here's the picture:
Zizek understands the heterogeneity of the audience which forms in a few clusters.
Brasillach is offered as figure of "liberal multiculturalism" (all actually existing progressives and leftists, of whatever ethnicity, are presumed named by this figure) ostensibly to condemn it for its secret "intolerance" (its purported exotic touristic posture) and for one section of the audience it will be received so. But in the guise of the invidious comparison Zizek is really floating the suggestion of Brasillach as the appropriate model for the mainstream, the majority of Guardian readers. The denouncement of the Brasillachian nature of the Guardian readers is a conman's form of recommendation to them. The "moderate anti-Semitism" - described to restore the ever fading mythology and vocabulary to the kind of vigor that Zizz has worked for years to inject into an enervated anti-Semitism - is then justified in the concluding paragraph: it is of course the figure of Judaism evoked as the tribalist chauvinism to which Europeans are made to "regress" from their advanced Christian universalist perfection by the advent of contaminating, non-Christian others. It is Zizek's good fortune that the current context will allow some readers, if they wish, to identify the pagan tribalism to which multiculturalism has forced Europe to regress from it's Universal Christian love as Islam, or some vague conception of self-segregating brown others.
As usual, instead of arguing for any of his contentions, Zizek treats them as already proven and promotes his fantasy by the reptition of images and analogies. His tactics have a distinctly visual culture quality: he does not condescend to make an argument, but he will make vivid - he will help his reader picture - his fictional world (like Carl Schmitt and all the contemporary pulp fiction authors inspired by his visions). That easily-pictured quality that he will produce with a monotonous loop of caricature and cliché will substitute for the increasingly obsolete activity of convincing and the deployment of traditional rhetoric. (Recall his confusion of the meanings of what is "easily imagined" with regard to the "end of the world" and the "end of capitalism". He aims to make his Yerosupremacist phantasmagoria "easily imagined" the way the absurdities of Hollywood films are and therefore "believable" in the same way.) Edward R. O'Neill described this tactic:
In the absence of any detectable method, a dizzying array of wildly entertaining and often quite maddening rhetorical strategies are deployed in order to beguile, browbeat, dumbfound, dazzle, confuse, mislead, overwhelm, and generally subdue the reader into acceptance. Example after example is supplied, but the principle that makes them examples is not itself given.
In Zizz' Guardian piece today we find:
On today's market, we find a whole series of products deprived of their malignant property: coffee without caffeine, cream without fat, beer without alcohol. And the list goes on: what about virtual sex as sex without sex? The Colin Powell doctrine of warfare with no casualties (on our side, of course) as warfare without warfare? The contemporary redefinition of politics as the art of expert administration as politics without politics? This leads us to today's tolerant liberal multiculturalism as an experience of the Other deprived of its Otherness – the decaffeinated Other.
(For the moment, I'll resist the temptation to explain the idea of the malign arising from Zizek's list of "malignant properties" - caffeine, fat, alcohol, war, sex and people identified by Zizek as alien.)
The existence of decaf coffee doesn't demonstrate anything about Zizek's contentions regarding the "logic", effects and aims of "multicultralism" and "political correctness". It is one of these "examples" - a metaphor, a figure, a vision, offered to help you picture it, in place of evidence. Like the rats who are offered as "examples" of how Jews infiltrate and contaminate Germany. But Zizek has found ways of disguising the crudeness of this old-fashioned technique by wrapping it in a hip jargon and flexibilising its amenability to interpretation. You can personalise it. His rats are not just rigidly Jews; they are also the reflexive ironic exposure of the rat metaphor of Jews - not rats and Jews but "rats" and "Jews" - from the point of view of critique. Even more usefully, they have been made interactive so that a portion of the audience disliking the whole topic of Jews can read them as, say, Arabs if they like. The most pernicious aspect of this incessantly deployed tactic is to accustom readers to forget the distinction between it and argument, and to become very suadable, and irrational, indeed.
One of the most abrasive aspects of Zizek's racist revisionism is his repeated insistence that "multiculturalism" is an invention and posture of (guilty, touristic) white liberals, when every reputable historian traces the bulk of theory and practise of contemporary multiculturalism as political praxis and policy to the Black Arts Movement and Black Power in the United States, the chief early theorist being Amiri Baraka. But Zizek (like his acolytes) is relentless in erasure of the subjectivity, history and concrete reality of those he considers Other to what he calls the "white culture" of aryan Yerup, black Others especially. Everything but evil itself - from democracy, materialism and "the egalitarian emancipatory tradition" to the Haitian Revolution and cultural pluralism - is expropriated by him and tagged the property of Yerup by virtue of being the works of uniquely creative white bourgeois intellectuals.
So in lieu of offering any argument for his assertions, embedded in assumptions, regarding the political landscape and the origins, aims, practise and "logic" of "multiculturalism", which could never survive a serious historical inquiry, Zizek droningly repeats a series of clichés whose familiarity is intended to incite a sense of agreement - of recognition of truth - that substitutes for the sensation of being won by a persuasive case. The reader is to be induced to "believe" that what Zizek contends is insightful and observant simply as a kind of overflow of the feeling of familiarity aroused in her by the images "African athlete", "Asian doctors", "rap music", "the cultural values of the host society", and of course those "politically correct" (implicitly) women who are "fearful" of "harrassment" and who, Zizek has elsewhere told us, persecuted him "in the States" for "visual rape", though we never did find out the issue of his ordeal.
The parade of stereotypes, placed in proximity, as the painted backdrop to the "liberal multiculturalists" Zizek stages who have themselves legitimised and even created the chauvinism of the xenophobic ultra-right (itself advanced as a figure for recognition rather than a concrete reality described), do the work of ingratiating and demand assent from the reader. Zizek sidles up to his readers and bombards them with these clichés demanding nods of agreement.
But he is like the chessmaster playing on many boards at once, but instead of having the luxury of making different moves on each board, his every cliché has to serve as a move in several different games. When he evokes "today's Brasillachs, some of them even Social Democrats," who want to restrict immigration with "reasonably racist" policies, some of his readers will remember that this is the position he himself advocated in his books and interviews and understand he is therefore offering himself as "today's Brasillach", for the applause and approval of some. Others, who do not like Brasillach, can conveniently forget his books and interviews and accept this comparison as a form of condemnation of immigration restriction which posture they applaud. Both those sections of the audience are those disposed to approve the author and identify with his position. Still others place the author as an opponent or figure of contempt and ridicule. Some of these can accept Zizek as an extremist and ultraleftist (as he himself characterised Badiou) or a crazed Marxist, making an exaggerated and slanderous comparison between Gordon Brown say and Robert Brasillach, advocating policies which Zizek himself has elsewhere denounced as so utopian as to expose their proponents as egotist beautiful soulists.
But the result is that nothing emerges from this but the newly minted and reinvigorated stereotypes and figures, the white "liberal multiculturalist" Leninino rightly envisions listening to Bach on a gramaphone while reading Hegel, an Other with a ghetto blaster whose implied blackness here can serve for foreign-ness in Zizzneyland, the Asian doctors and Indian computer geeks, the wimpy Brasillachs who haven't the balls to go all the way, seize power, be bold, act, change everything, like Zizzney keeps saying he's about to and never seems to find the time for.
All this is such a dense tangle of what is confused and imprecise and insinuating, but at the same time equipped with an applause light and mined with disincentives to criticism (every possible objection is warded off by implying its association with something odious like racism, hypocrisy, fear), that one is too exhausted by it to bother to object to the brazenly Nazified anti-Semitic effrontery of the final paragraph.* And somehow it has been insinuated that if anyone is to blame for all this, this last bit included, it is Jews, multiculturalists from time immemorial who in one way or another have forced Christian Universalism's "regression". So it is there, stinging still, offensive, infuriating, but a little less surprising than the last time. And one recalls how exhausting it was to fight with the defenders of all this in the past, and how viciously Zizzians will attack anyone who objects to his racist texts, and really how comfortable his whole readership, even those who voice a disagreement or criticism now and again, are with his Yerosupremacist scheme, ready to celebrate his rehashing of the oldest anti-Semitic formula as a laudable "philosophical engagement with Judaism", prompt to recycle his recyclings of crude Hegelian and Stirnerian fables of spirit, and all this is encouragement to let it pass. Ten years of letting it pass and we have a very different environment than we had before.
Someone mentioned to me the other day Jimmy the Greek. Now this person obviously thought he was a victim of political correctness avant la lettre, but brought him up as a milestone to measure the distance travelled to today, because even this person who is somewhat indoctrinated in bigotry finds the discourses of the present frightening. How did it happen? It wasn't magic. It wasn't simply ordained from on high and in an instant all humanity was remade to suit the wishes of Rupert Murdoch. It was produced by a praxis.
* I post this entry from Victor Klemperer's diary often but it's worth tacking on here again as reminder:
Yesterday afternoon – we had just returned very tired and hot from the flower show, I had peeled off and was making coffee – there appeared in cycling clothes, with sandals and shorts, grey with green turn-ups, a yodelling lad, Wengler, and stayed for hours. Everything spoke against him, but he is such a thoroughly decent fellow that one finds him likeable even at the most catastrophic moment. He had spent several weeks on holiday in Italy. He thinks Fascism or rather the Italian fascists more human than the Nazis. He relates as vouched for, that a few weeks before the beginning of the Spanish counter-revolution, General San Jurjo, who was later killed, had discussions in the Adlon Hotel in Berlin and that there are German officers with Franco’s Moroccan troops. He believes the victory or defeat of the Spanish Popular Front decisive for the whole of Europe and says quite seriously, thoughtfully, without any pathos, as with a weighed-down conscience: ‘One really should go there and help them; but I can’t even shoot.’ Later he complained how disagreeable it is for him to start teaching again on Tuesday.
That is Wengler. Johannes Kühn, however, whom I always took to be a man of integrity and a genuine thinker, professor of history Johannes Kühn has written a short article in the Dresdener NN (16th August) on the 150th anniversary of the death of Frederick the Great. In a hundred lines he twice calls him emphatically ‘a Nordic-Germanic man’. His philosophy is out of date and unimportant; behind it stands the Germanic belief in things higher and beyond this world; his inclination toward French culture is the Northern German’s typical longing for form and the South. – If one day the situation were reversed and the fate of the vanquished lay in my hands, then I would let all the ordinary folk go, and even some of the leaders, who might perhaps after all have had honourable intentions and not known what they were doing. But I would have all the intellectuals strung up, and the professors three feet higher than the rest; they would be left hanging from the lamp posts for as long as was compatible with hygiene.
16th August, 1936