Monday, February 14, 2011

For Valentine's Day

since I love you all so much I will give you this week's Zizney adventure.

I'm sure we were all happy to hear the few bars of his almost forgotten "Vague Hague" psyop, like that snippet of Figaro at Don Giovanni's dinner, played right in the middle of the inane Guardian stuff on Egypt (in which he managed also to stuff the assertion that "hostility to Israel"=antisemitism. Just like he's not sure he's coming back to the Guardian, he was so upset they wouldn't publish his paen to Aryanism last month, now he's grabbing while the grabbing is good, like your wino uncle stuffing the bread rolls, spoons, shot glasses and salt shakers from the restaurant you are not taking him back to ever, so vilely did he treat eveyone, into his coat pockets.)

But the Vague Hague* is last season's bullshit - lately Zizz has been devoting himself to historical revisionism about Afghanistan. His rewriting of history is confined to the chronology - he wishes to disseminate as the official left, "Marxist" historical knowledge - which he represents - a tale from an alternative universe wherein the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan provoked the US to hire Bin Laden and import foreign fighters trained in terrorism to back the Mujahadin. He packages this bullshit into the kind of sacharine lefty candy coating that has for years proven irresistible to his addicted audiences:

Look, Afghanistan, I’m sorry to tell you, I’m old enough to remember, forty years ago, Afghanistan was arguably the most tolerant Middle East Muslim country, with a pro-Western technocratic king, with a very strong local communist party and so on. And then, we know what happened. Communist party tried to took power. They did. When they started to fail, Soviet Union intervened. Then Americans backed the Muslim fundamentalists. - DemocracyNow

I'm old enough to remember 40 years ago, Afghanistan was a very open, secularized country with a pro-Western, democratic model, strong local Communist Party. Then we know the story: Communists made the coup d'etat, Soviet Union intervened, America intervenes against..Al Jazeera

Afghanistan became fundamentalist when it was drawn into global politics (first through the Soviet intervention).

And there are many many more instances, all the same, like a cold caller's pitch, delivering the disinfo in this sharp, confident, bullet points way - we know, we all agree, it's uncontroversial, first Soviet invasion, then US response. Every repeat now sees this sequence preceded and succeeded and bundled this same way, introduced with the claim that he is remembering the history first hand - very reliable then, not like his youthful audience who have to derive their information from books and old newspapers - and paying off with the self-congratulation for worldiness and honesty and bigness-enough-to-acknowledge-they-weren't-always-this-diabolical and We the Politically Correct Multiculturalist Liberals, We the Vile Hypocritical Left, We the West, We Aryans are! We are! (to blame) and lessons in who we are he knows his audience never tires of hearing.

Why is this revisionism suddenly so important to Zizney? We can understand why his Haiti revisionism was useful to US imperial rulers, and of course why he put so much energy into the "Hague" ICTY=ICC propaganda, and why his Enron revisionism would have been welcome as well to the ruling class even though it was so silly, just as it's always appreciated when he promotes infantile blockbusters to elite audiences that still avoid a lot of those ads.

But this is odd, since nobody in the US establishment really ever denies what Brzezinski famously explained to all, that the US hired Bin Laden to recruit from the Gulf states and run terrorist paras in Afghanistan against a civilian population in order to provoke the Soviet invasion. But it seems a matter of immense importance and even urgency to Zizek to convince his dazed and credulous "left" followers - young and ignorant to be sure - that the Bin Laden operation was created in response to the prior Soviet invasion. It appears that even his first celebratory article about Egypt in the Guardian included this little meme, caught however by the Guardian editors and excised.

Why is this little imperialist apology disinfo campaign so important now that Zizz manages to work it into every television and radio appearance?

*US representatives simultaneously demanded of the Serbian government that it deliver suspected war criminals to the International Criminal Court at the Hague (in accordance with the logic of the global Empire which demands a trans-state global judicial institution) and that it sign a bilateral treaty with the USA prohibiting Serbia from ever delivering to any international institution (that is, to the same Hague court) any US citizen suspected of war crimes or other crimes against humanity (in accordance with nation-state logic). - Zizek, Iraq, the Borrowed Kettle. (Zizek is always a bit bolder with the lies and the racism etc in books; in the newspaper versions of this text, as below, he's more careful to be ambiguous, to get past fact checkers and editors one supposes. In the newspaper, he states that the US demands Serbia hand criminals to "the Hague Tribunal" - a phrase which could describe both the ICTY and the ICC. Then one sentence later he is again referring "the Hague Tribunal" as the subject of remarks by Timothy Garton Ash, as if they were the same tribunal, when the US demands Serbia hand suspects to the ICTY, and Timothy Garton Ash's quote referred to the ICC.)

And again; The first permanent global war crimes court started to work on July 1, 2002 in The Hague, with the power to tackle genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Anyone, from a head of state to an ordinary citizen, will be liable to ICC prosecution for human rights violations, including systematic murder, torture, rape and sexual slavery, or, as Kofi Annan put it: "There must be a recognition that we are all members of one human family. We have to create new institutions. This is one of them. This is another step forward in humanity's slow march toward civilization." However, while human rights groups have hailed the court's creation as the biggest milestone for international justice since top Nazis were tried by an international military tribunal in Nuremberg after World War Two, the court faces stiff opposition from the United States, Russia and China. The United States says the court would infringe on national sovereignty and could lead to politically motivated prosecutions of its officials or soldiers working outside U.S. borders, and the U.S. Congress is even weighing legislation authorizing U.S. forces to invade The Hague where the court will be based, in the event prosecutors grab a U.S. national. The noteworthy paradox here is that the US thus rejected the jurisdiction of a tribunal which was constituted with the full support (and votes) of the US themselves! Why, then, should Milosevic, who now sits in the Hague, not be given the right to claim that, since the US reject the legality of the international jurisdiction of the Hague tribunal, the same argumentation should hold also for him?

And again: This contradiction is amply illustrated by the twin pressures the US was exerting on Serbia last year: it demanded that the government in Belgrade hand over suspected war criminals to the Hague tribunal (the logic of the global empire demands a trans-state global judicial institution) while at the same time urging it to sign a bilateral treaty with the US obliging it not to deliver to the International Criminal Court any US citizen suspected of war crimes or other crimes against humanity. No wonder the Serb reaction was one of perplexed fury. Apropos the Hague tribunal, Garton Ash wrote in the Süddeutsche Zeitung that ‘No Führer or Duce, no Pinochet, no Idi Amin and no Pol Pot should any longer be allowed to feel safe behind the palace gates of sovereignty from the intervention of people’s justice.’


  1. What is going on in Germany right now pretty much refutes Zizek's basic claim, that racism is a working-class phenomenon which arises in response to middle-class multiculturalism, that the racists need to be won over with a left argument sensitive to their racist concerns. Studies have been done here showing that those who have bought Sarrazin's book are on average wealthy, white and male. Similar demographic results concerning the tea party in America. It's quite a pernicious falsehood he is selling because it obscures the basic lesson of the 20s and 30s about the class basis of fascism.

  2. those who have bought Zizek's books are on average wealthy, white and male, too.

  3. yes excellent point, there is evidence everywhere that this is just false, but why does it attract anyway?

    zizz has mastered this tactic of packaging assertions as if they are "for you", dissidents, this is in your style. It's got a seemingly "structural analysis" look, seemingly concerned with class and with exposing the fraudulence of liebralism... As he packages the insane assertion of the "performatice efficiency" of white racism

    or all the "chocolate laxitive" and "decaf other" stuff.

    and though zizz is an extreme we still have to ask why this attracts a certain kind of dissident petty bourgeois culture producer?

    “Essentially, the problem was that the left thought it should simply tail after the working-class and other oppositional activity, rather than intervene and propose and alternative strategies. They believed that they should avoid having ideological arguments with various currents within the working class. In practice, this meant that the left ended up taking its lead not from the most advanced but from the most backward sections….” (Revolutionary Rehearsals)

    and yes: ". It's quite a pernicious falsehood he is selling because it obscures the basic lesson of the 20s and 30s about the class basis of fascism."

    we must assume this is the aim, rebranding fascism both for its enemies who will remain so and for his recruits to his "post-fordist" version.

    Fordism/Post-Fordism is a worse than useless scheme but perhaps for fascism it would be useful. To rebut objections that one is alarmist or ahistorical to recognise a fascism that is not a star trek costume drama as there is liberalism that is not weimar or giolitti's italy reenacted, one could evoke post-Fordist fascism...and then it's like an HBO dramedy "grace note" that Ford is so appropriate a figure and a signpost for taxonomies of fascism.

    I saw that Verso is going to try to put some of its Poulantzas back in print but not Fascism and Dictatorship. That's too bad, that book, despite all its flaws, really gets and conveys the particularity of the petty bourgeoisie and its penchant for fascism and, we can extend, for fascioid-liberalism in the spaces between.

  4. "and though zizz is an extreme we still have to ask why this attracts a certain kind of dissident petty bourgeois culture producer?"

    I forgot to say why.

    Marketing and advertising have been so developed and successful in this half century that of course left organisers are tempted to emulate and learn from those tactics of persuasion and dissemination. But its ultimately pointless, this posture of selling, of trickery and ingratiating, design the product to increase the market share... But we have to admit there is this overlap of questions long facing revolutionary left intellectuals and organisers and this industry and its science. One problem is all these individual culture producing opportunists, with careers in the production of dissident bourgeois product and ideology management, have lots of marketing-wisdom-based tactics of intimidation with which they police left intellectual production (to say it's sectarian to object to Zizneycorp's outright fascism, racism, antisemitism, sexism, historical revisionism, is the same as the even more common demand to incoporate schmitt and nietzsche because they have shelfspace in youth markets). "You can't just dismiss" what has celebrity and established market share. But the distinction between popularising a brand (sew "Left" swoosh on Nietzsche and instantly your market share triples!) and actually organising and doing revolutionary socialist, marxist pedagogy is lost here.

    There is no doubt much to be learned from the sciences and industries of spectacle, but its left politics is not just a brand or product one could learn to popularise and vend in these established ways. But there is an impulse; "the will of the people", this Mao flavoured Jacobinism, with this slogan so attractive to Obama because of its suitability to the maintenance of the status quo, is popping up as a means to obscure class and occult class struggle now also because it fits very well with this marketing mentality - "the will of the people" and mystical "demand" are the same kind of fantastic abstraction, the former is the special political version which guarantees the propriety of that interpreter, supplier, the charismatic celebrity whose celebrity, produced by capitalist institutions, is taken as qualification for interpreting and embodying the general will.

    One little interesting symptom is the scramble to get recent revolts under the control of white supremacism, Hallwarfd appoints not only a spectral apparition of Kant, like Obi Wan Kenobi, but Jefferson, as ancestor and patron saint, with this really insulting smug white male arrogance (Jefferson was just "limited" in the scope of his egalitarianism, a slaveowner is just a slightly imperfect revolutionary communist, white supremacyist capitalist imperialism is communism needing a bit of tweeking to "include" those who are overlooked or who lack being or have "low intensity existence", by chance), echoing Zizek's ostentatiously generous recognition that Egyptians can understand democracy even sometimes as well or better than we who have it in our DNA.

  5. "why does it attract anyway?"

    it attracts anyway because it seems to offer a way to respond to a crisis, but without fully interrogating not just a root of the crisis, but the entire set of structures that mutually support the repetition of these crises.

    so it offers a way to act against an external enemy, rather than a way to act to undo the threads of complicity.

    it shields the following from full scrutiny: masculinist violence, the national as the strategically centered polity, ideas of cultural superiority based on military/technological dominance.

    and it sells this with the same techniques as straight up nationalism: attempts at naturalizing an identification with a particular national polity, promotion of a self-aggrandizing cultural/aesthetic history, glorifying some past moment as heroic/tragic—it just went a bit wrong—as something that needs redeeming, rather than as an episode grounded in a particular set of historical conditions.

    it appeals because it is familiar to this milieu; the difference is not one of substance but one of intensity.

  6. Well think about the role he plays...simultaneously successful and 'rebel', jet-setting, model wife, makes a show of flaunting the system, being above all the petty annoyances which frustrate undergraduates, cultural workers with an eggagerated sense of their own know, these anecdotes about not grading papers, of not showing up to office hours, the ad he wrote for abercrombie or god knows what 'because it's better than being some slave academic'...the same could probably be said about previous continental philosophy know there is a certain fantasy of someone who flaunts the system but still enjoys all the benefits of celebrity (money, power, sex) which is especially alluring to cultural workers...

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  8. Plus he developed a style of writing which really fit into the digital world, the increasingly superficial level of people's knowledge...that agenbite of inwit you would normally get when making a point you can't really support suddenly goes away, he does it too and noone calls him out on it...the aristocratic feeling that people used to get from modernism which they know they can't really support anymore because they don't really know the classics, or multiple languages, or the background of most historical events and they watch too many sit-coms...he makes it seem like you can still have that special feeling without the knowledge that would normally justify it.

  9. Then there simply is the emperor's new clothes thing...think about how many people (Jameson) let alone institutions (nlr) would have their credibility and judgment seriously thrown into question by the revelation that they've been had.

  10. totally. it's one thing to shrink away from telling a friend that you think they've made a serious error of judgment, it's another to say this to such reputable institutions...

    but I don't buy any implication that such a revelation about the power of institutional thinking would be "the point" as if life were about having moments of seeing through elaborate jokes:

    I mean, an emperor with clothes on isn't really what I want, either.

    but even when we say that the whole thing about whether an emperor has clothes on or is naked is a side point from the grotesquerie of the spectacle of having such emperors in the first place...

    ...nonetheless, it is precisely because we dislike both sides of this spectacle that we want to say: this emperor is an ass and you all built him up to be one.

  11. Imagine Chomsky telling his audience in some sort of giddy excitement that the Egyptians or Haitians, (in just 18 days!) have just (just now!) proven that dark skinned people understand democracy as well! Look at them go! I always knew they could it!

    Meanwhile here is Ronald Reagan anticipating Zizek's argument about the Politics of Universalism:

  12. So than where does this pathology come from? In other words, why are certain sections of the left more susceptible to this type of emperor bullshit than others? And which ones? Why is it that your average activist seems to have a more healthy relationship to political/intellectual leaders than your average...[theorist/cultural worker]? (I'm not sure about the categories...)

    It has something to do with the commodification of modernism/revolution...

  13. thanks dot, micah

    there is this facebook-celebrity tactic now, everybody is stepping up to these imaginary podia to play leader -

    here's another one (i have been banned already):

    and yes, its completely superficial, Zizz and others have legitimised this pontificating from ignorance. And also this mythology that "the left" has lost touch with the "real working class" by losing whiteness.

    But notice the same zizzy con artist tactics, the sort of hasty flashing of clichés, the confidently assumed authority that even stages its selfmockery to give the impression it is an authority so formidable that it needs to deflate itself a little to avoid intimidating.

    This fad for dashing off a memo to "the left" or "feminism" which is really about staging themselves, in a costume from this little gallery of action figures, is pretty creepy; they really are the devoted footsoldiers of the effort to rebuilt the destroyed white supremacist patriarchal heteronormative mythology.

    They focus their attacks on the african american left, and they seek especailly to just give the impression that the real left doesn't exist, and "the left" is a bunch of pompous windbag students (like themselves) and the working class is alf garnet and archie bunker, and the actual left working class are labelled the PROBLEM people, marginal, particularist, the ones who have interloped, ruined everything with selfishness and egotism of their identities, inserted their jargon, vitiated and divided.

  14. It's the equivalent of the Che Guevara T-Shirt for those who consider themselves to be too sophisticated for that...I mean I think that's all 'The Real' really amounts to...the conceptual equivalent of a Che Shirt...except that some people with Che shirts are good organizers...

  15. "they really are the devoted footsoldiers of the effort to rebuilt the destroyed white supremacist patriarchal heteronormative mythology."

    Yes that might be an explanation of what's happening but not neccessarily why, or why it seems so convincing to people, or why now...there seems to me to be a few things which need to be connected.

    You have some latecomers jockying for position in a nascent/expanding movement...and basically it seems entirely natural to a white middle-class person, especially a guy, that he should hop to the front of the line, skip over all those who have been patiently working, organizing, all the more natural if they are colored, or female, or, simply poor, or all three...

  16. that reagan/zizz is perfect.

  17. You have some latecomers jockying for position in a nascent/expanding movement...and basically it seems entirely natural to a white middle-class person, especially a guy, that he should hop to the front of the line,

    yes and there is a lot of scavenging, unscrupulous near plagiarism, the kinds of appropriations to which white people feel entirely entitled if they are stealing from people they are used to treating as anonymous collective creators, and there is a lot of resentiment and entitlement:

    I thought this was a really sharp way of putting something:

    from questioningtransphobia blog - in a comment about a white feminist journalist

    "Mandy, you’re starting from the assumption that you have something to offer, and that the problem is how best to facilitate you. You’re begging that question here."

    Zizek's ostentatiously generous "proofs" - that Egyptians aren't all fundies, that Jews aren't all financial middlemen (the kibbutz is the "best proof" of this he claims) etc - perform this wiping out of history, and its become very popular for white ambitious niche culture producers to engage in this same thing, their elaborately constructed ignorance of everything about which they pontificate as authorites performs this erasure to try to restore white monopoly on creativity and agency and everything.

  18. "Imagine Chomsky telling his audience in some sort of giddy excitement that the Egyptians or Haitians, (in just 18 days!) have just (just now!) proven that dark skinned people understand democracy as well! "

    also its funny to see that the "radical left" and nicholas kristoff are writing interchangeable articles. Kristoff's are even slightly less condescending and propagandistic. And there is this bizarre elation and admiration for these white authorites applauding the uprising as if they had brought it about but also as if one would expect such people to say "no, mubarak should just destroy these cities, with poison gas and napalm." And since they don't say that, they are to be worshipped as saints and gods and brilliant political theorists. Anything short of recommending an extermination for profit is gloriously generous if it comes from a white bourgeois intellectual.

  19. "where does it come from?"

    I think primarily it comes from a frustrated sense of powerlessness and resentment in a group of people who were raised to think of themselves as the natural holders of power and who feel that this power has been stolen from them...

    but that's just me pontificating from ignorance.

    I think David Savran did a good and hilarious read of pop-culture and culture workers and white masculinity ca. 1950–2000 in his Taking it Like a Man: White Masculinity, Masochism, and Contemporary American Culture.

    (If I recall correctly, he uses Butler and Klein to dissect the idea of cool, the Beats, the Mens' Movement, the Christian Right, gay porn, and Twister...I think of this book as being similar to Zizek, except for every single way in which it would not appeal to Z's audience. It's been awhile since I read it, though.)

  20. "ut that's just me pontificating from ignorance."

    do you think my description of these memos from the new management was unfair?

    i never read that book -looks very interesting and i see there is a long discussion of Kushner which especially appeals...

  21. no, not at all. I agreed with it. hence the caution about my own statement.

  22. i have a new blog

  23. What a load of incoherent, angry, naive babble your whole entry is. Seems like your trying much too hard, and don't even really have a clue what your aiming at.

    A question: if, according to your argument, Zizek is wrong in his theory/history regarding Afghanistan, what is, in your opinion, the truth? You're offering entry-level footstomping without giving your readers any alternatives to the things you are against. Throwing the oh-so-yawn-inducing revisionist card on the table is just a populist way out that doesn't contribute to anything. I'd say you've got some straw man issues here.

    Anyway, please, tell us what you think really happened in Afghanistan and what do you base your "facts" on?

  24. If "Zizek" is "wrong" about "Afghanistan" what are the "facts" about "what really happened"? this is what "you" want to "know"?

  25. Is there something that remains unclear about my question? Please, tell me, as opposed to Zizek's "revisionism" about Afghanistan and the US, what do you have to offer as an alternative theory?

    Or are you another member of the quasi-intelligentsia who seem to have rhetorically a lot to say in their frustrated rage (the source of which remains a mystery as well), but ultimately have next to nothing to offer with regards to substance?

  26. I feel like I'm putting you in a wheelchair here, but if that's the way you want it, so be it. This is the part I'm referring to:

    "a tale from an alternative universe wherein the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan provoked the US to hire Bin Laden and import foreign fighters trained in terrorism to back the Mujahadin."

    I'd be interested to know two things:

    a) what do you base your belief in that this didn't take place, and

    b) do you have an alternative theory?

  27. Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski,
    President Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser

    Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, 15-21 January 1998

    Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs ["From the Shadows"], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?

    Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

    Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?

    B: It isn't quite that. We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.

    Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything today?

    B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.

  28. of course there's the wonderful book on the topic by noted "Viennese-Jewish" author Arthur Feldman.

  29. Thank you!

    Nonetheless, according to both these theories, USA is ultimately the so-called bad guy in the context, and I don't think Zizek is suggesting otherwise -- be it that his target group is the easy left, the Saab-driving labour day marchers, the coffee table marxists.

    Which brings to mind -- one can also ask (not necessarily referring to just Zizek here): what's wrong with (unintentionally) popularizing and actually redifining what it is to be on the left? The insta-hate towards anything popular in the philosophical/sociological discourse of the zeitgeist kind of reminds me of a certain niche of record-collecting hipsters who shit on any band that sells too many records.

  30. "The insta-hate towards anything popular in the philosophical/sociological discourse of the zeitgeist kind of reminds me of a certain niche of record-collecting hipsters who shit on any band that sells too many records."

    The millionth person to write that won a prize in 1991.

  31. These are not "rival theories". There's the historical record, plentifully evidenced, and there are Zizek's lies.

  32. "Thank you!"

    Explain please why you are unable to find this famous interview yourself. Didn't have a paw free for searching google while driving your Saab, applying mascara, eating bruschetta, changing the vinyl on the car turntable and operating your rampant rabbit at once?

  33. "The millionth person to write that won a prize in 1991."

    Million people are hardly wrong, eh? And it's hip to hate, yes. You're the millionth person to shoot a popular writer and his followers. Come on dude, isn't critizing Zizek so two minutes ago?

    "Explain please why you are unable to find this famous interview yourself. Didn't have a paw free for searching google while driving your Saab, applying mascara, eating bruschetta, changing the vinyl on the car turntable and operating your rampant rabbit at once?"

    Hell, I had a hot broad blowing me while I was driving -- during which I'm guessing you were in your locally made underpants frantically searching for an unknown enough writer to quote or to link to in order to appear sufficiently superior.

    I'm aware of the existence of the various documents circulating around this issue. As you should understand, but for some reason pretend not to, is that I was looking for your own personal opinion about this.

    "Historical record" and "plentifully evidenced" are terms that can be used in denying the holocaust.

  34. you remind me of these people:

    "zizney's got what kewl kids crave. it's got electrolytes."

  35. You remind me of these people:

  36. And I was still hoping for something original from you, but yeah, let's leave it that, it's obviously not gonna see the light in this discussion. Butthurt is the epistemology of 2011, it seems.