The Deadly Jester

Dec 1, 2008 by

Adam Kirsch at the New Republic has a very vigorous review of Zizek’s Violence and In Defense of Lost Causes

What Zizek really believes about America and torture can be seen in his new book, Violence, when he discusses the notorious torture photos from Abu Ghraib: “Abu Ghraib was not simply a case of American arrogance towards a Third World people; in being submitted to humiliating tortures, the Iraqi prisoners were effectively initiated into American culture.” Torture, far from being a betrayal of American values actually offers “a direct insight into American values, into the very core of the obscene enjoyment that sustains the U.S. way of life.” This, to Zizek’s many admirers, is more like it.

It also provides a fine illustration of the sort of dialectical reversal that is Zizek’s favorite intellectual stratagem, and which gives his writing its disorienting, counterintuitive dazzle.

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  • Ernest J

    To say that he misreads Zizek’s comments on Jews would be an understatement. It’s so obvious how weak someone’s argument has become when they have to resort to charges of anti-semitism. But to say that Kirsch is missing the point would be missing the point. Zizek would probably agree with much of what Kirsch says. Then what?
    In the end, Kirsch tries to take snippets of Zizek’s work, and force them to speak as some sort of positive content that he and others may use in their liberal empiricist ventures. And while Zizek readily acknowledges the monster within himself, Kirsch and other liberals still want to sweep the monsters within themselves under the rug. Better to worry about a provocative bearded Slovenian who talks about the future prospects of communism than think about the hundreds of thousands killed in a baseless war that the liberals at TNR championed.

  • Nathan Coombs

    I completely agree with the comment above. You can almost feel the on-come of the inevitable ‘anti-semitism’ trump card, that plays to the readership but ultimately discredits his entire line of argument for any serious reader. In regard to the wider argument: yes, Zizek does believe in revolution – so what? In the end, other than denouncing it as inherently evil, there is no serious attempt to rebut Zizek’s belief in the political event: of its inherent violence, of the neccessity and creativity of a certain amount of destruction, whether symbolic or Real.

  • Jm

    We’re surprised that someone might play the “anti-semitism” card from the New effing Republic? There’s a reason no one with a real education takes journalists seriously. BTW – this guy does not “get” Zizek at all and it’s sad he wasted so much time writing this review in spite of that.

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