In the last two years or so it has become obvious that not only is Slavoj Žižek having to engage in academic debates with his interlocutors, but that his celebrity as the so-called “Elvis of cultural theory” and “most dangerous philosopher in the West” is beginning to be challenged by liberals and even leftists who are starting to not only be aware of his unusual manners and humour, but what he is actually more or less saying – what his political-intellectual stance is and how it disturbs not only status quo liberal-democratic ideology but also postmodern academia.
Before the recent media hysteria generated by Žižek’s faux-endorsement of Donald Trump as a disaster that could possibly result in a rejuvenated left, willing to go beyond its ideological subjection to the neoliberal consensus, the liberal-left had already awoken to the fact that Žižek represents a challenge to its smug self-image as morally superior to the conservative right.
This was seen for instance in Marcus Brown’s April 2016 Guardian column, which compared Žižek’s high theory critique of political correctness to the knavery of Donald Trump, going so far as to suggest that Žižek may very well be a “cryptofascist.”
1 One month later, Žižek was challenged by protesters (fronted by Taryn Fivek) at the Left Forum in New York City, who handed out flyers that “call him out” for making racist and sexist jokes. The problem with this protest is that it failed to demonstrate any understanding of Žižek’s work and he more than kindly addressed at the Forum each of the accusations listed on the flyer.
2 Such activists and journalists are not concerned with debating Žižek’s philosophy from a leftist perspective, they simply want to diminish its political impact by tarnishing his reputation through meme warfare, a liberal equivalent to Tea Partiers who denounce Obama as a “socialist.” Defending himself against more recent criticisms of his theories regarding sexual politics, Žižek commented on how the kind of “tweet culture” that shapes public opinion today is mired in self-righteous political correctness, blending “official tolerance and openness” with “extreme intolerance towards actually different views.”
3 In this context, it was a slightly refreshing change of pace from the usual PC attacks when Žižek was invited to share the limelight with the British novelist Will Self.