Coming at this late, having just finished looking around, it seems to me that if Zizek’s regular public displays and the regular reactions of blogviators offer any lasting ‘theoretical’ insight it is that nothing is entirely frivolous anymore, if it ever was. Offhand-seeming ‘jokes’ about caudillo clowns, faux-Lacanian analyses of popular TV, ‘Western Buddhists,’ liberal communists and the like do not negate the political argument they are used to make; if anything they produce more discussion than more traditionally fact-based, coherent, ‘transparent’ approaches. Even at Zizek’s masterful level of performance, when the in-jokes, references, and ironic stereotyping come to determine the politics of what is said even more than the propositional content of the statement itself, it does not stop being political, it does not foreclose seriousness.
Though always depressing, one is put in mind of Debord:
One cannot abstractly contrast the spectacle to actual social activity: such a division is itself divided. The spectacle which inverts the real is in fact produced. Lived reality is materially invaded by the contemplation of the spectacle while simultaneously absorbing the spectacular order, giving it positive cohesiveness. Objective reality is present on both sides. Every notion fixed this way has no other basis than its passage into the opposite: reality rises up within the spectacle, and the spectacle is real. This reciprocal alienation is the essence and the support of the existing society.
Whatever is produced by the spectacle is still spectacle, there is no absolute split between the assertion and its denunciation, both acts materially function to perpetuate ‘spectacular’ discourse. We would be tempted to slide from ‘spectacle’ to ‘simulacra‘ here, were it not impossible for us to forget, (mostly) conscious spectacle-producers that we are, our active role in this process. It, and our persona within it, is the result of our collective efforts.
At his best, no theorist is better able to remind us of this truth than Slavoj Zizek. And likewise, no bloggers have been more successful in demanding our acknowledgment of it than dejan and jonquille de camembert (aka troll aka new york pervert aka patrick j. mullins) of the parody center.
dejan’s proces of becoming-Zizek began from the very beginning. He demanded that we evict Zizek from the content of our blogs, using his real-life status as an Oppressed Peoples to transform our initial disgust and irritation at his crass disregard for ‘liberal pieties’ like debate etiquette, witty yet inoffensive repartee, and self-respect, into pity. Some, who knew what he was about to teach too well to see what was coming, treated him as almost an equal, even an ally. If we did not evict Zizek, at least we learned how to take him seriously. We finally learned how to read him — either a) as a political agitator or b) as a link blog. We decided individually which was more important to us.
It took the efforts of jonquille to show dejan that in his rabid attempts to erase Zizek’s name from the Internet, he had cleared out a space for himself to occupy (the repetition of the original tragedy as farce). He set out, with jonquille as the Dick Cheney-cum-Leona Helmsley of the blogosphere along for the ride, to follow his old mentor in directly challenging liberal pieties and multiculturalist assumptions with references to pop culture! The new spectacle, same as the old: infinite deferral of the daddy figure. In short, he became a stah:
The celebrity, the spectacular representation of a living human being, embodies this banality by embodying the image of a possible role. Being a star means specializing in the seemingly lived; the star is the object of identification with the shallow seeming life that has to compensate for the fragmented productive specializations which are actually lived. Celebrities exist to act out various styles of living and viewing society unfettered, free to express themselves globally. They embody the inaccessible result of social labor by dramatizing its by-products magically projected above it as its goal: power and vacations, decision and consumption, which are the beginning and end of an undiscussed process. In one case state power personalizes itself as a pseudo-star; in another a star of consumption gets elected as a pseudo-power over the lived. But just as the activities of the star are not really global, they are not really varied.
From his master, he learned how to ingratiate himself to the media by repeating its tropes as shallow and therefore flattering mockeries. From his master he learned how to intersperse flattery with slander, and to embody the stereotypical Orientalist fantasies of a stereotyped version of his audience (aka himself) : racial hatred, hatred of women, the reduction of sociality to sexualized power games, etc. All carried out with the audience expectation but not the performance of irony, and thus experienced as cleverly subversive.
And the result? They love it! Except for those who love it too much and get burned for trying to become part-timers (and who really do deserve all they get), they, we, are ‘in on the joke.’ In truth we are inside the joke. We have been confronted with the ‘fact’ that WE ARE THE JOKE and we have laughed, as if it were ‘just a joke.’ And then go right on discoursing with all the earnestness of a professional academic about ‘politics’ as it happens ‘out there.’
The point of the joke, of course, is our failure to recognize what our actually existing politics are, our refusal to identify politically with anything outside the spectacle. We treat political orientations as if they were abstract theoretical entities, projecting ourselves into them in the manner of video game avatars, switching back and forth repeatedly to ‘get all perspectives.’ When the spectacle spits it all back at us we feel our theories have been confirmed. But dejan and Zizek have a fully realized political desire, appropriate to their perceived interests and advanced by their performances, which are never merely neutral, theoretical, or ‘for laughs.’ Whether or not this desire is rational, ethical, or emotionally balanced is another matter.
What would happen if we took our best self-representation, the ‘multitude’ offered by Hardt & Negri, seriously? Not as a description of something that has actually been realized, but as our virtually inherent vehicle of production.
We have seen that the flesh of the multitude produces in common in a way that is monstrous and always exceeds the measure of any traditional social bodies, but this productive flesh does not create chaos and social disorder. What it produces, in fact, is common, and that common we share serves as the basis for future production, in a spiral, expansive relationship. (Multitude 196-97).
In other words, there is order in blogland, and we are (re)producing it. It’s customary to write off academic/intellectual blogs as ‘hobbies’ no different than a personal diary or notebook. This is a good way to ease the pressure of writing out in the open. In this way we use it as a little mirror for the comfortable obscurity of academia. But if dejan/jonquille should have taught us anything, it is that the blogosphere is politics in miniature. And it is miniature only because we do not get enough hits.
If the world as presented to us by ‘global capitalism’ makes us believe we have no choice but ironic/intellectual detachment, the reality is precisely the opposite. We can either choose to know what our politics are, which involves knowing what tools we have at our disposal (however limited) and how we have been employing them, or we can accept ignorance. The one thing we can’t be is ‘detached.’
Yes, there have been and will always be flamers and ideological blowhards. But Zizek/dejan/jonquille have chosen to become political agents. They cast themselves as foreign jesters and parasites on what for most of us serves primarily as an ethical discourse (of the ‘Big Other’ or otherwise) — Marxism (which gets lumped together with more habituated ethical standards: they’re casually racist, sexist, and all the other things our parents and Bill Clinton should have told us to stay away from) in part to accomplish goals or spread propaganda that most of us don’t bother to understand, even when they ask us to. Zizek’s words derive from Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, dejan/jonquille’s derive from Le Colonel Chabert. Starting from the same function — the production of textual derivatives of European and American intellectuals — their behaviors are exaggerated versions of our own, directed at us. Therefore what comes out of them are problems for us. It’s true, dejan/jonquille are ants next to Zizek, of no real importance. But Zizek is not ‘important’ either; they are united in practice, and the fact that their names appear on our blogs. They invite our condescension, they try to intimidate and impress us through rudeness. What else they will have been depends on us.
UPDATE: THEY PUBLISHED MY NAME ON THEIR BLOG. GO THERE TO FIND OUT WHO I REALLY AM.