Prepare to traverse the U.S. political landscape, Slavoj Žižek style. It’s wild, zig-zagging, and you can practically see the neurons fire when you ask the Slovenian philosopher for his take on the U.S. Presidential election results. Žižek begins by stating that America’s political machinery is broken. Borrowing a term popularized by Noam Chomsky, Žižek states that the traditional media machine for manufacturing consent – all the platforms that support a certain propaganda and subtly build the public to a point of agreement – spluttered and came to a stop on November 8, 2016. At least, in the eyes of the liberals.
Žižek warns that he is in no way pro-Trump, going so far as to call him ‘scum’ and a ‘dirty, disgusting human being’, but there is something all those on the left should appreciate about the President Elect; he did what liberals have been trying to do for decades – he nearly single-handedly destroyed the Republican party. Compared to party members like Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum, Žižek argues that Trump is at least human next to those “aliens”. Trump’s vulgarity is different to theirs; he is wild and uncensored in a way that reveals a common human baseness. This is an appeal everyone but Trump supporters underestimated, the exhibition of bare humanity.
Alluring as it is to some, with it comes what Žižek calls ‘the disintegration of public values, of public manners, this obscene situation where you can talk about whatever you want.” Is political correctness the solution? No, says Žižek, legislating language and expression is a process he fears, especially when it’s institutionalized. When the government stops saying torture and uses euphemisms like ‘enhanced interrogation’ it makes processes less transparent. The whole point is that if a behavior or a thing is deplorable, it should be called exactly what it is so the corresponding shame of speaking it, or enacting it, regulates that behavior. If you’re afraid of war breaking out then breathe easy, because in Žižek’s eyes it was actually Hillary Clinton, the “establishment” candidate compared to Trumps wildcard status, who would have brought us closer to that danger. She speaks the evolved and tricky language of politics, Trump speaks on the baseline.
Žižek weaves so much more between these points – watch it once, and then again, to catch onto the comet tail of his train of thought.
Slavoj Žižek's most recent book is Refugees, Terror and Other Troubles with the Neighbors: Against the Double Blackmail.