Žižek, the irresistible

We all remember “the Sokal affair”, when Alan Sokal, a New York University physicist, wrote a piece of total bullshit, peppered with fashionable postmodernist terminology, and managed to publish it in a leading cultural studies journal. Many people think that this is the best possible way to expose the pretentious and irritating nonsense so widespread in some parts of contemporary humanities and social science.

But they are wrong. A much more effective way would be if one of the “high priests” of postmodernism went public and declared that his own writings are full of bullshit. Oh, but this is never going to happen! Bullshitters never admit that they are bullshitters.

Wrong again. Here is a striking illustration of precisely such a bullshit confession coming from one of the gurus, or perhaps even the guru:

Žižek opens a copy of [his book] Living in the End Times, and finds the contents page. “I will tell you the truth now,” he says, pointing to the first chapter, then the second. “Bullshit. Some more bullshit. Blah, blah, blah.” He flicks furiously through the pages… “This section, the Architectural Parallax, this is pure bluff. Also the part where I analyze Avatar, the movie, that is also pure bluff. When I wrote it, I had not even seen the film…”

Maybe he was joking? Maybe. But, as far as I know, Žižek has never said later that he was joking. And strangely enough, as far as I am aware, neither the journalist conducting the interview nor anyone else has ever expressed any interest in finding out whether Žižek was sincere. For all we know, it may well be that what he said is true and that he indeed meant it.

There is a very important principle of interpretation, known in the literature as “Sesardić’s law”, which says: “If someone claims that he is bullshitting, believe him!” Especially if the person does not laugh when making the statement, if he doesn’t issue a disclaimer later, if you are not sure that you can make sense of his words in the first place, etc.

Sadly, for some reason Sesardić’s law has been forgotten in Žižek’s case. Usually if an author were to say that his own writings are claptrap and drivel, people would react by stopping reading his books or throwing them away in disgust. But with Žižek it’s different: the more he insults his readers and discloses himself as a bullshitter, the more they find him irresistible.


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