Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Slavoj Žižek is more fake than the Mandela Memorial Interpreter

The academic philosopher, Professor Slavoj Žižek, has written an article in the The Guardian  (December 16, 2013) entitled "The 'fake' Mandela memorial interpreter said it all".

In the article he claims that the now infamous fake interpreter at the Mandela Memorial was more 'real' than the "crocodile tears" that were shed by the assorted personages who attended.

Žižek insists that the interpreter's "performance translated an underlying truth" and he develops his argument to assert that no-one at the Memorial really cared about deaf people but rather that those who can hear mostly fake a concern about their inclusion.

Consequently, it is only once the fake interpreter was caught out that concerns were raised - if no-one complained it would not have mattered because he (the interpreter) was there just as a show of insincere concern for the deaf.

Mandela Memorial Interpreter Claims Schizophrenia
Thamsanqa Jantjie, the man accused of using fake sign 
language at Nelson Mandela's memorial. 
(Photograph: Foto24/Getty Images)

Žižek writes further:
Now we can see why Jantjie's gesticulations generated such an uncanny effect once it became clear that they were meaningless: what he confronted us with was the truth about sign language translations for the deaf – it doesn't really matter if there are any deaf people among the public who need the translation; the translator is there to make us, who do not understand sign language, feel good.

And was this also not the truth about the whole of the Mandela memorial ceremony? All the crocodile tears of the dignitaries were a self-congratulatory exercise, and Jangtjie translated them into what they effectively were: nonsense. What the world leaders were celebrating was the successful postponement of the true crisis which will explode when poor, black South Africans effectively become a collective political agent. They were the Absent One to whom Jantjie was signalling, and his message was: the dignitaries really don't care about you. Through his fake translation, Jantjie rendered palpable the fake of the entire ceremony.
 Žižek is simply out of his depth with this typically cynical and pretentious article.

For those who are not familiar with his work this is the same man who believes that Postcolonial Studies is nonsense because academics are faking the area and its concerns.  No really.

I wonder what he thinks about African Studies, Black Studies and Native American Studies?  I can only imagine.

Now the spittle machine that is Žižek has crossed the African continent from his philosophical high chair(s) in Europe where he is feted among the pliable who want to appear sophisticated and 'with it' to render equal access for the hearing impaired meaningless.

He obviously missed the fact that it was hearing impaired folks and those involved in signing who raised the issue of the fake interpreter because they were incensed at the lack of access.

Žižek does not stop there but goes further to add an ironic 'interpretation' that renders the entire Mandela Memorial nothing more than a fake event of "crocodile tears".

In so doing he erases the crowds (masses) gathered in the stadium and those outside - and across South Africa - who could care less about the personages he is fingering yet does not name in typical vacuous Žižek style.

All of this he does from the distant comfort of his appointed position(s) in the West - and via a reducted television feed no less!

From this 'vantage' point he has also written a previous article to tell the world that if Mandela was a true revolutionary he would not be a "universal hero".

He also knows - though he does not say how with any recognizable degree of authentic knowing - that the South African masses are angry and rising.

Truth is Žižek is just motioning the usual common sense that circulates among Afro-pessimists in the West.  In his article where he reduces Mandela to a "bitter man" he ends his fluff 'analysis' with the observation that "we" - not sure who he is speaking on behalf of - must not move from Mandela to Mugabe.

Mugabe being the stand-in for the Western common sense that Africans have an innate (dis)ability to devolve into dysfunction.

Žižek - playing the white sage of the moment - is kind enough to point this out to Africans and others as a warning.

I should probably have started this post by saying that this man is cynical and pretentious?  I should add racist too - or at the very least Eurocentric - but that would need another post or two to develop.

Does he even see the irony of his 'interpretation' and imperial posturing?

Has Slavoj Žižek even set foot in Africa let alone South Africa - or is African politics just a mimicry of 'grander' politics in the West in his thinking?  He does after all rubbish Edward Said and other Postcolonialist scholars who could have taught him to worry about his Orientalizing affectations.

For Žižek it seems more plausible an analysis to focus on the fraud of the fake interpreter than to recognize that inside the stadium and across South Africa there were hundreds of thousands of people who paused to memorialize Mandela.

But how would he know this?  His 'round' ass is seated in the pit of luxury up North - alongside the mother colonies - where he can spend hours theorizing life and care less about crossing out and erasing the struggles of folks he simplistically predicts will rise up to "become a collective political agent."

How does he know this?

He is so condescending and utterly misguided in his fanciful projection.  And I am not alone in this thinking.

I have read some of the comments below his article and three stand out in their intent to rightly pummel this bloated sage:
this is what you get when you mix loony leftism with smug, obtuse continental style pop-philosophy.
students lap it up...but grow out of it pretty quickly.
If we are talking about sign-language poseurs, well Zizek takes the biscuit as its Philosopher equivalent!
The real irony is of Mr. Zizek acting as interpreter, first of Mr. Mandela's thoughts (see previous article) and then of the intentions of the South African masses without having any discernible roots in South Africa. Bogus credentials indeed. There have been lots of good article written in the Mail and Guardian in recent days - maybe we could hear some more South Africa voices in this paper.
Derrida has so much to answer for. He and those, like the increasingly insufferable Zizek, who follow his brand of postintelligible babble have probably done more to destroy the Western intellectual tradition than any other influence.
This article is pretentious crap from beginning to end.
I should admit that I read this mess by Žižek yesterday and thought that it would not be nice to say what I really wanted to about him and his thinking here.  I have held back - well quite a bit - but this last comment captures the essence of what I think about the man:
Žižek, the rounded Slovenian.
His thoughts are rounded too, in that they are a load of balls.
Nuff said.


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