ZIZEK AND I

SlavojzizekNow the politics of the Great Seduction is truly out of the bag.  In a provocative piece in In These Times, cultural iconoclast Slavoj Zizek gets to the political heart of the digital matter. Zizek explains why post French revolutionary political categories of left wing and right wing don’t work anymore. The reason, Zizek explains, is that the digital revolution has changed the moral and economic language of politics. The old left/right divide now is digital versus analog.

Zizek’s analysis is so breathtakingly simple that everyone missed it. Here he is explaining how the digital elite are now indistinguishable from communists:

"So who are these liberal communists? The usual gang of suspects: Bill Gates and George Soros, the CEOs of Google, IBM, Intel, eBay, as well as court-philosophers like Thomas Friedman. What makes this group interesting is that their ideology is becoming indistinguishable from that of Antonio Negri, who has praised postmodern digital capitalism, which, according to Negri, is becoming almost indistinguishable from communism. By Negri’s reckoning, both the old Right—with its ridiculous belief in authority, order and parochial patriotism—and the old Left—with its big Struggle against Capitalism—are the true conservatives today, completely out of touch with the new realities as they fight their shadow-theatre struggles."

Zizek is right (and left). The new divide in political and cultural life is between the digital elite and the old Right and the old Left. Zizek is on the analog left, I am on the analog right. I still have that “ridiculous” belief in authority, order and parochial patriotism; the good soldier Zizek is still struggling against Capitalism. But Zizek and I are united by our common opposition to digital culture. We stand arm-in-arm against the digital elites at Google, IBM, Intel and eBay with their collective nostalgia for 1968 and their love of humanitarian crises:

"There is no single exploited Working Class today, only concrete problems to be solved, such as starvation in Africa, the plight of Muslim women or religious fundamentalist violence. When there is a humanitarian crisis in Africa—and liberal communists love humanitarian crises, they bring out the best in them!—"

Zizek gets to core of the liberal communist Silicon Valley ethic. Think of the boys at Google, particularly Larry Page who, on the one hand, is happy to do business with the Chinese communist government and, on the other hand, wants to provide all African children with $100 laptop computers to do their email and their online shopping. To quote Zizek, the Larry Pages’ of the world are:

"Above all, liberal communists see themselves as true citizens of the world, good people who worry. They worry about populist fundamentalists and irresponsible, greedy corporations. They see the “deeper causes” of today’s problems, the mass poverty and hopelessness that breed fundamentalist terror. So their goal is not to earn money, but to change the world (and, in this way, as a by-product, make even more money)."

Zizek is against the digital elite for their moral hypocrisy of simultaneously making fortunes out of globalization and then returning some of those profits dressed up as humanitarian projects. My opposition to the digital elite stems from the destructive moral and cultural consequences of their technological utopianism.

Neither Zizek or I like “good people who worry.” I don’t much care for “good” people since they usually end up being bad. Zizek wants good people to be really “good” and not make profit from the global capitalist market. Zizek and I make odd bedfellows in a political world where the old left/right divide is fast becoming digital versus analog.