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The Clever anti-Semitism of the Left. Or, Zizek in Squirrel Hill.

“From whatever angle looked at it, the crime was murder. The human race had been forever impoverished by the destruction of the world of European Jews. A catastrophe had taken place that no logic could possibly efface; no amount of reason could attenuate its irrevocable nature. That is why, instead of letting mankind continue on its way without dwelling on individuals, men themselves decided to dwell at length on the wound that Nazism had inflicted on humanity.”

— Alain Finklekraut, Remembering in Vain

“The curse of politics is precisely that it must translate values into the order of facts.”

— Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Humanism and Terror

“Let us be terrible to prevent the people from being terrible!”
— Danton



Slavoj Zizek has entered into the left-intellectual void created by the post 1989 world. While “1989” was in fact far more of a trickster than the neocons and their remoras were able to comprehend, and while many leftists and “leftists” were driven off a historical cliff when the wall came down, the stubborn facts remained. Years later, to the surprise of no one who was paying attention, Russia didn’t vanish, the Russians didn’t get colective amnesia, capitalism proved itself again to be both decadent and depraved and after 2008, gave an opening to the soft socialism, or liberalism with an attitude of Bernie Sanders, and certain other similar types, as well as generating several forms of mass anxiety.

Zizek is like someone’s weird but seemingly cool uncle who never stopped selling weed, never switched from vinyl to CDs, and has a collection of vintage posters from May of ’68. None of which is to say he’s stupid, or even wrong about everything, even if he’s toxically, catastrophically wrong about specific things, and remains a great example of Lennon and McCartney being brilliant generally and specifically because they said things like: Don’t you think the joker laughs at you.

All of which brings us to Zizek’s, In Defense of Lost Causes and his other jazz improv riffs. As to what the book is about, we are reminded in part of Italo Calvino’s review of a book by Roberto Calasso, about which Calvino said: This is a book about two things. First it is about the myth of the ancient city of Karsh, and secondly, it is about everything else. Except in the case of Zizek’s Lost Causes, it is first, a book about culture (which means essentially, everything) and secondly it is about Zizek. In particular Zizek’s fetish for a new version of old style left-fascism exemplified by statements like this:

“In today’s era of hedonist permissivity which serves as the dominant ideology, the time has come for the Left to (re)appropriate discipline and the spirit of sacrifice: there is nothing inherently “fascist” about these values.”

First, there is something decidedly and inherently fascist about the whole statement. It reeks of Solzhenitsyn singing his more famous reactionary dance hall tunes. Secondly it is pure sophistry in the service of standard issue demagoguery because it is a spectacular piece of a-historical nonsense, and it does not define its terms, but it claims a terminal authority which, in the manner of fascists, sophists and demagogues, is both iron clad and utterly elastic.

Consider the deployment of “today’s era” which suggests that decadence is a recent invention, and that until Zizek huffed and puffed and spasmed his way onto the scene no one else had pitched a fit and complained about kids today with their long hair and loud music. And besides, even if Zizek knows about, the treason of the clerks, he’s not just wrong, he’s guilty of both bad taste and bad faith.

Elvis the Pelvis and Flowers of Evil to one side, Zizek doesn’t do himself any favors with this sort of undergraduate level prat fall.

But it doesn’t get any better from there.

“Discipline” “Sacrifice” “Hedonist” and so on, all have specific meanings but here are amputated from their meaning precisely because Zizek, like a proper left-thug, wants to be both a bible-humping fire and brimstone puritan, in the manner of a neo-Jacobin obsessed with “purity” (purity of thought, purity of action, purity of being) but is also smart enough to know that, like any good salesman, the product (his claim to authority which implies a false immoral authority in his opponents) must be both manifest (through denouncing “others” who by definition are both weak – “hedonistic” – and lack “discipline”) but at the same time their crimes must be attached to words whose meanings can be stretched in a taffy-pull of ever changing definitions. In other words, who or what exactly is hedonistic, and undisciplined is of course subjective and, like it or not, as Walter Benjamin correctly said, there is no record of civilization that is not also a record of barbarism. You want the Beatles? Then you take on the entirety of the post war mise en scene that contextualizes them. You want Born to Run, well then step right this way, into the Post Industrial waste land. Or, per Zizek, you denounce their hedonism and send them off to a reeducation camp.

Blue Meanies to the left of me, Blue Meanies to the right of me!

Zizek is of course one of those hyper-kinetic intellectuals who can’t be divorced from their style, even if they practice a style that demands that they be dealt with as if their jive was not an issue. It’s like taking on the late and sometimes dearly missed Christopher Hitchens without recourse to the conveyor belt and broken muffler of fags, and the fire-hose level consumption of booze, and the Cooper Union meets Oxbridge snarl with its plummy double-backs, obscure entendres, references, and all of that backed up by a habit of erupting into verbal fits that suggest Gilbert and Sullivan reimagined by Quentin Tarantino. (I am a mother fucking modern Major General mother fucker).

The fact is, Hitch was a package deal and anyone who thinks the eccentricities were not deliberate, and not used as both distraction and cudgel, wasn’t paying attention.

And so to Zizek and the sniffing, snorting, herky-jerky, spasms of erudition, rococo displays of what passes for East European charm, mangled by a syntax that appears to have been designed by a chimp employed in an off-the-books lab in Silicon Valley, with mysterious connections to DARPA. The intelligence is there but the price of admission is exorbitant. By turns culturally limber and scattershot, Zizek is a rollercoaster by DADA; Lacanian, Structuralist, Post-Structuralist, Postmodern, Marxist, Punk, Left-fascist.

And, we hasten to add, we don’t mean any of that as a negative per se (except for that last worrying quality) rather as an issue in the same way that criticizing opera as inherently absurd misses the point. Yes it’s absurd but that’s opera qua opera and disliking it because it’s absurd is akin to disliking politics because it’s sleazy or the ocean because it’s both deep and wet.

Zizek is his bag of tics and the tics are a kind of defective verbal metronome in which ideas bounce from side to side and for everything that makes sense – say a scathing critique of end phase capitalism’s eats its young zeitgeist, or its hall of mirrors, feckless cannibalizing and regurgitation of its own tropes – to a host of other related issues, Zizek brings both a refreshing intellectual maturity to the social debate, and an exhausting sense that either too many drugs are in the mix, or not enough.

Like Hitchens Zizek is a high wire act and it’s easy to be distracted by the height to which he ascends, and the potential for him to drop far and fast, ending in a splash of rhetorical bones turned to jello, as he misses the connection and, like an old cartoon character stepping off a cliff, he has a brief moment where gravity is defied, and blinking through the fourth wall, he realizes the jig is up, and then vanishes.

But if you can fight through the verbal bocage, and emerge into the open fields beyond, you find that like Hitchens, he often has leaned far out over his skis and is headed for a mess. We turn here to his deconstruction of the odious if banal bigotry of Mel Gibson, and the equally odious and banal political sausage making of Abraham Foxman.

Speaking of Gibson’s notorious encounter with the genteel ministrations of the LAPD, Zizek finds reason to blame everyone involved.

“Why waste precious time on such a vulgar incident? For an observer of the ideological trends in the US, these events display a nightmarish dimension: the mutually reinforcing hypocrisy of the two sides, the anti-Semitic Christian fundamentalists and the Zionists, is breathtaking. Politically, the reconciliation between Gibson and Foxman signals an obscene pact between anti-Semitic Christian and aggressive Zionists, whose expression is the growing support of the fundamentalists for the State of Israel (recall Pat Robertson’s claim that Sharon’s heart attack was divine retribution for the evacuation of Gaza). The Jewish people will pay dearly for such pacts with the devil – can one imagine what a boost anti-Semitism will receive from Foxman’s offer? “So if I now say something critical about Jews, I will be forced to submit to psychiatric therapy…

What underlies the final reconciliation is, obviously, an obscene quid pro quo. Foxman’s reaction to Gibson’s outburst was not excessively severe and demanding; on the contrary, it let Gibson all too easily off the hook. It accepted Gibson’s refusal to take full personal responsibility for his words (his anti-Semitic remarks): they were not really his own, it was pathology, some unknown force that took over under the influence of alcohol. However, the answer to Gibson’s question “Where did those vicious words come from?” is ridiculously simple: they are part and parcel of his ideological identity, formed (as far as one can tell) to a large extent by his father. What sustained Gibson’s remarks was not madness but a well-known ideology (anti-Semitism).”

All very interesting. Notice first, the definition of “Foxman” as being the face of a one trick pony called, “Zionism” or the wafer thin distinction based on the use of “aggressive Zionism.” “The Zionists” are defined as being, the alpha and omega of “Foxman” thus eliminating any sense of diversity in the American Jewish community and any diversity in Israel. This is similar to the upper-class verbally polite, professional anti-Semitism of the more refined, if less prolix jibber-jabber of certain British authors, who casually refer to something they define as “world Jewry” as in, there’s a unified command, secret meetings, and a tribal commitment to getting an extra ten percent. That it’s said in a tone of, oh by the way casualness, by people who are among the first to say things like, “the Jews are so creative” and “they’re just so funny” betrays not the tone deaf brick wall of your absent-minded aunt, who doesn’t understand why blackface is offensive, but the calculated deceptions of people who know exactly what they’re doing. They wont say it to your face but as soon as Mr. Goldberg leaves they will say to their pals: must be nice to have Saturdays off.

Thus Zizek enters through the front door of righteous leftist dogma, and exits through the back door of totalitarian left wing fascist and bigotry shrouded in the arcana of the dialectic, as if Hegel was to be found shooting pool in Harlem and preaching Germanic mysticism, and Prussian discipline, through a cloud of weed.

Reducing the larger context to only an “obscene quid pro quo” between “the Zionists” and the anti-Semites, is not only a slander to intellectual rigor, it is a regurgitation of the traditional anti-Semitism in which the victims of an unjust systemic bigotry, who are coerced into excruciating moral compromises precisely because they are victims, are portrayed as parasites. That this narrative is spewed by people whose entire reputation is predicated on a robust analysis of how wider trends are reflected in the small tragedies of the culture, and how the small tragedies of the culture reflect the systemic faults of the totalizing fabric, speaks to both a private animus, and an obscene quid pro quo with the object otherwise condemned as the observer’s sworn enemy.

Ironically we take note of how in its construction, this left wing argument, is identical to the conservative and reactionary right wing argument that the reason for violence in ghettos, is the “obscene quid pro quo” between Black gangs and the apathy (or lack of “discipline”) of the wider (“Black”) community. Missing of course in that racist narrative is the question of why ghettos exist at all.

The choice of words is no idle grammatical or rhetorical issue, nor is it an intellectual issue rectified by the use of a kind of philosophical mulligan. The language used collapses and transforms “Zionism” and “Foxman” and “Jews” into cartoons both bolted to a set of arbitrary facts, while at the same time being elastic enough to allow for any number of stereotypical verbal assaults. As a result “Foxman” who is ten different types of politically porcine gangster (well remembered for issuing a cultural fatwa on the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld, as if he were the chief rabbi and in charge of what’s funny which is itself, ironically funny) is reduced to a standard stereotype of the feckless “Jew” – “Jew” as manipulator, “Jew” as clever in a sinister manner, “Jew” as without scruples, except in the sense of being determined to gain an advantage even if it means making a deal with the devil – in this case the intrinsically anti-Semitic Christian fundamentalists, who in turn are used by leftists to tar “Zionists” with the broad brush that (correctly) highlights Christian fundamentalist support for the knuckle dragging, mouth breathing rhetorical and political carpet bombing of the Trumpists, or fascist wing of the Republicans but incorrectly amputates the politics of the connection from its context.

That this is a not so slim echo of the impossible politics of the 1930s, and what Victor Serge defined as the “midnight of the century” is both ironic and depressing, precisely because it paints the contemporary left as being psychologically identical to the old Bourbon monarchs of Europe about whom it was said, they had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.

Per the standard template of the anti-Semite, Zizek creates a narrative in which “the Jew” (Or “Zionists” – thus reinforcing another stereotype of monolithic “Jewish” thought and action) is both clever but, obvious to the enlightened observer (Zizek) who can break the code.

This “Jew” is both avatar and lone gunman. He operates as a sinister agent of his own volition but is also the chief (political rabbi) for the tribe which has no singular will but operates as a sinister whole. Zizek finds him guilty of being both without volition and falsely assuming the position of tribal voice. A point to which we shall return.

What goes missing of course, in another example of hilarious yet frightening irony, is any sense of context. But, having stripped “Foxman” of context, Zizek then hangs him by bolting his actions to the context of what he defines as the rock and a hard place of contemporary American political perfidy – defined as being either Soviet style politicized “psychiatry” or the psychiatry of a corrupt “politics.”

In this version of reality, “Foxman” while being the “clever Jew” engaged in political machinations, is detached from any other wider context. Thus, for example, what goes missing are: the existence of anti-Semitism both specifically in the day to day traffic of the nation, and generally in the context of the plague of violence, intimidation, and demonization; personal relationships as in, favors owed by one to another, or by entire groups to another’s as in, Gibson Inc is a vast multi-million dollar entity with tendrils that reach around the world and may impact people with whom “Foxman” has relationships, or with people who in turn have relationships that might negatively impact still other concerns of which “Foxman” has either a neutral concern or an active one and does not want to cause harm.

Or, there are people with secret agendas who have reason(s) to apply pressure to “Foxman” to not destroy Gibson, or there are people who need jobs, or people who are counting on Gibson for a contribution to a charity, or there are people running for office, or there’s a wedding, or a campaign, or a media agenda, or a thousand other things that make up the plot of a Chandler novel, or an episode of Entourage or the detritus of life – but as Zizek is to the Ars Poetica as an anatomy textbook is to seduction, none of it enters into the equation and what we are presented with is the not so very new retread of the oh so typical “Jew” engaged in trickery precisely because, that is what “Jews” do.

And note, that our list of other alternative factors is not without trickery and does not exclude the possibility of immoral motivations, but are not a priori sinister, though it may contain scenarios that are – but is instead the vast web of interconnected individuals who, being part of the hall of mirrors that is the contemporary socio-economic thuderdome, are forced to act in ways that require contradiction and moral compromise.

Thus, “Foxman” is not unique, is not an example of something specific to the “Zionists” and is instead an example that is typical of Catholics, WASPS, atheists, communists, socialists, journalists, academics, intellectuals and everyone else – in other words, human all too human.

But of course there’s more. Ironically Zizek’s “Foxman” while designated as a “Jew” and “Zionist” has no past and he is a “Jew” devoid of a Jewish identity except as defined by the non Jew who, what a surprise, finds him guilty of being shifty.

Naturally one is compelled to declare, as if one were crossing a moral border and showing a visa stamp, that one may criticize Foxman, and Israel, and one may criticize Foxman for any number of reasons including being a political animal who, by definition, swims with sharks and because politics is the business of gangsters.

But considering Zizek’s reputation for haute intellectualism, his reputation for in-depth analysis of historical trends, at what we might call, a sub atomic level, his amputation of “Foxman” from context leaves us with a Zizek who is something of a knob, or something of a very clever anti-Semite. Or both.

Of course, it is possible to be both a pinhead and a bigot but the difference between the average Archie Bunker and say, T.S. Eliot is the difference between a firecracker and an atom bomb. Archie may or may not break the window of your shop but Eliot (or Zizek) will write something slick to explain not only why it was historically required but why ultimately it’s your fault.

At this point of course one must be braced for the screams of how it’s outrageous to suggest something sinister, and that, every time someone criticizes “the Jews” they scream “anti-Semitism!” And of course Zizek is quite clear and has on multiple occasions expressed disdain, contempt, and disgust for bigots, regardless of whatever particular form their bigotry takes.

Which of course brings us first to a kind of basic hypocrisy in which, precisely because he expresses contempt for bigots, it is all the more telling that he slips on a pile of rhetorical shit and lands face first in a puddle of his own making.

As to the canard that criticism of “Jews” “Zionism” and “Israel’ produce a Tourette’s Syndrome response of “anti-Semitism!” that fact is, it’s not true, first because anyone who’s spent time with Jews knows that if you talk to two of them you’ll get three opinions, thus making the accusation of uniformity a joke, and secondly because there’s no one more critical of Jews than the Jews themselves, except of course for the people making the trains run on time.

Which is not to dismiss the idea that there are people who jump on any criticism as an opportunity to deflect, demean, and silence legitimate complaints. However, that in turn like all other actions, are part of a vast social web of cause and effect. Bigots and political opportunists do not, and can not exist autonomously. Zizek’s “Foxman” is a fiction created by Zizek, and Foxman is a man created by context, including the one in which hyper East European, Lacanian, Marxist, Punk philosophers spastically define them as if they sprang spontaneously from the forehead of an angry old man in a deli, sending back his soup.

Which brings us back to the issue of context. The fact is Zizek elides context, and trips rhetorically into sounding like a very clever bigot. “Foxman” is, like him or not, working as a political figure and is beholden to a constituency and the first iron law of politics is (dirty) compromise. Which generates the second immutable law – hypocrisy. Don’t like it? Then find another job, or as Merleau-Ponty says paraphrasing Max Weber: “Politics is in essence unethical. It contains “a pact with the powers of hell” because it is the struggle for power and power leads to violence…” And:  “Montaigne said, “the public good demands that one betrays, lies and massacres. . . .” He described political man caught in the alternative of doing nothing or of being a criminal: “What is the remedy? There is no remedy, if life really was caught between these two extremes he would still have to act; but if he did so without regret, if it did not weigh upon him it is a sign that he is not in good conscience.” Montaigne therefore already understood political man as an unhappy consciousness…” Or as that other great philosopher has it: “It aint too complicated, you’re dealing with, Murder Incorporated.”

Which in turn means that an honest, or less dishonest, assessment requires one to demonstrate how Foxman or even how “Foxman” is unique; how other political operators act in ways that are different. Of course it can’t be done anymore than (so far) nothing can go faster than light and as a result, Zizek’s argument falls apart – but also reveals itself as sophistry in the service of an a-historical, intellectual sin.

This in turn brings us to a curious subset in Zizek’s program. He accuses “Foxman” and “the Zionists” (as well as indicting pretty much everyone else) of making a distinction between the “pathology” of anti-Semitism and the ideology of anti-Semitism. For Zizek this formula works as follows: To accuse Gibson of being an anti-Semite is justified because of both his comments and the indoctrination he received from his father, who is an avowed anti-Semite and who belongs to a racist Catholic cult known for such dance hall favorites as, the Holocaust didn’t occur, and the Jews are to blame for everything.

However, to say Gibson fils’ anti-Semitism is the cause of the effect and the effect is a pathology sparked by the consumption of too much alcohol, is immoral and cynical (by “Foxman”) because it absolves Gibson of responsibility. Worse still, it removes anti-Semitism from being a direct result of the wider (immoral) system and as such, it lets capitalism off the hook and we are then in an Alice in Wonderland reverse version of Soviet bureaucratic tyranny where, to be against “Communism” was, by definition, insane.

This of course is bullshit even if its is a very clever bullshit. First, bigotry may very well be a kind of mental illness, but it may also be a condition of a socio-economic system, or both, or neither, or it may move like a pair of electrons entangled, agitated by Einstein’s notion of, spooky action at a distance, going from one state to another. To declare that it must be either x or y is in fact to be a proper Soviet apparatchik, or an insurance salesman working for a big pharm empire, though, how exactly you tell the difference between the two escapes us.

Zizek is here appearing to be reasonable but is in fact being dictatorial. Having removed “Foxman” the “Jews” and the “Zionists” from their context, and thus removed from them the right to choose, he finds them guilty of survival within a system he defines as corrupt. Thus, they are at best feckless and at worst collaborators but mostly, they are guilty of not being good leftists. Gibson, is in turn both “crazy” and perfectly “sane” if ideologically contaminated. Exactly what practical difference there is between the two is left to the imagination though, we assume, in proper left terms, it would mean a distinction without a difference because if you are found “insane” by the state, you will be punished, and if you are found ideological “traif” by the state you will be punished.

This ideology, or if you prefer, this pathology, is fairly wide spread among certain haute leftists and Zizek is keeping good company. Offering a seemingly more nuanced iteration of the toxin, one can turn to Zizek’s comrade, Alain Badiou. Explaining in a neo-Structuralist manner why the word “Jew” has been repurposed as a signifier, to generate an extension of traditional anti-Semitism, Badiou generously proposes how the victims of anti-Semitism should respond to people who’s idea of a good time is setting Jews on fire.

“The basic argumentation, of course, refers to the extermination of European Jews by the Nazis and their accomplices. In the victim ideology that constitutes the campaign artillery of contemporary moralism, this unprecedented extermination is held to be paradigmatic. In and of itself the extermination would underpin the political, legal and moral necessity to hold the word Jew above all usual handling of identity predicates and to give it some kind of nominal sacralization. The progressive imposition of the word Shoah to designate what its most eminent historian, Raul Hilberg, named, with sober precision, “the destruction of the Europe an Jews” can be taken as a verbal stage of this sacralizing of victims. By a remarkable irony, one thereby comes to the point of applying to the name “Jew” a claim that the Christians originally directed against the Jews themselves, which was that “Christ” was a worthier name than all others. Today it is not uncommon to read that “Jew” is indeed a name beyond ordinary names. And it seems to be presumed that, like an inverted original sin, the grace of having been an incomparable victim can be passed down not only to descendants and to the descendants of descendants but to all who come under the predicate in question, be they heads of state or armies engaging in the severe oppression of those whose lands they have confiscated.”

Badiou here is using what can be described as a standard template of the sophisticated, professional anti-Semite. First there is a robust demonstration of refined contempt for bigots, replete with historical analogies and clever literary or philosophical references. It is a sort of, see, nothing up my sleeve style, designed to apply rhetorical armor to an otherwise standard piece of bigotry.

This is followed by a twist, in which the author offers up the canard that precisely by designating “Jews” and “Shoa” and “The Holocaust” as signifiers, or exemplars, or linguistic avatars of specific paradigm designating events, in order to safeguard “Jews” one is, ironically, recreating the traditional segregation of “Jews” and thus fulfilling the traditional goals of the anti-Semites.

This is followed by attaching the argument to “Israel” asserting without having to actually make the case that, this sad ironic historical mistake is directly connected to the current “crimes” of “Israel” and – Gaza! Gaza! Gaza!

Of course, this is sophistry, and a sleek form of demagoguery adorned in the baggy suit of pseudo-Structuralist voodoo. It is a kind of verbal event horizon in which facts are collapsed into a historical black hole and the vast, if not morbidly obese History of anti-Semitism generally, and the specific anti-Semitism of Europe, are reduced to a few paragraphs which then allows the author to jump from one dimension to another as if transiting a Historical worm hole. Thus, anti-Semitism is evil, defining “Jews” as unique victims of a unique crime is, ironically counterproductive, and therefore, ‘Israel/Zionism/Jew” is guilty, Gaza! Gaza! Gaza!

Badiou continues.

“Another approach to this type of fictive transcendence is historical. It claims to show that the Jewish question’ has defined Europe since the Enlightenment era, such that there would be a criminal continuity between the idea Europe has of itself and the Nazi extermination, which is presented as the ‘final solution’ to the problem. Further, there would be a basic continuity between the extermination and European hostility to the State of Israel, the prime evidence for which would be the constant support – in my view really inconsistent, but let’s leave that aside – the European Community gives to the Palestinians. Europe would be enraged by the fact that the “final solution” was defeated in the last act by the sudden appearance, on the balance-sheet of the war, of a Jewish state. As a result, there should be a legitimate distrust of everything Arab, for in starting out from support for the Palestinians we soon come to an undermining of the State of Israel, then from that undermining we come to anti-Semitism, and from this anti-Semitism to extermination – the logic, in short, has to be good.”

Here one must first stop and applaud both the brilliance of the bullshit and the sheer chutzpah. First the declaration that we are dealing with a fiction. Badiou is saying that anti-Semitism and its connection in Europe to the near destruction of Jews is not, an event that didn’t occur but is, an event whose meaning has been both obscured and highjacked so that the “Jews” and the anti-Semites are working together. This of course is entering through the front door of being against anti-Semitism and exited through the back door of traditional libels in which the clever, shifty “Jews” are at it again, working with their enemies to screw everyone.

Historically this reaches back to the golden age of anti-Semitism in the 1930s when the anti-capitalism of the fascists merged with the anti-capitalism of the left. Both sides contextualized the socio-economic catastrophes of their time as not only being the fault of capitalism, but that in turn capitalism was the front behind which “Jews” manipulated events to their benefit. The appeal of reactionary, anti-capitalist, anti-Semitic fascists, like Robert Brasillach at Je Suis Partout, and Louis F. Celine, with his extravagant use of slang, and Modernist tropes, was in no small measure a result of how he brilliantly squared the circle, defining the trajectory of the era as a terminal rush towards the abyss precisely because, capitalism, was placing its chips on booth red and black and the people running the gambling hall, were “Jews.” For Celine and the fascists, the answer was to crush capitalism and the “Jews.” For the left the answer was to crush capitalism and force the “Jews” (and everyone else) to amputate themselves from their memory, culture and identity because all of those things were decadent and existed only as either reflections of the dominant paradigm, or were parasitical examples of exploitation.

But this is also an echo of an earlier iteration of professional anti-Semitism. Badiou and Zizek are the inheritors of left-wing anti-Dreyfusism. In that amid the collective national nervous breakdown that informed and surrounded the Dreyfus Affair, there was a strict left wing antagonism that demanded of the proletariat, a refusal to take the side of Dreyfus (Excluding, Charles Peguy and affiliated Socialists or Jean Jaures who published Dreyfus’ post pardon statement but was at odds with leftists) because to do so would be to abandon the revolutionary struggle of the workers, against the bourgeoisie who, through Dreyfus, were engaged in a fratricidal conflict. As a result, the systemic anti-Semitism of the establishment, was a non issue for the official left, and if the ultimate, inevitable, success of the revolution meant dead (bourgeois) Jews, executed, or exiled, so be it. As Hegel said: “Reason can’t linger over the wounds inflicted on individuals, for individual destinies are swallowed up in universal destinies.”

This is, in Badiou, followed by the assertion that the anti-anti-Semites are asserting that anti-Semitism is the central and defining fact at the heart of enlightenment Europe. Notice however that Badiou can’t be bothered to stoop to offering any proof – after all, sophists and demagogues are busy and why let the dreary facts get in the way of a good diatribe.

The truth is, that no serious historian positions the Holocaust as the central act of European History, or the central fact of the Enlightenment project but many correctly contextualize it as a monument to the failure of Enlightenment values. By insisting that crimes against humanity had been committed the victors were not inventing a new narrative, or a new addendum to the Enlightenment. They were recalling Montesquieu defining the Rights of Man as: “…the civil code of the Universe, in the sense that every people is a citizen thereof” and they were saying that the world had failed to live up to that ideal.

Many however do position the Holocaust as the central act of the epic otherwise known as, World War II though, that in turn is such a massive topic that entire libraries have been devoted to everything from agrarian reform in fascist Italy, to the cinema of Nazi Germany, to the black market in New Deal America, and espionage in imperial Japan. And at the same time, suggesting that there’s something amiss in focusing on the barbed wire and the cattle cars, as pivotal to the story, is like being angry that someone has focused on the weather while talking about War and Peace or whales while talking about Melville. They might be missing the forest for the trees but its not as if were discussing shrubbery, or guppies.

But then comes the brilliance. Badiou takes his own argument, turns it inside out, and attaches it to the anti-Semites to “prove” that if it were true, and if it were being used to discredit arguments in favor of the unique status of European traumas generally, and the Holocaust specifically, then logically we would find a systemic hatred of the Arabs which should lead to a systemic rage that the Final Solution failed, followed by an equally intense hatred of Israel.

Except of course this requires one to accept the premise that humans and their politics are strictly binary and not better defined by Faulkner’s formula – the facts and the truth seldom have much to do with each other.

Beyond that of course the issue is that of course there is rage, resentment, anti-Semitism, and the messy cocktail of politics which includes contradictions, ambivalence, paradox, and deals between and with parties who also despise each other. Thus, when Badiou says, the logic has to be good, he is absolutely correct. The irony being it’s his logic that’s bad, and the fact is, the logic of politics has more in common with an Escher drawing than a Euclidean certainty.

Badiou, as with Zizek, is regurgitating a 1930s style anti-Semitism dressed up in 1980s style left-theory that denies “Jews” exist, or should exist, and asserts in its place that there are only the people, who are either workers, peasants, or not – and are instead bourgeoisie, aristocrats, and so on. This strict hierarchy, with its certainties, and moral absolutes, of course is intrinsically tyrannical. What’s more, and is in fact a kind of even greater insult, is the assertion that generosity cannot possibly be entwined with contempt. The irony here being that in denying a systemic hatred of the Arabs or the Jews is a retread of the traditional bigot saying in their defense, that some of their best friends are…Negros.

In structuralist terms if one accepts Badiou’s premise that the word “Jew” as a signifier has become corrupt, and creates a narrative in which its use as a seawall against the tide of anti-Semitism has failed, and in an historical inverse is now an instrument of oppression, then logically one could, or even should say, that “Nazi” or “Crimes against humanity” or “Hitler” have lost their signification. Thus, “Hitler” has nothing to do with Hitler and “Nazi Germany” has nothing to do with fascism or genocide. These then become words without context, attached to nothing, in which a floating world emerges, endlessly elastic, except, in the banal manner of the clock work precision of the Kafkaesque nightmare, when the authorities, exercising their terminal imagination and arbitrary power, decide that the facts, iron clad, plastic, arbitrary and irrefutable, are a question of who speaks last.

This of course cuts to the heart of the left’s anti-Semitism. It always found Zionism both ideologically incorrect but also found the Jews suspect because their nationalism was a threat to the collective project. On the one hand the Zionists were naturally opposed to the fascists – not withstanding the not insubstantial fascist wing of the Zionists exemplified by Yitzhak Shamir and Vlad Jabotinsky, who in turn had multiple legitimate reasons to distrust the left wing of Zionism exemplified by Ben Gurion – but, they were, by definition, against erasing themselves in order to fit into a wider program. First because the fascists weren’t going to be any kinder to them if they said they were no longer Jews, and secondly because the leftists weren’t necessarily going to be kinder to them if they said they were no longer Jews.

This in turn goes back to the original conception under Marx who, like it or not, hated being a Jew because he saw it as an example of a vast narrative of slavery, capitulation, accommodation to arbitrary power and support for tyranny. To Marx, a “Jew” was just another word for slave. To escape his own Jewish identity was a psychological requirement for not only himself but for slaves everywhere. In a sense there is a corollary to be found between Marx’s anti-Semitism and Dickens.

When Dickens wrote Fagan he meant to portray a type common to the socio-economic gulag of London in the mid 19th century. Sadly for his readers, and certainly for Dickens, his relative lack of talent drove him into using clichés and racist tropes because he was incapable of transcending the talent he possessed. As Orwell said about him: Great gargoyles, poor architecture.

The result was a “Jew” who was monstrous, shifty, conniving, threatening, and ultimately both feckless and complicit. What Dickens missed of course was the set of forces that had created “Fagan” and forced Jews into collaboration with their oppressors.

Marx believed that the elimination of the slave required the elimination of anything that attached to the system of hierarchies and as a result “Zionism” which is by definition about “Jews” and those who are not Jews, was antagonistic to the liberation of humanity.

That it is an argument that has provided a safe harbor for people who otherwise would be wearing jackboots and the fact is the contemporary “left” has a serious defect in the same way that a third arm, that keeps instinctively rising up in a Roman-esque salute is a problem.

But, and this is crucial, the decades long tradition among some leftists of harboring standard templates of anti-Semitism, has ebbed and flowed but it has never gone away and has in the last thirty or forty years expanded and in some cases reached a fevered pitch.

This is also due to the return of the Jabo mentality, attached to neoliberalism, and a ruthlessly cynical gangsterism practiced by Likudniks. Ironically you have Jabo thugs like Avigdor Lieberman, a man whose stupidity is only limited by the number of hours in a given day and Benyamin Netanyahu, who while of an elite class, espouses retrograde neo-populist, Jabo style resentment against the “elites” and has positioned himself as the friend to the habitually disenfranchised Sephardim. The more fervent the left becomes in insisting it’s not anti-Semitic, while tripping over both bogus examples of its bigotry, set up as rhetorical boobytraps by the Tories and Fox “news” or The Daily Mail, and the genuine article, and the more it spouts actual standard anti-Semitic slurs, the more the later day Jabos use it to gin up their base. And anyone who thinks Netanyahu isn’t a product of anti-Semitism, is either a fool a professional cynic or both. The true context of the issue is that it is not “Zionism” that creates Likud but anti-Semitism, and if the left wants to discover what gives Netanyahu his power, all they have to do is look in the mirror. Which is not to say Netanyahu wouldn’t be a gangster of another type if forced into it, but precisely that he is the type he is, precisely because the left keeps pitching him fat targets right down the middle of the plate, and he keeps hitting them right out of the park.

But, and again, this is crucial, the left criticism of “Israel” and “Zionism” is consistently devoid of context. Thus, from Michael Brooks via the Majority Report, Jimmy Dore and Kyle Kulinski of The Young Turks, to assorted self described communists like Ash Sakar, appearing on the BBC, to members of the Corbyn supporting Momentum, (not to mention Corbyn himself) to Zizek and Badiou, “Zionism” is a crime, the Palestinians are nothing but victims, somehow both outside of “History” (thus not responsible for anything) and inside it as victims of “History,” and the Arabs bare no responsibility whatsoever for the circular firing squad in which there is more than enough ammunition and hypocrisy to go around.

In this version of reality, “Zionism” is bolted to the facts of European History but, European History is amputated from Zionism and “Jews” are to blame for the plight of the Palestinians except for an off-hand acknowledgement of the “Holocaust” which in turn, ironically given the critique is left based, is both a blanket indictment of everything (capitalism, colonialism, “Zionism” etc.) a minor rhetorical sop to the “Jews” but, then is separated from History so that, “Zionism” just sort of happened because a gang of “Jews” decided to steal someone else’s land and are now holding the world hostage. Gone are both the details of shared History and the dream-state of private memory; gone are the generational traumas, the Faulknerian catastrophes that reach across time and inform and contextualize experience.

And a word here about a word – Nakba, or catastrophe, which is what Palestinian and European and American “leftists” call the creation of Israel. The word is used to both define “Zionism” as a political and Historical crime, and to denote something biblical and thus supernatural, while at the same time is used as fact-based simulacrum of generational trauma and righteous condemnation. But because it has about it the air of a biblical plague, visited upon god’s hapless followers, there is no Historical context; it is just something awful that happened. As such it is designed to stifle both criticism of the Palestinians, their politics, and their supporters and their politics but, make no mistake, it is also designed to stifle, if not strangle, any internal dissent and debate. As a result, any internal dissent by Arabs is to be labeled an apostate and a schismatic sinner. Thus it is the Palestinian Holocaust and it attaches the “Jews” the “Zionists” and “Israel” to a propagandistic alteration of the facts in which again, the Palestinians were minding their own business when the “Jews” swept through their world like a plague of locusts. In this version of reality, Amin al-Husseini never took money from Mussolini, never went to Berlin, never helped raise Muslim fascist units who never committed war crimes in Europe, and they never sided with assorted dictators, who never imported ex Nazis to help figure out how they were going to lob missiles full of gas at the Jews in order to finish the job. In this version of reality Francois Genoud was not Hitler’s Swiss banker, did not pay for Klaus Barbie’s defense and never worked to move Nazis to Egypt and Syria so they could take another crack at finishing the job they had started in the 1930s.

As a result one is treated to endless recitations about the expulsion of some 700,000 Palestinians; that it was “ethnic cleansing” and that all subsequent actions by the “Jews” “Zionists” and by “Israel” are illegitimate, immoral and in support of “Apartheid.” And again crucially the issue is not that the Palestinians weren’t abused but that precisely because they were, memory as the honor paid to the facts demands that we acknowledge the context of the entire event not just those that suit one political agenda or another.

But for Zizek and his comrades that is not the case. That the Palestinians had leaders actively allied with the Nazis is never mentioned. That they and their Arab “allies’ (best described by the phrase: with friends like these who needs enemies) participated in the admittedly gangsterish negotiations, thus giving legitimacy to the UN Partition of the British Mandate, that they participated in a legally binding UN vote on partition (which would have given them all the land the subsequently demanded and lost) and that after losing the vote the began an illegal war, that they lost, that they violently expelled Jews from their own countries, that they espoused blatantly racist and genocidal polices, that they were committed to the violent suppression of freedom internally, while cynically courting both international patrons – the in name only leftists of the Soviet Union, and the in name only, liberals of the West – is all erased from the narrative.

That there were Zionists who were bigots, that there were atrocities committed, that there were episodes of wholesale expulsion are all true. But again, for the leftists, like Zizek and Badiou, the problem remains: Great gargoyles, poor architecture.

And here a moment to consider yet another aspect of Zizek’s political Dadaism. Speaking specifically of Israel and the Palestinians, he offers that while it’s true and shameful that in many Arab countries Hitler is considered a hero, and that Arab textbooks cough up the same rancid stereotypes of greedy, shifty Jews, one should take what he calls a ruthlessly cold view of this conflict:

“What this means is that, when approaching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one should stick to ruthless and cold standards, suspending the urge to try to “understand” the situation: one should unconditionally resist the temptation to “understand” the Arab antisemitism (where we really do encounter it) as a “natural” reaction to the sad plight of the Palestinians, or to “understand” the Israeli measures as a “natural” reaction against the background of the memory of the holocaust.”


“There should be no “understanding” for the fact that, in many, if not most, of the Arab countries, from Saudi Arabia to Egypt, Hitler is still considered a hero, the fact that, in the primary school textbooks, all the traditional antisemitic myths, from the notoriously antisemitic (and forged) book The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to the claims that Jews use the blood of Christian (or Arab) children for sacrificial purposes, are attributed to them.”


“To claim that this antisemitism articulates in a displaced mode the resistance against capitalism in no way justifies it, and the same goes for the Nazi antisemitism: it also drew its energy from the anti-capitalist resistance. Displacement is not here a secondary operation, but the fundamental gesture of ideological mystification…So we should not interpret or judge singular acts together, we should excise them from their historical texture…What this means is that one should flatly reject the very notion of any logical or political link between the Holocaust and the present Israeli-Palestinian tensions. These are two thoroughly different phenomena: the one part of the European history of rightist resistance to the dynamics of modernization, the other one of the last chapters in the history of colonization…On the other hand, the difficult task for the Palestinians is to accept that their true enemy is not the Jewish people but the Arab regimes themselves which manipulate their plight in order, precisely, to prevent this shift – the political radicalization in their own midst….”

So, on the one hand here you have Zizek saying anti-Semitism is bad and Arab use, or use by Arab states of traditional Nazi-esque stereotypes is immoral, and counterproductive because it weakens the legitimate fight against capitalism but the “Jews” should not be allowed nor should anyone else make a connection between one of the 20th centuries singular events and the existence of Israel. This is clearly, specifically an attempt to redefine Israel and Zionism as illegitimate and outside of the cause and effect of events but subject to the imposition of moral judgement based on the arbitrary use of historical events – as defined by Zizek. An idea that if applied elsewhere would, for example, take the form of telling the Irish that the Troubles have no connection to the Potato Famine, the Chinese (and Japanese) that the Rape of Nanking has no connection to the rise of the Chinese Left, and the Americans that Jamestown has no connection to the foundational mythology of the United States.

All well and good but one might ask, why are the Jews expected to jettison their history but, say, the East Europeans are not? Well, one might say, because the East Europeans aren’t in the middle of a hundred years long conflict that has the feel of a steel cage death match. Except, actually they are and the conflict has been going on with lulls, for about two thousand years. Here come the Mongols, and there go the Turks, and the Poles, and the Saracens and the Russians and the Austrians and the French and the Vatican and of course the Germans. Should NATO expand eastward? Should the Russians expand west? Is Hungary’s right wing surge a threat to the European Union?

After all, what’s in a name and it’s not as if memory has played a significant part in the history of the world. Faulkner? Never heard of him. Proust? You mean the guy with the cookie fetish?

Don’t be silly.

It’s a curiosity of the advanced, professional anti-Semite that they seem committed to twisting themselves into a knot of illogic in the name of claiming to be so much smarter than everyone else.

If only the Arabs would forget about everything else and just translate Gramsci into Arabic and if only the “Jews” would jettison the culture factory and amputate themselves from their identity – Roth? Freud? Seinfeld? Spinoza? The Marx Brothers?

Fagedd about it.

Never heard of them and same goes for your grandparents who vanished in a stiff breeze that drifted over the chimneys. And that’s no small issue and not only because the Holocaust is just a scant few minutes ago in the Faulknerian sense of: the past aint even hardly past, but because we mention Proust to make what should be an obvious if not banal point – remembering is central to human consciousness and setting up ghettos of who can and who can’t remember, and what they should and shouldn’t remember, sounds suspiciously like a five year plan that requires a lot of rotten potatoes, tractors that don’t work, and very long ditches full of corpses. It also sounds like ruthless efficiency experts at a car factory in Detroit – just in case someone got the ridiculous idea that we view defective authoritative theories as being part of a left wing monopoly.

Of course one concedes that capitalism is a plague. It has impressively stacked a mountain of skulls on every continent and the irony of how current Israeli politics is a fusion of Jabo Revisionist Zionism with its appeals to and celebrations of, populist working class ideals, and the cesspit of the stock market, is enough to make any reasonable person choke on their matzo.

But how about Zizek pretends to forget and leaves everyone else alone? How about recognizing that there is something obsessional and odd in the very premise – by which we mean that the very act of asking, and suggesting, and defining “Jews” “Zionism” and “Israel” as being more significant than any other one of the catastrophic and interconnected issues plaguing humanity, suggests an hour on a therapist’s couch, rather than a podcast or book dedicated to a Lacanian analysis of “anti-Semitism.” In fact, what comes to mind is Zizek as a prince of the reverse. In a fable called the Magical Lacanian Mirror, he would be a handsome prince who kisses a sleeping beauty, and turns into a troll who is sent to live under a freeway – because, precisely because the very premise of the argument, the very idea that there is an argument to be made, is itself, anti-Semitic.

That Zizek occupies the huate corner of this political pathology is clear from his rhetoric. That it offers a de facto absolution for everyone else while appearing to condemn them, is both ironic and despicable. In this version of reality, anti-Semitism exists, is roundly condemned but, it is not for the victims – “the Jews” – to decide how to respond because to allow that is to allow for a space to be carved out within the left program that requires recognition of the Jews as distinct and in need of a fortress. Ironically (to again use that word) this is identical to the right wing justification employed by certain literary critics operating under the auspices of the high priests of American liberalism, who say that while T.S. Eliot was an anti-Semite, his anti-Semitism was really more of a rash “confined to one limb” and as he only ever wrote three overtly anti-Semitic poems, (as if there’s a quota) it would be unreasonable to accuse him of being an Anti-Semite – thus, his bigotry is of the small batch, artisanal variety – and is best thought of as, anti-Semitism Lite – twice the Zyclon B, half the calories.

What they all have in common, neo-Jacobin leftists, reactionary fascists, and nationalists, is not just a contempt for Jews but, a contempt for the facts; the stubborn inconvenient facts that like gravity, often annoy but about which, one can do nothing, except lie, or get on with the messy business of existing.

This of course in the case of Zizek, is based in turn on the denial of the facts in a Trumpian gaslighting, that while more reliant on the appearance of sophistication, is in truth just as crude.

Thus, the Palestinians did not ally themselves with the Nazis (or even if they did it shouldn’t be discussed because it interferes with a left triumph over capitalism), the Arabs did not participate in the UN negotiations for partition, did not participate in the vote, thus granting it political and legal legitimacy, and did not start an illegal war, which they either lost or did not win, did not import Nazis, with the express purpose of committing genocide, did not make common cause with assorted imperial gangsterocracies (who it should be noted were perfectly willing to play both sides against the middle), did not make it an official policy that there would be no peace, no negotiations and no recognition of Israel, did not wage a decades long campaign of terrorism while at the same time exterminating any and all internal opposition, did not cynically employ religious fascists as their own bespoke Brownshirts to crush their own authentic Leftists (at the behest of both the bogus inauthentic left of Stalinism and the imperial liberalism of Europe and America), and instead were, simply, pastoral, artisanal craftsman victimized by, the clever, sinister, feckless, “Jews.”

And, if all of that wasn’t enough, what also goes missing is the vast, epic, sinister dream state after the war, in which every one of the major European nations, under the auspices of the American hegemon, not only let war criminals go free but, in an industrial style assembly line manner, incorporated them into their bureaucracies.

Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyon, was funneled out of Europe, by the US, with the assistance of the Vatican, to Bolivia, where he worked for years to support American corporate fascism, and, make no mistake, that story was not the exception but the rule. Nazis were folded back into the West German state apparatus, recruited to the French Foreign Legion in order to teach the finer points of imperial etiquette to the otherwise unruly Vietnamese, were inserted into CIA stay-behind commandos as part of Operation Gladio, were connected to Baader Meinhof and Red Brigade cells as agent provocateurs, were mined for their expertise in how to make missiles hit their targets, and were in every instance protected by an international system that by its very existence said, Jews are never safe and that while the war may have ended in 1945, it was far from finished.

Thus, while being asked to be reasonable, about the Palestinians, and being asked to be reasonable about accepting someone else’s definitions of “Zionism” and “Jews” and their memory, Jews were also being told to talk to Nazis or look the other way while their “friends” talked to them and their enemies used them.

None of which is to say that any number of Zionists, Isralies or American Jews were not involved in any number of crimes, plots, coups, counter coups, assaults, assassinations, manipulations, lies, distortions half truths and cynical efforts to gain an advantage. Politics is the business of gangsters whether they read right to left or left to right.

But the fact that they are proves the opposite point to Zizek’s precisely because in order for that criticism to be valid it requires either a caricature of the perfidious “Jew” of the world’s imagination, which Zizek and the left condemn rightly as, anti-Semitic, or it demands context which renders Zizek’s criticism specifically and the left generally, as either wrong factually or wrong morally because it is nothing more or less than standard anti-Semitism.

And here, we consider Zizek’s thoughts on the subject as expressed in an article he wrote, in which he both elevates his mendacity while lowering his standards to the left side of the gutter.

Beginning with a standard intellectual head fake that takes as significant a (seeming) cultural trifle – in this case an Austrian cartoon – Zizek uses it as a rhetorical amuse bouche to generate a wider point – that ironically, defense of “Zionism” is now more in line with the final solution ideology of Nazism. To stick the dismount in his opening floor routine, Zizek quotes the oh so reliable, Anders Breivik, which is the intellectual equivalent of invoking Ted Kosinski to highlight the logic of being a luddite or Charles Manson as an advocate for fine cutlery.

“When today’s Christian fundamentalist supporters of Israeli policies reject leftist critiques of those policies, is their implicit line of argumentation not uncannily close to the caricature from Die Presse? Remember Anders Breivik, the Norwegian anti-immigrant mass murderer: He was anti-Semitic, but pro-Israel, since he saw the State of Israel as the first defense line against Muslim expansion—he even wanted to see the Jerusalem Temple rebuilt.

His view is that Jews are okay as long as there aren’t too many of them—or, as he wrote in his Manifesto: “There is no Jewish problem in Western Europe (with the exception of the U.K. and France) as we only have 1 million in Western Europe, whereas 800,000 out of these 1 million live in France and the U.K. The U.S., on the other hand, with more than 6 million Jews (600% more than Europe) actually has a considerable Jewish problem.”

His figure thus realizes the ultimate paradox of a Zionist anti-Semite—and we find the traces of this bizarre stance more often than one would expect.”

The idea, such as it is, rests on the rickety platform of a mass murdering psychopath being a reasonable spokesman for anything – as if, Breivik couldn’t find a way to rationalize demanding that everyone eat with their hands, or that everyone had to wear hats and that if they didn’t, he would kill them. The counter argument that Breivik is sane, traces its roots back to the need to establish the relative sanity of the Nazis, so as to hold them accountable for their crimes and in fact to then establish that what they had done were in fact crimes, that could be adjudicated. To define them as “insane” was to absolve them of responsibility. A point that Zizek like Badiou twists to suit his left agenda. Within the long shadow of the war, and the camps, European courts, politicians, and society at large (or at least some of them) are always on guard for any attempt to amputate fascism from the responsibility of the fascists. But that is not Zizek’s point. What matters here is that despite the legitimate reason for a European court to find Breivik sane and thus guilty, the fact remains that he is a psychopath and insane, and responsible and, the idea that he is a reasonable witness for finding “Zionism” to be problematic is at best pointy-headed, and at worst, the sort of rhetorical napalm one expects from Jacques Verges – as in, well, Klaus Barbie may have been a monster, but, look at what the French did in Algeria! (and never mind that my legal fees are being paid for by Hitler’s Swiss banker) In other words, not just a kind of obscene whataboutism, but a sinister Mobius Loop of immorality.

But, Zizek is just warming up because he then performs a classic dog whistle sleight of hand. Having thrown Breivik into the mix he jumps to Benyamin Netanyahu, which allows him to create a connection without having to actually make a connection. We simply go from Breivik to Netanyahu, in Paris in the wake of Charlie Hebdo, saying that the Jews of France should emigrate to Israel.

This is followed by:

“The title in the main Polish daily Gazeta wyborsza tells it all: “Israel wants France without Jews.” So do the French anti-Semites, one might add. The constitution of the State of Israel was, from Europe’s standpoint, effectively the realized “final solution” of the Jewish problem (getting rid of the Jews) entertained by the Nazis themselves. Was the creation of the State of Israel not, to turn Clausewitz around, the continuation of the war against Jews by other (political) means? Is this not the “stain of injustice” that pertains to the State of Israel?”

Well this is clever, isn’t it? First, the Polish paper does not define the totality of the issue because in typical Postmodern style, there’s more than one way to construct the narrative. Does Netanyahu want a France empty of Jews or does he want Israel to be a safe if problematic harbor for Jews? Is he allowed to be a politician (however odious) throwing red meat to his constituents, or is he to be held to a different standard?

And mind you, neither of those scenarios precludes finding him to be both a bigot and an opportunist. But the fact that the mass murdering, fascist psychopath (and here we mean Breivik and not Netanyahu) also wants Jews out of Europe, no more indicts Zionism than it indicts a ham sandwich. After all Jack the Ripper didn’t like women and neither did Liberace, but one made beautiful if shmaltzy music, and the other was a serial killer.

Secondly, what exactly are we to make of the way in which Zizek collapses European History into a kind of factual and moral black hole, from which neither facts nor decency can emerge? Do we really jump from the Holocaust and the totality of the European History that contextualizes it, to the constitution of Israel and are those two compressed events to be attached to the moral hazard of the “Final Solution” as defined by the Nazis?

If yes than one can easily imagine other such timelines like, for example, Thomas Jefferson liked Sally Hemmings, J. Edgar Hoover hated tight dresses, and Martin Luther King was unhappy with the room service in Memphis motels.

All technically true, all tangentially connected, but just a bit shallow and ultimately not only disingenuous but intellectually toxic.

One may find Netanyahu to be an obscene gangster, and one may be against the vulgarities of the Israeli government, with its mash-up of Kafka and Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks, and one may find the situation in Gaza to be abhorrent (on both sides of the prison fence) but the idea that the events of centuries, with contradictions, paradoxes, catastrophes of intent and by mistake, can be reduced to a paragraph that connects a Scandinavian lunatic to the irrefutable cause and effect of the Holocaust and the establishment of Israel, is either the most blatant stupidity or the stealthy machinations of a standard issue anti-Semite, camouflaged as a worldly European intellectual.

And for proof that it is the later and not the former, we consider how Zizek doubles down on the style of collapsing the vast reaches of History to a handful of talking points, by excavating how he goes from Breivik, to Netanyahu, to the Nazis, to Zionism as the culmination of the Final Solution to sticking the landing and coyly suggesting that –

“Is this not the “stain of injustice” that pertains to the State of Israel?”

This of course must be called out for exactly what it is. This is the Christian accusation of deicide, repackaged as pure left wing charity, designed to offer redemption in one hand and the knife in the other. This is anti-Semitism; the blood libel, the packaging of every standard anti-Semitic trope in a microwaved reheating of stale but decidedly toxic leftovers, in which context vanishes, the vagaries of human action are erased, and having raced through a parade of cartoon villains we are told, that “Israel” and “Zionism” are crimes, stained by injustice – and with “stained” we are right back inside the standard Jew hatred of the traditional European bigot who defines “Jews” as filthy, immoral, vermin, in need of being either exterminated or assimilated which in turn in this context means, exterminated.

Needless to say, Zizek is not done.

Adopting the standard method of a standard sophist and demagogue, he jumps from suggesting that “Israel” is illegitimate to attaching “Zionism” to the Nazis.

“September 26, 1937 is a date anyone interested in the history of anti-Semitism should remember. On that day, Adolf Eichmann and his assistant boarded a train in Berlin in order to visit Palestine. Heydrich himself gave Eichmann permission to accept the invitation of Feivel Polkes, a high member of Hagannah (the Zionist secret organization), to visit Tel Aviv and discuss there the coordination of German and Jewish organizations to facilitate the emigration of Jews to Palestine. Both Germans and Zionists wanted as many Jews as possible to move to Palestine: Germans preferred them out of Western Europe, and Zionists themselves wanted the Jews in Palestine to outnumber the Arabs as fast as possible. (The visit failed because, due to some violent unrest, the British blocked the access to Palestine; but Eichmann and Polkes did meet days later in Cairo and discussed the coordination of German and Zionist activities.)

Is this strange incident not the supreme case of how the Nazis and the radical Zionists did share a common interest? In both cases, the purpose was a kind of “ethnic cleansing,” i.e., to violently change the ratio of ethnic groups in the population. (Incidentally, one should state clearly and unambiguously that, from the Jewish side, this deal with the Nazis was irreproachable as an act in a desperate situation.)”

Where does one begin to untangle this set of hideous distortions? Zizek is of course correct – the meeting was planed and the topic was how to get the largest number of (Western) Jews out of Europe. Beyond that we are in Der Strummer territory.

To answer his question, that this represents a convergence of common interests the response is an unequivocal no, and that any suggestion that there was a commonality to the Zionists and the Nazis is the most barbaric, shit faced lie right up there with the Jews run the banks. Zizek, the otherwise precise analyst, is technically correct but somehow manages to leave out that the British and the French, and the Stalinists also had points of convergence with the Nazis. As did Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, Joe Kennedy Sr. and the Duke and Duchess of York, not to mention Coco Chanel, and the American Bund, the Vatican, Franco, Mussolini, the Arabs and the Palestinians, led by Faisal Husseini who shook Hitler’s hand and said, how can I help?

The idea that both the Zionists and the Nazis were engaged in “ethnic cleansing” as if getting Jews to relative safety is the moral equivalent of Auschwitz, is such a staggering example of moral cancer one is almost reduced to mute displays of disgust. The severity of the situation however requires stating that no one who isn’t either a fool or a kind of (pseudo) intellectual pimp, whoring their own mouth, would suggest that they were the same. The Zionists were not engaged in ethnic cleansing, but were engaged in constructing salvation in the face of a group psychosis and continent wide nervous breakdown, that not only included the gentleman with a refined fondness for discipline and leather, but also included their friends in Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, Poland, the Balkans, and in England where Oswald Mosley may have been on Churchill’s radar as a threat, but was also on the radar of the Cliveden Set as a crude cudgel with which they hoped to beat, and again beat and then beat again, the left, the Jews and anyone else who stood in their way.

Here Zizek walks directly into the arms of the fascists but does so with his left fist in the air conveniently forgetting (or successfully ignoring) that the Zionists could look around Europe and they could very clearly see that every exit was either locked or was closing fast.

Churchill had as early as the 1920s announced his support for Mussolini, had said in the 1930s that while rough and more like Al Capone than not, Hitler may yet prove to be the man of destiny, and from T.S. Eliot to Woodhouse, to Celine, and Waugh, Europe was producing clever if morally rancid cheerleaders for mass execution at an alarming rate. And while apologists and moral gymnasts like to claim that, for example, Eliot’s anti-Semitism was not central to his agenda, the fact remains that even if one grants the premise the truth is, Eliot’s anti-Semitism and his fascism were central to the justifications used for exterminating Jews.

The stain then is not attached to Israel but to Zizek who ends this part of his pantomime with an oh by the way:

“(Incidentally, one should state clearly and unambiguously that, from the Jewish side, this deal with the Nazis was irreproachable as an act in a desperate situation.)”


Well yes Mrs. Lincoln but, incidentally, other than that, how was the play?

It is not incidental. It is not an afterthought to be dismissed at the end of an inchoate immoral diatribe and it is not a minor detail of History. It is in fact the detail because it speaks directly to the root cause of the issue. It is the knife in the hand at the end of The Trial. But not only because it is the sin qua non of European anti-Semitism but because Zizek’s very construction, the very use of the parenthetical  diarrhea-heavy trail of toxic lies and distortions, all speak directly to how the old anti-Semitism is the same as the contemporary anti-Semitism, and perhaps even more lethal precisely because it is woven into the otherwise legitimate criticism of end phase capitalism.

But it is also imperative to point out that having begun with the slander that the Zionists were making common cause with the Nazis, and then to parenthetically blow up your own premise, is to be head up the ass irresponsible and the intellectual equivalent of a drunk crashing into a brick wall. If the premise is legitimate than the parenthetical is unnecessary. If the concluding parenthetical is legitimate than the premise is false and the entire argument is a pile of shit.

One could go on, as Zizek offers no shortage of examples that demonstrate his being complicit, and deranged. But, in a sense its doesn’t matter. Having murdered the truth with a knife, the fact that he returned to the scene of the crime with an axe doesn’t change the fact that there’s a corpse.

But, who listens? Gaza! Gaza! Gaza!

And so, we end where we began. Heads will roll, the neo-Jacobins will express solidarity and a sense of destiny; they will demand purity from everyone, and a mountain of skulls will be left in a ditch somewhere as a monument to the perfectibility of humanity, and the irrefutable logic of the dialectic.

Somewhere, someone will walk into a synagogue and start shooting.

And someone will say, it’s all the fault of the fucking Jews.



For a look at Zizek & companies stylings see the following:

For a look at how the clever bigots give cover to their less clever friends, including those in what for some may be called, high places, see the following:

Here is an older piece by Zizek that speaks to the logical inconsistencies of a contemporary doctrinaire leftist, operating within the hall of mirrors of their pathology, disguised as an, ideology:

“Khrushchev’s speech in 1956 denouncing Stalin’s crimes was a political act from which, as his biographer William Taubman put it, ‘the Soviet regime never fully recovered, and neither did he.’ Although it was plainly opportunistic, there was just as plainly more to it than that, a kind of reckless excess that cannot be accounted for in terms of political strategy. The speech so undermined the dogma of infallible leadership that the entire nomenklatura sank into temporary paralysis. A dozen or so delegates collapsed during the speech, and had to be carried out and given medical help; one of them, Boleslaw Bierut, the hardline general secretary of the Polish Communist Party, died of a heart attack. The model Stalinist writer Alexander Fadeyev actually shot himself a few days later. The point is not that they were ‘honest Communists’: most of them were brutal manipulators without any illusions about the Soviet regime. What broke down was their ‘objective’ illusion, the figure of the ‘big Other’ as a background against which they could exert their ruthlessness and drive for power. They had displaced their belief onto this Other, which, as it were, believed on their behalf. Now their proxy had disintegrated.”

What’s stunning about this fiction, is the idea of what’s not stated, but hangs over the entire piece as a funereal shroud. While the point is to contextualize the by now, paint by numbers version of the story surrounding  Khrushchev’s “secret speech” (a speech so “secret” that nearly everyone who shouldn’t, in theory, have seen a copy, ended up with a copy, and did so, so quickly, that one has to assume that Khrushchev wanted it disseminated – an idea that to our knowledge never enters into the history of the event) denouncing Stalin. What Zizek elides is that the shock was not psychic, was not to be understood in Lacanian terms (“the big Other”) but was simply, directly, a manifestation of terror.

Zizek forgets to mention, or perhaps, succeeds in ignoring, that while Stalin may have been dead, what was very much alive, was the very recent experience of a massive, ruthless, brutalizing state system of terror. The methodology of that system was, of course, to liquidate individuals, and cadres, with allegiances to the previous regime.

Khrushchev himself had in the 1930s, found his name on a list of people to be eliminated not for any ideological reason, and not even because of a personal vendetta or caprice but because, as a matter of bureaucratic efficiency, and the need to meet a quota, he had been selected for a bullet to the back of his head.

What is then to be expected is multiple examples of apparatchiks from the previous, Stalinist regime, having heart attacks from stress, and fear, or, alleviating the need of the state to spend a bullet when they could do it themselves.

What goes missing from Zizek’s version, is a simple blunt reality. Soviet state terror like the state terror bureaucracy everywhere, has a kind of mundane quality – the banal reality of the banality of evil. The issue is not some psychological collapse but simply a purge which, it is crucial to say, was orchestrated by Khrushchev who, being more subtle than his predecessor, didn’t need to repeat the show trials and purges as sadistic opera but instead, gave a speech which, with far greater efficiency and flexibility, produced the same results. This is not a story about the psychological collapse of their illusion but, the reality of the collapse of their power within a corrupt imperial court. This is Stalin as Caligula, not a Lacanian mirror.

This then is a Khrushchev who is still a monster, a slithering tyrant who, while more adept than Stalin, less of a blatant thug, remains a creature of the system.

In other words, despite a relative liberalism, he remains a man defined by: meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

A epithet that applies as well to Zizek.

See the full piece here:

Update: 12/10/18


For a look at the far less clever, more blatant bigotry of a specific corner of the American left:

Addendum: The Left’s Obsession.

Below is a link to an editorial by The Guardian. It is representative of all the standard and traditional anti-Semitic tropes.

First the very act of writing the editorial is racist because it asserts that Israel is of such unique immorality and criminality that it warrants yet another regurgitation of the same dance hall routines. Absent are similar regular bombardments about England and its fraught relationship with Ireland (which via the political self immolation of Brexit is again racing towards a cliff) or Saudi Arabia or…

Feel free to make your own list of dictators, repressive regimes, money laundering, and environmental genocide.

All aided and abetted by England.

Secondly the editorial assumes, and asserts that there is no context to Israel’s politics and that while it is “democratic” (says the editorial) it is also somehow essentially a gangsterocracy engaged in illegal actions.

This brings us to the next contradiction in service of left hypocrisy: Amos Oz.

Oz, recently passed, is used as a touchstone to declare that even a Zionist was against the occupation and declared it immoral.

What seems to escape The Guardian is that if Israel is in part defined by Peace Now, two-state solution critics, such as native son, Amos Oz, than the narrative called “Zionism is a crime” loses altitude and crashes as it exceeds the g force tolerance of the truth. In other words, as America can be defined by Springsteen, Dylan and Kendrick Lamar, it can also be defined by Trump, Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover.

England after all produced Enoch Powell braying about rivers of blood, and it produced Thatcher and Python, Elton John, and to paraphrase Quentin Crisp, a long line of stately homos.

Oh dear, what is a standard Jew hatter to do when faced with the contradictions and moral shares of grey that define the trap of history?

Obviously the answer is to ignore the stubborn facts and repeat lies.

Thus, Israel is held to a different standard as are the Palestinians. France is found guilty (rightly) for its crimes in Algeria and its on going support for thugs in Africa but you wont hear anyone calling for a boycott of French films or wine.

Which brings us to the standard slander of the Jew hatting left: Speaking of the tortured neurotic Benny Morris’ ground breaking revisionism of the founding of Israel (itself yet another contradiction the left ignores – Israel is free enough to produce Benny Morris who openly criticizes the national mythology but is then used as exhibit A by the bigots to “prove” Israel is illegitimate – which is like using Billie Holiday to “prove” slavery wasn’t so awful) The Guardian repeats the standard Jew hating lie:

“who made his name by lifting the veil on the ethnic cleansings on which Israel was founded.”

Israel was not founded on “ethnic cleansing.”

Israel was founded on the basis of a decades long nationalist movement that is contextualized in part by the systemic hatred of Jews around the world culminating in the catastrophe of the collapse of civilization in the middle of the 20th century.

A process in which many Arabs participated, organized, and which produced an alliance between Western powers, their Arab colonies, and “former” Nazis all of whom worked together to finish the job of exterminating the Jews while (some of them) claimed to be committed to peaceful coexistence.

As we outlined above, the Arabs and the Palestinians participated in the negotiations over the British Mandate in Palestine and took part in the UN vote on partition. Thus adding their sovereign status to a legally binding process. As a result the subsequent war(s) and acts of terrorism, are illegal.

Since the left is committed to repeating its attachment to the letter of the law one might question why they believe the law only applies to Jews. After all if one is going to be outraged by what happened to the Palestinians one might also offer a thought to the hundreds of thousands of Jews violently expelled from Arab countries.

One might question why The Guardian spends so much time on Israel versus any number of other issues that reveal the consistent refusal or inability of governments and their citizens to adhere to basic concepts of freedom.

One might question why the left consistently demands Israel be judged within the context of the facts yet consistently amputates the inconvenient facts from the context of Israel’s existence, the history of the Jews, and the brutal damning history of anti-Semitism.

One might question why the left seems incapable of contextualizing Israel’s history by addressing the facts about Arab cultural psychosis, misogyny, fascism, sado-masochistic fits of self harm, its antipathy towards diversity, its commitment to religious intolerance and environmental genocide or, for that matter how the US and England, and France all said they were terribly sorry about the Holocaust while hiding, protecting and making use of Nazis to help them kill leftists, build rockets, and lend their expertise to assorted Arab dictators who were searching for a way to build chemical warheads that would fit on missiles so they could exterminate the Jews.

Finally one might question why the left refuses to admit that it is contaminated by anti-Semitism, that its soul is radioactive and that the more they repeat racist lies the stronger the heirs to Jabotinsky become and if they want to see who is breathing political oxygen into the bankrupt gangsterism of Netanyahu all they have to do is look in a mirror.

Except of course they have no reflection.

But they do have an echo.

It’s the sound of the same dreary, sinister hatred that has spoken from the left’s rotten core for decades.

See the garbage here:

And for a look at Morris’ points:




25 comments on “The Clever anti-Semitism of the Left. Or, Zizek in Squirrel Hill.

  1. That is a long post. I only skimmed it. It makes me wonder about the symbolism of the ‘Jew’. As I’ve often noted, the Jews and Palestinians are the same Semites while not being treated the same as they don’t have the same symbolic value in the global imagination.

    I suspect, though, that the early Jews to settle in Europe probably looked more like the Palestinians until Jews got mixed up with the European population. That means they would have been darker-skinned which indicated their otherness.

    Many European Jews were concentrated in the border region of France and Germany. That is often referred to as Alsace-Lorraine. It is where the persecuted Palatine Germans resided, the group that Benjamin Franklin described as being swarthy. It was Jews in that area who developed Yiddish, a mixed language for a mixed population.

    Jews were probably feared and hated as much for being mongrels, an impure race. But now in Israel, they have come to be identified as a pure race. And it is instead the dark-skinned Palestines who play the role of the dangerous other, the role Jews once more prominently held.

    Meanwhile, the Romani/Gypsies also were persecuted and killed in large numbers. But they never are given the same symbolic value as the Jews, neither demonized nor romanticized to the same extent. The British also didn’t give the Romani their own colonial nation-state as they did for the Jews, even though the Romani homeland, India, was originally part of the British Empire.

    Jews have an outsized significance. They are forced to hold more meaning than is possible. The Jew and everything related to the Jew gets exaggerated in the collective imagination and accrues immense affect. This is why crazy people and authoritarians walk into Jewish synagogues and start shooting, but probably rarely do the same for the equivalent places of Romani worship.

    This is also why the Israeli state plays such a role as an American ally. If not for fundies waiting for the end time, there would be less motivation to place so much value on the Zionist state. It’s central not only for geography but for its place in the imagination. It all gets conflated into the broad vague notion of the ‘Jew’. It infects the body politic, right and left.


    1. rauldukeblog says:

      The post started off smaller but people like Zizek and Badiou are very smart and there constructions are full of references that have to be tracked down resulting in a wider response.

      Overall the “Jews” relative to the total number clearly have an outsized impact in popular imagination both as you say in romanticized and negative ways. (and the romanticized narratives are their own form of negativity).

      One of the points I made is based on that: the very idea that there is a question and argument is itself (in proper Postmod or Structuralist terms) either absurd or anti-Semitic or both.

      Applying Zizek’s logic, as such, to the Irish or the Chinese, for example, reveals its absurdity and the odd obsessional quality of his approach.

      On that score I’ve been trying to figure out if there’s more to it and I’ve been considering jealousy as an issue.

      The European left was crushed where the Zionists succeed – regardless of what one thinks of their politics or their intercine splits.

      They got organized, fought and won. The left betrayed itself, was betrayed and ended with Victor Serge’s postmortem – ‘the midnight of the century’ with Stalin and Hitler making a deal – Trotsky exiled and then dead, Franco etc.

      Not sure but it makes some sense that current left intellectuals like Zizek are pissed off because of that.

      Which is not to dismiss plain old anti-Semitism which just sort of limps along and periodically takes up new homes.

      As to the Jews in Europe and appearance generally you’re correct but one of the major issues in Jewish history is the Hellenized Jews vs the non-Hellenic Jews. This is “Biblical” era material. Paul of course is part of the Hellenized split that leads to Jews moving into and through Europe.

      After the Romans crushed the Maccabean revolt and redrew the map – as “Palestine” – and scattered the Jews you find them as far away as India, Persia and Turkey and from Persia and Turkey they start going into Russia for spring harvest festivals and what we would now call trade shows. Around the late 18th early 19th century the Czar granted them resident status and that lasted until the first Pogroms in the late 19th century which prompted the mass migration that led to the East End of London and Brooklyn being such massive centers of Jewish life.

      History of course again revealing itself as Trickster.

      The point being that the “look” was as you say “swarthy” or as Ben F says but there were already lighter skinned examples.

      Of course then you have the mixtures where say one side of the family is Ashkenazi and light-skinned and the other is Sephardi and dark.

      Jewish culture like others is split between light skinned and dark with bigotry manifesting on the basis of color. The treatment of Ethiopian Jews in Israel is awful and all of the successful novelists and politicians are light skinned because of systemic bigotry and socio-economic issues.

      The US Israel “relationship” is fraught and complex like a massive postmod novel. Contradictions, paradoxes absurdities and obscenities all over the place.

      Currently at work on a long piece about the Western imagination after 1945 and it covers some of the issues I raised with Zizek and the “left” approach in that I view the single most important psychological issue of the post war era to be the incorporation of “former” Nazis into the service of the Western
      “Democracies” and the resulting dream-state where people knew but kept silent.

      As it relates to “Zionism” it goes missing as part of the debate but for many the fact that the US/Europe was protecting and using Nazis contextualizes the bellicosity of many Zionists. But the left (Zizek et al) ignore it.

      I made a comparison between Zizek’s left narrative about Israel and the standard racist view of conservatives who blame ghetto violence on Black Americans as if there is no wider context involving systemic bigotry, guns, drugs, the “war on drugs” and the idea that Wall St. is organized crime.

      I connected that to Zizek’s assertion that the odious Abraham Foxman is a unique example of “Zionist mendacity.” My view being he’s not at all unique but typical of politicians the world over and his being a Jew is irrelevant but what is relevant is that he is a gangster working with other gangsters inside a system that is corrupt.

      To add another layer to all of this I find that it echoes the arguments from the 30s and the post war period. Maurice Merleau-Ponty – sometimes part of the J.P. Sartre gang – wrote an anti-Stalinist left piece in response to Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon and the arguments are the same one’s you find swirling in and around Zizek and today’s “left” vis “Zionism.”

      Ponty takes the view that – he uses Montesquieu and Max Webber as examples – politics is the business of gangsters regardless of the gang – communist, socialist, fascist, etc. He removes an objective all encompassing morality from the equation.

      Zizek on the other hand asserts the need for what he calls left discipline and sacrifice vs what he vaguely defines as the hedonism of the current historical moment.

      That sort of lingo reeks of ditches full of corpses and five year plans.

      Anyhow I’ve probably babbled and talked over relevant points.

      In the end I agree – the strange obsessive focus on Israel and the Jews is out of proportion to the reality of the situation. What is happening in India is far more significant or the current awful scene unfolding in Brazil.

      Allow the Brazilian fascists to destroy what remains of the Amazon and the planet dies. That’s infinitely more important that “Zionism.”

      But the mile wide inch deep media doesn’t want to spend the money to send crews to Brazil.

      And you’re right, both left and right suffer from the inverse obsessional view. that creates an echo-chamber and an official narrative – none of which is authentic.


      1. The psychic energy behind it all is what interests me. There is something strange about the position Jews have been forced into and sometimes willingly embraced. That last comment of mine was the first time that it occurred to me that the Jews could be taken as a border people and hence the ‘Jew’ as a specific kind of liminal figure. This is their symbolic value as middlemen.

        Other ethnicities and populations have played this role at various times and to varying degrees. Besides the Palatine Germans and Romani, there were the French Huguenots and the Scots-Irish, some of the former having mixed into the latter population. The Irish played this role for many centuries, in their being as at the border of Western civilization and so they could stand in for the primitive, the savage, and the bestial. All border people have a way of capturing the collective imagination, since it is boundaries and borderlands that rule the public mind (Ursula K. LeGuin has written about this).

        Still, the Jews are different in how long they’ve held their special status. Early Jews, as barbarian nomads and rural folk, found themselves on the edge of empires. Their treatment switched between privilege and scapegoat. Early Judaism was a religion of conversion and, it was in periods of imperial privilege, that they saw high rates of conversion. This fed into their nebulous identity and their unstable place within the social order.

        Someone I was reading, a rabbi as I recall, noted that Judaism was reinvented in the Roman Empire; the Jews became a people of text in place of a people of a temple. Rabbinic Judaism had no more justified claim on the Jewish tradition than early Christians as they were both equally new religions. These twin spawn became a defining feature of the Roman Empire and so later on of Western civilization, one defining the center or power and the other the periphery.

        This is how the Jews became required to play a particular role — marking the boundary between Europe and the East, between Europe and Africa, and also between Western Europe and Eastern Europe, but most importantly between the Christian and non-Christian. As a people who lost their homeland, they naturally were drawn to or forced into unclaimed and contested borderlands and other interstitial positions.

        In Europe and early America, this resulted them being disprortionately working as economic intermediaries, such as bankers and shopkeepers. That is what made them useful, both for practical purposes and symbolic value. As perpetual outsiders, they could interact with diverse people and negotiate the world between them. This was particularly useful in societies built on divisions such as the slave South where Jews could help do business between the master class and the lower classes, between whites and blacks. I assume that was a carryover from European precedent.

        Israel still serves as an intermediary. They are useful to Western powers. When the US wants some dirty work to be done but don’t want to be publicly linked to it, they send the Israelis to do it: delivering weapons or money, training paramilitary groups, covert operations, etc. The Israelis have accepted this because it gives them immense wealth and power. Because of geography, they get to be in that zone of immense significance. But that means that they could quickly find themselves the scapegoats again. They’ve made a devil’s bargain. And knowing history, they should have been more wary than most people to fall into such a trap, an old story being retold.

        At many times in their history, Jews prided themselves on their privileged position. It always backfires, though. You’d think they’d learn from their own history, considering how compelling anti-semitism remains. Then again, you’d think Americans would eventually learn from the past, but they haven’t so far. The cost of Jews repeating the past, however, could be quite high. There is no other border people that has been such a lightning rod. For whatever reason, this doesn’t breed caution in the Zionist imagination. It’s almost as if they’re hoping to be the imperialists this time around, to invert their historical situation. Good luck with that.

        Fair or unfair, Israel is walking right into the grooves of a narrative that is millennia old. The good times are wonderful at the moment for Israelis. The US government spends more money on Israeli citizens and infrastructure than on its own country per capita. Those good times will likely be ending soon. And Israel is no where near being a great empire that can stand alone. When the time comes, it will be a meal set out on a platter to be devoured. It’s a matter of what is narratively, not factually, more important. And we likely know how this story ends, as is already being hinted at with the fascist language cropping up all over.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. rauldukeblog says:

        The connective motif or historical context is that all of the groups you mention were minorities or treated as such.

        Such groups are then subject to two kinds of authority. the first is the negative racist stereotype with assorted terrors and the second is the romanticized stereotype.

        In my post on “Irish try” videos I mentioned how things like “Michael Flatly Lord of the Dance” had two narratives. in one they were part of the “Celtic tiger” marketing in the period prior to the ’08 crash and at the same time were viewed by some in Ireland as examples of Celtic Twilight/kitsch in which traditional Irish culture was marketed to please the new colonists and their collaborators. Contrasted with Yeats’ Irish nationalism with its paganism and Celtic antiquity as an assault on English imperialism.

        Similar of course to the Jewish experience.

        Early Woody Allen (and even some later examples of his work) and Roth represent both a reactionary Jewish cultural zeitgeist but also feed anti-Semitic stereotypes while turning a profit in material terms and in terms of cultural “prestige.”

        The tremendous irony with Roth being that he was considered a subversive by the preceding Jewish establishment but eventually became a bourgeoise establishment figure viewed as hopelessly out of touch by younger Jews.

        In Black American culture it’s the same damned if you do damned if you don’t dilemma. To “succeed” is to be or risk being called an “Uncle Tom” but to not “succeed” is to be called a “failure.”

        Chris Rock speaks to this with a routine about a Black man who escapes the ghetto and gets a Masters degree and returns to his old neighborhood and is accosted for “saying he’s a master!”

        All of these of course are essentially the same story – the victims of an oppressive system caught between defeat and accommodation with the system and thus, in a “border world” literally and metaphorically.

        This can be seen in the current geo-political situation as you describe it. Currently with Trump and the regional schismatic conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia Israel is taking advantage. The Palestinians while clearly victims also once again have screwed themselves by not being diplomatically agile. add in their abuse at the hands of others and they are, as before, screwed while Israel makes/forges alliances of convenience with assorted thugs and decadent and depraved dictators in the Gulf – especially with the Saudis.

        But the moment Trump goes the bill will be due. The price will be high but at the same time certain “facts on the ground” will lesson the cost.

        The dilemma though remains the same. Israel is strategically vulnerable at all times. Interestingly though the recent discovery of vast natural gas fields has shifted the balance of power. Israel is pumping n.g to Jordan making them an economic colony of Israel and Israel has forged ties with India because India hates (Muslim) Pakistan.

        Of course it’s all nauseating sausage making. Politics is the business of gangsters and everyone else either plays along or gets screwed and maybe gets screwed even if they play along.

        As to learning from the past the only people who seem to do it are artists and monks. Politicians never seem to learn. Barbara Tuchman’s The March of folly addressed that. She covered events from the Trojan Horse to Vietnam asking, how, while knowing it was a bad idea, governments keep doing the same stupid shit. As it was borderline “philosophical” it did not play well or have a deep impact in the US and as it was still “Anglo” it didn’t penetrate the French or continental world but she was asking an important question.

        This sort of brings us back to our pervious conversations about “repetition compulsion.”

        Politicians and the system of politics may be especially ripe or susceptible to the compulsion. “Deviation” is branded as subversive if not “revolutionary” and is extremely rare.

        Universities crank out drones at an alarming rate – the JDs and poly sci and business management stiffs who are so catastrophically stupid they don’t know they’re stupid and wouldn’t care if you told them the brutal truth.

        The GOP robots who have gone along with the party and Trump are a perfect illustration. Ted Cruz is actually an outlier in that he’s so utterly without a soul he’s irrelevant but lizards like Marco Rubio and all the rest are part of something deep in human consciousness – to follow and repeat.

        Of course the dems make a show of being independent and tend to have less rigidity but are essentially the same – useless talking points that all sound like advice from Microsoft – 100% accurate and 100% useless – except when they’re just useless.

        I like this quote from Ponty: “The curse of politics is precisely that it must translate values into the order of facts.”

        the modern version is sleazy pols who say: you campaign in poetry but govern in prose.

        It’s true but they are just so casual about the cruelty in causes.


      3. Here is the sad part. As grand narratives play out, as history repeats, it is mostly the innocent who suffer. There are plenty of leaders and public intellectuals on all sides who should know better. Yet it continues on.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. rauldukeblog says:

        Agreed. Covered this a bit in my previous answer but there is indeed something depressing about it – almost a kind of trench warfare set on endless repeat.


      5. “In Black American culture it’s the same damned if you do damned if you don’t dilemma. To “succeed” is to be or risk being called an “Uncle Tom” but to not “succeed” is to be called a “failure.””

        In Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance talked about that in terms of poor Appalachian whites (the population typically thought of as Scots-Irish, although many are German ancestry). He mentioned experiencing the same thing as someone who went off to college. Interestingly, Joe Bageant never spoke of this, as far as I know. He moved back home for a period in his older age and I don’t know that he was hassled for being college educated, but then again I doubt he would have rubbed other people’s noses in it.

        What Bageant did talk about is how so many in those communities escape, not through college, but through the military. That is a point made by James C. Scott. Border people (i.e., barbarians) can gain prestige and privilege by enlisting in military service for the nearby empire. Some of my ancestors did this and they spent time in or passed through Appalachia as Indian fighters. This part of my family did include descendents of border people, specifically Palatine Germans. And I’ve observed how many border people from the old world sought out the borderlands of the new world.

        For similar reasons, it’s unsurprising that the Israelis became a militaristic society in seeking not only power but also respect. That border-originated militarism has on more than one occasion become central to a national identity. This is seen with Scots-Irish in the US who, despite being marginalized and at times demonized, have come to be romanticized as real Americans. Their willingness to fight and die for the empire has made them model minorities. It is true that border people make great fighters, often brutally.

        The American Revolution was largely fought and won through border-style guerilla warfare, much of it coming from the military genius of border people. Also, it was a group of poor rural Southerners, the infamous Dirty Dozen, who were regularly dropped behind battle lines in WWII so as to terrorize the Germans. I might add that many Jews became resistance fighters and used guerilla warfare, surely some of that having been learned from centuries at the periphery. But there is a big difference between fighting against the empire and fighting for the empire, a distinction that has rarely stopped many border people in their ambitions to escape their circumstances.

        “Politicians never seem to learn. Barbara Tuchman’s The March of folly addressed that.”

        I saw reviews of that book. It looked like a good read. I might get around to it one of these days.

        “Universities crank out drones at an alarming rate – the JDs and poly sci and business management stiffs who are so catastrophically stupid they don’t know they’re stupid and wouldn’t care if you told them the brutal truth.”

        My dad was a business management professor. He would care if you called him stupid, as he is thin-skinned and wants nothing more than to be a respected authority figure. From what he has said about his career, it does seem like he tried his best to teach some ethics. But as a neoliberal with neocon-leanings, I’m not sure what meaning his business ethics could have.

        To be fair, he has become critical of oligopolies like Amazon and of CEO overcompensation, not that he likely ever talked about such things as a professor. It simply wouldn’t fit into the business mindset. He would have been ostracized by his peers if he attempted to teach it and would have been dismissed by his students. It wouldn’t have been a respectable position and my dad craves respectability. I suspect many become professors in seeking respectability.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. rauldukeblog says:

        To be evenhanded I would add that the humanities produce their fair share of professional morons.

        It was a generalized statement but drilling down I mean there’s a kind of group think but, crucially, it has to be pointed out that my critique of Zizek & co is predicated on their group think so it’s a human problem regardless of the job title.

        As to Jewish/Israeli militarism it’s an odd quirk of history.

        The Russian Jews who were supporters of Jabotinsky were decidedly more militaristic than the average West European side of the group though very quickly it spread.

        Circumstances required it and for the first few years the issue was not so much prestige as survival. “Elite” military culture I would say came in after 1967 with the cult of the paratroopers which expanded to included “special forces” but there is a “Spartan” aspect to the culture as well as a fusion with a Mediterranean hedonism.

        Apropos of all of this Netanyahu commented today about the “need” to balance between condemning Saudi Arabia for murdering Kashohgi and maintaining a united front vis Iran. It is pure blunt gangster politics but within the context of choosing between bad and worse.

        The entire international geo-political system is a circular firing squad and I have almost no hope for a peaceful resolution but am at the point were I just assume the environment will continue to spiral until there is either one massive event or a series of catastrophes. Round up the usual suspects: moronic, venal and/or feckless “leaders” and agitated tribes and a system that is gladiatorial.

        In that context we find these tribal battles operating in and through signifiers – class, education, titles, geography, skin color, etc and all of it is reflective of something that just always feels like it’s lurking on the edge of being sinister or is flat out barbaric.

        100+ years ago the British developed big ships that ran on coal. In order to safeguard their empire and feed the ships they built coaling stations. In order to protect the approaches to them they built more, bigger, faster ships which needed more coal.

        The first battle of the Falklands was between German raiders and British RN ships because the islands were a coal station.

        If one wanted to “defeat terrorism” and make an effort towards peace the key is not invading Afghanistan but invading Wall Street.

        Instead of a profit based system one based on some form of sharing would ease if not collapse the need to maintain the vicious cycle but of course power never surrenders willingly and so the system keeps pitting each against each.

        Zizek’s not wrong when he says the key is convincing the Arabs to fight capitalism instead of the Jews but the last time Arabs agreed, the US backed the monarchists and the religious fanatics to kill the local lefties and blah blah blah. (and under the heading of historical irony and the feckless nature of politics – Israel was pro Shah who was anti-Saudi until it switched and now their pro Saudi and anti-Iran)

        It’s all so fucking depressing.


      7. rauldukeblog says:

        And I don’t know much about Vance. I’ve seen him on a few chat shows and he didn’t say much. I’m not sure he’s saying anything that’s wrong but also not sure he’s saying anything that impressive but I can’t say for sure – have to add him to the list of to be read.


      8. I’m not impressed by Vance. I was only pointing out a certain cultural similarity between some poor black populations and some poor white populations. His book is decent and had some decent insights, but there was also much that seemed off the mark in it conforming to conservative narrative. Joe Bageant is a thousand times more insightful and a much better writer as well.


      9. rauldukeblog says:

        Interesting. As I said I haven’t read him but was struck by what seemed a certain facile quality which your comment confirms. Bageant rang a bell but dimly then I looked him up and remembered reading something by him years ago. Have to revisit him as he seems more authentic and worthwhile.

        I had a conversation with someone recently and they had just read Portnoy’s complaint and I was trying to explain that while local accents vary, and localized customs vary, the central experiences are essentially the same.

        It’s blatantly circular. The powers that be, who succeed by isolating and stoking fear of assimilation, insist on their unique experiences. The truth is, we find the same experiences and myths everywhere. Differences and similarities coexist but goons like Trump or a thousand others always push the narrative of us vs them.

        Hillbillies from Appalachia and Hillbillies from the ghettos of Eastern Europe.

        Liked by 1 person

      10. I’ve written about Joe Bageant. But nothing overly in-depth. I like him partly because he describes the world my own family escaped over the generations. Here are a couple of things that I shared in posts:

        “As William Edwards Deming famously demonstrated, no system can understand itself, and why it does what it does, including the American social system. Not knowing shit about why your society does what it [does] makes for a pretty nasty case of existential unease. So we create institutions whose function is to pretend to know, which makes everyone feel better.”

        Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War
        by Joe Bageant
        Chapter 8, American Hologram: The Apocalypse will be Televized
        pp. 249-251

        “…of the 89 million to 94 million American adults—nearly half of the U.S. adult population—who are functionally illiterate. According to the National Institute for Literacy, they “lack a sufficient foundation of basic [literacy] skills to function successfully in our society.” Of these, 17 percent to 20 percent can read just a little. That means that they cannot fill out job applications, understand food labels, or read simple stories to their children. Another 25 percent can read, but not well enough to follow five consecutive paragraphs of text or dense documents such as sales contracts….

        “Of course there is more to literacy than reading words. In our culture it helps to be able to contextualize an infomercial, not to mention Tom DeLay’s crimes. Almost none of the Royal Lunch crowd, however, even knows who Tom Delay is. They do not watch the national news unless the United States attacks somebody or there is a flood in New Orleans. Even if they took the trouble to read George Orwell’s Animal Farm, none of them would see it as anything other than a story about animals.

        “In our culture there is also the need to interpret legions of symbols and acronyms (IBM, CBS, GM, FBI, CIA, OBM, MCI, FEMA, HUD…) that turn up every day in advertising, product packaging, corporate brochures, government pamphlets, and news stories. Functional illiterates, however, cannot separate industry from government, or the news from an advertisement or an infomercial. Hence the inability of Carolyn (the old flame I bumped into in the Food Lion parking lot) to tell a nonprofit charity from a quick-buck manufacturer of magnetic yellow ribbons. From inside the American hologram an eagle is an eagle and a yellow ribbon is a yellow ribbon. Uneducated and trapped within the hologram, people like Carolyn and Bobby will never be capable of participating in a free society, much less making the kinds of choices that preserve and protect one, unless the importance of full literacy can somehow be made clear to them.”

        In case you’re interested, I did write a somewhat detailed review of Vance’s book and quite critical at that:

        Despite my dislike of the book, it might be useful to read from an anthropological perspective, in that poor white culture produces people like both Bageant and Vance. Reading their works together gives you a dizzying view of America. One can sense the tension pulling America apart and those residing at the torn edges rarely have any idea what is going on.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. rauldukeblog says:

        I clicked on the first link to your Bangeant piece twice but it would work. could be a glitch at my end but maybe not?

        However the quote is revealing – Bangeant sounds observant, intelligent, nuanced – everything Vance seems to lack.

        I read your take on Hillbilly Elegy and the 19 year old with the pregnant girlfriend immediately put me in mind of Springsteen’s The River – “…I got Mary pregnant and for my 19th birthday, I got a union card and a wedding coat…”

        Where Springsteen is a genius, able to convey in a few lines an entire saga full of fate, chance, socio-economic cultural issues, etc, Vance is a facile sounding Faulkner for dummies.

        the points you raise are valid. Vance offers no details just talking points for the media echo chamber.

        One of the crucial issues is that the media as you point out pushes the narrative of poor White trash voting Trump – but ignores the intrinsic fascism of the “educated” White middle class and even the upper class.

        Identical of course to Europe in the 20s and 30s and again now.

        But an excavation of that would lead to the liberals being implicated in their covert allegiance to the conservatives against the left and require an honest assessment of “left” talking points – which of course is out of the question except for the minor though larger than before discussions contextualized by Sanders/AOC etc.


      12. Yeah. That has been on my mind for a while. Something I read made the specific observation that authoritarian groups and movements tend to consist of mostly middle class, often upper middle class, professionals. That was true of the Nazi’s rise to power, but it was equally true of the KKK.

        The Klan was filled with the political and economic leaders in communities: police chiefs, ministers, business owners, office workers, etc. And in the case of the Nazis, middle class supporters were often liberal, although some of them were present or former leftists and anarchists drawn in by rhetoric, charisma, or public mood.

        Authoritarianism always has an element of defending the status quo, even as expresses a reactionary force to remake the social order. How easily the political left (in times of stress, fear, and anxiety) can be enthralled by the reactionary and regressive worries me greatly. My criticisms of liberalism, in particular, always come from the stance of my liberal identity, a longing for a liberalism of worth.

        This is where Jaynes can be helpful. He articulated the secret link between individualism and authoritarianism. As one increases, the other does as well. And with Jung’s insight of enantiodromia, things are ever at risk of becoming their opposite. That is even more true in a dualistic worldview, upon which so much of the modern Western mind is built.

        I lament how easily liberals become conservatives and leftists become reactionaries. It makes me wonder if, in a sense, it is not what they become but what on some level they already are and always were. So, what can one strive for if one hopes for something that is neither reactionary nor conservative, not authoritarian and oppressive in any form.

        That would feed back into your post. Such things as anti-semitism are ever lurking, not only one side but everywhere.

        About Bageant’s linked piece, you can find it elsewhere on the web. For example:

        Liked by 1 person

      13. rauldukeblog says:

        Thanks for the link! Brilliant article and depressing.

        The combination of ideological mania and mental atrophy is a toxic mixture which will probably lead to the extinction of human beings.

        I worked with an emotionally stunted old man who listened to Limbaugh and believed there would e “death panels.” I explained to him that insurance companies were already deciding who lived and who died and that the scarcity of organs meant that a hospital, when forced to choose between an otherwise healthy 20 year old who needed a new liver, a fifty year old alcoholic and a ninety year old, would select the later two to die.

        He stared at me blankly than repeated a mantra from Rush about Obama being a socialist who will set up death panels.

        Clearly he did not have an authentic political opinion but a pathology that took the form of a political opinion.

        Of course a proper leftist would ship him off to a “reeducation camp” which is just substituting one trauma for another.

        A proper liberal would want to revamp the education system but without seriously changing the Wall Street based control of things which is incompatible with being educated.

        Reading the Bageant piece reminded me of just how catastrophically stupid Palin is and what it says about John McCain’s idiocy as well as the atrophied state of millions of people.

        I have no idea how any of this cane be “fixed.”

        Liked by 1 person

  2. On a side note, I noticed that Claude Lévi-Strauss’ family were Alsace Jews. Maybe that contributed to his spending his career as an anthropologist and ethnologist in studying populations at the borders of civilization, which he used as a critique of the prevailing ideology of self-authorizing individualism. In that context, he debated Sartre over human freedom and agency, and apparently that may have had some influence over Bourdieu.

    “The question remains: how did a relatively obscure, taciturn anthropologist, who had written an unsupervised dissertation on a recondite subject and maintained only minimal ties with the French intellectual establishment, manage, within the course of a decade, to dethrone the leading thinker of the age? Jean-Paul Sartre hardly considered Lévi-Strauss a threat. He sent the anthropologist an inscribed copy of his Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960) “in testimony of a faithful friendship,” and cited The Elementary Structures approvingly in the course of his argument. But Lévi-Strauss was in no mood to return favors. By then installed at the prestigious Collège de France, he devoted a yearlong seminar to a detailed study of Sartre’s Critique, and when his Savage Mind appeared in 1962 it ended with a twenty-page assault on the fundamental underpinnings of Sartre’s thinking. “Power was passing from a chain-smoking, pill-popping haunter of Left Bank café society to a sixteenth-arrondissement aesthete,” writes Wilcken. But how exactly, and under what conditions, did the exchange take place?

    “Sartre was an early hero of postwar French intellectuals for a reason. By articulating a philosophy based on acting responsibly in the face of history, he restored the confidence of a damaged intellectual elite and helped it prepare for its confrontation with the nation’s colonial past. The impossible ambition of the Critique was to reconcile Sartre’s existentialist ethics with the Marxist dictates of historical necessity. In Sartre’s system, history presents us with a limited range of possibilities and we act within them, which in turn gives rise to a new set of possibilities. For Lévi-Strauss, this blend of historical determinism and personal agency was doubly problematic. First, it put the individual front and center in the historical process, whereas, as Lévi-Strauss believed he had shown, the underlying structures of society left little room for the whimsy of subjectivity. “The self is not only hateful,” he wrote in Tristes Tropiques, channeling Pascal, “there is no place for it between us and nothing.” Second, Sartre was still propagating the old European idea of history as a progressive narrative, whereas Lévi-Strauss held up indigenous cultures as examples of other, possibly more appealing ways of organizing human experience. The myths of tribes such as the Nambikwara and the Bororo were designed to insulate their seemingly unchanging social orders from the disruptions of history. By making history always be “for” something, and privileging the breakneck speed of Western history over the slow, recycling world of indigenous peoples, Sartre was committing “a sort of intellectual cannibalism much more revolting to the anthropologist than real cannibalism.””

    By the way, the CIA took some interest in Lévi-Strauss’ turn from Marxism to traditionalism. If nothing else, this indicates the powerful influence held by some Jewish thinkers, an influence sometimes manipulated behind the scenes in defense of less-than-savory motives. It’s a policing of the borders of thought by shoring up the divisions on the political left. Lévi-Strauss probably didn’t know how his image and thought was being used.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rauldukeblog says:

      There’s a lot here.

      a proper answer would mean serving up the piece I’m currently working on before it’s done.

      So a few points.

      Among the issues with CLS are that he was in exile because, as a Jew he couldn’t risk going back to France or Vichy France. So that he was a Jew and of the “border” is correct but it needs to be calibrated a little more closely.

      As to his situation with JPS and the post war scene – calling it byzantine or a labyrinth does not do it justice.

      JPS’ biggest intellectual fault was that he was not Postmodern and in a sense was a 19th century thinker even if a brilliant one. He believed in “progress.” He denied it but I believe he attended Kojeve’s lectures on Hegel and Marx and even if he didn’t most of the other hep kats did and JPS was friends with most of them so they would have discussed it.

      CLS is a kind of bridge between JPS and the Postmods even though he also was somewhat critical of Foucault. But the big difference is summed up by Lyotard’s famous line that generally Postmod means a distrust of large scale narratives.

      Also JPS always had acrimonious splits with male rivals – Merleau-Ponty, Camus, everyone.

      The “pill popping” is interesting as well. Graham Greene said the Battle of Britain was won on speed and he didn’t mean how fast the Spitfires and Hurricanes were going he meant the “pep” pills which were ubiquitous. They came back into the US after the war and there was a massive black market for them which fueled both Beat culture and jazz.

      But JPS was a speed freak as they used to call them – marathon writing sessions and the pills cut your hunger so you didn’t need to spend time and money on as much food. He still managed to spend time getting laid despite having a face that looked like it had caught a bucket of ugly with its teeth and he lived to be average old age.

      But as to the atmosphere in which JPS was eclipsed there’s a confluence of social forces. there’s an authentic disagreement in the form of people like CLS and Raymond Aron but crucially there’s also the US led anti-Soviet clandestine effort.

      Thanks for the links I’ll dive into them. I’m currently reading a book on Vichy and post war memory in France and The Mighty Wurlitzer, How the CIA Played America – and of course what one gets is a glimpse into how the system had its hand inside publishing, news, media, universities, discourse, and all the rest creating a hall of mirrors or, a wilderness of mirrors which is what CIA counter spy chief Angleton called things (quoting Eliot with whom he was an acquaintance – and of course as we’ve discussed, Angleton was a Yale man)

      As to the spooks reading theory and Marx – just read a bit on how Beedle Smith the second DCIA had a fellow on his staff who he valued precisely because of his deep reading in leftist theory – and of course that was all part of the Congress of Cultural Freedom fiasco.

      Fascinating about Pascal connecting to CLS. Merleau-Ponty on a similar track bases his left-anti-Stalinism in part on Pascal’s sense of history being a choice between bad and worse – Camus also respected Pascal.

      I’ve been convinced for some time that part of the deliberate isolation of Modernist writers (on the one hand, lauded but at the same time dumbed down for the public) is because they reached the same conclusion as Lyotard, Foucault, CLS, but back in the 1920s – “progress” is a fiction.

      Neither Capitalism nor communism in any form can abide that.

      Also interesting about Bourdieu – his critique of both left and right as being symbiotically entwined would have been contrary to JPS.

      My thesis as of now is that the central issue they were all dancing around was the absorption of fascism back into the system after 1945. Currently reading a book called the Vichy Syndrome which details the post war politics and phases of punishment and amnesty for collaborators and I can’t help but draw a connection between that and the rise of a generation of writers who all in one form or another described how official systems clouded the truth and created elaborate official narratives.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. rauldukeblog says:

      I’ve just read the Counterpunch article and I’m a quarter of the way through the link to the LA Review of Books article on the CIA and “Theory” and it all dovetails with other sources but what really strikes me is how the whole story is itself a postmodern narrative – Theodore Adorno being published by a CIA funded journal is right out of a Borges or Kundera novel – and what happens is that the effort at propaganda if done well becomes an example of the thing it tries to subvert.

      There is a physical quality to “Theory” filtered through the mechanism of consciousness in which – dog chasing its tail – the dancer can ever be known as distinct from the dance.

      The article mentions Melvin Lasky – name rang a bell and I looked him up – an anti-Stalinist “lefty” who published Adorno among others – which is both hilarious and absurd.

      First of course it makes Jordan Peterson out to be even more of a dunce which I didn’t think possible but it also illustrates the thing I’m struggling to define – this dog chasing its tail syndrome

      The Counterpunch article misses something that’s crucial – the Annales historians and later Foucault et al were repeating what Joyce, Man, Faulkner, Hemingway and Picasso were saying in the 20s. They were no conservative or right wingers and some were even decidedly left but they didn’t buy into Marxism and the idea of historical progress. To them as later with Braudel and Febvre, and CLS, etc, it was a cycle that repeated.

      But their vast novels read like blueprints of the hall of mirrors you find with the CIA and the Congress of Cultural Freedom and Frances byzantine internal feuds. It’s right out of Pynchon and Dellio too.

      It’s all like a Nabokov novel – though Nabokov was a reactionary borderline White Russian crypto-fascist – yet another irony that he laid bare the hall of mirrors quality to the whole atmosphere.

      Another point not completely fleshed out – the article quotes Marxist Terry Eagleton – not a dope by any stretch but really wrong about postmod writers – because he’s locked into a Marxist view.

      The layers of irony being that while against strict left ideology postmod writers were entirely against de Gualle et al and their views are in a sense even more subversive than Marx.

      Another point: having subverted every effort at analysis the “West” finds itself in a cul de sac – trapped between environmental suicide or “revolution.” – ironically something Foucault points out in one of his books – The Order of Things written some 40 years ago.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. rauldukeblog says:

      The following is so funny and macabre on so many levels I’m almost speechless:
      “They cite in particular the profound contribution made by the Annales School of historiography and structuralism—particularly Claude Lévi-Strauss and Foucault—to the “critical demolition of Marxist influence in the social sciences.” Foucault, who is referred to as “France’s most profound and influential thinker,” is specifically applauded for his praise of the New Right intellectuals for reminding philosophers that “‘bloody’ consequences” have “flowed from the rationalist social theory of the 18th-century Enlightenment and the Revolutionary era.” Although it would be a mistake to collapse anyone’s politics or political effect into a single position or result, Foucault’s anti-revolutionary leftism and his perpetuation of the blackmail of the Gulag—i.e. the claim that expansive radical movements aiming at profound social and cultural transformation only resuscitate the most dangerous of traditions—are perfectly in line with the espionage agency’s overall strategies of psychological warfare.”

      So Peterson, reactionary anti-left firebrand is against Foucault who is praised by the ultimate anti-leftists, the CIA, but is also emotionally allied with the left May of ’68 “revolutionaries” but correctly highlights the tendency if not obsession on the left with violence, but also highlights the obsession on the right with violence through mass surveillance, prison systems and the corporate-state axis that combines the claim of power to invent categories to be “disciplined and punished” or locked up.

      In other words a perfect example of the dog chasing its tail.

      The spooks apparently saw Foucault as an instrument with which they beat back the “left” which strikes me as being like using Ted Kosinski as an example that highlights the virtues of being a luddite.

      But then it occurs to me: “Foucault” – I put it in quotes to mean in a structuralist sense (somewhat tongue in cheek) that he becomes absorbed by the culture – exactly as Picasso depicted in so many paintings – and he becomes a kind of object a cultural totem and fetish that one finds along side certain other details of a personality – what I provisionally call “Gestures” that is almost impressionistic attributes of a moment or a person – books by “Foucault” and a poster depicting Bernie Sanders, and Kendrick Lamer and Springsteen and Jazz, awareness of Zizek, and The Young Turks – distaste for neoliberalism, contempt for Trump – feel free to make your own list but what I’m after here is that the “CIA” attempts to use “Foucault” but to what end? What is the end moment in a historical continuum? The “defeat of the left” is what exactly – Fukiyama regurgitating Kojeve regurgitating Hegel as filtered through Marx’s beard like a giant tea bag of historical discourse?

      If Jaynes is correct, and we add in repetition compulsion and the echo of bicameralism, then all of these “Gestures” while capable of tragic consequences, eventually all subside back into the matrix of consciousness and then it repeats.

      All very “Tao” I suppose.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I appreciate your erudition. You flesh it all out nicely. It is quite mind-bending. Intellectuals and intelligence agencies are caught in convoluted webs of significance, flies thinking they are the spider.


      2. rauldukeblog says:


        It is really both fascinating and hilarious and sad. I’m wrapping my head around the idea – as such – of Foucault as a kind of ad hoc tool of the CIA – it’s like hiring the Marx Brothers to babysit or run a diplomatic post.

        There’s something else though I can’t quite yet bring into articulation but it’s ricocheting off of a lot of points. I’m thinking about a sort of post Frankfurt School epistemology (to repurpose one of Foucault’s favorite words;-)) in that where Adorno and Horkheimer talked about the Culture Industry there’s something beyond that – again it has something to do with Jaynes and post bicameral consciousness – something akin to the metaphor of the Matrix but not that facile. Something also like the Uncertainty Principle in that if agency x y or z creates a “front” in order for it to “work” it ceases being a “front” and becomes the genuine or authentic article.

        This puts me in mind of the significance of mirrors that we touched on before – as if Velasquez’ mirror paintings are a foreshadowing of events centuries in his future where we have a paradox of the inauthentic authentic event – the experience of “genuine imitation leather” – the conjurers caught as you say in their onw web.

        Have to work on this – am currently incorporated the articles you linked to into my current in progress piece on post ’45 Western culture. just get such a kick out of the idea of Foucault as a “tool” of the spooks because it’s just so goofy!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. FaC says:

    This is an intensely packed piece that I only managed to skim and cherry-pick for familiar anchors to orient my speed-read. It’s uncanny as I stumbled on those two a few weeks ago. What prompted this, specifically?

    As I formulated elsewhere, and I’m butchering here: Zizek seems keen on preserving the European project from calamity. With his Christ-Descartes-Hegel-Marx-Lacan system, he seems intent on sprinkling Christ fairy dust on it all for salvation. The Father is dead, has always been dead, because Christ is among us. He is a brilliant, creative philosopher, or quite likely sophist – and keeping track of him means to pore thru his whole ouvre. Or as you put it, the price of admission is astronomical. I would count as success to sufficiently grasp his M.O. so as to begin predicting what moves he’ll make on any given subject. I’ve noticed a good deal of what you outlined above but couldn’t draft it all out if you paid me $5000. I suspect what he is trying to do is preserve things as they are – confronting certain things I believe he views as an impossible task at this point, or that the ship sailed quite a while back, or that his is really the way forward.
    As to the anti-Semitism — it’s a bit too late, isn’t it? He’s been at this for decades and pedestrian minds read and continue to read what they want into it. Now it’s coming to the fore.
    If I had to tentatively summarise his ambition — it’s to form a one-party imperial church, in the collective psyche of his followers, and by proxy, how those followers interact with others, with their surroundings, and with politicking. I knew a few people ca. 2012 who where semi-upfront/not-upfront with their ideas, arguments, and their following Zizek. It was impossible to make sense of a conversation – looking back it’s a lot more recognisable. But butcher Zizek (already a trickster), they did plenty. The Father is dead, never existed, and the proof is the Christ is among us, sweetening our day-to-day, and we will join together in love and Sophistries of the Highest Order, in order to confront the biggest political challenges of our time and civilisation.
    As to his philosophic system, I strongly suspect that he has availed himself of all the freedoms available to him in that particular school, so to build an escape machine out of it. Lacan is the engine, Christ is both the fuel and the past-present-future, Marx is the mediator, the translator, Descartes is the ego, and Hegel?? For all the noise, I’m becoming pretty convinced he’s abandoned him altogether, no Kojeve, no Hippolyte, and is restless to shift all away from the Spinozan-Hegelian cosmos ASAP without destroying what’s already been built of it.
    I can sympathise with Zizek, he’s a hoot to listen to every now and then and I can see zany brilliance and heart behind it, but he has in all likelihood caused near unforgivable, irreperable damage, that can only begin to be assessable now..

    Badiou is far more a sinister figure. He wants to forego all this and get to the end game already. Peterson and Zizek, for all their faults seem determined to place and enforce Christ coordinates to save people from themselves, but what the audiences glean from their respective social engineering projects is open to a lot of questioning and speculation. Trying to wrestle balanced order via popular intellectualism with palpable social goals, out of a system that is at once chaotic but is concentrating and crystallising to the top, is proving dangerous feat.

    Badiou wants Plato’s Republic and is happy to remeld belief systems, very friendly to Islam in particular to do it. If you want a good scare as to what some in the intellegentsia are doing quietly, catch up on one of his students, Daniel Tutt. IIRC the guy has been doing some media work for a while, and his review of his teacher’s (Badiou) Republic, read slowly, carefully, and tugging at the quieter lines, is scary enough. Not to mention the rest of his blog pieces. I’ll cut my words on all this short, because nothing can match just perusing through all of that stuff for oneself.

    Bad as I am with all this, I’ll repeat myself here once more to say, I’ll try re-visiting piece and reading it slowly and properly.


    1. rauldukeblog says:


      Well on first read I’d say you pretty much have Zizek and Badiou nailed to the church door – so to speak.

      Both stylistically and morally (as in he believes what he says) Zizek is as I said, Lacanian, Marxist, Dada, and Punk.

      and a left fascist.

      He’d probably vomit and twitch Solzhenitsyn to death but he sound just as sinister if more hip and obviously more left – though being to the left of Solzhenitsyn isn’t hard.

      Zizek is also a sort of whatever sticks to the wall type and as you list most of his influences – a little Hegel, a soupcon of Marx or whatever is handy and of course there’s the tics and spasms which I believe are as with Hitchens’ smokes and drinking not just a habit but a tool.

      Badiou is indeed sinister and clearly a relic from the French love affair with Mao but of course also echoes of Robespierre and Rousseau – purity, purity purity and if you don’t agree then off to the Gulag.

      I’ll look up his student – thanks for the tip.

      The prompt was first Zizek’s presence on YouTube generally and more specifically his presence among certain cadres on YouTube. that led to my reading his book, In Defense of Lost Causes which is both a train wreck and a defense of assorted tyrannical ideas among them the whopper I quoted where he basically coughs up the standard issue rationale for fascism on the left and the right – with the weird obsession about “purity” – as if he and his fellows all needed several years with a strict Freudian to discuss early toilet training traumas. In Zizek’s case cleanliness is next to Marx “haha”

      Also the uptick in the old and dreary “blame the Jews” narrative and in both Zizek and Badiou as well as the “left” there is a weird obsession.

      Just posted a piece on it and am slowly cooking a new post script.

      On the one hand I yawn in the face of it as it’s like gravity – it’s annoying but we’re stuck with it.

      On the other hand it’s potentially lethal and Zizek’s arguments – that I quote – are so blatantly in bad faith, such obvious examples of unsophisticated standard issue anti-Semitism that not should they be called out but they should be used to highlight the extent to which the “left” has a problem the way a man with a nose in the middle of his forehead has a problem.

      At the same time as you say Zizek has his amusements and charms but there’s a Mr. Hyde aspect that’s no joke.

      And I agree with you – an imperial church suits his agenda.

      Lacan is an odd duck and Zizek’s use of him is both authentic but also calculated because even devout Lacanians have an impossible time explaining what Lacan means and Zizek makes use of that rhetorical fog in the same manner as other huate intellectuals make use of Deridda or other similar types. It’s not confined to those cadres but they are very good at it.

      There’s more in your comment I’ve probably missed but i’ll reread it.



      1. FaC says:


        2) ;
        there are many such pieces out there as this one when it was a hot issue a while back. I put this here because I noticed some commentary above on CIA types and Foucault. It picks up on a comment I made before that whatever whatever PoMo innovates, is available to what it is concocted to fight, and strengthens & accelerates it.


      2. rauldukeblog says:

        Thanks. I got a chuckle out of the article – just a cursory skin and a deep dive later but I’m reminded of the French military using Virlio’s theories on acceleration (which echoes Italian Futurism which attaches to fascism).

        The fact that x uses y is in some respects analogous to a bank robber using a public restroom – it doesn’t mean he’s not a thief but it doesn’t mean public utilities are illegitimate.

        The LA Book Review ran a piece about the CIA using Postmod theory – the actual CIA declassified article was a hoot of shallow and misunderstanding but of course the author’s audience were bureaucrats and CIA spooks – not exactly the same level as the haute irritating French intellectuals one might encounter around Foucault & Co.

        All of which is a round about (I’m only on one cup of coffee and not firing on all cylinders yet) your last line is on point – PostMod is elastic and what we might call an open source system. It is as a result ironic – an anti-authority system becomes absorbed by the system.

        Of course that’s nothing new as authority either eliminates resistance or absorbs it.


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