Slavoj Žižek: Political Correctness is a More Dangerous Form of Totalitarianism | BEST OF 2015


Of course I have nothing against the fact
that your boss treats you in a nice way and so on. The problem is if this not only covers
up the actual relationship of power, but makes it even more impenetrable. You know, if you
have a boss who is up there, the old-fashioned boss shouting at you, exerting full brutal
authority. In a way it’s much easier to rebel than to have a friendly boss who embraces
you or how was the last night with your girlfriend, blah, blah, all that buddy stuff. Well then
it almost appears impolite to protest. But I will give you an example, an old story that
I often use to make it clear what do I mean by this. Imagine you or me, I’m a small
boy. It’s Sunday afternoon. My father wants me to visit our grandmother. Let’s say my
father is a traditional authority. What would he be doing? He would probably tell me something
like, “I don’t care how you feel; it’s your duty to visit your grandmother. Be polite
to her and so on.” Nothing bad about this I claim because I can still rebel and so on.
It’s a clear order. But what would the so-called post-modern non-authoritarian
father do? I know because I experienced it. He would have said something like this, “You
know how much your grandmother loves you, but nonetheless I’m not forcing you to visit
her. You should only visit her if you freely decide to do it.” Now every child knows that
beneath the appearance of free choice there is a much stronger pressure in this second
message. Because basically your father is not only telling you, you must visit your
grandmother, but you must love to visit it. You know he tells you how you must feel about
it. It’s a much stronger order. And I think that this is for me almost a paradigm of modern
permissive authority. This is why the formula of totalitarianism is not — I don’t care
what you think; just do it. This is traditional authoritarianism. The totalitarian formula
is I know better than you what you really want and I may appear to be forcing you to
do it, but I’m really just making you do what without fully knowing what you want and
so on. So in this sense yes, I am horrified by this. Also another aspect this new culture
of experts where an injunction is presented just as a neutral statement. For example, one example that I like and let’s
not have a misunderstanding here. I don’t smoke and I’m for punishing tobacco companies
and so on and so on. But I’m deeply suspicious about our phobia about smoking. I don’t
buy it that this can be really justified just based on scientific knowledge how cigarettes
hurt us and so on and so on. Because my first problem is that most of the people who oppose
smoking then usually are for legalization of grass and so on and so on. But my basic
problem is this one. Look, now they found a more or less solution — e-cigarettes,
electronic cigarettes. And I discovered that now big American airline companies decided
to prohibit them. And it’s interesting to read the reason why. The reason is not so
much that it’s not yet sure are they safe or not. Basically they are. The idea is that
if you smoke during the flight e-cigarette you publicly display your addiction and that
is not a good pedagogical example for others and so on and so on. I mean I find this a clear example of how
a certain ethics, which is not just neutral ethics of health, but basically I think it’s
ethics of don’t fall into it; don’t have a too passionate engagement. Remain at the
proper distance; control yourself and so on. And now I will shock you to end. I think even
racism can be ambiguous here. You know once I made an interview where I was asked how
do we find reactionary racism. You know what was my answer. With progressive racism. Then,
ah, ah, what do you mean? Of course I didn’t mean racism. What I meant is the following
things. Of course racist jokes and so on can be extremely oppressive, humiliating, and
so on. But the solution I think is to create an atmosphere
or to practice these jokes in such a way that they really function as that little bit of
obscene contact which establishes true proximity between us. And I’m talking from my own
past political experience. Ex-Yugoslavia. I remember when I was young when I met from
other — when I met with other people from ex-Yugoslavia republics — Serbs, Croat,
Bosnians and so on. We were all the time telling dirty jokes about each other. But not so much
against the other. We were in a wonderful way competing who will be able to tell a nastier
joke about ourselves. These were obscene racist jokes, but their effect was a wonderful sense
of shared, obscene solidarity. And I have another proof here. Do you know
that when civil war exploded in Yugoslavia, early ’90s and already before in the ’80s,
ethnic tensions. The first victims were these jokes; they immediately disappeared. Because
people felt well that, for example, let’s say I visit another country. I hate this politically
correct respect, oh, what is your food, what are your cultural forms. No, I tell them tell
me a dirty joke about yourself and we will be friends and so on. It works. So you see
this ambiguity — that’s my problem with political correctness. No it’s just a form
of self-discipline, which doesn’t really allow you to overcome racism. It’s just
oppressed controlled racism. And the same goes here. I will tell you a wonderful story,
a simple one. It happened to me a year ago around the corner here in the bookstore. I
was signing a book of mine. Two black guys came, African-Americans, I don’t like the
term. My black friends also not, because for obvious reasons it can be even more racist. But the point is and they asked me to sign
a book and seeing them there I couldn’t resist the worst racist remark. When I was
returning the books to them I told them you know, I don’t know which one is for whom,
you know, you blacks like yellow guys, you look all the same. They embraced me and they
told me you can call me nigga. You know when they tell you this it means we are really
close. They instantly got this. Another stupid problem I had. At some talk there was a mute
and deaf guy and he asked if a translator can be there. And I couldn’t resist it.
In the middle of the talk in front of 200-300 people, I said what are you doing there guys.
My idea was that if you watch the gestures of the translator it looked to me as if some
obscene messages or what. The guy laughed so much we became friends. And some old stupid
lady reported me for making fun of crippled people. It was so didn’t she see that’s
how I became friends with the guy. But I’m — wait a minute. Now I’m not an idiot.
I’m well aware this doesn’t mean we should just walk around and humiliate each other.
It’s a great art how to do it. I’m just saying that’s my hypothesis. Without such
a tiny exchange of friendly obscenities you don’t have a real contact with another. It remains this cold respect and so on, you
know. We need this. We need this to establish a real contact. This is what is lacking for
me in political correctness. And then you end up in madness like it’s not a joke.
I checked with my Australian friend. You know what happened in Perth, the west coast Australian
city. It’s not a joke I repeated. The opera house there prohibited staging of Carmen.
Opera Carmen, you know why? Because the first act takes place in front of a tobacco factory.
I’m not kidding. I’m not kidding. I’m just saying that there is something so fake
about political correctness. It’s — I know it’s better than open racism, of course.
But I wonder if it works because, you know, I never, for example, bought all these permanent
replacement, you know. Niggers are Negros. Negros are black. Okay, black are African-Americans.
Maybe — it’s up to them to decide. The only thing I know is that when I was in Missoula,
Montana, I got engaged in a very friendly conversation with some Native Americans. They
hate the term and they gave me a wonderful reason. They told me Native American and you
are a cultural American so what, we are part of nature. They told me we much preferred
to be called Indians. At least our name is a monument to white men’s
stupidity who thought they are in India when they come here. And they had such a wonderful
insight into how all this New Age bullshit, you know, we white people technologically
exploit nature while natives relate to nature in a dialogic way like before they dig into
earth, they ask the mountain for permission if they are mining blah, blah. They don’t
mean that — research shows that Native Americans, Indians, killed much more buffalos and burned
much more forests than white people. You know why this was the correct point. Like the message
was the most racist thing is to patronizingly elevate us in that, you know, primitive, organic,
living together with Mother Nature. No, their fundamental right is to be evil also. If we
can be evil, why shouldn’t they be evil and so on. So again even with racism, one
has to be very precise not to fight racism in a way which ultimately reproduces, if not
directly racism itself, at least the conditions for racism.




Comments
  1. Let's be real here if you want to get rid of racism you have to heavily control your subjects – drugs, perpetual dysgenics-program and so on. Save yourself some time and nuke the planet to enter your peaceful heaven on earth that way, worm tongue.

  2. Puuh I am glad that youtube has subtitles, I am not only bad with accents but all his hand movement and nose rubbing got so distracting.I think he has a point, having to bend over backwards to not insult people festers frustration and resentment and not confrontating negative emotions can lead to them expressing themselves subconsciously in other forms of hostility.
    Though attempting to make jokes like that can easily backfire if like me your not very competent in cracking jokes and the finer arts of on the spot verbal engagements(witty comments etc), not that I ever tried I am much to indoctrinated with the principles of politeness ^^

  3. I have known this for a long time. Holy shit this guy took a page right from my book. I never feared traditional tyrants. I always hated the passive aggressive 'nice' tyrants. I never bought the moral objection to cigarettes, I always knew it was just disgust for smokers. I always knew diet racism was worse than loud racism because it was harder to deconstruct and defeat.

  4. The right wing republican side of political thought wishes to control money and resources. The left wing liberal side compensates by controlling social norms and language.

  5. Native Americans/Indians killed more buffalo? Are you sure? in 'Black Elk Speaks' Black Elk describes how they only took what was needed whereas the whites wiped them out to virtual extinction.

  6. We have lost all sense of common sense proportionality and balance so quickly, political correctness is nothing less than a totalitarian Marxist ideology to which fool's blindly and unquestioningly subscribe!

  7. Zizek has always been a fraud and a charlatan with almost no real identifiable content. He is still fun to listen to at times

  8. The kyriarchy talks all the time about how "political correctness" is taking power away from them when they don't realize how good they have it.

  9. People are going to miss the message against soft power that is opressive and double down on hating "SJWs" whose power is a blog that is reblogged a few hundred times.

  10. I get the whole prohibition of culture like the Perth "Carmen" incident is completely wrong but the whole entire cheapening yourself for our mutual pleasure is completely unwarranted, to say hey you blacks look alike and you yellow men look alike is akin to destroying the work that was done in order to help individuals stave off attacks on themselves based on their sole appearance, remember the incident with the black Columbia professor on the Fox News network, where Bill O'Riley said that the professor looked like a crack dealer, him being a well dressed man with amazing credentials was called a crack dealer based on the sole appearance of his skin color. Being overly PC is wrong, it can warrant an attack as racial motivated but so callously cheapening yourself for the sake of others is not being edgy or anti PC but being racist and offense for the sake of that.

  11. I am and live in ecuador, i used to live in the us. Here in ecuador we dont really do pollitacl correctness unless is tv or formal shit. you always got a black friend that you call el negro, an asian that you call el chino, a fat friend that you call el gordo, and no one cries about such things. it is tottaly acceptable and we got way less racial tensions than other countries. I beleve most latin countries are like us

  12. I think that political correctness springs from good motives but goes too far in judging particular words or concepts. I agree that we should be sensitive to unnecessarily offending people, but I think that laying down rules for how to do this is counterproductive.

    For instance, I used to do attendant work for handicapped people. I referred to them as they did to themselves: as "crips". We were all friends so there was no question of offence. What we need to do is fight the feelings of racism, sexism, etc, without attempting to codify what one may say- a code will not make you less racist or sexist, but friendship will. And then the words are unimportant.

  13. Sometimes, being around people who like to be politically correct can be intellectually depressing and frustrating. If I met this guy Slavoj, I know we would get along quite fancily.

  14. This guy looks like he's DRUNK and COKED-UP…with the SLURRED SPEECH and the constant rubbing of his mouth and nose…

  15. Yep. There's a simple solution that has been there all along, one that grew out of the enlightenment as a way of protecting heretics, intellectual dissidents, wealthy elitists and various eccentrics, it's called FREEDOM. That means NO government or any Statist control over speech and letting all negative consequences of speech be a result of the voluntary actions of individuals or private institutions, such as cutting off relationships or firing someone. That is the only reasonable solution. Once the new moralists took away rights of private association and made various forms of speech an unlawful offense we were set on the path to totalitarianism. Now we are dealing with the consequences, with people being fired from jobs they otherwise would not be fired from, a stilted culture that is increasingly banal and meaningless, a scourge of people with a victim mentality who feel that their personal offense is now a public and not merely a private concern, etc.

    We need to return to freedom, both freedom of speech and freedom of association, and understand this is best even if there are those who abuse the privilege.

  16. Indians killed more Buffallos and burned more woods than Whites? OK, Aborigins did the same with Kangooroos and bushes..keeping it circled..what is evil in that? Just saying…

  17. Too often political incorrectness is simply showing a disrespect for others. I don't buy it promotes solidarity. More likely to offend than unite. Maybe thinking a bit too big time this time.

  18. … because if you want to go looking for examples of how best to have people of different, it's the former Yugoslavia sarcasm. I'd propose this saner, empirical, simple two-step approach for world peace:

    1. Examine what the Serbs, Croats, Boniaks, Slovenians, Mecedonians, and Albanians did in the former Yugoslavia to settle their differences.
    2. Don't do it.

  19. You must not only do what I want; you must want what I want you to want… or else! I grew up in a church where this happened all the time, constantly. If you questioned, you were not wanting to look at things the same way, and… oh my, tsk… That would make me feel so very insecure!

  20. How about not being politically correct and using subtitles when your speaker has such a heavy accent? Not everyone can understand him, and I'd really love to hear what he has to say.

  21. My only major disagreement here is with his statement that casual racism is necessary for genuine human connection. It's a stretch. I'm thrilled to hear his anecdotes with positive outcomes, but that's hardly compelling to this point.

  22. Considering what recently happened in Cologne, Germany this talk could not have arrived at a better time. How the media is reporting on it is fucking despicable.

  23. Dude, will someone please teach him to pronounce "s"? This video might have 10 times the views if he could pronounce the English language.

  24. Thanks for this. I believe that Political Correctness is a cancer on modern society! We got it during the Blair Labour years. Bloody lefty twats!

  25. The tests are in. Electronic delivery of nicotine includes the same chemicals as paper cigarettes but in less standardized amounts. One brand will have one ratio of substances and another brand will have a different ratio.

  26. Zizek is an ideologue, and this video is a good example. Sure, political correctness can be coercive, but each example of it ought to be examined on its own merits. Sometimes what's politically correct is harmful, but it can sometimes be healthy. To say all political correctness is fundamentally bad is an absolutist position, and that can be harmful too. Things are rarely as simple as Zizek makes them out to be in this video, and there are surely many examples showing that political correctness can be a good thing. It all depends on context – something that Zizek does not examine here.

    Some of his stories indicate that there was NO political correctness – just the potential for it. This is not a bad thing. Political correctness can be a guide to what is abusive. Let's not forget that there is no law imposing political correctness – it's something society adopts. You can ignore it and the most that will happen is that some will say you're bad. If that's a deterrent, you need to grow up.

  27. The line between madman and a genius is very narrow. I think Mr. Žižek is a fine example of it, he is a brilliant man bordering on the line of insanity.

  28. What a slimy piece of shit. PC is dangerous because it shuts down free speech, the PC environment destroys anyone who dissents from their pre-approved views.
    But no, to this idiot PC is bad because it hides capitalist "oppression" in a "cloak of niceness", and inhibits the poor people from rising against their evil "oppressors", such as company executives, evil parents, and closet racist (who show no actual sign of racism)
    On top of that this man is unbelievably unpleasant to look at or listen to, just go wipe your nose you communist fuck.

  29. So, this guy is more afraid of guilt tripping than brute force, therefore it is totalitarianism. This is absurd. I bet the total kill count of PC states like Iceland is greater than those hard totalitarian states like N-Korea. Look it up on google, I'm sure it is there.

    The racist jokes reminds me that I have groped some womens behinds and they seemed to enjoy it. I guess I should make a youtube video of how this has worked very well for me and everyone should try this. (In case you have broken sarcasm detector, this is a really bad advice)

  30. Žižek likes racist jokes because they strengthen the bonds between people. While this is true, he forgets the cost. Gang bullying is also a good way to strengthen the social bonds among bullies, but at the cost of the bullied. With racist jokes the effect is the same, if it offends someone in the room. But even if everyone in the room enjoys it, it strengthens the stereotypes the joke is based on. As with all jokes, it is funny, because it is true, or partially true, or is believed to be true.

  31. My favorite thing about this is that they've thought ahead and put a transcript in the description. I was literally about to ask for one since I can't stand his voice.

    Edit: My least favorite thing is that it's been truncated. Someone be a bro and write down the rest for me.

  32. PC seems to hide thoughts and ideas of people meaning they cannot be challenged or persuaded to change their mind. although stereotypes do often apply unfortunately.

  33. Its true. Nowadays racists claim there is no racism anymore, because in a 'politically correct' environment they can't use racial slurs anymore and express their open racism. There is still much covert racism.

  34. Parents want to teach children kindness. Bosses pay employees to work. Racist jokes are the way he wants to make friends, and sure it can work, but it doesn't seem worth it since it could possibly lead to serious racism. But eventually when we all drop our egos and see that our bodies are just characters we play, we can lighten up and joke about what we're playing as.

  35. For those of you concerned about Slavoj's ticks, just open another browser window and try listening to what he has to say; it's less distracting. The man has an interesting point, so try to get past the physical aspect. I had a couple profs like this, and I just focused on writing notes and it made a big difference to my comprehension. Nevertheless, if you still want to know how often he touches his nose, there's an obvious rough formula for approximating this 😉

  36. people who actually believe PC is good are simply unintelligent or nefarious. There are a multitude of reasons why it's bad, but the most obvious one to me is that it's not the environment that is the problem, it's your mind. SJWs and people who strive for PC have no end in sight. because their heuristic simply adjusts to the new environment, and over time they lack the ability to deal with who they are, and others.

    the real change comes not from social engineering people to not be mean, because then it just goes underground, it becomes a disorder psychologically. it makes people do funny things. it makes people hate themselves and others. people should know how to deal with mean people, to understand them and understand themselves. bullying and meanness IS NOT necessarily a bad thing. it's bad for your ego, but it can be good for allowing you to confront and understand yourself and others, because the information is not parasited by social programming. to limit information leads to disorder. of course the more obsessed with PC you are, the more offended you will be. it's entirely counter-productive. i don't know how people don't see this.

  37. I'm sorry, but how is this any different than simple persuasion?

    In order to assert that you, as he puts it, "know better than you what you really want," you have to give new information, or at least remind someone of unconscious knowledge as in the visiting Grandma example. In that case, all that is happening is persuasion. In order for it to be authoritarian, you must be forced to do it in more traditional ways and, really, what authoritarian in history DIDN'T try to convince people that they were good?

    This gets to the larger point about so called "Political Correctness"; it's just politeness given a very Orwellian name. There is nothing to political correctness that hasn't existed for all of human history, except this time it's trying to include more people, rather than setting the elite apart from everyone else.

  38. I don't give much for strawman and slippery slope arguments. Political correctness is merely something that requires moderation. Like taxes, some is necessary but too much is obviously too much.
    All that is left to discuss is not if political correctness is bad (it can't by default be considered bad), but how much political correctness is too much. Obviously we should be a huge distance away from the point where we by law require people to think the, but social pressure on for example homophobes or even homosexuals is not totalitarianism.

  39. I agree with him, but E-cigs are not harmless…
    But his comment that everyone has the right to be evil, YES. ABSOLUTELY. No human is without both good and bad.

  40. the inventing of the term "political correctness" to trivialize and demonize any kind of real morality, i.e. universal consideration, THAT is totalitarian. if you want to talk about effective, there is convincing people they are free while keeping them indentured. a transportation policy dominated by the automobile is a prime example of that.

  41. I recently got into an argument with a political correctness crusader over the term "retarded". [Backstory: I barely spoke until around the age of 13, have difficulty with eye-contact, stumble over my words, am socially avoidant, etc. and, as such, I qualify as socially retarded.] One day this person posted on fb that the term "retarded" should never be used under any circumstance and that they are disgusted by anyone who uses it. I told them that as someone who fits the definition, I find it a useful term for describing certain elements of my cognitive functioning. They proceeded to become hysterical, deleted the post, and unfriended me.

  42. by expecting others to be politically correct, we are keeping people away from ourselves.. kids are offended so easily these days, stupidity is at all time high.. having thick skin is key to happiness for sure, why? because if you have lot of triggers – you will be mathematically more sad than the person who has less triggers..

  43. In short….PC culture is also bigotry – worse even than non-PC culture, because it is a subtle bigotry of low expectations. Such a mindset betrays one's own racism, as it is based on a notion that whatever minority has no agency, no self respect, and no claim to a dignity of their own. It is true dehumanization…and these pretentious people are too self absorbed in their 'righteousness' to see that, because they are only concerned with putting their own 'virtue' on display.

  44. I feel like this is an interesting application of Foucault's discussion on bio power; however, he runs into the same problems Foucault did. There is no reason to believe that bio power is always bad, and the question that he has not answered that arises is: What is the alternative to bio power?

  45. When I'm being PC, I'm just being polite. I call people what they want to be called out of respect. No more, no less. I call my black friends black because thats what they want to be called. I call my one trans friend "he" because thats what he wants to be called.

  46. You know, when he talks about how racist jokes can be harmless because they did it all the time in ex-Yugoslavia — maybe that's a bad example to bring up, considering what followed…

  47. White people still don't understand non-whites. Look at how other races interact with each other, you'll see that they don't "see race". If anything they see tribe. Tribal relations are different from racial relations in that other tribes are just people with different customs. Racists don't see people when they look at people not like themselves, and that is the problem.

  48. Slovak is a very smart man, but sadly that doesn't erase the fact that he is a marxist. As long as there is the constitutional scope for any government agency to exercise its power, then it will tend to produce people within it that will abuse it, giving the e-sig example. The only way to avoid that scenario is to limit the government's authority to even contemplate such laws. Let the people chose whether or not they want to smoke e-sigs on planes through the free market.

  49. he lost me when he started talking about racist jokes. Can't stand im anymore, a philosopher I used to really like.

  50. I think Zizek is great, his world view is full of contradictions though. He has an anti authoritarian view on social interactions, and dissects the issues in such an understanding way. Yet he is authoritarian in a political sense. The forms of politico economic systems he advocates are historically brutal and authoritarian. Idk maybe I'm missing something.

  51. People needs to loosen up a little! It's only racist if you perceive it as racist! It almost made me think that the people who call out racism all the time it's because they are racist themselves and have some low self esteem issues.
    Growing in a different country and becoming friends with all sort of mix races and social classes. Makes you see everything so different.

  52. "Politically Correct" is a term that bullies and assholes use to describe people who are neither bullies or assholes.

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