Who is the Real Moderate? Who is the Real Revolutionary?
Yesterday I watched a fascinating debate between Slavoj Žižek and David Horowitz, mediated by Julian Assange. It was done via webcam, as Horowitz is based in the USA and both Assange and Žižek were together (presumably somewhere in England). It is 28:00 in length but I encourage anybody with half an hour to spare to watch it, it is a very interesting interaction.
Having done some discourse analysis in the past, and about to start a new research project using that method again, I found the style of commentary very striking. Most notably, while Horowitz and Žižek disagreed very explicitly at many points they also did find common ground. Horowitz perhaps had the tendency to make sweeping general statements with little justification or truth while Žižek on the other hand was more prone to getting very animated and used more expletives. Both at times were quite accusatory, interestingly they would level the same accusations at each other (surprising, unsurprising?), with Žižek occasionally throwing in a conciliatory comment.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the interaction was when discussing the role of Assange regarding the “revolutions” that are taking place. He stated that WikiLeaks would continue to do what they do even under a more revolutionary government if they saw the need to do so. In response Žižek joked that he would answer Assange’s question about a revolutionary government supporting WikiLeaks once the latter was in his cell in the gulag. This reveals two very interesting things. First, these revolutions are not as single-minded as some might imagine. That is, not everyone is looking for the same kind of change. Second, Žižek’s communist utopia may not be entirely different in the sense of the government not being completely transparent in their actions – something Žižek claims as a practical necessity of governing. If we were to go for a deeper analysis into the use of humour (see Michael Billig’s book on humour) then Žižek’s humorous response could be quite revealing in terms of his actual support towards WikiLeaks. Note that he does not answer Assange’s question.
This interaction would prove to be a very fruitful in terms of analysing it from a perspective of discursive psychology, but that is not the aim here. While the fact that Assange and Žižek were on one side of the webcam and Horowitz on the other is a fairly clear statement in terms of who-is-on-whose-side, the subsequent interaction blurs this line somewhat.
So, we are now faced with a question: “who is the real revolutionary?”
Is it Žižek, Horowitz or Assange? Do any of them qualify as a revolutionary?