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Defending Zizek?

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Not that he wants or needs it, but Rebecca Schuman recently pleaded with us to stop worshipping Slavoj Zizek after he referred to most students "boring idiots." She also went on to call him a "world-class jerk." She bases this on a 10-minute Youtube video and on comments he has made in the past that he feels most people are, in fact, "boring idiots."

As to whether or not anyone should be worshipped, Zizek would likely be among the first in line to subscribe to a life of privacy and seclusion. Other than signing personalized autographs for free for people who wait in line for them (most best-selling authors have handlers who limit conversations and inscriptions to just the author's name), Zizek does not seek out attention from the public.

Like Prince and Roger Federer, Zizek is famous. Also, probably like them, he is honest.

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While his self-proclaimed hero Karl Marx, and his family, died very poor, it is a relief to see that Zizek may have started taking his job seriously (i.e., to sell his books and monetize his fame for his family, including his children and new wife). I, for one, am happy to see the first glimpses of some attempt to cash-in on his marketability. (He frequently turns down honoraria -- unheard of among most public intellectuals.)

That I have met Zizek personally and can attest that he is no jerk is a minor point. That I personally witnessed him reject dinner with established professors and instead choose to sit with undergraduate students at a University of Rochester event is also fairly trivial but instructive about his actual attitude towards students.

I want to focus here on why an American left-leaning writer like Ms. Schuman would go out of her way to mount an (ad hominem) attack against Zizek in the context of his representation of the "academy":

The academy is in crisis. The humanities' relevance is questioned obnoxiously on a near-daily basis. Humanists need to think carefully about who our heroes are, and who should represent our disciplines to the public. Maybe, just maybe, this Ži-jerk has finally proved himself unsuited to the task.

No one has been more outspoken, or effective, about combating this "crisis" than Zizek. He is dogmatic in his steadfast criticism of the Bologna reforms in Europe. Rejecting globalization's call for experts instead of critically-thinking humanists cannot be accomplished through office hours and friendly teaching styles.

The risk of losing liberal arts is indelibly linked to the intrusion of unfettered (ostensibly) "market" mechanisms throughout human life. Where there used to be at least some sanctuary, now there is none. Education is just one of the last to fall.

While Zizek was the first solitary critic to identify the idealogically-imposed false-Fukuyama matrix, today we see even the current captains of industry calling for an "inclusive capitalism" serving people, not people serving capital.

I suspect Ms. Schuman has chosen the easier target. But if she really cares about the "academy," then she should support the man who brings rockstar popularity to the movement and join the real fight against Bologna-style regression here and all the root causes thereof, not some obnoxious interviewer who asks inappropriate personal questions to boost his Youtube channel subscriptions.