‘Crustacean Jung v Cocaine Hegel’: Zizek-Peterson debate blowout sparks meme war
Ticket prices reportedly went as high as $1,500, not for a game in the NBA playoffs, but to see these two prominent public intellectuals duke it out over human nature and economic systems. The ‘Marxist’ Zizek had it out with the ‘traditionalist’ Peterson who defended the free market in a debate on whether capitalism or Marxism better leads to happiness.
While for some this might not sound like it would generate much interest beyond a philosophy department, around 3,000 people packed into the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto to see the ultimate ideological showdown.
In the red corner, “the Elvis of cultural theory” and “the world's most dangerous philosopher,” Slavoj Zizek – a professor, author and regular RT contributor. His rise to fame can be ascribed to his amazing ability to use dirty jokes, pop culture phenomena and, on at least one occasion, toilets to explain complex topics in psychoanalysis and political theory.
In the blue corner, clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, Jordan Peterson, who has become the darling of the new right for his scathing critiques of identity politics and opposition to feminist narratives. Peterson rose to public prominence when his book ‘12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos’ became a bestseller in the US, UK and Canada.
Although both figures have enjoyed widespread mainstream success, it has come alongside a degree of notoriety. Both tend to be polarizing, often taking controversial and unconventional stances on hot button issues, occasionally even drawing fire from their own side of the ideological spectrum.
Aside from the live audience, people around the world tuned in for $14.95 a pop, with the livestream peaking at around 6,000 viewers, many of whom flooded the chat with memes and sardonic comments. The creative responses ranged from the dank to the unprintable, as viewers weighed in on the discussion at home.
The number one comment on a popular YouTube repost of the event describes the contest as “Crustacean Jung versus Cocaine Hegel,” a joke which flatly sums up the two idiosyncratic philosophers and their influences.
While no official winner was announced and the terms terms of the debate were rather abstract, the overwhelming majority of comments agreed that Peterson was out of his depth. Not only was Peterson visibly nervous as he fiddled with his ring and looked at the floor, he admitted he “didn't have time” to respond to any of Zizek's actual work, and instead based his critique of Marxism solely on the Communist Manifesto, which he hadn't read since he was 18.
In one instance that drew the most amount of fire, Peterson was unable to name a single person who represents the “post-modern neo-Marxist” camp he regularly argues against.
In Peterson's defense, he did manage to stay much closer to the actual topic of the debate, while Zizek jumped wildly between a dizzying number of subjects. Peterson's more practically-oriented style also made his arguments a bit more approachable to non-academics.
While there were very few memes in support of Peterson, quite a few people expressed their annoyance at both sides, opting for some equal-opportunity mockery.
Current Affairs’ Nathan Robinson fits firmly within this category, writing: “You may have your own personal idea of Hell. Mine is an eternity trapped in a room with Jordan Peterson and Slavoj Zizek.”
For those who don't share that opinion, RT recently sat down with Zizek for a documentary where he discusses the debate, the Catholic Church and hardcore pornography… through an intellectual lens of course.
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