Corbyn’s paradoxical victory over May’s politics of scaremongering gives hope – Slavoj Zizek to RT

The UK election result is an ethical-political miracle as May pretended to take care of common men by manipulating their worst fears while Corbyn addressed their ordinary concerns, says Slavoj Zizek, director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.

UK Prime Minister Theresa Mays apologized to Conservative MPs for losing the party’s majority in the general election on June 8. 

Theresa May took responsibility and vowed to make amends, saying “I got us into this mess and I’m going to get us out of it.” Amid much media speculation over her political future, the Tory leader is now struggling to form a coalition government.

RT discussed the UK election and its fallout with Slavoj Zizek, international director at the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities. 

RT: Theresa May was very confident going into the election. What went wrong for her and the Tories?

Slavoj Zizek: I think, the only expression that I can use is that it was a true ethical-political miracle. The strategy of Theresa May and the Conservative party was politics of fear at its worst– the fear of terrorists, of immigrants, of European Union and so on. It was the old scaremongering with open elements of obscenity. You remember, when she mentioned “on behalf of fighting terrorism” she was ready to rip some human rights. This was politics as usual today in most of the West.

RT: Fear mongering usually works, why didn’t it work this time?

SZ: That was the ethical miracle, I couldn’t believe it. I was skeptical; my reaction was “Isn’t Jeremy Corbyn too good for our world? Can you simply do what he did?” In a wonderfully naïve way. He ignored all that, he didn’t answer at the same level. He simply directly, in simple straight terms, addressed ordinary people with their ordinary concerns: healthcare, workplaces, education. He addressed those issues. Let me be very open. I am not even sure if he were to take power, if Corbyn were to succeed, that this could have worked. Maybe there would be trouble, today’s capitalism is a complex thing. It can counter your progressive politics by giving rise to an artificial crisis. But now it worked, it is a wonderful ethical sign that people cannot be just … manipulated. From time to time, people awaken from this bad dream. It is a great hope to all of us…

RT: Corbyn was talking to the common man, Theresa May was essentially protecting and catering to the elite and the political establishment, is it right?

SZ: Yes, but she was more cunning of course. She didn’t say this openly. You don’t do in politics today like that. She didn’t say “I am protecting the elite and so on.” She pretended to take care of the common man. But how? By manipulating their worst fears. And Corbyn didn’t accept this game. You know how usually we associate the term moral majority with the Conservatives? For me now, the British elections are a proof of the opposite. It is the Conservative elites in power who are really decadent. It is today’s modern left which truly stands for simple moral majority.

RT: There is a lot of talk about the rise of populism both in the US and in Europe. What role did populism play in the UK election?

SZ: That was a miracle again of Corbyn. If by populism we mean this cheap scaremongering, raging people against some enemy, there was not even a trace of this in how Corbyn preceded. No, Corbyn simply addressed real people with their concerns without any of these emotional cheap populist concerns.

Theresa May has lost a huge amount of credibility and a huge amount of authority. But I think that internal tactics of the Conservative party and the Conservative government are such that they really don’t want it to go today or tomorrow. It has been an absolute disaster for the ruling Conservative party. And they announced policies that were very upsetting to their core support. They now haven’t got a working majority; they are being obliged to form a relationship with a minor party in order to carry through their program. – Roger Helmer, Member of the European Parliament for the East Midlands region

RT: Some people are showing surprise that Corbyn was somehow able to stand up after taking such a beating in recent months, a huge negative media campaign…

SZ: That is the best news. I claim, paradoxically, that he succeeded not in spite of… [that] campaign but even also because of this campaign. Because people, in the middle of all these dirty tricks, everything against him – “Corbyn is jihadist, terrorist-supporter” – it counteracted, people all of a sudden become aware. “What is going on? What are they doing to this man?”

RT: Do you think to some degree the media establishment in the UK failed in its job, its agenda and purpose to push Corbyn left and put Theresa May on more solid ground?

SZ: Yes, but this is the wonder, how this most sophisticated strategy – probably they had hundreds of PR specialists how to do it – that simple common people’s decency and wisdom were awakened. It didn’t work, it is a wonderful proof that, no, it is not true that we simply live in a totally manipulated society where everything can be sold with the right packaging. It gives us hope. It is not a specifically leftist hope; it is hope that the type of politics of fear, of manipulation, of cynical distance is not all that we can do today to be successful.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.