Žižek at Left Forum: ‘Terrorists, rapists, & criminals among refugees, but who cares?’
Slavoj Žižek, “the most dangerous philosopher in the West,” stirred the melting pot Sunday as the closing speaker at Left Forum 2016 in New York City, making controversial comments about the refugee crisis.
The Slovenian academic was heckled during his epic three-and-a-half hour session at the conference titled ‘Rage, Rebellion, Revolution: Organizing our power’ held at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and streamed live throughout the weekend on RT.com.
Day 1: 'Democracy in the US is a fraud’: Left Forum debates next steps for Sanders movement with Chris Hedges, Medea Benjamin, and Tariq Ali
Day 2: Left Forum tackles police brutality & harnessing the Sanders campaign with Kshama Sawant and Jill Stein
Žižek was already labeled a “racist,”“antisemite,” and “misogynist” before he hit the stage, which perhaps is why he started his speech by saying, “If you want to start exchanging insults, I can be extremely brutal, I always win. But, let’s not do it today, maybe.”
That truce with his friend and critics on the left was temporary, after his subsequent words ignited a firestorm that continued to burn on social media Monday.
"The obvious threat, that there are among refugees also terrorists, rapists, criminals, I mean this in a totally neutral way, of course there are but so what?” he said, when discussing reasons behind the “catastrophe” in Europe.
While a more conservative or mainstream audience might have been shocked by his blasé “so what?” attitude towards what they perceive to be a global threat, his comments seemed to ‘trigger’ something else in this left-wing crowd, angry over what they interpreted as “xenophobic” characterizations.
Amy Goodman walked out too! Is there going to even be a Q&A for this guy? #LeftForum2016pic.twitter.com/fcKzE3l9Su— Taryn Fivek (@fivek) May 22, 2016
Regarding #Zizek's display at #LeftForum2016pic.twitter.com/bu7C2TupH5— Taryn Fivek (@fivek) May 23, 2016
you cant turn away and say 'well thats just zizek and these tankies are conspiracy theorists'. zizek is a white supremacist. he has been.— HUACamole (@gabrielavocado) May 23, 2016
Not everyone loves Zizek pic.twitter.com/We12R7aMWt— Eoin Higgins (@EoinHiggins_) May 22, 2016
"Get to the point!" audience member to Zizek— Eoin Higgins (@EoinHiggins_) May 22, 2016
Good luck buddy.
Zizek arguing the old right-wing canard that excessive political correctness causes racism. #LeftForum2016— Arun Kundnani (@ArunKundnani) May 22, 2016
Zizek has taught me that "this may be problematic to say" is the left academic version of "I don't mean to be racist but"— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) May 23, 2016
The feed ends with an always fascinating, sometimes heated Q&A, cutting off just as someone expressed how offended she was by a Žižek anecdote during his speech.
Forum organizers told RT the unexpectedly long event outlasted the camera's memory, but they are attempting to edit together other video and audio recordings after the cut.
interesting to watch the pseudo-left finally abandon ship on zizek— circadianwolf (@circadianwolf) May 23, 2016
He warned that the more globalized capitalism becomes, the more walls of apartheid emerge and “people circulate less and less freely”.
“Even if most of the Nazi claims about the Jews were true ... their anti-Semitism would still be pathological,” he said. “The true problem is not: Is this true or not? The true problem is why do the Nazis, in order to sustain their world view, need the figure of the Jew – and I claim it’s exactly the same with the growing fears of refugees and immigrants all around Europe”.
What does the obsession with "immigrant threat" tell us about Europe today?- Slavoj Žižek #LeftForum2016— Left Forum (@LeftForum) May 22, 2016
After getting heckled for his “terrorists, rapists and criminals” comment, he responded, “You are underestimating the horror of poverty, the true horror of poverty is also an ethical one, I’m sorry to tell you poverty doesn’t make noble people. The fear of refugee invasion is reaching paranoia proportions.”
"The only unity I see is the unity of struggle."- Slavoj Žižek #LeftForum2016— Left Forum (@LeftForum) May 23, 2016
Žižek’s presentation also covered the crisis in Greece, the gender bathroom debate, and Donald Trump, who he said is "disgusting" and "playing a certain opportunistic game."
A darling of the Occupy Wall Street movement five years ago, he closed with an affirmation for those progressive activists in the room.
"We, the left, or whatever remains of it, are the only true defenders of simple, common decency. We are the moral majority... in practice," he said.
"How do we transform state mechanisms, instead of just supplementing them with popular movements?"- Slavoj Žižek #LeftForum2016— Left Forum (@LeftForum) May 22, 2016
Amy Goodman taking the stage at the closing plenary! #LeftForum2016pic.twitter.com/SajWHpq1lg— Left Forum (@LeftForum) May 22, 2016
"Our job as journalists is to go where the silence is," says Amy Goodman. #CJFjtalk "give voice to the voiceless." pic.twitter.com/uqzvpsH35o— Steve Paikin (@spaikin) May 19, 2016
Amy Goodman on police arresting members of the media- "We should not have to get a record when we put things on the record." #LeftForum2016— Left Forum (@LeftForum) May 22, 2016
The US presidential campaign was the other big topic of the weekend, with some speakers skeptical of the ability of Bernie Sanders to win the nomination.
Bernie's has been a remarkable campaign that's challenged assumptions about what voters want in a candidate.- @debbiebookchin#LeftForum2016— Left Forum (@LeftForum) May 22, 2016
We had a great panel @LeftForum re Hillary Clinton's faux feminism! @lfeatherz@RaniaKhalek@firstname.lastname@example.org/8ZIqr7Usj5— Medea Benjamin (@medeabenjamin) May 22, 2016
The brave women speaking on Mother's Pain, Rage and Rebellion fuelling the #BlackLivesMatter movement #LeftForum2016pic.twitter.com/SWzqxG9Pzt— Left Forum (@LeftForum) May 21, 2016
Another huge crowd gathered for Tariq Ali and Norman Finkelstein's dialogue on Israel and Palestine #LeftForum2016pic.twitter.com/4aXSBeSJDy— Left Forum (@LeftForum) May 21, 2016
"If u leave out first 100 yrs of imperialism, u have a limited understanding of U.S exceptionalism." #LeftForum2016pic.twitter.com/4grWAgKhDe— Left Forum (@LeftForum) May 21, 2016