“The World Tomorrow (Episode 2: David Horowitz and Slavoj Zizek)” (Russia Today, 24 April 2012)
For this episode, interviewer Julian Assange brought together two opposed public intellectuals, US political commentator David Horowitz and Slovenian philosopher / psychoanalyst / cultural critic Slavoj Zizek. Horowitz was once a left-wing activist who supported the Black Panther movement in the US in the 1960s and whose parents were members of the American Communist Party who supported Joseph Stalin; he now supports hardline American political conservatism. Zizek opposed Communism in Yugoslavia in the 1980s but might now be called centrist in his political outlook. The topics Assange covers in the 30-minute discussion with Horowitz and Zizek include Israel’s uneasy relationship with Palestinians, Joseph Stalin, the US occupation of Iraq, the decline of Europe, the descent of the US into a security-obsessed police state that deprives its citizens of liberty and Horowitz’s relationship with the Black Panthers.
On paper, Horowitz was an ideal choice as interviewee: what made a left-wing activist who supported the civil rights movement and the Black Panthers, and whose parents were strongly pro-Soviet, turn to the political polar opposite and support President Reagan in the 1980s and convert to an ardent Zionist, distrustful of Hamas and Palestinians generally? Assange isn’t able to ask the question due to the arguing between Horowitz and Zizek and his deference to those boxing heavyweights but later in the discussion when Horowitz recounts his experiences with the Black Panthers, one gets the impression that his conversion to the politically conservative viewpoint was less dramatically Damascene and more grubbily out of pique at being ostracised by former left-wing friends upset at someone’s death which Horowitz says was wrongly blamed on him. (This suggests that his left-wing views must not have been very deeply held and felt; surely one’s political beliefs shouldn’t be contingent on one’s friendships?) If ever we needed to know the difference between ACTING like an idiot and actually BEING an idiot, Horowitz and Zizek provide it in buckets: Zizek jumps up and down, waves his arms furiously, but his opinions demonstrate that he lives in the real world with the rest of us while Horowitz spouts one stupidity after another: he calls the European social welfare state experiment a disaster and sees it as a “cultural theme park” and Sweden as having no morals. For Horowitz, US President Obama is a “leftist” and “leftism” is responsible for most of the world’s problems including the abysmal state of post-Hussein Iraq and the erosion of freedoms, security and peace in the US.
There is no shortage of former left-wing political activists who now have conservative opinions and positions on most political / social / economic issues: in the US, they often follow the philosophy of Leo Strauss, support the notion of radical change and believe the US should invade other countries to bring “democracy” and “freedom” to their supposedly benighted inhabitants. The architects of the Project for the New American Century who include Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and various others fall into this neo-conservative camp and anyone of them could have been interviewed. It would have been instructive for viewers if Assange could have quizzed Horowitz on what he might know of Strauss and his position on what the US and NATO should do about Libya, Syria and Iran. (The bit where Horowitz suggests people are the problem and hence “checks and balances” are needed against them is creepy and one might think he would welcome the Straussian viewpoint that people must be deceived with ideology and religion.)
On the other hand, there seem to be very few public intellectuals of a formerly politically conservative background who now hold what might be considered centre-left views and are critical of US, Israel and NATO and their actions in the world today, available for interview: Zizek with his history of opposing Communists in the old Yugoslavia is a compromise. Probably a better candidate to oppose Horowitz would have been US economist Paul Craig Roberts, the former Reagan government official who would have countered Horowitz’s views on Palestine, the US invasion of Iraq, and the loss of freedom and rights in the US more lucidly than the excitable Zizek; another suitable candidate might have been US writer Justin Raimondo who edits the Antiwar.com website and who is highly critical of Israel and US foreign policy.
Anyway the terms “left” and “right” in their political sense hardly mean anything any more as so-called “leftists” are no different from the so-called political conservative side in wanting to invade and pillage other countries for their resources or for not playing ball in granting “democracy” and “freedom” to their populations so that US and other Western corporations can infiltrate their minds with consumerist values and ideologies and rob them of economic / cultural / political autonomy. Hard to believe that Julian Assange still peddles this tired old paradigm of distinguishing between two similar camps of economic rationality when the real distinctition should be between those who would centralise power and deny freedom to people on the one hand and on the other those who favour decentralisation and diffusion of power, freedom and responsibility. After all he’s been put through by the US (dominated by political / social “rightists” who believe in “individualism” if it applies to corporations) and Sweden (dominated by political / social “leftists” who believe in “egalitarianism” if it means enforcing social and economic conformity on individuals) but then his series is pitched at the general public whose political education is elementary to say the least.
As it is, the discussion between Horowitz and Zizek amounts to very little amid the quarrelling and Assange is almost forced to manhandle Zizek away from punching Horowitz’s face on the laptop screen. At the very least, we find out more about Horowitz’s view of the world than we ever want to know. Thanks Julian, for giving us a glimpse into the hardline US conservative worldview and showing that it’s even more moronic than our wildest nightmares could have conjured up.