Mirko Petric on Tue, 15 Feb 2000 17:42:04 +0100


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Syndicate: ZIZEK ON HAIDER


Dear friends,

Two points re: Zizek's article "Why We All Love to Hate Haider"

(1) Zizek's argument is neatly structured and presented. Too bad it does not 
correspond to reality. It suffices to refer to the data on the situation of 
contemporary Austrian artists mailed to the Syndicate during the discussion 
of Robert Fleck's boycott call, to be able to demonstrate that for that 
particular group in Austrian society (and equally for foreigners, and in end 
effect for Austrians themselves) there exist a very palpable and real 
difference between voting for the Socialists or the People's Party (which 
then enters into coalition with Haider's FPOE).  Zizek claims that in 
contemporary Western societies, the opting of the voters for one of the 
usually two dominant liberal-democratic options has the value of opting for 
one of the artificial sweeteners in American cafeterias, distinguished only 
by the color of their packages. It is questionable how much Austrian 
demo-christian People's Party fits the description of a post-modern 
liberal-democratic party Zizek has in mind in this context. But why does he 
then use the artificial sweetner-political party example in the context of 
an article mentioning Haider in its title?
	Futhermore, Zizek's generalization of European extreme right parties as 
options which owe their success with the working class to their 
anti-capitalism (missing from the political programs of the Left), does not 
adequately explain Haider's success with the Austrian electorate. Neither 
Haiders words nor deeds indicate that he is opposed to capitalism, not even 
to multinational capitalism: the first designated finance minister for the 
new Austrian government was the head of the Austrian branch of the 
multinational company "Billa", and the second choice was the head of the 
multinational company "Rewe". Both companies are in majority German 
ownership, and Haider's great-German attitude on Austrian nation as a 
"ideological miscarriage" is well-know. But, Haider also displays American 
flags in his office, has nothing against new technologies, and frequently 
mentions the need for Austria to fit into the economic criteria of the 
developed Western world. His success with the Austrian electorate is not 
based on global anti-capitalism, but on skillful use of the specifically 
Austrian local cultural phobias.
	One has to also ask oneself about the purpose and end effect of Zizek's 
writing. His article does not deal with a very concrete and specific 
situation. Instead, "in the heat of the moment", it presents generalized 
views of the relationship between the mainstream liberal democratic 
ideologies, the ideologies of the extreme right, and of the (missing) 
radical left. The effect of such an approach is a diversion from the 
concrete topic and its consequences.  In Carinthia, where Haider's party has 
been in power for some time now, one can notice a worrying change in the 
treatment of contemporary art (to focus only on the topic of the discussion 
following Robert Fleck's boycott call). Insiders also notice changes in the 
treatment of pschyatric problematic.  The message of Zizek's article, on the 
other hand, is that what all political options in contemporary Western 
societies (except for the unfortunately missing radical left) have to offer 
is more or less the same. If some Haider's follower spoke of the 
National-socialist past in this manner, this would be called "historical 
revisionism". In Zizek's case, I think we are dealing with "historical 
revisionism" taking place while history unfolds.


(2) A friend of  mine who lives in Austria and could not write to Syndicate 
because of the lack of time, said to me the following in a telephone 
conversation: "Zizek's article made me nervous as soon as I saw its title 
/Why We All Like to Hate Haider?/.  The problem of the article,  of Zizek's 
perspective as such lays exactly in the emotionalization of discourse, which 
levels out differences and falsifies relationships. When somebody says "I 
like Hitler", we know that this person is a fascist. But, the sentence "I 
hate Hitler" cannot be the response to the sentence "I like Hitler". This is 
actually what makes us different and this is what Zizek's perspective 
obscures. We can consider Haider a threat, we can actively oppose his 
politics, but this does not mean that we have to hate him or, still worse, 
that we "all" like to hate him. If we accept Zizek's perspective, this would 
mean that a manager who has passed through the Aggressionsabbau 
(decomposition of aggession) training, and who was saying "i hate Hitler" 
until yesterday, could now happily say "I hated Hitler until yesterday, 
today I do not hate Hitler any more. Zizek's emotionalization of discourse 
makes such an approach legitimate as well.
	Furthermore, it really gets on my nerves is ignorance of the 
basic facts: 
since he has decided to write about something, Zizek should be knowledgeable 
of what he is writing about (in this case, Haider and Austria).
	Finally, something regarding accross-the-board equalization of all the 
political options in between the extreme right and the (missing) radical 
left. The other day, I met a girl in Klagenfurt who said to me that she was 
politically neither on the right nor on the left. It was the French 
poststructuralists I learned from a long time ago that this meant she was 
actually on the right. After a brief discussion, she interrupted the 
conversation saying that she actually hated politics. Later on, I have found 
out that she was Haider's family friend."



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