Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Better To Be A Contrarian than Vapid

Nothing like the recent election in the United States to give me a reason to discuss Slavoj Zizek and Bernard-Henri Levy in the same post. 

The contrarian weighs in, arguing that Obama is more than Bush with a human face:
 So should we write Obama off? Is he nothing more than Bush with a human face? There are signs which point beyond this pessimistic vision. Although his healthcare reforms were mired in so many compromises they amounted to almost nothing, the debate triggered was of huge importance. A great art of politics is to insist on a particular demand that, while thoroughly realist, feasible and legitimate, disturbs the core of the hegemonic ideology. The healthcare reforms were a step in this direction – how else to explain the panic and fury they triggered in the Republican camp? They touched a nerve at the core of America's ideological edifice: freedom of choice.
So today, it's ideology critique. Maybe tomorrow it will be the hyperbolic Leninism, and he'll remind us that nobody is quite as revolutionary as himself.

Sure, that's a cynical reading of Zizek, which I think is a product of reading far too much of his work. But Zizek is also far more engaging than our vapid French "intellectual". BHL declares the election--the outcome of which he so foresightedly "predicted"--a great day for America. Why?
It is a victory for a moderate man, whose charisma remains intact.
That's the first reason: a man's got to have him his charisma. That's so important that it overshadows whatever else makes the election great.

Perhaps we can get more specific:
It is a victory for his strategy of government intervention that has allowed the United States to weather the storm for four years.
The the second aspect of this victory strikes me as ambiguous. It seems to be commending Obama's mild commitment to using government to blunt the effects of the economic downturn. But when I hear "intervention" from BHL, I think Libya, meaning that he could also be commending Obama's continued commitment to the "war on terror" or whatever it's called now.

This is followed with a bit of non-self-reflexive pundit scolding, so that BHL can reinforce  his view of what makes the election such an event. I know you're waiting for it:
It is a historic victory.
It is a great day for America and for the world.
Sometimes great nations have a rendezvous with greatness, and such is the case today.
So bold! So declarative! So historic that it can be encapsulated, if we leave out the blathering about pundits, in the most profound 262 words you'll ever read.

Or, perhaps, BHL dashed it off while nursing a wicked hangover.

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