Slavoj Žižek: Political Correctness is a More Dangerous Form of Totalitarianism

Slavoj Žižek: Political Correctness is a More Dangerous Form of Totalitarianism


Slavoj Zizek: Of course I have nothing against
the fact that your boss treats you in a nice way and so on. The problem is if this not
only covers up the actual relationship of power but makes it even more impenetrable.
You know, if you have a boss who is up there, the old fashioned boss shouting at you, exerting
full brutal authority. In a way it’s much easier to rebel than to have a friendly boss
who embraces you or how was the last night with your girlfriend, blah, blah, all that
buddy stuff. Well then it almost appears impolite to protest. But I will give you an example,
an old story that I often use to make it clear what do I mean by this. Imagine you or me,
I’m a small boy. It’s Sunday afternoon. My father wants me to visit our grandmother.
Let’s say my father is a traditional authority. What would he be doing? He would probably
tell me something like I don’t care how you feel, it’s your duty to visit your grandmother.
Be polite to her and so on. Nothing bad about this I claim because I can still rebel and
so on. It’s a clear order. But what would the so called post-modern non-authoritarian
father do? I know because I experienced it. He would have said something like this. You
know how much your grandmother loves you but nonetheless I’m not forcing you to visit
her. You should only visit her if you freely decide to do it. Now every child knows that
beneath the appearance of free choice there is a much stronger pressure in this second
message. Because basically your father is not only telling you you must visit your grandmother
but you must love to visit it. You know he tells you how you must feel about it. It’s
a much stronger order. And I think that this is for me almost a paradigm of modern permissive
authority. This is why the formula of totalitarianism is not – I don’t care what you think,
just do it. This is traditional authoritarianism. The totalitarian formula is I know better
than you what you really want and I may appear to be forcing you to do it but I’m really
just making you do what without fully knowing what you want and so on. So in this sense
yes, I am horrified by this. Also another aspect this new culture of experts where an
injunction is presented just as a neutral statement. For example, one example that I like and let’s
not have a misunderstanding here. I don’t smoke and I’m for punishing tobacco companies
and so on and so on. But I’m deeply suspicious about our phobia about smoking. I don’t
buy it that this can be really justified just based on scientific knowledge how cigarettes
hurt us and so on and so on. Because my first problem is that most of the people who oppose
smoking then usually are for legalization of grass and so on and so on. But my basic
problem is this one. Look, now they found a more or less solution – e-cigarettes,
electronic cigarettes. And I discovered that now big American airline companies decided
to prohibit them. And it’s interesting to read the reason why. The reason is not so
much that it’s not yet sure are they safe or not. Basically they are. The idea is that
if you smoke during the flight e-cigarette you publicly display your addiction and that
is not a good pedagogical example for others and so on and so on. I mean I find this a clear example of how
a certain ethics which is not just neutral ethics of health but basically I think it’s
ethics of don’t fall into it, don’t have a too passionate engagement. Remain at the
proper distance, control yourself and so on. And now I will shock you to end. I think even
racism can be ambiguous here. You know once I made an interview where I was asked how
do we find reactionary racism. You know what was my answer. With progressive racism. Then,
ah, ah, what do you mean? Of course I didn’t mean racism. What I meant is the following
things. Of course racist jokes and so on can be extremely oppressive, humiliating and so
on. But the solution I think is to create an atmosphere
or to practice these jokes in such a way that they really function as that little bit of
obscene contact which establishes true proximity between us. And I’m talking from my own
past political experience. Ex-Yugoslavia. I remember when I was young when I met from
other – when I met with other people from ex-Yugoslavia republics – Serbs, Croat,
Bosnians and so on. We were all the time telling dirty jokes about each other. But not so much
against the other. We were in a wonderful way competing who will be able to tell a nastier
joke about ourselves. These were obscene racist jokes but their effect was a wonderful sense
of shared obscene solidarity. And I have another proof here. Do you know
that when civil war exploded in Yugoslavia, early nineties and already before in the eighties
ethnic tensions. The first victims were these jokes, they immediately disappeared. Because
people felt well that, for example, let’s say I visit another country. I hate this politically
correct respect, oh, what is your food, what are your cultural forms. No, I tell them tell
me a dirty joke about yourself and we will be friends and so on. It works. So you see
this ambiguity – that’s my problem with political correctness. No it’s just a form
of self-discipline which doesn’t really allow you to overcome racism. It’s just
oppressed controlled racism. And the same goes here. I will tell you a wonderful story,
a simple one. It happened to me a year ago around the corner here in the bookstore. I
was signing a book of mine. Two black guys came, African Americans, I don’t like the
term. My black friends also not, because for obvious reasons it can be even more racist. But the point is and they asked me to sign
a book and seeing them there I couldn’t resist the worst racist remark. When I was
returning the books to them I told them you know, I don’t know which one is for whom,
you know, you blacks like yellow guys, you look all the same. They embraced me and they
told me you can call me nigga. You know when they tell you this it means we are really
close. They instantly got this. Another stupid problem I had. At some talk there was a mute
and deaf guy and he asked if a translator can be there. And I couldn’t resist it.
In the middle of the talk in front of 200-300 people I said what are you doing there guys.
My idea was that if you watch the gestures of the translator it looked to me as if some
obscene messages or what. The guy laughed so much we became friends. And some old stupid
lady reported me for making fun of crippled people. It was so didn’t she see that’s
how I became friends with the guy. But I’m – wait a minute. Now I’m not an idiot.
I’m well aware this doesn’t mean we should just walk around and humiliate each other.
It’s a great art how to do it. I’m just saying that’s my hypothesis. Without such
a tiny exchange of friendly obscenities you don’t have a real contact with another. It remains this cold respect and so on, you
know. We need this. We need this to establish a real contact. This is what is lacking for
me in political correctness. And then you end up in madness like it’s not a joke.
I checked with my Australian friend. You know what happened in Perth, the west coast Australian
city. It’s not a joke I repeated. The opera house there prohibited staging of Carmen.
Opera Carman, you know why? Because the first act takes place in front of a tobacco factory.
I’m not kidding. I’m not kidding. I’m just saying that there is something so fake
about political correctness. It’s – I know it’s better than open racism of course.
But I wonder if it works because, you know, I never for example bought all these permanent
replacement, you know. Niggers are Negros. Negros are black. Okay, black are African
Americans. Maybe – it’s up to them to decide. The only thing I know is that when
I was in Missoula, Montana, I got engaged in a very friendly conversation with some
Native Americans. They hate the term and they gave me a wonderful reason. They told me Native
American and you are a cultural American so what, we are part of nature. They told me
we much preferred to be called Indians. At least our name is a monument to white men’s
stupidity who thought they are in India when they come here. And they had such a wonderful
insight into how all this new age bullshit, you know, we white people technologically
exploit nature while natives relate to nature in a dialogic way like before they dig into
earth they ask the mountain for permission if they are mining blah, blah. They don’t
mean that – research shows that Native Americans, Indians, killed much more buffalos and burned
much more forests than white people. You know why this was the correct point. Like the message
was the most racist thing is to patronizingly elevate us in that, you know, primitive, organic,
living together with mother nature. No, their fundamental right is to be evil also. If we
can be evil, why shouldn’t they be evil and so on. So again even with racism, one
has to be very precise not to fight racism in a way which ultimately reproduces if not
directly racism itself at least the conditions for racism.

100 Comments on "Slavoj Žižek: Political Correctness is a More Dangerous Form of Totalitarianism"


  1. Spot on analysis! PC is the most vile, insidious and hypocritical thing the conservative mind has ever come up with. Totally alienated me from my supposedly left-wing academic surroundings.

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  2. tyhis was back when this channels wasn't drivel that supports political correct fascism.

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  3. Yuk–this guy's arguments are all over the place BUT DO NOT CLEARLY explain or show how PC is dangerous at all??? So forcing racists to "not" be racists doesn't work for many people, so what?

    I don't like any form of totalitarianism either on its face, but science uses facts as a form of totalitarianism, doesn't it? But what is true is true where the facts settle the matter. As long as science isn't requiring us to sell our souls, what's wrong with it? So requiring men not to beat their wives or encourage others to do so, is totalitarian> and worse will not only fail to protect women from abusive husbands but somehow inspire men to beat their wives? No no no no no! Wrong!

    What is correct is correct; whether it is morally, scientifically, politically, or socially, or culturally.
    President Trump is not at all PC because his words and actions have caused harm to mexican immigrants/citizens, women, Black Americans, and others. For this he should be forced to resign or impeached. How can you be the president of ALL AMERICANS if you do not respect all Americans equally?
    Public servants should be required to be ABOVE ALL BIGOTRY and any such allegation should be investigated and dealt with seriously.

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  4. This is fascinating. Go to a city with a large black population ask a black person for the most obscene joke about black people they know of (just make sure it's not in earshot of white liberals).

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  5. This seems like it's just a criticism of liberal tokenism than actual intersectionality.

    It would be better, I think, if he would define exactly what he's talking about when he says "political correctness".

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  6. 11:00 Many Indians had the tradition of the "potlatch", in which tribes would host one another for a grand feast. It often became a competition as to who could be the most conspicuously wasteful in order to show off material wealth. This was done by pouring gallons of rendered tallow on the fire or other displays of excess.

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  7. I'd like to share a few pints with Slavoj. The only thing is to remember to keep a napkin over my glass.

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  8. Every ethnic group but Europeans is allowed to have a homeland where they reign uncontested.
    Keep your borders closed, eastern Europe, don't let these nu, multicolored, islamist nazis infect your cultures and wash them away into history.
    This is from a former countryman, these liberals are like animals.

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  9. When a cop starts speaking formally, you know you're in trouble. That rigid, forced politeness sets off alarms. It establishes a barrier preventing genuine interaction.

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  10. Genius. I wish he could more clearly make his points. It would be so beautiful to watch if he was elegant in english

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  11. Zizek is as mad as a box of frogs, he makes some great points, however he does not understand the term 'everything in moderation', if Zizek had his way, the world would be utter and total anarchy, there would be no possessions, and everyone would be wired for action 24/7, and then how would we sleep? ir follows that we would have to build heirarchies, we would need leadership, because we are designed to cooperate and look after each other, and all primates have leadership, and leadership itself is the ultimate stress, as you have the group on your shoulders, you are not treading all over your group to get to the top, you are supoorting your group to be able to stay on top.

    I would love to know what Zizek thinks about Orwell's work.

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  12. I want to give this champion a Kleenex or some more coke…one of the two. Now that I think of it, why not both?

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  13. When I first heard the term political correctness I didn't think much of it. This was just before the internet. By the time I heard that something wasn't politically correct for the third time, I wondered "WHO is telling us this? Who are THEY? WHERE are they? HOW do they get these ideas to ME? HOW does this WORK? and how are they deciding for everyone what is CORRECT?". If I grabbed a hold of that line whenever it was said to me, where would it lead to? Where did it originate and how did it effectively travel to me?

    Also, this man punctuates every sentence with a nose squeeze. Im going to recommend a decaffeinated coffee.

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  14. Yep, humorous insults are among human universals, you can find them in every culture, no matter how separated or primitive. They are in our very nature and they are there for a reason.

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  15. The premise that we can only connect as human beings by telling infantile jokes is absurd. Sniff another 8 pops.

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  16. For anyone who wants to use this as an excuse to be racist or transphobic etc: the main point of this is that Political Correctness isn't working to get rid of these forms of discrimination and we need a new tactic (plus, Zizek would probably hate you if you used this as an excuse to misgender trans folk or something like that)

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  17. Political Correctness is Newspeak.

    Newspeak is the language of Oceania, a fictional totalitarian state and the setting of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), by George Orwell. To meet the ideological requirements of English Socialism (Ingsoc) in Oceania, the ruling Party created Newspeak, a controlled language of restricted grammar and limited vocabulary, meant to limit the freedom of thought — personal identity, self-expression, free will — that threatens the ideology of the régime of Big Brother and the Party, who have criminalized such concepts into thoughtcrime, as contradictions of Ingsoc orthodoxy.

    That is what Political Correctness is due to them punishing us for not conforming to Political Correctness which they use in order to create a controlled language of restricted grammar and limited vocabulary, meant to limit the freedom of thought — personal identity, self-expression, free will — that threatens the ideology of the régime of those who have criminalized such concepts into thoughtcrime, as contradictions of the oppressor's orthodoxy.

    Political Correctness will lead to it being a crime to believe in Jesus and it be a crime punishable by death and preaching the gospel will also be a crime punishable by death.

    Those who enforce Political Correctness all hate Jesus and the gospel due to those enforcing Political Correctness are in truth liars and antichrists who do the will of their father the devil who comes to steal, kill and destroy.

    To those who pass these antichrist laws are worshipers of their father the devil who seeks to ban us from believing in Jesus and from preaching the gospel:

    We ought to obey God rather than men.

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  18. The best thing about this video is how beautifully he expresses his ideas that I understand perfectly… while speaking an incomprehensible language 😂😂

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  19. Does S Zizek has allergic rhinities or something? Probably. Does this creates a speech impediment making listening to him slightly harder. Yes. Is he responsible? Who knows. Would someone bully him ? No. Why? Because he's educated and intelligent and fun to listen to. And that's the lesson. Artificially enforcing PC will solve nada. People instead should ampify their good qualities to make up for their impediments.

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  20. Somebody give that man a tissue! Mr. Zizek has a runny nose on almost every single interview and debate and no one gives him a god damn tissue > . <

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  21. Alt-Right "The left wants to block our freedom of speech with political correctness!!"
    Žižek "Nigga whaaaat?"

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  22. “It’s up to them to decide”… we’ll, there’s my only minor gripe with Zizek here. Who is “them”? If you want to ditch political correctness properly, then I would say ditch all notion of “the other”. No boundaries.

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  23. I remember in the 90's when I was still a kid i had a group of friends composed of white and blacks and we would tell racist jokes to one another and no one took it seriously. Now there's a purple haired land whale on every corner shouting "RACIST!" on every fucking corner.

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  24. The idiocy of Zizek is that he doesn't understand that there is no getting rid of authoritarian structures and that the system that he wants to use to get rid of authoritarian structures must be even more authoritarian that those he is trying to get rid of.

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  25. You don't have to be crude to be real with people. That seems more like a style choice. Some people are authentically sweetly innocent and/or unfunny. We can't all be bawdy like Zizek. That would be yet another kind of fascism.

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  26. interesting point, but please correct me if I'm wrong on the following:

    I think this dirty jokes hypothesis of his only works for and between intellectual people like himself, his readers/fans etc. and not for common people or "simpletons" like that lady who protested against him joking about the disabled person or the people responsible for banning Carmen from the opera for that reason. Most people unfortunately are not mentally mature enough to use such ambiguous humor, they would eventually take it seriously. Words and languages shape their minds, and not the other way around. They will start internalizing oppression that lies within those phrases or jokes and it will become second nature to really think that it is true. Isn't that how stereotypes and oppressive behavior are born in the first place?

    I don't know, just a thought, let me know what you think

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  27. Not that there aren’t fair points here. It’s important that we can joke with one another, and it would be helpful if we were better at taking context into account before taking offence. There are enough examples of people being pilloried for poor wording rather than actual racism.

    But look how things worked out in the years after this video: we elected a US president who openly expresses fascist ideas; fascist leaders in power in Brazil and Hungary; the far right destroying the social fabric of the UK; a UK prime minister who has referred to black people as “piccaninies with watermelon smiles”… Correcting the excesses of political correctness is not the social cause of our time.

    Do we really want to normalise hearing the n word from the mouths of white people, even as a joke? Like, really?

    Every one of these “I’m not racist but political correctness has gone too far” think pieces just emboldens the loons even further, and undermines the helpful kind of political correctness in the minds of otherwise moderate members of the public.

    By all means have the conversation if you must, but I think it is responsible to include some very, very clear lines. Much clearer than were drawn here.

    Also on political correctness https://youtu.be/x_JCBmY9NGM

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  28. The Yugoslav jokes and way of becoming close are still a part of our culture there. And as an immigrant to the US they drive me insane

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  29. “Political correctness” is a concept invented by the privileged to transform basic respect into something political and therefore controversial.

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  30. Those "small friendly obscenities" work because they cut through pretense and identity, and cause people to relate on a very basic level. It's a brilliant idea.

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  31. 1) Choice in case of child and father relation when he offers him to visit
    2) In case of white and black racism, one is colonizer and another is discriminated as inferior on the basis of color where is the scope for obscene jokes and proximity, that might apply if czechslovakians enslaved each other
    If this guy is a philosopher I must say intellectuals have really moved to science

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  32. Liberals truly believe they're moraly superior, they uses that as a way to make you do what they want, making you believe you are making what you want or what is right, the mainstream media loves to praise democracy, (I'm not against it, I just sees different from them), because they know they generally have the power to decide who wins and who loses, Trump victory was a USA victory in a sense that Americans are saying to them they no longer control them, that America democracy are flourishing and maturing.

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  33. I find it inherently dehumanizing to raise any sort of group onto a platform of untouchable lables. it removes nuance and their basic rights to be regarded as fellow humans. despite many differences we are still the same species, meaning we are equally prone to mistakes and equally brilliant in our successes. alienating these qualities would make a group a caricature of who they are.

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  34. its always the "evil" boss. OMG. go start your own company then. but you wont. go get a better job, but you wont. its just too easy to blame everyone else. sick socialists wannabees.

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  35. What have you been snorting, Slavoj? What ever it is, pass it around! And that shared obscene solidarity? That is more cultural, more eviscerating due to the time and place. Ultimately, it is about competing to show that you are witty, sharp, and ultimately intelligent in some shared and acknowledged way. For many people, the best you will get is for them to be self-disciplined about racism. Prejudices run very deep.

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  36. Although I am against political correctness to an extreme level, this is really stupid argument. Zizek thinks we should allow racist words because he needs that to connect with his friend. The bookstore example he gave is pure nonsense. The reason the two guys embraced the joke and didn't retaliate was that, 1) he is zizek and they know it's his way of talking. 2) it was a friendly remark.

    Imagine the two guys, after the book signing session, walking back home when someone calls them 'nigger' on the street. Would these two gentlemen behave the same? What if that someone keeps calling them nigger nigger nigger nigger. Would these gentlemen ignore or embrace? NO! They would retaliate. The point is, within know circle, it is OK to be racist. We need some rules so that the unknown people don't use that to humiliate us.

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  37. I like Zizek, because unlike many of his fans, he doesn't act like he's manning the barricades in the Paris commune while living a comfortable first world existence. Plus he is entertaining.

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  38. Indeeeed, all conspiracy theories concocted by the extreme right, contain the danger of totalstaat re-enacting

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  39. See, I think this is on track despite my knee jerk reaction to deny PC as being a thing.

    At the same time to rebel against PC, which (seems to me) mostly only people with an authoritarian, totalitarian, hierarchical schema that think authoritarians are pushing these belief and attitudes down their throats. I mean to some point they are right, some people are authoritarians and push it down their throats. Many of us actually are more considerate, accommodating and just have some genuine respect and regard for our peers. There are so many institutions, army, corporations and other traditional organizations are organized and operated in a totalitarian manner. It is no wonder it's a common mental frame, and that does make PC more about manipulation to gain compliance. (Compliance is objective term but to those with an authoritarian like mental frame on reality compliance means something different which is another long conversation). We need to deconstruct the automatic tendency to frame stuff in this top down authoritarian manner and along with that, PC phenomenon is kind of diminished. The goal behind PC, which is about consideration and compliance being framed as just yes or no, not rejection/defiance or acceptance of someones demands/authority/power which itself is inconsiderate and comes from a place of disregard in the first place, is sort of let free or expressed instead of repressed.

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