And by a prudent flight and cunning save A life which valour could not, from the grave. A better buckler I can soon regain, But who can get another life again? Archilochus

Monday, May 9, 2022


Slavoj Zizek, "Why I continue to publish on Russia Today"
Yes, I still publish on Russia Today, says philosopher Slavoj Zizek. Some reasons: the American double standards and Julian Assange.

Am I ashamed to publish my texts on Russia Today? No, absolutely not! Here's the main reason why I'm not ashamed. Because one piece of news has passed us by largely unnoticed, while our eyes are mainly focused on the Ukraine war: Julian Assange came one step closer to his extradition to the United States on April 20, 2022, where he is to be tried under the "Espionage Act".

A London court issued a formal extradition order at a hearing, allowing British Home Secretary Priti Patel (who had proposed sending refugees arriving in the UK to Rwanda) to approve his transfer to the US. If convicted, Assange faces up to 175 years in prison.

Yes, we should fully support the Ukrainian resistance. Yes, we should defend Western freedoms. Just imagine with shudder what would have happened to Chelsea Manning if she had been Russian! But our Western freedom also has limits that we should never lose sight of, especially in moments like these, when the "fight for freedom" is on everyone's lips.

We are hearing these days the demand that Putin should be brought before the Hague Tribunal for Russian war crimes in Ukraine. Okay, but how can the U.S. demand this while not recognizing the jurisdiction of the Hague Tribunal for its own citizens?

And to make matters worse, how can they demand Assange's extradition to the US if Assange is not a US citizen, has not been involved in espionage against the US, and all he has done has been to make public the war crimes undoubtedly committed by the US (just think of the famous video, in which US snipers kill Iraqi civilians)?

Assange faces 175 years in prison for merely exposing US crimes beyond doubt. Not to mention the long list of crimes committed by many US presidents! If Putin belongs to The Hague, why not Assange? Why not Bush and Rumsfeld (who is already dead) for his "Shock and Awe" bombing of Baghdad?

It is as if the guideline of recent US policy is a strange reversal of the well-known motto of ecologists: act globally, think locally. This contradiction was best illustrated as early as 2003 by the two-sided pressure exerted by the US on Serbia: US officials simultaneously demanded that the Serbian government extradite the alleged war criminals to the Hague Court AND sign the bilateral treaty with the US, which was intended to oblige Serbia to commit US citizens who allegedly committed war crimes or other crimes against humanity. not to be extradited to any international institution (i.e. to the Hague Court).

No wonder the Serbian reaction was marked by perplexed anger. There were things (not only in relation to Assange, but also in terms of the weaknesses of liberal democracy, Israeli apartheid policies in the West Bank, the aberrations of political correctness, etc.) that I can just post in English on Russia Today. The lesson is that Western democracies also have their downsides, their own censorship, so we have the full right to ruthlessly pit one superpower against the other.

What I have published on RT and what I am now publishing in full support of Ukraine is part of the same struggle for me. Thus, there is no "contradiction" between the fight against anti-Semitism and the fight against what Israel is doing to the Palestinians in the West Bank. If we are forced to choose between Ukraine and Assange, we are lost. Then we sold our soul to the devil.

This need for a common struggle is far from taking a utopian position, but is based on the fact that extreme suffering has far-reaching consequences. In a memorable passage in "Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered," Ruth Klüger describes a conversation with "some advanced doctoral students" in Germany.

It says: "One of them tells how he made the acquaintance in Jerusalem of an old Hungarian Jew who had survived Auschwitz. Yet this man cursed the Arabs and despised them all. 'How can someone from Auschwitz talk like that?' the German asks. I tuned in and argued, perhaps a little more violently than necessary, 'What did you expect? Auschwitz was not an instructive institution [...]. They didn't learn anything there. And certainly not humanity and tolerance.' The concentration camps did not bring anything good, I hear myself say [...]. They were the most useless and pointless facilities imaginable."

In short, despite the extreme horror, Auschwitz was not a place that turned the surviving victims into ethically sensitive subjects who got rid of all petty selfish interests. On the contrary. Part of the horror of Auschwitz was that it also dehumanized many of its victims, turning them into brutal, insensitive survivors unable to make a balanced ethical judgment.

The lesson to be learned from this is a very depressing and sad one: we have to say goodbye to the idea that extreme experiences have something emancipatory, that they enable us to clean up the chaos and open our eyes to the ultimate truth of a situation. Or as Arthur Koestler, the great anti-communist convert, succinctly put it: "When power corrupts, the opposite is true. Persecution corrupts victims, though perhaps in more subtle and tragic ways."

NOW is the time to insist on equal treatment and address the same critical questions to Russia and the West. Yes, we are all Ukrainians now. In the sense that every nation has the right to defend itself like Ukraine.

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