Taryn Fivek is dressed in all black, backed by Marxist guru Molly Klein AKA RedKahina, who has some kind of Chinese hat and togas loosely knotted around her body. She chews on one and fiddles with it, staring at her internet device. Slavoj Zizek is sitting on the stage, sweating and psychoanalyzing the wild audience. A majority of them have left, including Democracy Now! anchor Amy Goodman. Those that are left are totally involved, cheering and jeering the Slovenian slobberer at each provocation. The Left Forum emcee, Kristin Lawler, is standing in for Goodman who was slated to question Zizek but left without a reason or statement of protest. So this emcee is taking the heat from Fivek like it’s nothing at all while some goon is doing some menacing darting in and out of their personal space. I paused this video for about five minutes and took a long breath. It was almost unwatchable with meaning, the most potent cringe vid on the internet. Who are all these people? Why am I watching this?
I first came across Fivek when perusing Molly Crabapple hatred. Crabapple is a socially engaged artist splattering watercolors that reflect on the horrors of war as often as personal stories of women getting abortions. Under the nome de plume EM Quangel, Fivek wrote a dystopian fiction, Spooks, which warned against Crabapple’s brand of politics. Also she wrote the non-fictional essay, Weaponized Naked Girls, which says of Crabapple’s breed:
Their support of imperialism, combined with their self-promotion as empowered savvy “burlesque dancers” or “naked girls”, combined with their self-portrayal as frightened women under attack, is effective in triggering silence from the left … it would be anti-women, certainly anti-female sexuality, to attack the media as using the nakedness as a screen for pro-NATO positions.
Very well. Absolutely. Actually it must be true because “anti-woman” was my knee-jerk reaction when reading Spooks without its non-fiction analog. Feminism is one of many politics deployed on the margins of neoliberal order as a weapon, there is no doubt. Also it is encouraged within, belonging as it does to hallowed liberal rights, those that cost capitalists nothing. Feminism can be so strongly hegemonic that the CIA funds feminists such as Gloria Steinem to operate in strategic areas.
Among Fivek and comrades, there seems no doubt whatsoever that Crabapple must be a CIA operative. The pseudonymity provided by the EM Quangel alias was necessary for Fivek because it allowed her to continue her work with a UN associated migration publication while speaking out against the western worldview and its propaganda. Molly Crabapple had knowledge of Quangel’s identity for years and deployed the dox strategically. The starving children making doe eyes, supplicating US drones for death, were too precious for any westerner to deny. Only a totally inhuman monster would not happily digest this base propaganda, and the outrage that sly Crabapple witch cooked up against Fivek in conjunction with the doxing likely put Fivek out of her chosen career path forever.
But now Quangel is maybe dead, and Fivek is even more ferocious than her pseudonym. And here she is on this vid, confronting Slavoj Zizek and the Left Forum, leaning the fuck in and insisting that the slobberer can’t use that n-word. And that may be enough to fry your egg on, but there’s more!
Standing behind Quangel is Red Kahina. The biggest name of all in Crabapple hatred on twitter. As a point of massive interest, she gave a talk against Zizek at Left Forum in 2014. It is described in its abstract:
Is Slavoj Zizek a US propaganda psyop? I want to ask my comrades on the left to consider the possibility. After years of research, I have come to the conclusion that Zizek is a charlatan posing as a “Stalinist” to both discredit communists by performing a caricature Bolshevik and simultaneously, to smuggle fascist ideas including old fashioned Aryan supremacism and 19th century race theory, back into public discourse disguised as radical left critique of liberalism.
The talk was entitled Zizek Delenda Est, but Klein later employs the gender corrected slogan “Zizek Delendus Est” so the name is not likely a clever joke for people who took a year or two of Latin in high school. I wish the talk was put together with more care than the title. I want to be convinced. Klein’s quavering voice often sprints off to the end of a statement, and indeed to the end of the talk. Was Zizek a far right agitator in Slovenia, pushing for annexation by the neoliberal order during the breakup of Yugoslavia? A racist nationalist? So little of the situation is explained, each loose connection hangs to the next without clear reference back to Zizek and his particular, specific involvement.
Kahina takes us down some old paths, common tales such as Nietzsche the proto-Nazi, all “French Post-Structuralists” as Heideggerian “cuckoos” and Nazis. During the talk she uses the politically incorrect word “gypsy” to reference Roma and I consider putting this in the “gotcha” sack. But nah, less of a gotcha and more of a meaningless false equivalent. But these things are adding up, and it is also a fair point by now to think to myself, “Why should I listen to her talk about this distant conflict if she cannot even name the people involved by their right name?”
But it is not actually a total flop of a talk. I continue to listen. I am interested now in Zizek’s former career. It could change my opinion of him or his sincerity. The accusations are so serious I cannot dispose them. Maybe Zizek has committed a genocide or been complicit in one. Maybe he is a right wing spook, but past that what can I say? These questions are just left hanging there. Someone in the audience pushes the panel, asks them if they will answer “yes” or not to the question posed by their abstract. Is Zizek a spook? The panel refuses. So much for that. I feel like my time has been wasted.
I stop hyperventilating from the cringe after several minutes and commit to the rest of the video.
Kahina holds her internet device as if a frog is dancing on top of it and smiles with the kind of satisfaction I’d get from seeing such a marvel. The moment the words “you blacks have a big penis” come out of Fivek’s mouth, Kahina looks out to the audience, grinning and holding the toga to her chin. The dwindled crowd erupts into passions and Kahina orders, “Patience!” The exasperated emcee gets her microphone back in the commotion. I am not sure when Fivek got a hold of it to begin with, but the emcee was upset about it. Fivek repeats the obscene Zizek quotation, and Kahina smirks at her internet device. Fivek declares Zizek’s misogyny and racism is now a given, as well as his hatred for refugees entering Europe. She demands that Left Forum organizers answer to this. How much did they pay Zizek and how can they justify it? The emcee answers that the Left Forum organizers considered the complaints against Zizek and that it is a kind of critique that takes his statements out of context. At this point, Fivek, the audience, and Zizek say “the N-word” all at the same time. That is, they are all shouting the euphemism and not the expletive itself. As the camera pans to Zizek, Kahina raises her voice, “You know the context! What about that context changes?” Fivek moves to the center of the audience shouting with the anti-Zizek leaflet raised, and everybody in the room begins to shout. Somewhere in the mix there is the word “Friendship!”
Zizek has been confronted, the smuggled goods are now on display. He answers to the leaflet’s accusations of misogyny, taking a grave tone to defend his position that trauma confuses the accounts of rape survivors, that incoherence should not discredit their testimony as the leaflet wrongly suggests. And he knocks down other critiques just as handily to applause and laughter. But here and there I hear a lone laughter at moments that seem wrong, carrying some kind of inscrutable, disturbing message. At times through the shoddy, echoing audio it sounds like a defeated, traumatized sob.
The smuggler is caught red handed in the open, and he empties his pockets. Inside are all the same old tricks that poke fun at “white liberal antiracism,” a phrase that gets the last big laugh of the night. The emcee Lawler thanks Zizek and ends the talk, but I want more. I still want more and I scrape twitter for every mention of Zizek, but nothing satisfies. I type tweet after tweet trying to wrap my head around the politics, personalities, and power dynamics at play at this mad talk. Kahina and Fivek are the underdogs, the heretics, the ones resisting a pleasant night with a talented and well-loved speaker and they’re raising a great alarm that is so urgent and compelling I want to know more. I have to know. I want to be able to explain it, understand it, and not stick to empty assertions that are so easily laughed off. I am still searching for this smuggled fascism and racism when I come across a pair of tweets from Kahina. I don’t want to believe they’re real. I hope they’re a joke. Kahina makes an admission of white privilege into white supremacy as neat as I’ve ever seen. Just who’s smuggling what, and why is a professional, expert young woman like Fivek with such explicit, strong views to the contrary an attack dog for this kind of white savior junk?