I picked up Slavoj Zizek's book Violence today which has some good jokes, some thought-provoking cultural references and some interesting ideas all delivered with panache. But ultimately I don't trust his judgement. Here's why.
No Socrates, Zizek like many postmodernists, poses as one who knows, who can see through ideology and diagnose the short-sightedness of those in the grip of naive enlightenment ideas or systemic violence that is more or less invisible to most of us. We dim-sighted ones naively rail against what he calls subjective violence (or what we traditionally call 'violence'), apparently blind to systemic and symbolic violence.
Unfortunately when he comes to discussing 'historian' David Irving he seems to commit symbolic violence himself (I feel liberated to use 'violence' in this metaphorical sense by Zizek's own practice). On p.92 of Violence, in the context of a discussion of the Danish cartoons of Muhammad, Zizek suggests that the freedom of the press in the West is not as extensive as we like to believe because we can't tolerate questioning of the Holocaust. He writes
'...we should examine the various prohibitions and limitations which underlie the so-called freedom of the press in the West. Isn't the Holocaust a sacred and untouchable fact? At the every moment when the Muslim protests were raging, the British historian David Irving was in an Austrian prison serving a three-year prison term for expressing his doubts about the Holocaust in an article published fifteen years earlier?' (Zizek, Violence, 2008, p.92)
The latest Philosophy Bites podcast is on Isaiah Berlin's pluralism. Henry Hardy, who worked closely with Berlin for many years, gives a clear and interesting account of Berlin's idea and in the process gives interesting insights into the kind of man Berlin was. He also mentions in passing that in 1997 Tony Blair wrote to Berlin seeking intellectual support...