« back to In conversation: Assange, Žižek and Goodman home


Žižek: WikiLeaks is a threat to power

This Saturday (2 July) renowned Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek will appear at a special Frontline Club “in conversation” event alongside WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange and award winning investigative journalist Amy Goodman.

Widely held as one of the most influential living philosophers – and once described as “the Elvis of cultural theory” – Žižek will discuss with Assange and Goodman the ethics and philosophy behind WikiLeaks.

No stranger to the WikiLeaks debate, Žižek has wrote extensively on the issues surrounding the whistleblower organisation in the past.

In his book, Living in the End Times, he argues that new ways of using and sharing information -- in particular WikiLeaks -- are one of the factors heralding the end of global capitalism as we know it.

And in an essay written exclusively for the Yaroslavl Initiative in 2010, shortly after WikiLeaks began releasing a tranche of classified US Diplomatic Cables, Žižek wrote:

What WikiLeaks threatens is the formal mode of functioning of power: the innermost logic of diplomatic activity was in a way delegitimized. The true target were not just dirty details and individuals responsible for them (to be eventually replaced by others, more honest), or, more succinctly, not those in power, but power itself, its structure. We should not  forget that power comprises not only its institutions and rules, but also legitimate (‘normal’) ways of challenging it (independent press, NGOs, etc.) – and, as Saroj Giri put it succinctly, Wikileaks activists ‘challenged power by challenging the normal channels of challenging power and revealing the truth.’

WikiLeaks exposures do not address us, citizens, merely as dissatisfied individuals hungry for dirty secrets of what happens behind the closed doors in the corridors of power; their aim was not just to embarrass those in power. Wikileaks exposures bring with themselves a call to mobilize ourselves in a long struggle to bring about a different functioning of power which reaches beyond the limits of representative democracy.

In another essay, entitled Good Manners in the Age of WikiLeaks, published by the London Review of Books in 2011, Žižek suggests Assange is “a real-life counterpart to the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight”.

“The film’s take-home message is that lying is necessary to sustain public morale: only a lie can redeem us,” he writes of the film. “No wonder the only figure of truth in the film is the Joker, its supreme villain.”

Žižek goes on to ask a series of crucial questions about the implications WikiLeaks, many of which will no doubt be addressed on 2 July, when he meets with Assange in person:

The WikiLeaks story has been represented as a struggle between WikiLeaks and the US empire: is the publishing of confidential US state documents an act in support of the freedom of information, of the people’s right to know, or is it a terrorist act that poses a threat to stable international relations? But what if this isn’t the real issue?

What if the crucial ideological and political battle is going on within WikiLeaks itself: between the radical act of publishing secret state documents and the way this act has been reinscribed into the hegemonic ideologico-political field by, among others, WikiLeaks itself?

Julian Assange in conversation with Slavoj Žižek, moderated by Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman, will take place on 2 July at the Troxy In East London. More information and tickets for the event can be found here.