‘The Rise of Obscene Masters: Taking Donald Trump Seriously’ by Slavoj Žižek

Audio from an event that took place at Birkbeck, University of London on 20 – 21 November 2019.


Not such a long time ago, in a galaxy that now appears far, far away, the public space was clearly distinguished from the obscenities of private exchanges. Today, however, not only we can read in the mass media about the intimate details of public personalities, populist politicians themselves often regress to shameless obscenity. It is the very public domain in which “fake news” circulates, in which rumors and conspiracy theories abound. One should not lose sight of what is so surprising about this rise of shameless obscenity. Traditionally (or in our retroactive view of tradition, at least), shameless obscenity worked as subversive, as an undermining of traditional domination, as depriving the Master of his false dignity. In the 1960s protesting students liked to use obscene words or make obscene gestures to embarrass figures of power and, so they claimed, denounce their hypocrisy. However, what we are getting today, with the exploding public obscenity, is not the disappearance of authority, of Master figures, but its forceful reappearance – we are getting something unimaginable decades ago, obscene Masters.

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