November 4, 2015

Slavoj Žižek calls Tavis Smiley “The Big One”


Zizek would prefer not to

Slavoj Žižek

If you’re interested in hearing the brilliant, sometimes-contentious Slovenian philosopher and Melville House author Slavoj Žižek discuss political correctness, the 2008 financial crisis, and what he sees as one of Malcolm X’s most ingenious insights, check out his two appearances on PBS TV’s Tavis Smiley last month.

In what was clearly a last-minute decision, Smiley extended his interview with Žižek beyond the allotted half-hour, promising viewers a continuation of the discussion the following week. The first segment aired on October 7, and the second picked back up on October 12.

Smiley admirably steered the vigorous flow of Žižek’s discourse as Žižek touched on the American conception of freedom — “extremely complicated level of laws, custom, manners has to be here in order to enable this” — the conflict between Israel and Palestine—“let’s talk about horrible things going on in Arab countries from anti-Semitism and…oppression of women”—and how rapid technological innovation will shape our world — “Technology provides possibilities. It’s up to us to fight for what we will make out of it.”

Few public figures are as passionate as Žižek, and the interview proved as energetic and discursive as his books.

Without time constraints, who knows how long the conversation could have gone on. Of the exchange, Smiley commented, “It’s a rare opportunity for public television, for that matter, any television in this country.” To which Žižek responded, jokingly: “But who are the other television [hosts]? Stupid, boring, and so on. You are the big one! Admit it!”


Kait Howard is a publicist at Melville House.