Žižek, the "authentic political event," and intellectual freedom

Added on by Keegan Osinski.

I'm leading a discussion in my intellectual freedom class next week based on THIS ARTICLE and thought I'd share it here to drum up some more ideas and discussion.

Julian Assange’s work with Wikileaks enacts the self-negation of  “spying” by undermining its principle of secrecy and making information public. This is a greater political act than simply selling secrets to an enemy, which would preserve the secrecy of the information. Do you agree with Žižek that this “spying for the people” and the bringing to light of the government’s secrets can indeed lead to creating the self-aware proletariat? The act itself of bringing information into the commons does not create a knowledgeable public. How can we encourage people to exercise their intellectual freedom, in light of people who are risking everything to make information available to them?

Žižek identifies the French Encyclopedia as the symbol of bourgeois modernity, and says that while the idea of Wikipedia is that it be the people’s encyclopedia, it is falling into the same pitfalls of power and privilege one would expect of a publication edited by mostly white North American men (see this article and this article for more about Wikipedia’s biases). He asserts that Assange’s (and Snowden’s and Pussy Riot’s) work is to stir up the hidden and suppressed information, and bring it into the commons alongside the “mainstream,” “normative” information. What are some ways you can think of to promote and support ignored and repressed information--that of the people of the margins and that which the powers seek to purposely keep from us?

Do you agree that the information commons is a “key domain of the class struggle”? Žižek points out that “The World Wide Web seems to be in its nature Communist, tending towards free flow of data” and that therefore the “business establishment” is trying to privatize and monetize that data by any means necessary--including selling individuals’ personal information. We see this playing out in the struggle for net neutrality and in Facebook’s use of its users’ information. Do you think there is significance in saying that the web is “communist” rather than “democratic” or “populist”? What would the difference be? Also, what does all of this mean in terms of the digital divide? Not everyone truly has the unfettered access to the internet that we bourgeois millennials take for granted.

BONUS: Kester Brewin's TEDx Talk on pirates and bringing information into the commons

"Pirates were not hated because they stole. Pirates were hated for refusing to pass on what they stole to the king."

Let me know if you have any thoughts on the questions I pose, or the article in general.