Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

December 17, 2015

Slavoj Zizek’s shameful bid to tarnish Turkey’s image

Filed under: Syria,Turkey,Zizek — louisproyect @ 9:03 pm

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Slavoj Zizek’s Dec. 9 article in the UK’s New Statesman amounts to little more than anti-Turkey propaganda

ISTANBUL – Slavoj Zizek’s most recent article, published on Dec. 9 in the U.K.’s New Statesman magazine, has been described by some as little more than propaganda unbecoming of an intellectual or an academic.

Ihsan Gursoy, editor of the In-Depth News Analysis Department at Anadolu Agency, responded to Zizek’s article by making the following observations:

Many Turkish readers were surprised by Slavoj Zizek’s Dec. 9 article in the New Statesman.

Unable to forget Zizek’s interesting analysis of German, French and American society based on their respective toilets, many Turkish readers were excited when Zizek said, “We need to talk about Turkey” – expecting to hear a similar psychoanalysis of Turkish society within the context of “Alla Turca” toilets.

Instead, however, Turkey was directly accused by Zizek of collaborating with a terrorist group.

Since the article in question amounted to little more than propaganda – containing a level of impoliteness unbecoming of an intellectual or an academic – we won’t engage in content-based criticism.

Rather, we will discuss the issue only in terms of ethics: editorial ethics and the ethics of accurate citation.

Zizek stated his conclusion at the outset of his article – a conclusion based entirely, with one exception, on quotes that he claimed to have obtained from an Anadolu Agency interview with Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT).

However, Anadolu Agency never conducted or published such an interview, nor had Fidan uttered the words – anywhere – attributed to him by Zizek.

The fabricated quotes attributed to Zizek – and officially refuted by Anadolu Agency on Oct. 20 – were, however, published on Oct. 18 on AWDnews.com, a “news” website of unknown origin.

Writing an article based on arguments from a fabricated news piece – not covered in any reliable news outlet with the exception of a website with no credibility (and which was probably set up with the purpose of producing disinformation) – would be shameful if done by an unscrupulous university student, let alone a highly-respected professor.

No less unethical is the claim – one that could have serious consequences – that a legitimate country is in cahoots with terrorist organizations.

If our imagined student was to submit such an article as a research paper, he would come in for harsh criticism – first for his misuse of sources, then for his credulousness; for considering all information online as true without cross-checking it with other sources.

He may even be accused of plagiarism – since he failed to use quotation marks for sentences taken directly from his “source” – and could ultimately be expelled.

So what, we wonder, would drive a prominent academic like Zizek – who could not but be aware of these basic principles – to write such an article?

Once the arguments obtained from the fabricated quotes found on AWDnews.com are dispensed with, only one of Zizek’s sources remains: David Graeber’s article in the U.K.’s The Guardian newspaper, entitled: “Turkey could cut off Islamic State’s supply lines. So why doesn’t it?”

But Zizek wasn’t satisfied with merely sourcing an article rife with baseless claims. By pretending to quote Graeber indirectly (he does not use quotation marks), Zizek manages to insert his own claims – claims not made by Graeber – into his own article while making them sound as if they came from Graeber.

Graeber, for example, mentions neither Turkey’s alleged facilitating role in Daesh’s oil exports, nor the wounded Daesh terrorists allegedly being treated in Turkey – claims that are made in Zizek’s article.

Zizek could have written a separate paragraph making these claims on his own authority, but why did he feel the need to quote The Guardian’s Graeber?

Setting aside the issue of intellectual honesty for a moment, why didn’t he, as an academic, comply with the basic rules of citation?

As soon as it became clear – on the very same day that the article was published – that the source of the arguments on which the article was based was a fabricated interview, the New Statesman removed these parts of the article and added a note, stating: “This article originally included a statement that was falsely attributed to the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization. This has now been removed.”

Now the question begs itself: does the removal of the inaccurate parts of the article – and the subsequent addition of the explanatory note by the New Statesman – comply with basic editorial ethics?

The answer is no. On the contrary, the mere removal of blatant inaccuracies in such a controversial article serves to hamper healthy discussion of the issues involved.

Simple editorial ethics demand that the writer’s dishonesty be pointed out to the reader, by, for example, adding a note stating something to the effect of “These assertions have been proven false”.

Rather, the magazine merely attempted to cover up the article’s deceptions once they had been exposed, making the New Statesman itself complicit in the editorial dishonesty.

The New Statesman should have kept the article on its site while pointing out its flaws – in the manner we have described above – due to the extreme sensitivity of the assertions made by the author.

What’s more, the magazine should have published an apology to its readers for running the article in the first place.

So we ask the New Statesman directly:

How could you publish an article – on such a sensitive subject – without first subjecting it to a modicum of editorial scrutiny? Without verifying, by merely clicking on a couple of links, whether the sources therein were even remotely credible?

How can such a well-established publication – and such a prominent intellectual, such as Zizek – so easily risk its dignity and reputation?


  1. It does not take much to make the Turkish Government look bad.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — December 17, 2015 @ 10:21 pm

  2. It is bad but Zizek made up bullshit. Furthermore, even though the evil is directed against Kurds and the left, you can’t assume that it is backing ISIS. The AKP’s politics are in line with the Muslim Brotherhood, not people trying to create a medieval state. The AKP is totally neoliberal. It has more in common with Germany’s Christian Democrats than it does with jihadists.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 17, 2015 @ 10:50 pm

  3. I’m no fan of Žižek but you, Mr Proyect, are truly becoming the amen corner for an authoritarian regime that responds to protests with military force. You cannot be taken seriously in your attacks on greenleft.org.au for “uncritically” reporting the views of the Kurdish-led revolutionary left [who were talking about Turkish state support for ISIS a long time before either Žižek or the Russian regime started to] while you are use your blog to uncritically promote the views of Anadolu Agency, the Turkish state news agency.

    Comment by tony — December 18, 2015 @ 12:30 am

  4. One wonders what a similar examination of Zizek’s earlier writings would uncover. There has always been something slippery about him.

    Comment by Richard Estes — December 18, 2015 @ 5:15 am

  5. Woah woah there, even if some quote was made up, Turkey has been supporting ISIS just as much as the Assad regime in 2011-12, and while I don’t buy the “Islamist” argument either, Turkey has every interest to use ISIS against the Kurds and the Syrian government.

    Comment by cartoondiablo — December 18, 2015 @ 8:21 am

  6. This isn’t about Žižek at all. Anadolu Agency are just using him as a straw person for their propaganda — it’s on the public record that Žižek has issues with fact-checking, so he makes a good target. The headline’s reference to his “shameful bid to tarnish Turkey’s image” says it all. What it’s really about is whether the Turkish state gives logistical and material support to ISIS (which they do!).

    Comment by tony — December 18, 2015 @ 10:36 am

  7. Turkey does not support ISIS. It supports the rebels that are fighting both ISIS and Assad, as opposed to the PYD that is only fighting ISIS. For more information on Turkey and ISIS, read the Wikipedia article that is very useful: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkey%E2%80%93ISIL_conflict

    Comment by louisproyect — December 18, 2015 @ 2:08 pm

  8. A reminder to the sick person obsessed with me who has been using Proxy servers for at least five years now: your comments go directly into the trash since I have the tools to identify Proxy servers.

    You really need to get over me. My suggestion is to look into Paxil or some other psychotropic medication. Or better yet, start your own fucking blog calling it The Louis Proyect Watch or some such thing. I am sure it will attract millions of visits.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 18, 2015 @ 4:10 pm

  9. A Wikipedia article is only as good as its sources. The sources of the one Proyect posted are mainly right-wing pro-Turkish state.

    Comment by tony — December 19, 2015 @ 3:00 am

  10. still,casts a bit of doubt on Erdoğan’s claim that he’s not supporting ISIS: “590 suspects from all of the groups targeted had been arrested by 25 July. The arrests included one ISIL member who had allegedly been planning a suicide bombing in Konya.”

    Comment by tony — December 19, 2015 @ 3:23 am

  11. The article’s take on the Ankara bombing: “The 10 October 2015 Ankara bombings cost the lives of 102 people. The responsibility is not yet clear; the government on 12 October pointed at ISIL but refused to rule out possible involvement of PKK or leftist militants.”. Totally ignoring who was targeted in the attack and who stood to gain and the context it occurred but repeating, without comment, Erdoğan’s outlandish claim.

    Comment by tony — December 19, 2015 @ 3:29 am

  12. So do you think that the Wikipedia article falsified the report of Turkey bombing ISIS? Is that sort of like 911 conspiracy theorists arguing that it was a planned detonation at the WTC and a Cruise missile that hit the Pentagon? Interesting.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 19, 2015 @ 4:13 am

  13. To elaborate: the bombings in Suruç and Ankara bookended Erdoğan’s AKP’s campaign of electoral violence, mainly directed at the HDP. They were probably carried out by ISIS. To cite either as evidence of ISIS attacks on the Turkish state is to turn reality on its head, they are indeed evidence that ISIS and the Turkish state work hand-in-glove.

    Comment by tony — December 19, 2015 @ 4:17 am

  14. On airstikes:Turkey has launched thousands of strikes on Kurdish targets in Turkey, Syria and Iraq and has launched 3 strikes against ISIS. This is on the public record. According to the YPG, they bombed an empty field. Your Wikipedia article does not supply a source for the claim that 35 ISIS were killed.

    Comment by tony — December 19, 2015 @ 4:25 am

  15. It seems the best the Wikipedia article can up with is this report from the pro-AKP Daily Sabah reporting that the military told the government that an airstrike killed 5 ISIS at a stage-managed media event. http://www.dailysabah.com/politics/2015/07/24/all-five-isis-terrorists-which-martyred-turkish-officer-were-killed-turkish-armed-forces

    Comment by tony — December 19, 2015 @ 4:35 am

  16. Tony, all you have established is that the AKP is opposed to the Kurdish national liberation movement. If that is your “proof” that it also has the same relationship to ISIS that the USA had to jihadists in Afghanistan when Reagan was president, you are out of your mind. For you everything revolves around the Kurds. This is not a serious way to analyze world politics.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 19, 2015 @ 12:57 pm

  17. No, I have established that the Wikipedia article citing the Ankara bombing as evidence for ISIS opposition to the Turkish state doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and that the Wikipedia article (and you) citing the air strikes as evidence for Turkish state opposition is likewise contentious

    Comment by tony — December 20, 2015 @ 4:49 am

  18. should have read “Turkish state opposition to ISIS”

    Comment by tony — December 20, 2015 @ 4:50 am

  19. Tony, what you can’t explain is Turkey’s well-known on-going support for Syrian rebels who have fought against ISIS. I understand that you are an uncritical mouthpiece for the Syrian Kurds but at least try to understand that not everybody shares your ideology.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 20, 2015 @ 3:35 pm

  20. Coming from a professorial liberal the term “uncritical” is a bit of an insult but less so given the fascistic nature of what those who have recently applied the accusation against me “critically” support. The amen corners of both Assad and Erdoğan are always keen to emphasise that their support for their respective fascist is “critical” but in neither case is it ever critical enough to actually question ludicrous propaganda tropes from the regime in question.
    Anyway, what Mr Proyect says I haven’t explained is something I haven’t tried to explain because it requires no explanation and is irrelevant to anything I’ve said. A quick review of this thread will show that I have consistently refuted every slander Proyect has thrown at the left-wing forces in the Middle East. Proyect has not acknowledged any of these refutations but responded by saying that I haven’t addressed some other slander he then throws in. This method of argument is called “goalpost shifting”.
    As for my ideology, I’m on the left. That is why I support the left in Kurdistan, Syria, Turkey and Iraq. What I find striking about the ideology of Proyect and the amen corner of the Erdoğan regime is how similar it is to the ideology of Assad’s amen corner. I wouldn’t be caught dead sharing either ideology.

    Comment by tony — December 22, 2015 @ 12:24 am

  21. Turkey is playing many double games in Syria and it will end in tears for Erdogan and probably Saudi Arabia, a country that can’t exist with $35 oil. Of course, neither can Russia probably.

    Comment by Jeff — December 27, 2015 @ 11:58 am

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