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?