Pacific Rim offers a somewhat messy allegory. In the East, a monstrous alien power is rising in the form of kaiju, or alien sea monsters. Humans counter with jaegers, robotic war machines. The final jaegers seem to represent various capitalist modes of production: Fordist, Soviet, post-Fordist and an Australian one I didn’t get. Spoiler: the somewhat forlorn old-model American jaeger, with a little international cooperation, ends up saving the world.
Mainly, however, the film consists of slugfests between ponderous titans thigh-deep in the Pacific Ocean. Puny people look on apprehensively, adjuncts so unnecessary to the action that it remains unclear why they are there at all. What are the stakes again? Right, the fate of humankind. Still, as in Alien vs. Predator, it is appealing enough to watch great beasts settle their obscene and obscure contretemps. Crash! Boom! Bang!
Just so the current online war between Noam Chomsky and Slavoj Zizek: megafauna of political philosophy, pop star penseurs from the great generation of intellectuals ringing the Atlantic. Linguist Chomsky is loosely associated with small-a anarchism, inimical to the state and particularly to imperialism’s murderous freebooting. Zizek, the Slovenian thinker who triangulates himself via Hegel, Marx and psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, is increasingly associated with capital-C communism. He speaks sympathetically (it is hard to adjudge the irony) of Lenin and Stalin.
These are inevitably caricatures. It would be impossible to capture herein the nuance and breadth of their prodigious outputs. Moreover, Chomsky and Zizek share basic agreements: capitalism and the state it commands must go; this seems unlikely to happen on its own before things go from intolerable to really intolerable; let’s get on it.
One distinguishing question centers on why this process has not already commenced in earnest. Chomsky is a true believer in the clear fact. In his accounting, for various reasons (most significantly the complicit self-disciplining of the media), it’s because people lack adequate knowledge of the horrors being perpetrated hourly by their governments. He has implacably devoted decades to bringing these crimes to common knowledge.
Zizek is not hostile to facts. Still, he concerns himself with the human capacity to proceed as if they didn’t exist or were exactly reversed, even when we “know” them perfectly well. He locates the blockage in a mercurial flux of desire and ideology, in the elaborate and contradictory attachments of human psyches to powers that will destroy them. No amount of Chomskyan recitation can provide illumination: the self-protective structure of the psyche, always divided against itself, is what wants breaking open.
These differences have set the terms for their showdown, conducted like most theory wars via a sequence of increasingly elaborate and overbearing interviews with sympathetic hosts. Zizek is accused of dressing up the simple-minded thoughts of a 12-year-old in mystifying jargon. In response we hear that Chomsky, for all his posturing, offers no empirical facts in his critique and, by the way, was an apologist for the Khmer Rouge. Or he wasn’t; this “fact” turns out to be ambiguous. Each dismisses the other’s claims out of hand before proceeding to tendentious counterpointing. It all escalates: Zizek is a fantasist; Chomsky is finally accused of having himself the comprehension levels of the original preteen.