Igor Yopsvoyomatsky, editor of paranoiaisfact.com and columnist for the DE, answers readers' questions.
My son came home for winter break with a new culture hero--Slavoj Zizek. Zizek had taken his university by storm, giving two sold-out lectures and sitting for an online interview that lasted hours. "He's a post-modern ironist," my son said. It was nice to hear him use words I didn't think he knew. It was great that he went to hear a philosopher-any philosopher- give a lecture. But then I read some of Zizik's essays and I was appalled. Zizik says that Islamic terrorists are not fundamentalists or even revolutionaries, but the casualties of global capitalism. That on 9/11 a paranoid America got what it had been fantasizing about for decades. That Mohammad Atta and his terrrorist hijackers represented the "good as the spirit of and actual readiness to sacrifice in the name of a higher cause." That when prisoners were tortured in Guantanamo they were really being initiated into the true essence of American culture. And if Americans really believed in Democracy they would not vote themselves, but would let the rest of the world choose their leader. My son says I should lighten up. It's just a big joke-"post modern, dad-" meant to make people question conventional assumptions. But then I read an article which calls Zizek "the most dangerous philosopher in the west." Is this paranoia or fact?
Shaker Heights, Ohio
First...If you want to cure your son of his post-modern tendencies cut off his allowance.
Now to your question. This is pure paranoia. If Zizik were dangerous you would never have heard of him. The capitalist culture welcomes and rewards only harmless iconoclasts, who do not challenge the economic order. To Zizek goes the lucrative honor of being this generation's token anarchist.
Slavoj Zizek is Slovenia's most famous culture hustler. (Admittedly, it is a small country.) You could say he is the Jon Stewart of the academic lecture circuit. He plies a nice trade on the well-endowed campuses of the world, making statements that seem to be outrageous, but are really clever panderings to the politics of his audience. He is a living oxymoron-a best-selling philosopher. He publishes prodigiously dense, obscure musings, but always inserts a sensational easy-to-understand headline about the US, Nazism, Stalinism, Jihadism, Christianity, Zionism, Anti-Semitism (a particular favorite) which creates controversy and adds to his box office appeal.
If Zizek didn't exist, Woody Allen would have had to invent him. He is the subject of a full length documentary, has had a punk band (Laibajh) and a virtual nation (NSK) founded in his honor. He has his own academic journal (International of Zizek Studies,) has written copy for the Abercrombie and Fitch Catalogue and is recently married to a beautiful Argentine model.
He cultivates publicity, responding to every request for a quote or an interview. He loves to tweak Americans and Jews because they can be counted to respond with howls of injured indignation. In his book The Borrowed Kettle he is quoted as saying: "Better the worst Stalinist dictatorship than the most liberal capitalist democracy." He is modishly anti Israel, saying that Nazism and Zionism were allied in their programs to "change violently the ratio of ethnic groups in a population." He has been quoted as supporting the view that "the only true solution to the Jewish question is the final solution (their annihilation) because the Jews are the ultimate obstacle to the final solution of history of overcoming of divisions in unity and flexibility" while offering an exemption from extermination "to Jews resisting identification with the state of Israel." When challenged he responds with rhetorically raised eyebrow that Jews are "the majority of my friends and theoretical collaborators."
Zizek's politics are shared by many on the lifestyle left. But he stands out because of his clever use of American popular culture to disarm his critics. He is an expert on Hitchcock, finds great significance in the Matrix trilogy and leavens his diatribes with movie references, jokes and humorous anecdotes. How angry can you be at a man who claims to see the world as a Marx Brothers' out take?
In the spirit of Zizek I can offer you an anecdote for consolation. In my student days I worked as an orderly on the psychiatric ward of the Pinsk hospital. A man marched back and forth, a sheet wrapped around him like a toga.
"He thinks he's Julius Caesar," a nurse said with a smile.
Another man stood by the window, whining and strumming on an air guitar..."Thinks he's Bob Dylan," she said.
In a shadowy corner a man sat crooning to himself, while he rocked back and forth on a pile of soiled, fetid sheets.
"Who does he think he is?" I asked.
"An intellectual," the nurse said.
Ivan Yopsvoyomatsky, editor of paranoiaisfact.com and columnist for The Daily Event
answers readers' questions
I just shot my broker. He had assured me that quant funds would earn great returns no matter which way the market went. This morning I nailed my banker as he was getting into his car. He had urged me to take a sub prime mortgage, saying the rising value of my home would be my collateral for high yield investments. My boss called me a sissy and told me my 401k was safe because the ratings agencies had Triple A'd every derivative and anyway AIG was insuring them. I blasted his fat ass in the executive washroom after lunch. Now I'm standing over Bernie's (that's my broker) body with a Glock in my hand, getting up the nerve to use it on myself. It seems certain that I will die a failure. Is that paranoia or fact?
That is paranoia. Reading between the lines I would guess that you are penniless and your family has abandoned you. But don't despair. You can still go out with a bang, proving to the world, your embittered wife and scornful children, that you are a savvy investor.
Now, listen carefully: Take your finger off the trigger and remove the Glock from your mouth. Get in your car and drive to the nearest Wal-Mart. Get out, leaving the Glock in the glove compartment, and walk in. Feast your eyes on the aisles and aisles and of gaudy packaging. Wal-Mart is unequaled in its compliance and logistics systems. No one can restock faster than Wal-Mart. Doesn't that give you a comforting feeling?
Now for a big surprise. Go to the firearms and ammunition department. What do you see? Empty shelves, disheveled display cases. It is as if the place had been looted by a desperate mob.
Wal-Mart is selling guns and ammo faster than it can restock them. This is the Black Swan that Nassim Taleb writes about--the unexpected deviation from the curve. The economy may be whimpering, but the gun market is banging.
Cheer up, Troubled. I think we've found a wrinkle the smart money overlooked.
Now, boot up your laptop and check some stock prices.
Cabelas, an outdoor outfitter, which sells rifles and ammo, has gone up 35% on stronger than projected earnings.
Firearms manufacturer, Smith and Wesson is up 50%.
Ruger, its closest competitor, has increased 40%.
Olin, another gun maker, has raised earnings guidances for its Winchester ammunition division.
Gunshow dealers report that customers are buying two and three guns, stocking up on ammunition, 50 boxes at a time.
Gun stores all over the country report increased sales to a demographic that never bought a gun--young professionals.
Rich Wyatt, owner of Gunsmoke, a firearms training facility outside of Denver, is quoted as saying: "We are getting Prius-driving Obama types buying guns for the first time."
Wal-Mart, canny merchandiser that it is, has been taken by surprise. After the election it reduced its firearm inventory in anticipation of President Obama issuing an executive order limiting gun and ammo sales. There were rumors that he would pressure the states into repealing carry permits for concealed weapons and would restore the assault weapons ban that had expired in 2004. The order was never issued, the pressure hasn't come. But the rumors provoked an unexpected response: gun sales exploded. Applications for concealed carry permits shot into the hundreds of thousands.
"If I had known it would be this good in the gun business I might have voted for Obama," says Wyatt.
There is an old Russian proverb: "You won't see the seed until the tree has grown." The underlying causes of this phenomenon were there all along.
1. The fear that a liberal president would put a stop to gun sales.
2. The fear, in a crashing economy, that violent robberies would increase and people wouldn't even be safe in their homes.
3.. The sudden rash of mass shootings, making people feel they needed protection in public places.
4. The sudden shortage of firearms as dealers smuggle them across the border into Mexico to be sold to the cartels at three times the retail price.
Now, perhaps, you are getting frustrated, smacking your forehead and saying "I should have seen this coming." Remember, analysis is retrospective, not predictive. There is still time to jump on this bandwagon. Invest in the Paranoid Fund.
We're betting that a bloody class war will erupt in the next eighteen months. People will barricade themselves in foreclosed houses. Bankrupts will invade the homes of their more solvent neighbors. Twittering hordes will pour out of the urban ghettos to loot and pillage in the suburbs. The cartels will lay siege to border towns in Texas and California. Bankers will use bailout money to hire private police, fortify their automobiles, have their children home-schooled to prevent kidnapping.
If you doubt our prognostications look at yourself. Only last year you were a normal family man with a job, a home and a foreseeable future. Today you are a destitute, deserted triple murderer contemplating suicide.
You are our demographic.
We are looking at companies that will prosper in the Apocalypse. Guns and ammo, alarm systems, body armor and personal protection, alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, caffeinated drinks. We guarantee that our fund will grow in an up or down market. You will be able to leverage your position into other investments. Your investment will be insured by AIG, which is back and stronger than ever.
Instead of a suicide note you can leave your family a piece of the Ammo Fund. There will be tears at your funeral, fresh flowers on your grave.
There is no time for a prospectus. Write us a check right now. If you're sending cash, crumple the bills into tiny balls the size of discarded pieces of chewing gum and wrap them in a piece of paper to fool the desperadoes at the Post Office.
Okay, now drop it in the mail.
Have you done it? Good.
Now you can pick up that Glock, brother, and rest in peace.
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