A Very Dangerous Q&A (transcript)

TONY JONES: What about Hitler and Stalin, psychopaths?

JON RONSON: Well, I think, you know, if you’ve got like – if you’ve got a kind of grotesque costume, a kind of uniform that’s kind of garish, plus a penchant for genocide, that’s a big clue. So if you get them onto the subject of empathy, what they hate is weakness. They hate weakness and so if you can get them to talk about how empathy really is a weakness, that’s a big clue. However, I don’t want people to get drunk with power. I don’t want people to read either my book or the Hare checklist and become, like I did, a power crazed psychopath spotter, because that can turn you a little bit psychopathic. So be slightly wary of that.

TONY JONES: Let’s hear from the rest of our panel. Kate, was going to jump in there.

KATE ADIE: What does it profit us to actually label people as psychopaths, to actually analyse and say they are psychopaths, partly because to me you seem to be describing the kind of ruthless bastards who get to the top in every kind of walk of life? And if you’re going to label them and say these are psychopaths, what are you going to propose to do about it? Do they live in a pen somewhere, saying “Don’t let them out”? Don’t give them something to run?

GREG SHERIDAN: It’s called Parliament House.

JON RONSON: No, you don’t do that and, in fact, they are trying to do that in America. They are trying to – people who are coming up for parole are being scored on the psychopath checklist and if (interrupted)…

KATE ADIE: What about people sitting for President? I mean, you know (interrupted)…

JON RONSON: And, yeah, and Kate, so I totally agree with you. Labelling is clearly, in our society, a tyrannical and problematic thing.


JON RONSON: However, psychopathy exists. It’s a difficult situation there.

TONY JONES: And you say it can’t be cured.

JON RONSON: And the evidence is that it can’t be cured unless you get them very, very young and it’s a very real thing.

KATE ADIE: Okay, once you’ve got them, what do you do with them?

JON RONSON: You know what…

TONY JONES: Let’s hear from Slavoj. He might have an answer.

JON RONSON: No, I have an answer to that.

TONY JONES: Oh, okay. Go ahead.

SLAVOJ ZIZEK: I actually think there are much more – would you agree or not – a so called serious question – when we talk about people like Hitler and so on, listen, I read a book on the history of SS, SS German, and especially a chapter on Reinhard Heydrich. He organised , you know, Wannsee Conference, Holocaust and so on. What strikes me so much is that, you know what, this guy, if there ever was an evil guy, it’s him. You know what he was doing in the evenings? He gathered with his SS friends and they…

TONY JONES: Playing Mozart?

SLAVOJ ZIZEK: Even better, Beethoven’s string quartets and I think that’s the really tragic, depressing thing. You cannot say, oh, they must have gotten it wrong or whatever. No, the tragic lesson of history is, and I can go on through like read a book which is the Bible for me, Brian Victoria, a Zen monk, it’s called Zen at War. It demonstrates how the large majority of Zen Buddhist in Japan not only totally supported Japanese military expansionism but provided the properly Zen Buddhist justification for it. To amuse you very shortly, you know D.T. Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki, when we are young hippies, the glorious propagator in the hippy west of Buddhism, he not only fully supported Japanese invasion of China but he faced this problem: I have to kill you in war. He said, if I remain caught in the illusion of my ordinary reality, I perceive myself as an agent killing you. I may hate you, who knows, but it’s difficult for me. Then, he says, if you go through a Buddhist enlightenment, you see that you have no self. You became a passive observer of your acts and I no longer perceive me stabbing a knife into your eye as my act but just, as he puts it, my knife is dancing around and in the cosmic dance of phenomena, your eye seems to stumble upon it. Was he a psychopath or not?


OLIVER DAMIAN: My question is to the panel. If the selfish and blind pursuit of genes to propagate is what drove single cells to evolve into complex life forms, which includes us, can we say that the blind pursuit of profit is what drives civilisation forward and we should not stop it just because we don’t like what we see now given that the future cannot be fully imagined by someone on a lower level of evolution?


SLAVOJ ZIZEK: It may be too philosophical question but just a brief point. You know we don’t have time for theory now, I know, but, you know, people usually claim capitalism is egotist just profit seeking. No, I claim that what all good Marxist anthologists know Capitalism is implicitly, in a perverted way, religiously ethical. It’s capital must circulate, even if we all drop dead and so on, like it’s – you have a metaphysical entity which has priority over our most immediate utilitarian concerns. So, for me, what we need against capitalist greed is not some Christian morality but good, old fashioned utilitarian egotism.

TONY JONES: Are you calling for the return of Marxism, aren’t you? I mean…

SLAVOJ ZIZEK: That’s another complicated question but nonetheless to answer idiot stuff.

TONY JONES: Not so complicated.

SLAVOJ ZIZEK: You know I will give you a prediction…


SLAVOJ ZIZEK: Very short. Very short, really.

TONY JONES: Yep, okay.

SLAVOJ ZIZEK: What – to the gentleman’s question before, what will happen? What will happen probably, 90%, not 100, is in Egypt a pact between the army and the Muslim Brotherhood.

MONA ELTAHAWY: It’s already happening, Zizek. It’s already happening.

SLAVOJ ZIZEK: Yeah. The deal will be you, Muslim Brotherhood, get more or less ideological hegemony. We keep our corruption. And I guarantee you this pact will be blessed by the United States as force of (indistinct).

TONY JONES: The question was…

MONA ELTAHAWY: It pays 40% of the Egyptian Army budget. It continues to bless it.

TONY JONES: To all of you, yeah, it’s good to be able to continue the previous question but we’ve had another question. You said it was philosophical and it is. It’s actually about the nature of capitalism and whether it’s actually the best way forward. Let’s hear from Kate.

SLAVOJ ZIZEK: I only claim it’s just the structure of religion.

TONY JONES: Let’s hear from Kate Adie.

KATE ADIE: One of the things politicians so frequently talk about is that there must be more growth. More jobs means better incomes for people, means a house, means having a nicer life in a material sense and there is quite a lot of thought nowadays perhaps, coming from some quarters, about, well, is growth the thing we mean? When we go over the green fields, we eat all the field, we suck the goodness from the land so it is hard to do anything. We do ever more in the way of smart travel and at greater speed and I think there is a good argument but not a popular one and when – it’s one of the things which we are all embracing: wouldn’t it be wonderful if we just grew our own vegetables and we didn’t get into the car and use all of this petrol and we didn’t need new clothes every so often. It’s a wonderful idea, except for me. But the idea of growth, per se, I think does need to be questioned, not at the cost of not letting people who are hungry stay hungry and there’s the difficult thing in this world. But I do think we need to think about how we could live life and be happier and warm, comfortable and full of food without endlessly building more, destroying the environment and living at a greater speed.

TONY JONES: Let’s go to Jon.

SLAVOJ ZIZEK: I agree with you only on one point. I don’t think people want to be (indistinct)

TONY JONES: Slavoj, your name is not Jon. This is Jon.

JON RONSON: Yeah, no, Kate is absolutely right. Capitalism isn’t the problem, growth is the problem. When you have companies I know you’re going to hate this but when you have companies that take psychopathy as a business model, like the American health insurance industry, where they’ll try everything they can to deny claims – I told the story a couple of weeks ago of a little girl who died of leukaemia because her health insurance company found a loophole and denied her the claim, that’s the problem. Now, you know, is capitalism to blame for that? No, what the problem in that is this kind of lust for – for growth.

KATE ADIE: And there’s a classic one in the pharmacology companies and the pharmaceutical companies in the medicalisation of the human conditions. You need a bill. You do this, you do that and you get a pill. It costs money.

JON RONSON: Well, you know that the manual of mental disorders used to be a pamphlet 65 pages. It’s not 886 pages. Now, it’s got…

GREG SHERIDAN: But my problem is I don’t think evolution explains all of life so it shouldn’t explain all (indistinct).

JON RONSON: And you realise that the Pharmaceutical Institute of American is actually creating disorders, such as (indistinct)…


SLAVOJ ZIZEK: (Indistinct)

TONY JONES: Can I just ask you, Slavoj, I will take the risk and ask you a question.

SLAVOJ ZIZEK: Your own risk. Your own risk, yeah.

TONY JONES: Okay. Well, I mean, do you really see a return to communism, Marxism, as the answer?


TONY JONES: Because…

SLAVOJ ZIZEK: No. No. As I said yesterday…

TONY JONES: Don’t be afraid, join us. Come back. You’ve had your anti-Communist fun. It’s time to get serious again.

SLAVOJ ZIZEK: Okay, I can tell you more jokes.

TONY JONES: Who said that?

SLAVOJ ZIZEK: But what I’m simply saying is that we are obviously approaching today some serious problems, ecology and so on. I don’t think, in the long term, these problems can be solved within the liberal capitalist democratic frame. I am the first to admit, my gosh I’m sorry to inform you, but I was a kind of a dissident. I was five years unemployed. I was not allowed to teach. So all I’m saying is that the problems are still here which are the problems of commons – the problems of communism. As I said yesterday, communism is obviously not an answer, the 20th century Communism. But sorry to tell you, the problems are here. They will not run away.