Another line of Zizek’s is illustrated by the spoonerism of James Naughtie on the Today programme.
James Naughtie is barely, but just about manages, to suppress his hysterical laughter. Everyone who has heard the clip knows he is pissing himself laughing and covering it with a cough. I have heard no criticism of him for this; the fact that he didn’t burst out with uncontrolled giggles but smothered them saved him.
However he was laughing, it was funny and his name is Naughtie, making it all the more ridiculous. For whom was he suppressing his laughter? Everyone knows he was laughing. It is clearly funny. Why couldn’t he just laugh out loud?
He is supressing hysteria to keep the big other innocent. The big other is that which gazes at us but that we don’t percieve except in moments like this, when we can not publically (in this case) express ourselves. Not because people don’t know what we think but because we can’t enact that thought.
Zizek uses many examples of this to illustrate the point. The point that it was worse to admit in Soviet times that it was forbidden to criticise Stalin than to criticise him being one.