Friday, September 19, 2008

9/11 as a Hollywood Fantasy


This is written from the mainstream view of Al-Qaeda terrorism, along with a movie resonating synchromystic theme based on the writings of Jean Baudrillard (Simulacra and Simulation influenced the Matrix though Baudrillard claimed in an interview that the movie misunderstands and distorts his work.) and Slavoj Zizek. The authors make a few brilliant points in the article that easily forgive the exclusion of certain aspects (reality is quite the maze after all), in fact the last sentence hints loudly at the interconnectedness of the terrorists and those that wage their 'war onf terror'. Here is the intro and ending:
"Why does the World Trade Center have two towers?" asked Jean Baudrillard (1988: 143) years ago, at the beginning of the 1980s. The twin towers of the WTC were perfectly parallel surfaces which merely mirrored one another, thus demonstrating the irrelevance of difference and antagonism in a postmodern world. Cancelling out difference, upon which politics is based, the WTC had constituted a symbol of post-politics: an obscene political system in which political opposition or "dialectical polarity" no longer exists, a simulacrum, where acts disappear without consequences in neutral, indifferent images (Baudrillard 1994: 16, 32).

In other words: long before it was destroyed, the WTC was a symbol of destruction: the destruction of politics. To borrow Marcuse's concept, the WTC was a symbol of a "one-dimensional society" in which critique has disappeared and people can no longer imagine that another society, a different world, is possible. Without the image of a VIRTUAL world, a world of possibilities or potentialities, the actual world becomes the only world.
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Towards the end of the film every American fighter gets shot down, except one. When the last fighter is to fire its missiles, it turns out that the missiles cannot be detonated. Then its pilot chooses to lead the fighter against the target, transforming his plane into a missile and himself into a suicide attacker. What if the 9/11 pilots conceived of their acts as such a heroic gesture whose aim was to destroy the empire of evil? Indeed, it is perfectly possible to say that Independence Day condenses the self-conception of the terrorists.

Terror and its adversary mirror each other. We have two networks that confront, mimic and justify each other. We have two camps, each of which claims to be good and to fight evil. And we have two strategies, which dissolves the democratic habitus in a post-political condition. Thus Bin Laden's construction of "Americans" perfectly mirrors Bush's representation of Al-Qaeda, and the fundamentalist rhetoric of the extermination of evil is what unites the two poles in spite of asymmetries. A mental experiment might be helpful in this context: What if we universalise the right the US claims for itself? What if Israel claimed the same right against the Palestinians, and India did so against Pakistan?

Slavoj Zizek mentions one of Bush's speeches where he refers to a letter written by a seven-year-old girl whose father was a fighter pilot in Afghanistan. In the letter she says that even though she loves her father, she is ready to sacrifice him for his fatherland. The question is how we would react if we saw an Arabic Muslim girl on TV claiming in front of the camera that she will sacrifice her father in the war against America. We need not think too long to realize that the scene would be received as an expression of fundamentalism or a morbid form of propaganda. Yes, Muslim fundamentalists even exploit their own children without hesitation (Zizek 2002: 43). But what about "us" - aren't we even better at that?

The point of such a dialectic reversal is not to make excuses for terrorism. Of course, fundamentalists seek more than to demolish skyscrapers: they are the enemies of freedom of expression, democracy, the right to vote, Jews, homosexuals, women's rights, secularism, dance, and so on (Rushdie 2001). It is, however, also important to insist that the Western tradition is a tradition of democracy and criticism. Rather than undermining democracy in the war against terrorism, we must support it; and rather than refraining from criticising Bush and Blair's international policies in the name of patriotism, we must criticise them mercilessly.

"Independence", then, could refer to independence in the classical, Kantian, sense: independent thinking. The ultimate catastrophe is the simple and simplifying distinction between good and evil, a rhetoric that basically copies terrorist rhetoric and makes it impossible to think independently. It is in this sense that the dominant paranoid perspective transforms the terrorists into abstract and irrational agents, pushing aside every sociological explanation that refers to social conditions as indirectly supporting terrorism.

But terrorism is basically a mirror for understanding the contemporary post-political condition. Terror and the war against it say something fundamental about our society. The question is this: Are we to be content with a society in which the only radical acts are terrorist acts? Clausewitz wrote that war is the continuation of politics with other means. Terror, then, is the continuation of post-politics with other means (Baudrillard 2002: 34).
Read the entire article

1 comment:

John Maszka said...

The War on Terrorism is a Lie

The war on terrorism is a lie because terrorism is not an enemy, it is a strategy.

Terrorism is a strategy employed by weaker states and non-state actors when fighting an asymmetric war against a more powerful opponent.

No state or non-state actor fights a conventional war against an enemy it has no chance of defeating conventionally; hence it fights asymmetrically. In other words, it employs the tactic of terrorism.

Since the U.S. has declared that it will maintain military superiority without challenge, it has done everything in its power to do just that. The US defense budget for 2008 is some $700 billion. There is no single state or non-state actor on this planet that can defeat the United States in a conventional war.

Therefore, any single state or non-state actor that will not accept American hegemony will be forced to fight an asymmetric war with the United States. That is, it will be forced to employ terrorism. The war on terrorism is a war against any state or non-state actor not willing to accept US hegemony. It is not a war on terrorism at all, but a war to promote and defend US imperialism.