Radical media, politics and culture.

Jean Baudrillard, Excerpts from "The Spirit of Terror"

Jim writes: "Le Monde has published Jean Baudrillard's essay, "The Spirit of Terrorism" Here are some excerpts, translated courtesy of Brian Holmes:

"...All the discourses and commentaries betray a gigantic suturing of the
event itself, and of the fascination it commands. The moral condemnation,
the holy alliance against terrorism are on the scale of the prodigious
jubilation at seeing this world superpower destroyed, or better, seeing it
somehow destroy itself, in a beautiful suicide. Because with its
unbearable power it has fomented this violence pervading the world, along
with the terrorist imagination that inhabits all of us, without our

That we dreamed of this event, that everyone without exception dreamed of
it, because no one can fail to dream of the destruction of any power
become so hegemonic - that is unacceptable for the Western moral
conscience. And yet it's a fact, which can be measured by the pathetic
violence of all the discourses that want to cover it up.

To put it in the most extreme terms, they did it, but we wanted it. If
that's not taken into account, the event loses all its symbolic dimension,
it's a pure accident, a purely arbitrary act, the deadly phantasmagoria of
a few fanatics, who can then just be eliminated. But we all know that's
not the way it is. Hence the delirous counter-phobia of the exorcism of
evil: it's because the evil is there, everywhere, like an obscure object
of desire. Without this deep complicity, the event would not have the
resonance that it does, and in their symbolic strategy, the terrorists
undoubtedly knew they could count on this inadmissible complicity.

It goes way beyond hatred of the dominant world power by the dispossessed
and the exploited, those who have ended up on the wrong side of the world
order. This satanic desire is in the hearts even of those who share in the
profits. The allergy to any definitive order, to any definitive power, is
fortunately universal, and the two towers of the World Trade Center, the
perfect twins, precisely embodied such a definitive order.

No need for the explanations of a death drive or destructive impulse, nor
even for an effect of perversity. It is logical and inexorable that the
rise of power to the heights of power exacerbates the will to destroy it.
And that power is complicit with its own destruction. When the two towers
fell, you had the feeling that they were answering the suicide of the
suicide-planes with their own suicide....

...In a sense, it is the entire system whose internal fragility lends a
hand to the initial action. The more the system concetrates on a world
scale, finally constituting a single network, the more it becomes
vulnerable at a single point (already a single little Philippino hacker
had succeeded, from the depths of his PC, in launching the I Love You
virus that circled the world, devastating entire networks). Here, eighteen
kamikazees, with the absolute weapon of death multiplied by technological
effectiveness, have triggered off a process of global catastrophe.

When the situation is so monopolised by the world power, when you're
dealing with this formidable condensation of all the functions of
technocratic machinery and one-way thinking, what other path remains open
but a terrorist transfer of the situation? The system itself created the
objective conditions of this brutal turnabout. By putting all the cards in
its own hand, it forces the Other to change the rules of the game. And the
new rules are savage, because the stakes are savage. To answer a system
whose very excess of power raises an insoluble challenge, the terrorists
produce a definitive act whose exchange is also impossible. Terrorism is
the act that restores an irreducible singularity at the heart of a system
of generalized exchange. All the singularities (the species, the
individuals, the cultures) that have paid with their death for the
installation of a world circulation are taking revenge today through this
terrorist transfer of the situation.

....The fundamental event is that the terrorists have ceased to commit
suicide at a total loss, that they now bring their own death into play in
an effective, offensive way, according to a strategic intuition which is
simply that of the immense fragility of the adversary, that of a system
which has reached near-perfection, and is therefore vulnerable to the
slightest spark. They have succeeded in making their own deaths into an
absolute weapon against a system that lives on the exclusion of death,
whose ideal is that of zero casualties. Every system of zero casualties is
a zero-sum game. And all the means of dissuasion and destruction can do
nothing against an enemy who has already made his death into a
counter-offensive weapon: "What difference do the American bombings make!
Our men have just as much desire to die as the Americans to live!" Hence
the non-equivalence of 7,000 deaths inflicted in a single blow to a
zero-casualty system.

...Suicidal terrorism was a terrorism of the poor, this is a terrorism of
the rich. And that's what makes us so afraid: that they have become rich
(that have all the resources of wealth), without ceasing to want to do us
in. Of course, according to our value system, they're cheating: bringing
your own death into play is not in the rules. But they don't care, and the
new rules of the games are no longer ours.

... Everything is in the challenge and the duel, in a dual, personal
relation with the adverse power. It is what has humiliated you, it is what
must be humiliated. And not simply exterminated. You have to make it lose
face. And you never achieve that by pure force and the elimination of the
other. He must be targeted and wounded amidst adversity. Beyond the pact
that links the terrorists with each other, there is something like a dual
pact with the adversary. So it's exactly the contrary of the cowardice
they are accused of, and it's exactly the contrary of what the Americans
did in the Gulf War, for example (and what they're doing again in
Afghanistan): invisible target, operational liquidation.

...The collapse of the World Trade Center is unimaginable, but that
doesn't suffice to make it a real event. A surplus of violence does not
suffice to open up reality. Because reality is a principle, and that
principle is what's lost. Reality and fiction are inextricable, and the
fascination of the attack is first that of the image (the jubilatory and
catastrophic consequences are themselves largely imaginary).

In this case, then, the real is added to the image as a plus of terror, as
an extra frisson. Not only is it terrifying, but what's more, it's
real.... So this terrorist violence is not a return of reality's flame,
nor of history's. This terrorist violence is not "real." It's worse, in a
sense: it's symbolic. Violence in itself can be banal and inoffensive.
Only symbolic violence generates singularity. And in this singular event,
in this Manhattan disaster film, the two elements of twentieth-century
mass fascination meet: the white magic of cinema and the black magic of
terrorism. The white light of cinema, and the black light of terrorism.

...There's no solution to this extreme situation, above all not war, which
only offers a situation of déja-vu, with the same deluge of military
forces, phantom information, useless pummeling, devious and pathetic
discourse, technological deployment and intoxication. In short, like the
Gulf war, a non-event, an event that doesn't really take place.

And that's its raison d'etre: replacing a true and formidable, unique and
unpredictable event, with a repetitive, deja-vu pseudo-event. The
terrorist attack was a precession of the event over all the modes of
interpretation, whereas this stupidly military war is, inversely, a
precession of the model over the event, a fake wager that doesn't take
place. War as the continuation of the absence of politics by other means."

Jean Baudrillard

Full French text at:
http://www.lemonde.fr/rech_art/0,5987,239354,00.ht ml

See also "Jean Baudrillard Prophesies the Twin Towers" at http://slash.autonomedia.org/article.pl?sid=01/11/ 06/1624202"