Volume 1, Number 1 (January 2004)
Author: Dr. Gerry Coulter
I will not forget this wound to our country or those who inflicted it. I will not yield; I will not rest; I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people. The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain (George W. Bush).1
…the idea of freedom, a new and recent idea, is already fading from the minds and mores, and liberal globalization is coming about in precisely the opposite form — a police-state globalization, a total control, a terror based on “law-and-order” measures. Deregulation ends up in a maximum of constraints and restrictions, akin to those of a fundamentalist society (Jean Baudrillard).2
“We will get you. We will humiliate you. We will never stop following you”. – Abdulaziz Alomari, one of the hijackers aboard American Airlines Flight 11, which flew into the north tower of the World Trade Center.3
The revolution of our time is the uncertainty revolution (Jean Baudrillard).4
The following virtual dialogue is the outcome of an experiment involving the insertion of fragments of contemporary radical theory into the competing hegemonic discourses on terrorism. Specifically, the thought of Jean Baudrillard is injected into the space occupied by sermons on terror from some of its proponents on both sides of the terrorist war between the White House and Osama bin Laden. The combatants in this war are dedicated to keeping public discourse in protective isolation from radical theory and its potential disruptive effects on the certainty each side propounds. The goals of this experiment are to contribute to a disruption of these protective processes and to introduce more uncertainty into the discussion of terrorism and its certainties of death and counter death.
The gathering of fragments involves a strategy of disruption: “The fragment is like a nucleus of an ephemeral destiny of language, a fatal particle that shines an instant then disappears. At the same time, it allows an instantaneous conversion of points of view, of humours and passions”.5 This experiment also provides an example of how new opportunities for perception arise when we suspend concern for linearity and emphasize the role of uncertainty.6 These new perceptions affect not only our view of hegemonic discourse, but lead to a renewed understanding of theorists such as Baudrillard. The voices which speak in this dialogue do not do so in historico-chronological sequence. This is a dialogue exchanged for history at a time when we can no longer tell each other histories.7 The strategic use of Baudrillard’s thought is directed at providing a more uncertain space, a space for non believers, at a time when it seems we are only being given a choice between two competing fanaticisms.
II. Soft World Order
Osama bin Laden: “When you talk about the invasion of New York and Washington, you talk about the men who changed the face of history and went against the traitors. …These great men have consolidated faith in the hearts of believers and undermined the plans of the crusaders and their agents in the region”.8
George W. Bush: “…our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil”.9
Dick Cheney: “More people died there on September 11 than we lost in combat in the Gulf War. When you think of that attack and of the merciless horror inflicted at the World Trade Center, no punishment for the terrorist seems too harsh. …in dealing with the terrorists themselves, we will be relentless and they will come to understand the meaning of justice. …We cannot deal with terror. It will not end in a treaty. There will be no peaceful coexistence, no negotiations, no summit, no joint communique with the terrorists. The struggle can only end with their complete and permanent destruction”.10
Jean Baudrillard: “There is no remedy for this extreme situation, and war is certainly not a solution… and this is indeed its raison d’etre: to substitute, for a real and formidable, unique and unforeseeable event, a repetitive rehashed pseudo-event. The terrorist attack corresponded to a precedence of the event over all interpretive models; whereas this mindless military, technological war corresponds, conversely, to the model’s precedence over the event, and hence to a conflict over phony stakes, to a situation of ‘no contest’”.11
Bush: “We will direct every resource at our command — every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war — to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network”.12
Baudrillard: “No one can say how it will all turn out. What hangs in the balance is the survival of humanity, it is not about the victory of one side. Terrorism has no political project, it has no finality; though it is seen as real, it is absurd”.13
Bin Laden: “I was thinking that the fire from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building and collapse the area where the plane hit and all the floors above it only… This is all that we had hoped for”.14
Baudrillard: “We are far beyond ideology and politics now. No ideology, no cause — not even the Islamic cause can account for the energy which fuels terror. …Terrorism, like viruses, is everywhere. …It is at the very heart of the system which combats it… as though every machinery of domination secreted its own counter apparatus, the agent of its own disappearance — against that form of almost automatic reversion of its own power, the system can do nothing. And terrorism is the shock wave of this silent reversion”.15
Bin Laden: “They also lack a fair cause to defend. They only fight for capitalists, usury takers, and the merchants of arms and oil, including the gang of crime at the White House. This is in addition to crusader and personal grudges by Bush the father”.16
Cheney: “The best defense against a terrorist attack is to go destroy the terrorist. And then we’re doing that”.17
Baudrillard: “And so you go to terrorism, which is an enormous fantasy of a political order of the State the better to murder it, to massacre it. But what game is terrorism playing? Terrorism makes no more sense than the State does. They are accomplices in a circular set-up”.18
Bin Laden: “Terrorism against America deserves to be praised because it was a response to injustice, aimed at forcing America to stop its support for Israel, which kills our people”.19
Bush: “We’re at war. There has been an act of war declared upon America by terrorists. …Behind the sadness and the exhaustion, there is a desire by the American people to not seek only revenge, but to win a war against barbaric behaviour, people that hate freedom and hate what we stand for”.20
Baudrillard: “…it is a mistake to see terrorist action obeying a purely destructive logic. It seems to me that the action of the terrorists, from which death is inseparable… does not seek the impersonal elimination of the other. It has to be made to lose face. And you never achieve that by pure force and by eliminating the other party”. 21
Bin Laden: “We stress the importance of the martyrdom operations against the enemy — operations that inflicted harm on the United States and Israel that have been unprecedented in their history, thanks to Almighty God. We also point out that whoever supported the United States, including the hypocrites of Iraq or the rulers of Arab countries, those who approved their actions and followed them in this crusade war by fighting with them or providing bases and administrative support, or any form of support, even by words, to kill the Muslims in Iraq, should know that they are apostates and outside the community of Muslims. It is permissible to spill their blood and take their property”.22
Baudrillard: “I do not praise murderous attacks – that would be idiotic. Terrorism is not a contemporary form of revolution against oppression and capitalism. No ideology, no struggle for an objective, not even Islamic fundamentalism, can explain it. …I have glorified nothing, accused nobody, justified nothing. One should not confuse the messenger with his message. I have endeavored to analyze the process through which the unbounded expansion of globalization creates the conditions for its own destruction”.23
Bush: “We will use the military might of the United States. We will use our intelligence-gathering capacity of the United States. We will use every diplomatic means of the United States. We will disrupt their financial networks. We will do everything we can to achieve our objective, which is to rout out and destroy global terrorism”.24
Baudrillard: “The US, like everyone else, now has to face up to a soft world order, a soft situation. Power has become impotent. But if America is now no longer the monopolistic centre of world power, this is not because it has lost power, but simply because there is no centre anymore”.25
Bin Laden: “Keep this saying before your eyes: ‘It is not fitting for a Prophet that he should have prisoners of war until he hath thoroughly subdued the land.’ Therefore, when ye meet the unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks. Your wish to the crusaders should be as came in this verse of poetry: ‘The only language between you and us is the sword that will strike your necks’”.26
Baudrillard: “And this is precisely the kind of hatred that explains the September 11 terrorist attacks”.27
Bush: “War has been waged against us by stealth and deceit and murder. This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger. This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way, and at an hour, of our choosing”.28
Baudrillard: “With its totalizing claim, the system created the conditions for this horrible retaliation. The immanent mania of globalization generates madness, just as an unstable society produces delinquents and psychopaths. In truth, these are only symptoms of the sickness. Terrorism is everywhere, like a virus. It doesn’t require Afghanistan as its home base… Globalization… is based, as colonialism was earlier, on immense violence. It creates more victims than beneficiaries, even when the majority of the Western world profits from it. Naturally the United States, in principle, could liberate every country just as it has liberated Afghanistan. But what kind of a peculiar liberation would that be? Those so fortunate would know how to defend themselves even with terror if necessary”.29
Bin Laden: “In the end, I advise myself and you to fear God covertly and openly and to be patient in the jihad. Victory will be achieved with patience. I also advise myself and you to say more prayers”.30
Baudrillard: “…there was in all religions… a power of illusion, the power of the very violent denigration of the real. It was radical even in the first religions. Symbolic culture has always been lived as a denigration of the real, something like a radical distrust: the idea that the essential happens elsewhere than in the real. And that possibility is disappearing, little by little, without pressure from the operation of the world — the idea that the world is real and that all that is required now is to operate in the real. There is not even a utopian world any longer. There is no utopia. …now, utopia has gone into the real, we are in it”.31
Bush: “And I pray they will be comforted by a power greater than any of us, spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me’”.32
Baudrillard: “Perhaps, but it is not religiosity that drives them to terrorism. All the Islam experts emphasize this. The assassins of September 11th made no demands. Fundamentalism is a symptomatic form of rejection, refusal; its adherents didn’t want to accomplish anything concrete, they simply rise up wildly against that which they perceive as a threat to their own identity”.33
Bin Laden: “O ye who believe! When ye meet a force, be firm, and call Allah in remembrance much (and often); That ye may prosper. God, who sent the book unto the prophet, who drives the clouds, and who defeated the enemy parties, defeat them and make us victorious over them. Our Lord! Give us good in this world and good in the Hereafter and save us from the torment of the Fire! [Koranic verse]. May God’s peace and blessings be upon Prophet Muhammad and his household”.34
Bush: “We cannot know all that lies ahead. Yet, we do know that God had placed us together in this moment, to grieve together, to stand together, to serve each other and our country. And the duty we have been given — defending America and our freedom — is also a privilege we share. We’re prepared for this journey. And our prayer tonight is that God will see us through, and keep us worthy. …May God bless America”.35
Baudrillard: “It is what haunts every world order, all hegemonic domination — if Islam dominated the world, terrorism would rise against Islam, for it is the world, the globe itself, which resists globalization”.36
Bin Laden: “God Almighty says: ‘Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah, and those who reject faith fight in the cause of evil.’ So fight ye against the friends of Satan: feeble indeed is the cunning of Satan”.37
Bush: “As we have been assured, neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, can separate us from God’s love. May He bless the souls of the departed. May He comfort our own. And may He always guide our country”.38
Baudrillard: “Is there still room between these two fanaticisms for a non-believer to exercise his liberty?”.39
IV. Symbolic Challenge
Baudrillard: “Wars are often begun in the name of justice, indeed this is almost always the official justification. Yet, while they themselves want to be so justified and are undertaken with the best of intentions, they normally don’t end in the manner in which their instigators had imagined”.40
Bush: “Not only am I pleased with the great cooperation that we’re having with our friend, the Japanese; I am most pleased that the Saudi Arabians yesterday cut off relations with the Taliban, and that President Putin, in a strong statement to the world, talked about the cooperation that Russia and the United States will have in combating global terrorism as well. The coalition of legitimate governments and freedom-loving people is strong”.41
Baudrillard: “Bush aspires to return to trusted ground by rediscovering the balance between friend and foe. The Americans are prosecuting this war as if they were defending themselves against a wolf pack. But this doesn’t work against viruses that have already been in us for a long time. There is no longer a front, no demarcation line, the enemy sits in the heart of the culture which fights it. That is, if you like, the fourth world war: no longer between peoples, states, systems and ideologies, but, rather, of the human species against itself”.42
Cheney: “…what we’re asking nations to do, and which the Paks have clearly made a decision to do, is we’re asking nations to step up and be counted. They’re going to have to decide. Are they going to stand with the United States and believe in freedom and democracy and civilization, or are they going to stand with the terrorists and the barbarians, if you will? And it’s a fairly clear-cut choice”.43
Baudrillard: “If terrorism is a sort of murderous advertising campaign which keeps our imagination on tender hooks, it can be countered only by a piece of more effective advertising”.44
Bush: “…at the United Nations, I will set out my vision of our common responsibilities in the war on terror. I will put every nation on notice that these duties involve more than sympathy or words. No nation can be neutral in this conflict, because no civilized nation can be secure in a world threatened by terror”.45
Baudrillard: “Is it not a paradox that the West uses as a weapon against dissenters the following motto: Either you share our values or…? A democracy asserted with threats and blackmail only sabotages itself. It no longer represents the autonomous decision for freedom, but rather becomes a global imperative”.46
Bush: “This will be a monumental struggle of good versus evil. But good will prevail”.47
Bin Laden: “…during the Tora Bora battle last year. In that great battle, faith triumphed over all the materialistic forces of the people of evil, for principles were adhered to, thanks to God Almighty. …We were about 300 Mujahideen. We dug 100 trenches that were spread in an area that does not exceed one square mile… our centers were exposed to a concentrated bombardment. …the bombardment was round-the-clock and the warplanes continued to fly over us day and night. To sum it up, the battle resulted in the complete failure of the international alliance of evil, with all its forces, [to overcome] a small number of Mujahideen – 300 Mujahideen hunkered down in trenches spread over an area of one square mile under a temperature of -10 degrees Celsius. … If all the world forces of evil could not achieve their goals on a one square mile of area against a small number of Mujahideen with very limited capabilities, how can these evil forces triumph over the Muslim world?”.48
Baudrillard: “We must see the thing beyond the opposition of good and bad. I look for the confrontation with the event as it is without equivocation. Whoever is unable to do that, is led to a moral falsification of history… Evil does not retreat in proportion to the advance of the good. Therefore the concept of progress is, outside of the rationality of the natural sciences, in fact, problematic. Montaigne said: “If the evil in men were eliminated, then the fundamental condition of life would be destroyed”. … Good and evil are irresolvably bound up with one another, this is fatal in the original sense: an integral part of our fate, our destiny. …in reality one would have to turn the whole debate on its head. The exciting question is not why there is evil. First there is evil, without question. Why is there good? This is the real miracle”.49
Bush: “We’re a nation that can’t be cowed by evil-doers… We will rid the world of the evil-doers… on the Lord’s Day, I say to my fellow Americans… Your government is alert. The governors and mayors are alert that evil folks still lurk out there”.50
Baudrillard: “Hence the stupidity of all that is reported about the terrorists: everywhere the wish to palm off meaning onto them, to exterminate them with meaning”.51
Bin Laden: “It is important to hit the economy, which is the base of its [America’s] military power…If the economy is hit they will become reoccupied”.52
Cheney: “Once the bubble burst in the stock market, we’re not collecting those capital gains revenues any more — the way we were for a while. That’s had a big impact on revenue. The terrorism attack of 9/11 clearly didn’t help. It had a significant impact. You look at industries like the airlines, the travel business, and so forth, they’ve all been adversely affected by that. And, of course, we’ve got the ongoing war on terror, and now the operations in Iraq. So, I think it’s not surprising that we got a deficit at this stage”.53
Baudrillard: “…terrorism claims to really aim at capital (global imperialism, etc.) But it mistakes its enemy, and in doing so it aims at its true enemy, which is the social. Present day terrorism aims at the social in response to the terrorism of the social”.54
Bush: “Al Taqua is an association of offshore banks and financial management firms that have helped al Qaeda shift money around the world. Al Barakaat is a group of money wiring and communication companies owned by a friend and supporter of Osama bin Laden. Al Taqua and Al Barakaat raise funds for al Qaeda; they manage, invest and distribute those funds. They provide terrorist supporters with Internet service, secure telephone communications and other ways of sending messages and sharing information. They even arrange for the shipment of weapons. They present themselves as legitimate businesses. But they skim money from every transaction, for the benefit of terrorist organizations. They enable the proceeds of crime in one country to be transferred to pay for terrorist acts in another. The entry point for these networks may be a small storefront operation — but follow the network to its center and you discover wealthy banks and sophisticated technology…”.55
Baudrillard: “…a new terrorism has come into being, a new form of action which plays the game, and lays hold of the rules of the game, solely with the aim of disrupting it. … they have taken over all the weapons of the dominant power. Money and stock-market speculation, computer technology and aeronautics, spectacle and the media networks — they have assimilated everything of modernity and globalism, without changing their goal, which is to destroy that power. …Suicidal terrorism was a terrorism of the poor. This is a terrorism of the rich. This is what particularly frightens us: the fact that they have become rich.(they have all the necessary resources) without ceasing to wish to destroy us”.56
Bin Laden: “We realized from our defense and fighting against the American enemy that, in combat, they mainly depend on psychological warfare. This is in light of the huge media machine they have”.57
Baudrillard: “The media make themselves into the vehicle of the moral condemnation of terrorism and of the explosion of fear for political ends, but simultaneously, in the most complete ambiguity, they propagate the brutal charm of the terrorist act, they are themselves terrorists, insofar as they themselves march to the tune of seduction”.58
Bush: “This is a different war from any our nation has ever faced, a war on many fronts, against terrorists who operate in more than 60 different countries. And this is a war that must be fought not only overseas, but also here at home. I recently spoke to high school students in Maryland, and realized that for the first time ever, these seniors will graduate in the midst of a war in our own country”.59
Baudrillard: “This paradoxical configuration is the only original form of our time, and subversive because insoluble. There is neither victory or defeat: no sense can be made of an event which is irremediably spectacular, or irremediably symbolic. Everything in terrorism is ambivalent and reversible: death, the media, violence, victory”.60
Bush: “I ask your continued participation and confidence in the American economy. Terrorists attacked a symbol of American prosperity. They did not touch its source. America is successful because of the hard work, and creativity, and enterprise of our people. These were the true strengths of our economy before September 11th, and they are our strengths today”.61
Baudrillard: “Of course there are those who committed these acts, but the spirit of terrorism and panic reaches far beyond them. The Americans’ war is focused on a visible object, which they would like to destroy. Yet the event of September 11th, in all of its symbolism, cannot be obliterated in this manner. The bombing of Afghanistan is a completely inadequate, substitute action”.62
Bush: “Flags are flying everywhere — on houses, in store windows, on cars and lapels”.63
Baudrillard: “The worst that can happen to global power is not to be attacked or destroyed, but to suffer a humiliation. Global power was humiliated on September 11 because the terrorists inflicted something the global system cannot give back. Military reprisals were only means of physical response. But, on September 11, global power was symbolically defeated”.64
Bush: “It is time for us to win the first war of the 21st century decisively, so that our children and our grandchildren can live peacefully into the 21st century”.65
Baudrillard: “War is a response to an aggression, but not to a symbolic challenge. A symbolic challenge is accepted and removed when the other is humiliated in return (but this cannot work when the other is crushed by bombs or locked behind bars in Guantanamo). The fundamental rule of symbolic obligation stipulates that the basis of any form of domination is the total absence of any counterpart, of any return”.66
Bush: “I think the way to fight off evil is to do some acts of goodness”. 67
Baudrillard: “Evil is the world as it is and as it has been. Misfortune is the world as it never should have been. The transformation of evil into misfortune is the most lucrative industry of the twentieth century. …Misfortune is a mine whose ore is inexhaustible. Evil, in contrast, can’t be subdued by any form of rationality. This is the illusion of the West: because technological perfection seems within reach, one believes by extension in the possibility of realizing moral perfection, in an future free of contingencies in the best of all possible worlds.68
V. Generalized Terror
Bush: “What we saw was how to take real — data on a real-time basis to determine if there was an outbreak of any kind, including a terrorist attack. The best way to protect the homeland is to understand what’s taking place on the homeland so we can respond. …an incredibly useful tool for America, a useful tool to protect ourselves”.69
Bin Laden: “Planes poured their lava on us, particularly after accomplishing their main missions in Afghanistan. The US forces attacked us with smart bombs, bombs that weigh thousands of pounds, cluster bombs, and bunker busters. Bombers, like the B-52, used to fly over head for more than two hours and drop between 20 to 30 bombs at a time. The modified C-130 aircraft kept carpet-bombing us at night, using modern types of bombs”.70
Cheney: “In Desert Storm, it usually took up to two days for target planners to get a photo of a target, confirm its coordinates, plan the mission, and deliver it to the bomber crew. Now we have near real-time imaging of targets with photos and coordinates transmitted by e-mail to aircraft already in flight. …Today our commanders have a real-time display of our own forces on their computer screens. …on a single bombing sortie, a B-2 can hit 16 separate targets, each with a 2,000-pound, precision-guided, satellite-based…”.71
Baudrillard: “…nothing takes place in real time. Not even history. History in real time is CNN, instant news, which is the exact opposite of history”.72
Bush: “We are patient; we’re deliberate. …The issue is international terror. I like our chances against bin Laden, however. There’s no cave deep enough for him to hide. He can run, and he thinks he can hide, but we’re not going to give up until he and every other potential killer, and every other body who hates freedom will be brought to justice”.73
Baudrillard: “Without a doubt, the Taliban Regime has been smashed. However, the network of the international terror organization, al-Qaida, still exists. And Bin Laden, dead or alive, has, above all, disappeared. This lends him a mythical power; he has achieved a certain supernatural quality… What is at issue is more than the control of a territory or a population or the disbanding of a subversive organization. The stakes have become metaphysical”.74
Bush: “They will try to hide, they will try to avoid the United States and our allies – but we’re not going to let them. They run to the hills; they find holes to get in… this is a great nation; we’re a kind people. None of us could have envisioned the barbaric acts of these terrorists. But they have stirred up the might of the American people, and we’re going to get them, no matter what it takes”.75
Bin Laden: “A message to our Muslim brothers in Iraq, may God’s peace, mercy, and blessings be upon you. …We are following up with great interest and extreme concern the crusaders’ preparations for war to occupy a former capital of Islam, loot Muslims’ wealth, and install an agent government, which would be a satellite for its masters in Washington and Tel Aviv, just like all the other treasonous and agent Arab governments”.76
Bush: “We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge. In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act… And our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for pre-emptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives…”.77
Baudrillard: “…what kind of state would be capable of dissuading and annihilating all terrorism in the bud…? It would have to arm itself with such terrorism and generalize terror on every level. If this is the price of security, is everybody deep down dreaming of this? … Understood: terrorism is still a lesser evil than a police state capable of ending it. It is possible that we secretly acquiesce in this fantastic proposition. There’s no need of “political consciousness” for this; it’s a secret balance of terror that makes us guess that a spasmodic eruption of violence is preferable to its rational exercise within the framework of the State, or to total prevention at the price of a total programmatic domination”.78
Bush: “Americans have many questions tonight. Americans are asking: Who attacked our country? The evidence we have gathered all points to a collection of loosely affiliated terrorist organizations known as al Qaeda. They are the same murderers indicted for bombing American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and responsible for bombing the USS Cole. Al Qaeda is to terror what the mafia is to crime. But its goal is not making money; its goal is remaking the world — and imposing its radical beliefs on people everywhere”.79
Baudrillard: “Terrorism emerges when no other form of resistance seems possible. The system takes as objectively terrorist whatever is set against it. The values of the West are ambivalent, at a definite point in time they could have a positive effect and accelerate progress, at another, however, they drive themselves to such extremes that they falsify themselves and ultimately turn against their own purpose”.80
Cheney: “And as the leading power, we have a further responsibility to help keep the peace of the world and to prevent terrorists and their sponsors from plunging the world into horrific violence. President Bush takes that responsibility very seriously, and he is meeting it with great resolve and with clarity of purpose”.81
Baudrillard: “The terrorist hypothesis is that the system will commit suicide in response to the multiple challenges posed by deaths and suicides. …It is the terrorist model to bring about an excess of reality, and have the system collapse beneath that excess of reality”.82
Cheney: “Fortunately, in this period of challenge, the United States has a leader in President Bush, who has the patience and the resolve and the moral clarity necessary to wage the war on terror and to win it”.83
Baudrillard: “What we hate in ourselves — the obscure object of our resentment — is our excess of reality, power, and comfort, our universal availability, our definite accomplishment… And this is exactly the part of our culture that the terrorists find repulsive (which also explains the support they receive and the fascination they are able to exert). Terrorism’s support is not only based on the despair of those who have been humiliated and offended. It is also based on the invisible despair of those whom globalization has privileged, on our own submission to an omnipotent technology, to a crushing virtual reality, to an empire of networks and programs that are probably in the process of redrawing the regressive contours of the entire human species, of a humanity that has gone “global.” (After all, isn’t the supremacy of the human species over the rest of life on earth the mirror image of the domination of the West over the rest of the world?). This invisible despair, our invisible despair, is hopeless since it is the result of the realization of all our desires. …if terrorism is derived from this excess of reality and from this reality’s impossible exchange, if it is the product of a profusion without any possible counterpart or return, and if it emerges from a forced resolution of conflicts, the illusion of getting rid of it as if it were an objective evil is complete. For, in its absurdity and non-sense, terrorism is our society’s own judgment and penalty”.84
Cheney: “…only the terrorists themselves want to live in such a world, where law is replaced by brute force and morality is defined by vicious and violent men”.85
Baudrillard: “Terror is dissipated by irony”.86
Baudrillard’s contribution to the virtual dialogue illustrates how theory can stand as a challenge to the real. A further interesting effect of this virtual dialogue is that the voice of Baudrillard is so relatively comforting. We are now living through a period in which it seems there is very little to believe in and this is a key problem for the proponents of terror. Each side of the current terror war offers a substitute for uncertainty. The value of Baudrillard’s thought at the present moment is its reminder that it is also important not to believe: “So today, with the loss of utopias and ideologies, we lack objects of belief. But even worse, perhaps, we lack objects in which not to believe. For it is vital — maybe even more vital — to have things in which not to believe”.87 Against the thought of Baudrillard, the prospects of fanaticism are not good, and terrorism did not stand a chance.
About the Author:
Gerry Coulter is Assistant Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada. Gerry’s research interests include: contemporary theory, fragments of the real, virtual dialogic processes, and the thought of Jean Baudrillard. He is the founder and editor of the International Journal of Baudrillard Studies.
1 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, September 20, 2001: “Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People”, United States Capitol, Washington, D.C. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010920-8.html
2 – Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism, New York: Verso, 2002, p. 32.
3 – CNN.com, “Bin Laden tape praises hijackers”, Posted: September 9, 2002, 7:38 PM EDT. http://www.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/meast/09/09/binladen.tape/index.html
4 – Jean Baudrillard, The Transparency of Evil, London: Verso, 1993, p. 43.
5 – Jean Baudrillard. Interviewed by John Johnston, Art Papers. January-February, 1989, p. 5.
6 – Manuel De Landa, A Thousand Years of Non-Linear History, New York: Zone Books, 1997, p. 41.
7 – Jean Baudrillard, Impossible Exchange, London: Sage, 2001, pp. 72-73.
8 – CNN.com, “Bin Laden tape praises hijackers”, Posted: September 9, 2002. 7:38 PM EDT. http://www.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/meast/09/09/binladen.tape/index.html
9 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, September 14, 2001: “President’s Remarks at National Day of Prayer and Remembrance”, The National Cathedral, Washington, D.C., http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010914-9.html
10 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, October 18, 2001: “Vice President Cheney Delivers Remarks at the 56th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner”. http://www.whitehouse.gov/vicepresident/news-speeches/speeches/vp20011018.html
11 – Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism, New York: Verso, 2002, p.34.
12 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, September 20, 2001: “Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People” United States Capitol, Washington, D.C. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010920-8.html
13 – Jean Baudrillard, “This Is The Fourth World War”, An Interview with Der Spiegel, 2002. Translated from the German by Samir Gandesha, with an introduction by Gary Genosko, International Journal of Baudrillard Studies, Volume 1-1, January 2004. http://www.ubishops.ca/baudrillardstudies/index.html
14 – CNN.com, “Remarks attributed to Osama bin Laden, US Government Translation”, Posted: December 14, 2001: 6:36 AM EST. http://www.cnn.com/2001/US/12/13/ret.bin.laden.videotape/index.html
15 – Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism, New York: Verso, 2002, pp. 9-11.
16 – BBCnews.com, “Bin Laden Tape: Text”, Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2003, 00:56 GMT. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2751019.stm
17 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, November 14, 2001: “Interview of the Vice President of the United States by CBS’s 60 Minutes II”. http://www.whitehouse.gov/vicepresident/news-speeches/ speeches/vp20011114.html
18 – Jean Baudrillard, “Forget Baudrillard: An Interview with Sylvere Lotringer” in Forget Foucault, Forget Baudrillard, New York: Semiotext(e), 1987, p. 121.
19 – BBCnews.com, “Transcript of Bin Laden Video Excerpts”, Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2001, 19:57 GMT. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/1729882.stm
20 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, September 15, 2001: “Remarks by the President”, Camp David, Thurmont, Maryland. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010915.html
21 – Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism, New York: Verso, 2002, pp. 25-26.
22 – BBCnews.com, “Bin Laden Tape: Text”, Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2003, 00:56 GMT. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2751019.stm
23 – Jean Baudrillard, “This Is The Fourth World War”, An Interview with Der Spiegel, 2002. See endnote 13.
24 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, September 27, 2001: “Remarks by the President to Airline Employees, O’Hare International Airport, Chicago, Illinois. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010927-1.html
25 – Jean Baudrillard, America, New York: Verso, 1988, p. 107.
26 – BBCnews.com, “Bin Laden Tape: Text”, Posted: Wednesday, February, 12 February, 2003, 00:56 GMT. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2751019.stm
28 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, September 14, 2001: “President’s Remarks at National Day of Prayer and Remembrance”, The National Cathedral, Washington, D.C. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010914-9.html
29 – Jean Baudrillard, “This Is The Fourth World War”, An Interview with Der Spiegel”, 2002. See endnote 13.
30 – BBCnews.com, “Bin Laden Tape: Text”, Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2003, 00:56 GMT. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2751019.stm
31 – Jean Baudrillard, “Interview with Guy Bellavance”, Parachute, June-August 1983, in Jean Baudrillard, Baudrillard Live. Edited by Mike Gane, New York: Routledge, 1993, p. 62.
32 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, September 11, 2001: “President’s Statement to the Nation”. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010911-16.html
33 – Jean Baudrillard, “This Is The Fourth World War”, An Interview with Der Spiegel”, 2002. See endnote 13.
34 -BBCnews.com, “Bin Laden Tape: Text”. Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2003, 00:56 GMT. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2751019.stm
35 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, September 11, 2002: “President’s Remarks to the Nation”, Ellis Island, New York, New York. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010911-16.html
36 – Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism, New York: Verso, 2002, p.12.
37 – BBCnews.com, “Bin Laden Tape: Text”, Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2003, 00:56 GMT. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2751019.stm
38 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, September 14, 2001: “President’s Remarks at National Day of Prayer and Remembrance¨, The National Cathedral, Washington, D.C. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010914-9.html
39 – Jean Baudrillard, Fragments: Cool Memories III, 1990-1995. New York: Verso, 1997, p. 133.
40 – Jean Baudrillard, “This Is The Fourth World War”, An Interview with Der Spiegel”, 2002. See endnote 13.
41 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, September 25, 2001: “International Campaign Against Terror Grows”. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010925-1.html
42 – Jean Baudrillard, “This Is The Fourth World War”, An Interview with Der Spiegel”, 2002. See endnote 13.
43 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, September 16, 2001. ¨The Vice President appears on Meet the Press with Tim Russert”. http://www.whitehouse.gov/vicepresident/news-speeches/speeches/vp20010916.html
44 – Jean Baudrillard, Cool Memories: 1980-1985, New York: Verso, 1990, p. 190.
45 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, November 6, 2001: “Remarks by the President To the Warsaw Conference on Combating Terrorism”. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/1120011106-2.html
46 – Jean Baudrillard, “This Is The Fourth World War”, An Interview with Der Spiegel”, 2002. See endnote 13.
47 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, September 12, 2001: “Remarks by the President In Photo Opportunity with the National Security Team¨, The Cabinet Room. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010912-4.html
48 – BBCnews.com, “Bin Laden Tape: Text”, Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2003, 00:56 GMT. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/ 2751019.stm
49 – Jean Baudrillard, “This Is The Fourth World War”, An Interview with Der Spiegel”, 2002. See endnote 13.
50 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, September 16, 2001: “Remarks by the President Upon Arrival, The South Lawn”. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010916-2.html
51 – Jean Baudrillard, “Our Theatre of Cruelty”, In The Shadow Of The Silent Majorities, New York: Semiotext(e) and Paul Virilio, 1983, p. 117.
52 – BBCnews.com, “Transcript of Bin Laden Video Excerpts”. Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2001, 19:57 GMT. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/1729882.stm
53 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, April 9, 2003: “Vice President Cheney Salutes Troops Remarks by the Vice President to the American Society of News Editors”. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/04/20030409-4.html
54 – Jean Baudrillard, In The Shadow Of The Silent Majorities, New York: Semiotext(e) and Paul Virilio, 1983, pp. 50-52.
55 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, November 7, 2001: “Remarks by the President In Announcement on Financial Aspects of Terrorism”, Financial Crime Enforcement Network, Vienna, Virginia”. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/11/20011107-4.html
56 – Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism, New York: Verso, 2002, p. 19, 23.
57 – BBCnews.com, “Bin Laden Tape: Text”, Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2003, 00:56 GMT. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2751019.stm
58 – Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, Ann Arbour Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1994, p. 84.
59 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, November 8, 2001: “President Discusses War on Terrorism In Address to the Nation” World Congress Center Atlanta, Georgia. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/11/20011108-13.html
60 – Jean Baudrillard, “Our Theatre of Cruelty”, In The Shadow Of The Silent Majorities, New York: Semiotext(e) and Paul Virilio, 1983, pp. 114-115).
61 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, September 20, 2001: “President’s Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People”, United States Capitol, Washington, D.C. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010920-8.html
62 – Jean Baudrillard, “This Is The Fourth World War”, An Interview with Der Spiegel”, 2002. See endnote 13.
63 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, November 8, 2001: “President Discusses War on Terrorism In Address to the Nation”, World Congress Center, Atlanta, Georgia. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/11/20011108-13.html
65 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, September 16, 2001: “Remarks by the President Upon Arrival”, The South Lawn of the White House.
67 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, February 5, 2002: “President Increases Funding for Bioterrorism by 319 Percent”, Masonic Temple, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/02/20020205-4.html
68 – Jean Baudrillard, “This Is The Fourth World War”, An Interview with Der Spiegel”, 2002. See endnote 13.
69 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, February 5, 2002: “President Increases Funding for Bioterrorism by 319 Percent”, Masonic Temple, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/02/20020205-4.html
70 – BBCnews.com, “Bin Laden Tape: Text”, Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2003, 00:56 GMT. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2751019.stm
71 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, April 9, 2003: “Vice President Cheney Salutes Troops Remarks by the Vice President to the American Society of News Editors”. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/04/20030409-4.html
72 – Jean Baudrillard, The Illusion of the End. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994, p. 90.
73 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, February 5, 2002: “President Increases Funding for Bioterrorism by 319 Percent”, Masonic Temple, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/02/20020205-4.html
74 – Jean Baudrillard, “This Is The Fourth World War”, An Interview with Der Spiegel”, 2002. See endnote 13.
75 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, September 15, 2001: “Remarks by the President”, Camp David, Thurmont, Maryland. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010915.html
76 – BBCnews.com, “Bin Laden Tape: Text”, Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2003, 00:56 GMT. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/ 2751019.stm
77 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, June 1, 2002: “Remarks by the President at 2002 Graduation Exercise of the United States Military Academy”, West Point, New York. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/06/20020601-3.html
78 – Jean Baudrillard, Fatal Strategies: Crystal Revenge, New York: Semiotext(e), 1990, pp. 22, 47.
79 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, September 20, 2001: “Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People”, United States Capitol, Washington, D.C. www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010920-8.html
80 – Jean Baudrillard, “This Is The Fourth World War”, An Interview with Der Spiegel”, 2002. See endnote 13.
81 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, April 9, 2003:“Vice President Cheney Salutes Troops Remarks by the Vice President to the American Society of News Editors”. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/04/20030409-4.html
82 – Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism, New York: Verso, 2002, pp. 17-18.
83 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, May 1, 2003: “Remarks by the Vice President to the Heritage Foundation”. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/05/20030501-9.html
85 – Press Release, Office of the White House Press Secretary, October 18, 2001: “Vice President Cheney Delivers Remarks at the 56th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner”. http://www.whitehouse.gov/vicepresident/news-speeches/speeches/vp20011018.html
86 – Jean Baudrillard, Seduction. Montreal: New World Perspectives (Culture Texts Series), 1990, p. 128.
87 – Jean Baudrillard, The Vital Illusion, New York: Columbia University Press, 2000, pp. 48-49.