Volume 2, Number 2 (July 2005)
Author: Dr. William Merrin
Note: This paper will appear as Chapter Six of William Merrin. Baudrillard and the Media: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge: Polity Press, (forthcoming) November 2005.
This paper is taken from my forthcoming book Baudrillard and the Media: A Critical Introduction. In the book I offer the first systematic critical survey of Baudrillard’s treatment of the media and of his place within, and contribution to, media and communication studies. It aims to introduce and critically explore Baudrillard’s radical Durkheimian media theory and to demonstrate its applicability and critical value for these disciplines. The first three chapters position Baudrillard theoretically and discuss the influences on his media theory. Chapter one sets out his Durkheimian theory of communication – his theory of symbolic exchange – and its function as a critical site against the semiotic and the simulation of communication its media offer. Chapter two introduces and historically contextualizes the simulacrum, considering the problems it poses for the critical site he defends. Chapter three explores the operation of his Durkheimian media theory, reconsidering his commonly assumed McLuhanism and emphasizing instead the role and significance of the work of Daniel Boorstin for his project. The following chapters discuss Baudrillard’s theory of the non-event, setting out his development of this concept and considering his own most famous and controversial example of a non-event, the first Gulf War. The sixth chapter, which appears here, develops these arguments, exploring his own later claims for the intertwining of the symbolic, fated event and semiotic, non-event and considering his exploration of these themes in his discussion of 9/11 and its military aftermath in Afghanistan and Iraq. This chapter emphasizes the value of Baudrillard’s critical project and his radical theoretical methodology.1
Are you wholly intent on demoralizing the West…?2
If Baudrillard wanted to find overwhelming evidence of a world of “non-events” he could have turned to our contemporary media and its popular productions. Today, sports, popular culture, and entertainment are all presented as “events” worthy of news headlines with the concept becoming generalized to include a range of phenomena from “water cooler” TV and “reality television” shows, to movies, web-sites, popular advertisements, soap opera characters and plotlines. As Baudrillard says, the simulacrum has become our “absolute banality and everyday obscenity”.3 Whilst his newspaper articles often comment on current events and phenomena such as mad cow disease4 , it is noticeable that his critique of non-events largely eschews an easy attack on the media-culture industry in favour of high-profile, frontal assaults on the most heavily mediated and apparently politically important events of our age. His aim in this is primarily critical, in seeking to problematize the media’s processing and production of our experience and knowledge, to demonstrate its functioning in support of a code of power, and to challenge these processes in both the form and content of his work.
Hence instead of targeting popular culture, Baudrillard challenged the entire media and military simulacra of the Gulf War, an act derived from and confirming his career-long commitment to a specific critical position and project. For him traditional or mainstream interpretations cannot produce this challenge: only the violence of extreme thought can capture and make visible extreme phenomena and push them further towards their reversal. Though Baudrillard has always retained a belief in this symbolic challenge, the great paradox of his career is its eclipse by the popular assumption of his nihilism. For many the stylistic power and insight of his description of our nihilistic world overshadows his own critical position leading to the common belief in his hyperbolic celebration of contemporary phenomena and his pessimistic rejection of all forms of resistance or hope or means of transformation.
Though erroneous, these claims are in part products of Baudrillard’s symbolic challenge and, in particular, of its methodological failure. For his challenge to succeed, Baudrillard’s counter-intuitive claims must negotiate a delicate balancing act. They must simultaneously double the world and push it further, producing a simulacral representation that resembles yet avoids domestication as a good reflection. They must simultaneously capture the spectacular form of this world whilst avoiding their own integration, speaking the language of the spectacle without providing its consecration. They must explore the perfections of this totalitarian system whilst searching for modes that survive and resist it and they must simultaneously coincide with the world and retain the distance and duel relationship required for that critical play that allows theory to become an event in the world to challenge the latter’s non-events. At its best, this challenge produces a highly original and provocative analysis and an effective critique, but when it fails – when the doubling of the world is too effective, losing the critical distance, and when the description appears as an elegy – these misinterpretations gain popular currency. Baudrillard, however, also risks a more serious failure than this; one caused not by his own doubling of the world but rather by the world’s escalation to and doubling of his own theory. It is a struggle he may be losing as, in Cool Memories IV, he laments the pace of the world’s realization of his ideas: “The simulacrum hypothesis deserved better than to become a reality”, he says.5
But the misinterpretations surrounding Baudrillard’s critical project are also the product of attempts by hostile commentators to discredit his work. The belief that Baudrillard rejects all hopes of transformation is traceable to Kellner’s early Marxist critique of what he derogatorily-titles Baudrillard’s “postmodern carnival”.6 Taking Marxism as a gold-standard for all claims of radicality and resistance, Kellner refuses to seriously consider Baudrillard’s own critical site, the symbolic, or his search for resistant, reversive forces. By side-lining his critical project, mistaking his descriptive analysis of a nihilistic system for its celebration and failing to consider Baudrillard’s opposition to simulation and the latter’s functioning as a mode of social control, Kellner is able to condemn Baudrillard as postmodern “nihilist”, warning readers of the dangers of his reactionary thought. Hence his conclusion that, “Baudrillard no longer poses any social alternative, resistance, struggle, or refusal7 , seeing “any sort of agent of political change” as impossible.8 This conclusion entirely misses the fact that from the beginning Baudrillard’s work has been animated by the dual project of tracing the new forms of social control that govern and produce us and searching for and discovering forces which oppose and reverse this perfected system.
From his earliest analyses of the sign system Baudrillard has emphasized its role as a means of social integration and control9 , allying western Marxist theories of the extension of alienation throughout everyday life with structuralist, sociological and technical analyses of the operation of this media and consumer society. Much of his early work is concerned with our socialization and training in the “code” and our semiotic production and “personalization”10 as part of the “total organization of everyday life”,11 an analysis he reaffirms in his discussion of general political economy and its role as “a mechanism of power”.12 His later redevelopment of the concept of the simulacrum does not represent a nihilistic refusal of political and ethical responsibility, as Kellner and Best argue,13 but rather an intensification of his concern at the semiotic, totalitarian and terroristic programming of everyday life.
The simulacrum, Baudrillard says, serves as a powerful “social control”.14 In only containing those possibilities “there in advance, inscribed in the code”,15 and with its “reality” being reduced to the materialization of these, it produces our experience, expectations, conception of the real, and behaviour. The “diffraction” of its models and their unilateral imposition thus plays a “regulative role”,16 in their short-circuiting, “dissuasion” and “deterrence” of the symbolic and of any other thought or response. Despite the radical uncertainty it introduces, therefore, the simulacrum paradoxically also leads to an increased determination. Baudrillard’s discussion of our “referendum mode”,17 in which all our responses are precoded stimulus/response choices that do not reflect but produce our reality to position and integrate us, illustrates precisely this. Simulation, functions therefore, as a “leukaemia infecting all social substance”, replacing the blood of the system’s body “with the white lymph of the media”.18
But if Baudrillard escalates his description of social control he also escalates his hopes for resistance, motivated by his belief in the radical presence and possibility of symbolic forces opposing, spiraling with and irrupting within the semiotic. Broadly we can identify three sources of resistance in his work. The first of these is the survival of the symbolic and its “demand” within semiotic societies. The concept appears from the first in Baudrillard’s work as a site opposing the semiotic, soon being explicitly separated and defended as an ineradicable source of resistance.19 By Symbolic Exchange and Death Baudrillard’s emphasis has shifted to the form of the symbolic itself – “reversibility” – combining Mauss and McLuhan to see this form as operating through semiotic processes, escalating them, creating reversive forces within the semiotic system or causing its collapse at the point of perfection.20 This leads to a new strategy: not of opposition but of exacerbation – “things must be pushed to the limit where, quite naturally, they collapse and are inverted”21 – and Baudrillard’s own theory attempts to follow this, trying to produce exactly this escalation in its potlatch with the world.22 The final mode of resistance emerges in his later work in his discussion of the surviving symbolic cultures of the world, such as Aboriginals and Islam, whose vitality and beliefs pose an external threat to the west.23
Thus Baudrillard sees a range of forms shadowing the system and multiplying in response to its own movement towards perfection and control. His work continually allows, searches for, and discovers reversive modes of resistance. Even the victory of non-events in the contemporary semiotic mediascape is not complete. In Impossible Exchange24 Baudrillard redevelops his analysis, taking a new interest in the “double game” of events: the spiralling within them of both semiotic and symbolic elements. The world of non-events gives rise, he says, to a desire for “an event of maximum consequence”: a desire for a “fateful” or “fated” event symbolically “rebalancing the scales of destiny”.25 Even within the non-event, therefore, another force of reversal operates.
Baudrillard’s own example of this spiralling is the death of Princess Diana. His only contemporary response was a small poem, later set to music, whose lyrics – “Frontal shock. Total screen. Full stop” – comment simultaneously upon the physical impact of the crash for its victims and the media impact of the news.26 Now, however, he returns to he describes her life and death as both a non-event27 and a fated event. Thus he describes the “positive “reality show” of her public and private life” and our own role as “full blown actors” in this imploded sphere, whilst also claiming the same public as her “virtual murderers”, desiring her death and with a “secret sense of exhilaration” at ‘the unpredictable event”.28 The non-event of her life, therefore, gave rise to the symbolic event of her “sacrificial death”,29 with the public mourning representing only the guilty “moralization of an immoral event”.30
In Baudrillard’s recent work this spiral of non-event and fated event has become a major theme, being central to his reading of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in 2001 and of the American response. It is this spiralling of semiotic and symbolic forces in the event – of forces of control and internal and external forces of reversal – that I explore in an analysis of Baudrillard’s comments on 9/11 and on the “war on terror” and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In particular I want to consider the media processes involved, his interpretation of 9/11 as both a non-event and a reversive, symbolic event, and of the western response as an attempt to reassert a global semiotic control. I conclude with a critical evaluation of the moral implications of his defense of symbolic forces against this western system.
III. The Absolute Event
In his 2002 book, The Spirit of Terrorism, Baudrillard describes the 9/11 attacks as “the absolute event”.31 The event strike he had theorised through the 1990s was over.32 Sharing the surprise at that day he not only reversed his theory but also his methodology, arguing a slower thought was required to deal with the “speed” of such events.33 For him the attacks were marked by a spiralling of semiotic and symbolic, with the western response – the “war on terror” and Afghan War – representing a further spiralling as the simulation of security and war was employed against the symbolic threat of terrorism. The “double game”, therefore, here forms a site of struggle between the global power of the western system and those internal and external, resistant and reversive forces that challenge its dominance.
Perversely, 9/11 also realises many of the central elements of the non-event. Instantly passing into and imploding with its electronic transmission, this was a global media event, accelerating us into a state of hyperreality and of feedback, interference and uncertainty. Despite the audience’s extension into the heart of the event – the real-time montage of close-ups, long-shots, multiple angles and ground images, edited and replayed and mixed with commentary, speculation, political reaction, and the apprehension and adrenalin of the live moment – no event was “happening” for them. Their electronic experience simultaneously actualised and hyper realized the real, and de-actualised and deterred it, in its semiotic transformation and presentation as televisual spectacle for domestic consumption in the comfort and security of the sign. As in the televised Gulf War, they did not risk their lives that day.
“What stays with us, above all else, is the sight of the images”, Baudrillard says.34 These take the event hostage and consume it, “in the sense that it absorbs it and offers it for consumption” as an “image-event”.35 So even this irruption of violence did not return us to the real, Baudrillard argues, for ours was primarily a “fascination with the image”,36 albeit it one with the real “superadded” to it, “like a bonus of terror, like an additional frisson: not only is it terrifying, but, what is more, it is real”.37 This frisson is important – the vertiginous pleasures of the medium, of its technical capacities, the real-time unfolding of action and the editing and production that repeated and layered the most spectacular images, all highlight the scopophilic presentation and consumption of this event. The crucial moments and footage of the plane’s explosion, the fireball’s growth and the tower’s collapse and spreading dust clouds were continuously repeated, blurring temporality: as Sky News unnecessarily added, relishing the detail, “slow-motion pictures reveal the full force and horror of the crash…”. As Zizek says, the satisfaction we got from the repeated shots “was jouissance at its purest”.38
These were “pornographic” images, motivated by the desire to materialise the real in its hypervisibility, as exemplified by the copter-cam close-ups of waving people at the windows and tracking shots of bodies in freefall down the tower’s side. The press shared the same “obscenity”, in their next-day spectacular wrap-around photo-covers and pull-out photo-sections, as did the public who queued to consume it again, poring over each image and reliving the incredulity and excitement. This consumption of real life pain and humiliation has now become a mainstream TV entertainment format, running across popular game-shows, quiz-shows, CCTV, official and viewer footage clip-shows and even the news, in its coverage of disasters and wars. 9/11 was the continuation of this scheduling by other means. In the mediated consumption of another’s pain there is a direct line from the smart-bomb’s-eye-view of the Gulf War, to the accidents, injuries, embarrassments and camcorder-catastrophes of Reality-TV, to the impotent copter-cam close-ups of 9/11: you’ve been maimed. In 1978 Baudrillard claimed terrorism was “our theatre of cruelty”.39 By 2001 it was part of a wider media experience.
For Baudrillard, however, 9/11 was more than a non-event, it also represented a combination of internal, reversive forces and the terrorist’s external symbolic challenge. His interpretation of this draws heavily upon his earlier analyses of the west’s development,40 and of its project of virtualisation,41 its global aspirations,42 its creation within itself of anomalous, reversive forces, such as terrorism, operating against its overprotected operationality,43 and its attempts to incorporate or exterminate surviving global, symbolic forces of “otherness” and “radical alterity” as well as of their resistance.44 One can also find in his earlier work an analysis of the World Trade centre as the perfect sign of this system,45 and a discussion of terrorism in which the themes of his 2002 essay are fore-grounded.46 All these phenomena crystallised for him in the events of 9/11.
In The Spirit of Terrorism Baudrillard eschews a “clash of civilisations” thesis emphasising the internal as well as external forces that produced this event. One of these was our own desire to see the reversal of every absolute, hegemonic power, including the west’s own. So, Baudrillard says, “We have dreamed of this event”,47 attempting to both live and exorcise it through our cinematic imaginary.48 It is this complicity – like that of the suicidal towers themselves49 – that gave the event a “symbolic dimension” and “resonance”.50 In the attacks, therefore, the “visible fracture” of global hostility to the west connected with that system’s own internal, reversive fracture.51 “There is indeed, a fundamental antagonism here”, Baudrillard concludes, though it is that of “triumphant globalisation battling against itself”.52 Thus terrorism is the shadow of a system that is itself terroristic, in its semiotic programming of everyday life, dissuasive media simulations and global domination.53
This system also finds itself fighting all the global “antagonistic forces”, embroiling itself in an “impossible” and “fractal” war against all the singularities and antibodies opposing it: against the resistance of “the globe itself” to globalisation.54 Just as every system devoting itself to total positivity “signs its own death warrant”,55 so the west took its own post-Communist ascendancy for granted, allowing the return of an “evil” that cannot be forced into an equilibrium by its power but that infiltrates itself globally “like a virus”.56 If this opposition cannot threaten the west militarily the latter becomes vulnerable instead in its very “excess of power” and refusal of exchange. Hence the challenge posed by “a definitive act which is also not susceptible to exchange”, by the creation of an “irreducible singularity” that revenges all those expelled and extinguished by the global system.57 The terrorists, therefore, employed the “absolute weapon” of their own sacrifice against a system founded on the “zero-sum” equation of “the exclusion of death”, inflicting upon it nearly 3000 casualties.58 This, Baudrillard says, is “the spirit of terrorism”.59
But this act represented not only an external symbolic opposition but also an internal one as the terrorists were part of this system. This was “a terrorism of the rich”, Baudrillard says60 : of those who had assimilated modernity and globalism and still wanted to destroy the west.61 Their act multiplied “to infinity” the destructive power of the “symbolic weapon” of their death by combining it with the “modern resources” of the west.62 Employing the global network without compromising their “symbolic pact”,63 their act combined “the white magic of the cinema” with “the black magic of terrorism”, producing both “the purest form of spectacle” and “the purest symbolic form”, the challenge.64 Contrary to western claims it is not this sacrifice but the elimination of enemies from a safe distance, without any contact, communication or risk, that is the real cowardice.65
“The whole of visible power can do nothing against the tiny, but symbolic, death of a few individuals”, Baudrillard claims,66 the “infinitesimal point” of their deaths creates “a gigantic suction or void, an enormous convection” around which the system of power gathers.67 The act provokes a hyper reaction and reversal of the system leading it to introduce the same repressive security measures as fundamentalist societies.68 Terrorising its own population with a fear of terrorism – all natural, accidental and reversive forces are now experienced as terroristic – so the October 2001 anthrax attacks, the November 2001 New York, January 2002 Florida and April 2002 Milan plane crashes as well as the August 2003 American-Canadian blackouts were all immediately seized on as Bin Laden’s work.69
In his 2002 book Power Inferno Baudrillard extends this analysis of the interplay of western universalization and globalisation and the global singularities that stand outside it.70 He argues here that the Enlightenment universalization of values that once attempted to assimilate other cultures within itself as difference71 has been replaced by a globalisation that instead “sweeps away all differences and values, ushering in a perfectly in-different (un)culture”.72 What remains is an “all-powerful global technostructure standing over against the singularities”, the former’s homogenising power being opposed by all the “antagonistic”, “irreducible”, “heterogeneous forces” that emerge in response.73 The more it proceeds the more we see a “resurgence” of “increasingly intense resistances to globalisation”, Baudrillard argues.74 September 11th represented, therefore, a violent response to “the violence of the global” – the eradication of singularities by a fundamentalist, western monoculture.75
For Baudrillard, “globalisation has not completely won … heterogeneous forces are rising everywhere”. Simultaneously reworking Nietzsche, McLuhan, Weber and Durkheim, Baudrillard describes the west’s attempts to subjugate these resistant cultures as the ressentiment of an “indifferent and low definition” (semiotic and cold), “disenchanted”, “de-intensified” and “de-sacralized” system at hot, symbolic, “high definition”, “high intensity”, sacrificial cultures. His Maussian view of the exchange of cultures leads him to the original argument that it is not the impoverishment and underdevelopment of the third world that explains their hostility to the west but rather the latter’s overwhelming, unilateral gift of itself to them. It is not due to “the fact that the west stole everything from them and never gave anything back” but to “the fact that they received everything and were never allowed to give anything back”. 9/11 was an attempt to reverse this “symbolic obligation” through a humiliation “the global system cannot give back”. But this western gift is also the “curse” of its own culture, Baudrillard adds, as in turning its own populations into the perpetual receivers of its bounty it risks provoking a “self-hatred” – “an invisible despair” that could itself break into violence.76
Baudrillard’s The Spirit of Terrorism has become one of his most successful and famous essays. Aided by its rapid translation and dissemination on the internet it has been largely responsible for restoring his intellectual profile and cutting-edge cachet in the English speaking World. For once the critical reaction was serious and sympathetic, his ideas being faithfully summarised and positively received. Had he denounced the attacks, as expected, as a non-event, the reaction would undoubtedly have been more hostile. As it was his description of 9/11 as “an absolute event” increased his readership, though in mirroring so closely the popular discourse and journalistic platitudes about an event whose historical status was being reappraised within two years77 it risked shortening its critical shelf-life.
Hostile reactions to his essay could still, of course, be found – especially in America. Mark Goldblatt declared in December 2001 that Baudrillard had “vaulted into the lead in the unofficial competition for Most Despicable Quote in the wake of September 11th” in claiming that America wanted these attacks,78 comments echoed by Walter Kirn in the New York Times in September 2002 who awarded Baudrillard “first prize for cerebral cold-bloodedness” for equating the experience of living and working in, with that of dying in, the towers.79 Baudrillard’s most critical reception, however, was in France where he “sparked a lively public debate” conducted in the national newspapers and earned “many critics”.80 On November 13th 2001 Jacques Julliard argued in Liberation that Baudrillard was part of “a class of miserably anti-American intellectuals”,81 an accusation repeating that by Alain Minc in the strongest attack on Baudrillard in his Le Monde article, “Terrorism of the Spirit” on 6th November.82
For Minc, Baudrillard follows a French intellectual tradition of “standing surety for the revolution underway” – just as Foucault supported Khomeini in 1979 so Baudrillard now becomes the philosopher of the “terrorist model”. By blaming American globalisation Baudrillard finds an equivalence in the system to the attacks, implicitly defending them as “one evil” responding “to another”, and so the rhetoric of this “perverse magician”, Minc says, offers only “an apology for terrorism dressed up as an explanation”. Baudrillard, therefore, shares the French intellectual’s inability to recognise the existence of “a hierarchy of values”, combining a nihilistic “anti-humanism” in which “nothing has value” with “anti-American impulses, pro-Third world reflexes and Leftist reactions”. Against this Minc defends “the absolute value” of western political and economic liberalism, its expression of an objective morality and the right of the west to defend itself.83
Minc’s reading of Baudrillard as anti-American, is of course too limited – Baudrillard has his eyes set on a wider target: the entire western semiotic culture. The more important criticism, that of implicitly defending the act, however, is itself compromised by Minc’s own absolute exoneration of America, its globalized system and its foreign policy. Mirroring America’s own amnesia of the historical forces which provoked the attack and its construction of its own innocence, all Minc offers against Baudrillard is an apology for America dressed up as an explanation of morality. His uncritical paean to western liberalism demonstrates a naivety more “pitiful” than Baudrillard’s opposition, and ends by lending support to a “war on terror” experienced by many as globally terroristic. The estimated numbers of civilian casualties of allied actions in Afghanistan and Iraq now grossly outweigh the 3000 killed in 9/11 and Minc’s implicit defence of these deaths exposes the racist hypocrisy of the “humanism” he claims to stand for, highlighting his own, rather than Baudrillard’s, nihilism.
Much of Baudrillard’s analysis is actually defensible. 9/11 did represent the reversal of western power as well as the reversal in particular of the west’s unilateral model of war. Just as the Gulf War was “won in advance”,84 so these single, unanswerable air-strikes instantly crippled, humiliated and defeated American power: before Bush could even announce his “war on terror” the war had already taken place and America had lost. As in the Gulf, military defeat was not necessary, victory on the airwaves was sufficient and this was provided by the global media’s amplification of these attacks. Their endless replays created a montage effect not of a single cruise missile strike but of dozens of strikes upon New York City: of an urban storm reversing that “desert storm” unleashed upon the Arab world in 1991. The real-time wave-guided images sucked the oxygen from their imploded, urban, front-line audiences like fuel-air explosives, just as Arab civilians in the urban front-line of the Gulf War were hit by western munitions. Ultimately, Baudrillard was correct that the spectacle of this “definitive act” was “not susceptible to exchange”. The problem America faced was not simply one of punishment or long-term security but of producing a response that would match these images, erasing their memory and restoring its global face. Its answer was to turn back to the model of the Gulf War, its semiotic materialisation and its global deterrence.
IV. “Let Freedom Reign!”
As Baudrillard suggests, the western response employed simulation as a global social control, the non-event of the Gulf War85 providing the model for the unilateral, “spectacular set-pieces” of the Afghan and Iraq wars that were designed to both revenge the attacks and domesticate all resisting territory.86 If the American response succeeded in this, it failed, however, to ascend to the terrorist challenge and produce images equivalent to those of that day. Set against the spectacle of 9/11 America’s strikes upon Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries on earth, appeared an impoverished act. Its “repetitive, rehashed pseudo-event” in which the model preceded and dominated, could not substitute, Baudrillard says, “for a real and formidable, unique and unforeseeable event”.87
Beginning on 7th October with a cruise missile and bombing assault on Kabul, the war would always suffer from being a TV repeat of the Gulf War, lacking the spectacle, footage and novelty, upon a country that, as the Captain of the USS Enterprise admitted was “not a target-rich environment”.88 As one General commented, the military action involved “turning big bits of rubble into small bits of rubble”.89 Bombed, ramshackle, training camps, already-razed Afghan cities, mountain warfare, and a ground offensive mostly conducted with Afghani, Northern Alliance fighters, televisually indistinguishable from the Taliban they opposed (and often had once been), came a poor second to the real-time, hypervisible spectacle of the imploding Twin Towers. American attempts to stage-manage the media spectacle of war and manufacture more dramatic footage of commando raids noticeably backfired.90
Despite the end of al Queda operations in Afghanistan and the defeat of the Taliban, the war that faded from view even before the BBC’s John Simpson “liberated” Kabul91 and Kandahar and the Tora Bora were cleared was a limited success. Afghanistan still lacks democracy, basic services and peace, as renewed Taliban attacks show, and Mullah Omar and Bin Laden both escaped. The latter has taken on an even more spectral presence in the tapes and videos released since 2001,92 his iconic status being confirmed by the sight of Eminem in a Bin laden beard getting down in a cave in his 2002 “Without Me” video and Aaron Barschak’s gate crashing of Prince William’s birthday party in June 2003. On 20th December 2001, on the day the number of dead in 9/11 was revised down to 3234, civilian deaths in Afghanistan were estimated at 3767.93
Despite Bush’s promise of “a new kind of war” to defeat global terrorism,94 the Afghan War failed to produce or achieve either. The Gulf War model, so effective in the non-place of the desert, was of limited use against the non-place of al Queda whilst the only effective response – a networked, intelligence-led, on-going security campaign against terrorism – could not provide the images to eclipse 9/11. Hence the turn to Iraq in early 2003. Though it offered little advantage in the fight against terrorism it promised a more tangible target amenable to western military power, the opportunity to repeat the global spectacle and ratings success of the 1991 war, a more certain, visible and traditional victory than any in the “war on terror”, and the chance to settle old, familial geo-political scores against an enemy whom many Americans believed anyway to be behind the World Trade Centre attacks.95
“Operation Iraqi Freedom” was launched on 20th March 2003 – broadcast as “the Iraq War” or “Gulf War II” – to deliver a global, spectacular television victory over a physical, urban centre and identifiable regime, with Saddam substituting for the absent Bin Laden as his sliding, metonymic double. If the Rumsfeld doctrine was in the ascendant militarily, the media war was still modelled on 1991. Cognisant of how real-time reports from Baghdad had captured the world’s attention then, on 22nd March this city became the theatre for the Son et Lumiere display of “Shock and Awe”. The repeated simulacral model of war and the real-time, global spectacle of a cruise missile assault on the city to excited commentary would again function as a means of social control, re-asserting America’s power and pride. The attack failed, however, to “awe” either the Iraqis or its western audience. The video-game images (“Shock and Awe” being trademarked by Sony soon after),96 were too reminiscent of the video-game images of 1991 and just as the “bullet time” fights of The Matrix: Reloaded, though better, lacked the excitement of first seeing them in The Matrix, so the “bomb-time” effects of The Gulf War: Reloaded suffered from the same problem.
There were, however, important innovations in the media war. In Britain the access to 24 hour news channels had grown significantly since 1991, bringing a new real-time experience of war.97 Moreover what was seen was more explicit, including battle-field footage from Umm Qasr and live enemy operations on the banks of the Tigris. Satellite TV and the internet also provided access to more non-western, sources as well as to otherwise-censored images and personal weblogs charting civilian experience in Iraq.98 Satellite TV technology also allowed a new, individually-tailored experience, with interactive buttons allowing the viewer to switch between battle zones, “to call the shot of the shots”.99
Despite this the war coverage repeated its predecessor’s simulacral dramatisation and deactualization for its western audience. The extra reality on offer returns us again to Baudrillard’s claim that all attempts to add more dimensions onto our experience of the real only perfects its simulacrum, increasing our absence from the world in making us think we are closer to it.100 Perceptive analysts noted how much the war coverage owed to the styles of Reality-TV and contemporary simulated reality shows such as 24, adding to the media’s implosion with the war.101 This was seen especially in the live feeds, editing, narrativization, camera shots, split-screen effects, audience voting and email-feedback coverage, and the Survivor-style reports of the embedded journalists, epitomised by NBC’s David Bloom. This was war packaged in a prime-time entertainment format as the hoped-for, summer “reality-event-show”.
The military followed the same television and Hollywood scripting,102 most obviously in ready-made for war-TV human drama, “Saving Private Lynch”, which emerged amidst a stalled campaign and growing criticism of Rumsfeld’s game-plan. The eye-witnesses’ description of her rescue as conducted like “an action movie” was apposite, given that, as Kampfner says, “the Pentagon had been influenced by Hollywood producers of Reality-TV and action movies, notably Black Hawk Down”.103 Despite later doubts, the edited video-package did its job in turning around the national mood. Hollywood may be circling around this story but any future film would already be a sequel. What this non-event highlighted was the significance the military attached not just to controlling but actively producing and directing coverage for a medium whose need to fill its air-time was felt by the allied powers as potentially destabilising – as British Foreign secretary Jack Straw made clear when he complained that the evacuation of Dunkirk would have been impossible with rolling coverage.104 He had a point: the “pause” in the first week of the war, together with unexpected Iraqi resistance, caused confusion and worry for a media and public who had never considered the possibility of a real Gulf War. This, however, would not happen: the victory here was as precessionary and certain as in 1991.105
The endgame, however, failed to provide the global spectacle America desired: the half-toppling of the statue of Saddam in Firdouz Square on 9th April was a too obvious and weak symbolic counterpart to the fall of the Twin Towers. With Saddam’s disappearance, all that was left was a non-event produced and framed for our consumption as the definitive and predictable sign of the regime’s end. The self-liberation of the Iraqis could not be accomplished: when it became clear that they could not quickly pull the statue down the American military stepped in to finish the job. The Iraqis did not understand the primacy of the western audience, the time-constraints even of rolling news, and the network’s fear of a drifting audience and their need to deliver that “Kennedy” moment (“where were you?” … “watching television”). So the Iraqis were excluded from this act, in an implosion of media and military with the event that neutralised and short-circuited the people’s efforts, replacing them with that demanded, semiotic image of the statue’s fall. Believing they were the centre and meaning of the act the Iraqis did not see that they were only the extras, providing local colour and a guarantee of authenticity and legitimacy for the western audience for whom the event really occurred. This forced, final act exposed the paucity of the war’s spectacle, rushing the end of the war for the television public.
The most visible face of Iraq during the war was the Iraqi Information Minister, Mohammed Saeed-al-Sahaf. Dubbed “Comical Ali” by the western media for his “Panglossian” stories and lies he became a cult-figure in the west appearing on T-shirts and web sites and as a talking doll.106 Our mirth at his lying was, however, disingenuous. Just as Disneyland’s fictions serve, Baudrillard argues, to convince America that everything outside it is real,107 so the west employed “Comical Ali” to demonstrate the abuses of the totalitarian system and the truthfulness, transparency and morality of our own media. Actually their hyper realised, fragmentary and uncertain reports provided little more “truth” and many of their claims were as fictive or uncertain as those of Comical Ali.108 How many times, for example, was Umm Qasr taken by the coalition? We should reflect, therefore, on Comical Ali’s last words to western journalists, “I now inform you that you are too far from reality”.109 Whatever “lies” his talking doll tells it is more truthful than the Bush doll also offered for sale in the US wearing a “full naval aviator flight uniform”, modelled on the one he wore on the USS Abraham Lincoln on 1st May 2003 as he declared the end of the war, rather than the National Guard uniform he wore during Vietnam.110
If, as Baudrillard argued, the 1991 Gulf War ended with a victory that was not a victory,111 so too did its sequel. Whereas America’s “absence of politics” (its lack of plans for the post-war region) led to its rapid withdrawal in 1991, this time regime change necessitated a military and political presence. The same “absence of politics” was immediately obvious, however, as mass looting, lawlessness and anti-Americanism, together with a continued and effective insurgency cast a question mark over the victory that even the capture and global display of Saddam Hussein in December 2003 could not overcome. Although this spectacle had been long-anticipated, the images of a shabby old man’s medical were less impressive than had been hoped, and certainly could not compete with those of 9/11. A June 2003 estimate of 5,000 to 10,000 Iraqi civilian deaths in the war112 made the figure for the World Trade Centre, that had morally and politically legitimated the invasion, appear small. In October 2004 The Lancet suggested a figure of over 100 000 “excess deaths” since the war was launched.113
There were other Baudrillardian echoes in the aftermath too. The war that Bush declared over on May 1st was a non-war and it was followed by a non-peace: by a post-war that looked more like a real war. In August 2003 the number of American soldiers killed after the war overtook those killed during it114 and, by June 16th 2004, 694 of the 853 US casualties to date had been killed in the post-war period.115 Iraqi insurgents targeted the American military, foreign workers, the new Iraqi regime, the Shia community and Kurds, and ordinary Iraqi civilians, leading to a confused, insecure and bloody state of “peace”. April 2004 also saw a Sunni rebellion centred upon Falluja, and a radical Shiite uprising in south and central Iraq both against the US occupation. Fighting spread, covering Iraq from north to south, much of it put down by US military force, leading to at least 600 people killed in Falluja.116 By the anniversary of Bush’s declaration of the war’s end it was Comical Ali’s claims – “we have them surrounded in their tanks”; “they are the ones who will find themselves under siege”; “we have drawn them into a quagmire and they will never get out of it” – that appeared most truthful.
Criticism also grew of the justification for the war. Weapons of mass destruction were not found, Iraqi “freedom” had turned into civil and military chaos and the moral superiority of the west collapsed when photographs of the torture and sexual abuse of Iraqi captives were published in April 2004.117 On 28th June Iraq was given sovereignty in a secret hand-over, brought forward to avoid attack. Bush’s media-friendly response to the news on a note passed to him – “Let freedom reign!” – bore little relation to the situation on the ground where armed resistance, terrorist attacks and foreign hostage-taking and executions continued. For Bush’s critics the Iraq War was increasingly seen as a personalised diversion of the war on terror; one fuelling global Islamic militancy, giving al Queda a foothold in Iraq and having little effect upon its terrorist capacity, as attacks since 9/11 in Tunisia, Karachi, Kuwait, Bali, Jordan, Kenya, Morocco, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Madrid demonstrated.118
For Baudrillard, therefore, the American response to 9/11 represented a further spiral of the semiotic and symbolic processes within those events and an attempt to deploy simulation as a means of global control and homogenisation. His claim that the unilateral, simulacral model of non-war was employed by the west to eradicate globally resistant forces finds support in the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and their aftermath. These were not just conducted in order to defeat terrorists or a future terrorist threat but also to integrate these outlaw zones and their symbolic cultures within a western model of democracy and a controlled, global system. Whilst Baudrillard’s picture of a fundamentalist western monoculture imposing the global “reign” of its own values may attract criticism, it is one that many others around the world will recognise. Either way, his claim that such a global project inevitably and continuously produces new forces of resistance to it is one that should be heeded, especially after witnessing the deterioration of Iraq.
V. “Unacceptable” Thought
Baudrillard later admitted the problems of thinking about the “absolute event” of 9/11, in providing “an analysis which might possibly be as unacceptable as the event, but strikes the … symbolic imagination in the same way”.119 Baudrillard’s defence of the world’s singularities against the west and critique of its own semiotic terrorism will certainly be unacceptable to many. In particular his claim in Cool Memories that it would be “better to feel ourselves dying, even in the convulsions of terrorism” than to disappear in our systems, condemned to their “anaesthetised”, political, social and historical “coma”,120 retrospectively makes for uncomfortable reading. Baudrillard’s career-long defence of the symbolic against the semiotic becomes problematic, therefore, on the issue of terrorist violence.
Minc was not the only one to feel Baudrillard’s 9/11 essays represented an apology for terrorism. Der Spiegel opened their frank 2002 interview with him with the question:
Der Spiegel: Monsieur Baudrillard, you have described the 9/11 attacks on New York as the “absolute event”. You have accused the United States, with its insufferable hegemonic superiority, of rousing the desire for its own destruction. Now that the reign of the Taliban has collapsed pitifully and Bin Laden is nothing more than a hunted fugitive, don’t you have to retract everything?
Baudrillard: I have glorified nothing, accused nobody, justified nothing. One should not confuse the messenger with his message. I have endeavoured to analyse the process through which the unbounded expansion of globalisation creates the conditions for its own destruction.121
Baudrillard’s replies offer a restatement and defence of his earlier arguments on 9/11. Thus American power, focusing on visible objects, cannot erase the “symbolism” of that day, he argues, the war in Afghanistan representing a “completely inadequate, substitute action”. He is also equivocal about the final benefits of that war, rejecting the idea that B-52s can act as “instruments of the world-spirit”. He repeats his belief that terrorism is a product of the global system, a product that cannot be militarily defeated as its virus has penetrated everywhere to sit “at the heart of the culture that fights it”. He criticises especially the “immense violence” of globalisation, rejecting its self-promotion as a force for human rights and universal values as an “advertising” at odds with its actual effects. Finally, he warns again of the inevitable counter-reaction the west’s paradoxical project of forcing democracy upon the world will bring.
In the interview, Baudrillard explicitly denies defending terrorism: as he says, “I do not praise murderous acts – that would be idiotic”. When pushed on the morality of his critique, he reverses the interviewer’s assumptions to point out that, in opposing the west’s violent incorporation of “everything that is unique, every singularity”, he is “the humanist and moralist”. We can see here his positioning both within and outside the western system he criticises. From one perspective Baudrillard remains a western thinker, drawing upon established intellectual traditions and pursuing a committed internal critique of the west’s organisation, operation and effects and thus adopting a clear moral position upon these phenomena. But this position spirals with another with his defence of symbolic cultures from the claimed, external standpoint of the symbolic and his ironic adoption and reversal of western morality against itself (in emphasising the contradiction between its universal ideals and the terroristic effects of its globalisation), both destabilising this same moral position.
This simultaneous actual and ironic adoption of western intellectual values is seen again in his claim for a morality in the form of his work. “In my own way, I am very much a moralist. There is a morality of analysis, a duty of honesty”. Rejecting claims of resignation, he says, “I don’t resign myself, I want clarity, a lucid consciousness … In this respect I am a man of the Enlightenment”. Against a moral reading that falsifies history he argues, “we must see the thing beyond the opposition of good and bad. I seek a confrontation with the event as it is without equivocation”. Whether Baudrillard achieved this remains open to question, but his was one of the most well-publicised, critical voices emerging in the aftermath of an event whose horror seemed to place it beyond questioning, creating a mood of respectful silence that legitimated the resulting neo-conservative military response and policy. If he fulfilled here his role as a lucid consciousness and Enlightenment intellectual, confronting the event without equivocation, it was, however, the spiralling of this position with his anti-Enlightenment, anti-humanist, anti-western, symbolic critique, and its provocation and challenge that gave his essay its power.
Thus we return to the issue of Baudrillard’s defence of the symbolic. His initial response to Der Spiegel’s first question might be seen as disingenuous. Though he does not offer the “apology” for terrorism Minc claims, he does not offer the purely descriptive analysis he suggests either. As I have argued, Baudrillard has actively defended and promoted the symbolic and its mode of resistance and reversal from the beginning, searching and even hoping for its irruption within and against the western semiotic order. This becomes problematic when that irruption takes the form of the terrorist atrocity of 9/11. He does, of course, see this terrorism as part of the semiotic order and its processes, which complicates his positioning, but insofar as it remains a manifestation of those symbolic forces he has defended his critical framework is implicated in a support for its actions. His concept of the symbolic explicitly draws upon the radical Durkheimianism of Bataille, Caillois, Klossowski and the College of Sociology which valorises forms of behaviour, modes of relations and violence such as ritual sacrifice as a means of disturbing the profane and opening the sacred in the communion they produce. Hence, despite the internal processes contributing to 9/11, his description of the terrorist “sacrifice” risks a radical Durkheimian valorisation of the attacks. From within western Enlightenment morality such a position is, as Baudrillard admits, “unacceptable”, but it may be that outside of that system, from the perspective of the symbolic and the order of the sacred, its horror may allow for another explanation and even a justification.
Interestingly, Baudrillard does not go that far, his identification of terrorism as part of and as produced by our system allowing him to avoid a full commitment to it as a symbolic force. The same spiralling of these forms can, therefore, be found in his own positioning as he cannot be satisfactorily or comfortably placed in relation to the morality of the terrorist attacks. Arguably he fails in the sight of both semiotic and symbolic orders. From the western perspective he does not condemn them sufficiently whilst from the perspective of the symbolic he fails to offer the defence his position logically calls for. The main failure of Baudrillard’s essay, therefore, is its lack of defence of the terrorist acts. As he acknowledges, such a defence would have been absolutely unacceptable but arguably his philosophy demanded precisely that position. Thus, for the first time, Baudrillard failed to rise to his own challenge.
The strength of his essay, however, lies in their critique of the western order and this is how it should be read. What Baudrillard’s work presents us with is a stark choice of modes of meaning, communication and relations. If the violent world of the sacred and its “convulsive communication” is threatening or terrifying to us, immured in the hyper-security of our permanent profane in which we consume the world through its media simulacra, Baudrillard makes clear that what is even more monstrous is a society that expels it so thoroughly to promote the semiotic reduction, processing and mediation of all relations and the neutralisation, dissuasion and anaesthetisation of experience. Only that society is capable of responding to the terrorism of September 11th with an indefinite, terroristic “war on terror”, and only that society, having declared the absolute value of innocent, human life could transmit live images of the destruction of another city into its population’s home as entertainment and care so little about the mounting casualties it creates. Ultimately, Baudrillard’s media theory makes us aware, it is we who are the apologists for terrorism.
“Are you wholly intent on demoralising the west?”, Philippe Petit asks Baudrillard in Paroxysm.122 Baudrillard wilfully reinterprets the question in the light of the radical Durkheimian tradition’s historical genealogy of the west’s desacralization and nihilistic evacuation of all symbolic relations and meaning to reverse its critical intent. “The demoralisation of the west is constitutive of its history”, Baudrillard responds. “I didn’t invent it”.
About the Author:
William Merrin is a Lecturer in Media and Communications at the University of Wales, Swansea, UK. He is the author of Baudrillard and the Media, Polity 2005. He is also a co-organizer of the Engaging Baudrillard’ Conference to be held at Swansea University, September 4-6, 2006. He has recently become an Editor of IJBS.
1 – The final chapters of my book discuss his theorization of cinema and new media and his emphasis again upon questions of social control, incorporation and resistance through a case study of the film, The Matrix, and offer a critical evaluation of his theory and practice of photography. The book’s conclusion reaffirms Baudrillard’s value for media and communication studies, identifying his most important contributions to the field, and restates the value of his radical methodology: the “theoretical violence” of his “speculation to the death”.
2 – Philippe Petit asks Baudrillard this question in Jean Baudrillard. Paroxysm: Interviews With Philippe Petit. London: Verso, 1998:15.
3 – Jean Baudrillard. “Objects, Images, and the Possibility of Aesthetic Illusion”, in Nicholas Zurbrugg (Ed.) Jean Baudrillard. Art and Artefact, London: Sage Publications, 1997:11.
4 – See Jean Baudrillard. Screened Out. London: Verso, 2002.
5 – Jean Baudrillard. Cool Memories IV. London: Verso, 2003:92.
6 – Douglas Kellner. Jean Baudrillard. From Marxism to Postmodernism and Beyond. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1989:93.
7 – Ibid.:214.
8 – Ibid.:216.
9 – Jean Baudrillard. The Consumer Society. London: Sage, 1998:60-1, 94.
10 – Ibid.:87-98.
11 – Ibid.:29.
12 – Jean Baudrillard. For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign. St Louis: Telos Press, 1981:66, 85, 87.
13 – Douglas Kellner and Steven Best. Postmodern Theory. Critical Interrogations. London: Macmillan Press, 1991.
14 – Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. London: Sage, 1993:60.
15 – Ibid.:59.
16 – Ibid.:70.
17 – Ibid.:62.
18 – Ibid.:67.
19 – Jean Baudrillard. The Mirror of Production. St Louis: Telos, 1975:147; Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. London: Sage, 1993:2.
20 – Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. London: Sage, 1993:1-5.
21 – Ibid.:5.
22 – Jean Baudrillard. Impossible Exchange. London: Verso, 2001:149-50.
23 – Baudrillard. The Transparency of Evil. London: Verso, 1993:81-88;113-74.
24 – Jean Baudrillard. Impossible Exchange. London: Verso, 2001.
25 – Ibid.:132-8.
26 – Jean Baudrillard. “Lament For Lady Di”, in M. Merck (Ed.) After Diana. Irreverent Elegies. London: Verso, 1988:75-6.
27 – See also William Merrin. “Crash, Bang, Whallop! What a Picture! The Death of Diana and the Media”, in Mortality, Volume 4, Number 1, 1999:41-62.
28 – Jean Baudrillard. Impossible Exchange. London: Verso, 2001:137.
29 – Ibid.:134-6.
30 – Ibid.:137.
31 – Jean Baudrillard. The Spirit of Terrorism. London: Verso, 2002:4. The essay appeared in Le Monde on November 3rd 2001 and was widely disseminated in translation through e-mail lists. A paper from February 2002, “Requiem For the Twin Towers” was included in this book.
32 – Jean Baudrillard. The Spirit of Terrorism. London: Verso, 2002:3.
33 – Ibid.:4.
34 – Ibid.:26.
36 – Ibid.:28-9.
37 – Ibid.:29.
38 – Slavoj Zizek. Welcome to the Desert of the Real. London: Verso, 2002:12.
39 – Jean Baudrillard. In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities. New York: Semiotext(e), 1983:114.
40 – Jean Baudrillard. The System of Objects. London: Verso, 1996; The Consumer Society. London: Sage, 1998; For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign. St Louis: Telos, 1981; Symbolic Exchange and Death. London: Sage, 1993; Forget Foucault. New York: Semiotext(e), 1987; Fatal Strategies. London: Pluto Press, 1990; The Transparency of Evil, London: Verso, 1993.
41 – Jean Baudrillard. The Perfect Crime. London: Verso, 1996; Jean Baudrillard Impossible Exchange. London: Verso, 2001.
42 – See Jean Baudrillard. The Gulf War Did Not Take Place. Sydney: Power Publications, 1995; The Illusion of the End. Cambridge: Polity Press.
43 – Jean Baudrillard. The Transparency of Evil. London: Verso, 1993:36-80.
44 – Jean Baudrillard. The Transparency of Evil. London: Verso, 1993:81-88, 111-74; Jean Baudrillard The Perfect Crime. London: Verso, 1996:107-49.
45 – Jean Baudrillard. Symbolic Exchange and Death. London: Sage, 1993:69-70.
46 – Jean Baudrillard. In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities. New York: Semiotext(e), 1983; Fatal Strategies. London: Pluto press, 1990:34-50; The Transparency of Evil. London: Verso, 1993:75-80; “Baudrillard Shrugs: a Seminar on Terrorism and the Media with Sylvere Lotringer and Jean Baudrillard”, in W. Stearns and W. Chaloupka (Eds.) Jean Baudrillard. The Disappearance of Art and Politics. London: Macmillan, 1992:283-302. Baudrillard’s discussion of terrorism includes an analysis of its relationship with the masses and media, its combination of media spectacle and symbolic challenge, its use of the media to promote a “fascination” for its violence, its attack upon an already terroristic “social” through senseless acts lacking determinate enemies or achievable goals, its targeting of those anonymous masses produced by the system aiming to send “shockwaves” through the media, creating a point around which the system condenses and collapses in its own response and creation of a hyper-security, and thus its unleashing of a “reversibility” in which all accidents and unforeseen natural phenomena are experienced as terroristic and destabilising.
47 – Jean Baudrillard. The Spirit of Terrorism. London: Verso, 2002:5.
48 – Ibid.:5-7.
50 – Ibid.:5-6.
52 – Ibid.:11.
53 – Jean Baudrillard. In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities. New York: Semiotext(e), 1983:50.
54 – Jean Baudrillard. The Spirit of Terrorism. London: Verso, 2002:12.
55 – Jean Baudrillard. The Transparency of Evil. London: Verso, 1993:106.
56 – Jean Baudrillard. The Spirit of Terrorism. London: Verso, 2002:15.
57 – Ibid.:9.
58 – Ibid.:16-18.
59 – Ibid.:17.
60 – Ibid.:23.
61 – Ibid.:19.
62 – Ibid.:21.
63 – Ibid.:22.
64 – Ibid.:29-30.
65 – Ibid.:26.
66 – Ibid.:19.
67 – Ibid.:18.
68 – Ibid.:31-32.
70 – Jean Baudrillard. “The Despair of Having Everything”, 2002, http://www.egs.edu/faculty/baudrillard/baudrillard-the-despair-of-having-everything.html (link no longer active 2018)
Jean Baudrillard. “The Violence of the Global”, Ctheory.net, 2003 http://www.ctheory.net/text_file.asp?pick=385
71 – Jean Baudrillard. The Transparency of Evil. London: Verso, 1993:124-38.
72 – Jean Baudrillard. Paroxysm. Interviews With Philippe Petit, London: Verso, 1998:14.
73 – Ibid.:14.
74 – Ibid.:13.
76 – Ibid.
77 – Terry Eagleton. “Roots of Terror”, in The Guardian, Review, September 6, 2003:14.
78 – Mark Goldblatt. “French Toast. America Wanted September 11th”, National Review Online, 13th December 2001.
79 – Walter Kirn. “Notes on the Darkest Day”, Book Review, The New York Times, 8th September, 2002
80 – Brian Swint. “The View From France”, 2002. http://www.unc.edu/depts/tam/journal/02/swintmarch02.htm (no longer active 2018)
81 – Ibid.
82 – Alain Minc. “Terrorism of the Spirit”, in Correspondence: An International Review of Culture and Society, Issue Number 9, Spring, 2002. Originally published in Le Monde, 7th November, 2001.
83 – Ibid.
84 – Jean Baudrillard. The Gulf War Did Not Take Place, Sydney: Power Publications, 1995:61.
85 – Jean Baudrillard. The Spirit of Terrorism. London: Verso, 2002:12; 34.
87 – Jean Baudrillard. The Spirit of Terrorism. London: Verso, 2002:34.
88 – John Borger et. al. “War About to Enter a New Phase”, in The Guardian, 10th October, 2001:1.
89 – Jonathan Freedland. “We Can’t Do it by Bombing”. The Guardian, G2, 19th October, 2001:2-3.
90 – L. Harding, et. al. “Revealed: How Bungled US Raid Came Close to Disaster”, in The Guardian, November 6, 2001:1.
91 – O. Burkeman. “Simpson of Kabul”, in The Guardian, G2, 14th November, 2001:1-3.
92 – See Binoy Kampmark. “The Spectre of Bin Laden in the Age of Terrorism”, in Ctheory.net, article 116, 14th November 2002. Jean Baudrillard. “This is the Fourth World War: The Der Spiegel Interview With Jean Baudrillard”, in International Journal of Baudrillard Studies, Volume 1, Number 1 January, 2004.
93 – S. Milne. “The Innocent Dead in a Coward’s War”, in The Guardian, 20th December, 2001:16. This figure for the Afghan War is not the only one available. A survey published in the New York Times in July 2002 claimed 812 losses as a direct result of US bombs, whilst a survey by The Guardian in February 2002 claimed 2000-8000 had lost their lives as a result of the overall conflict. See J. Treanor. ‘US Raids “Killed 800 Afghan Civilians”’, in The Guardian, 22nd July, 2002:11.
94 – D. Campbell. “Bush Talks of First War of 21st Century”, in The Guardian, 14th September, 2001:5.
95 – P. Harris. “US Public Thinks Saddam Had Role in 9/11”, The Observer, 7th September, 2003:20.
96 – J. Day. “Shock and Awe™ – It’s Just a Game”, in The Guardian, 11th April, 2003:12.
97 – A. Sherwin. “War Addicts Cause TV News Audience to Rocket”, in The Times, 25th March, 2003:7; M. Wells. “Start of Television War Brings Big Ratings Rise”, in The Guardian, 28th March, 2003:8.
98 – B. Hammersley. “Giving it to You Straight”, in The Guardian, On-Line section, 27th March, 2003:6-7; S. Dodson. “Brutal Reality Hits Home”, in The Guardian, On-Line section, 21st August, 2003:21; F. Yafai al. “Lack of Trust in Media Turns Many to Alternative Sources”, in The Guardian, 28th March, 2003:9.
99 – M. Lawson. “Off to War With the Armchair Division”, in The Guardian, 24th March, 2003:11.
100 – Jean Baudrillard. The Consumer Society, London: Sage Publications, 1998:122.
101 – J. Patterson. “Pentagon Pictures Presents”, in The Guardian, G2, 11th April, 2003:5; A. Iannucci. “Shoot Now, Think Later”, in The Guardian, G2, 28th April, 2003:16; M. Lawson. “Come the Movie, it’s a Role For Will Smith”, in The Guardian, 28th March, 2003:8.
102 – J. Patterson. “Pentagon Pictures Presents”, in The Guardian, G2, 11th April, 2003:5.
103 – J. Kampfner. “The Truth About Jessica”, in The Guardian, G2, 15th May, 2003:1-3.
104 – K. Ahmed and G. Hinsliff. “Downing St. in BBC ‘Bias’ Row”, in The Observer, 30th March, 2003:8; M. White. “Straw Accuses Media of Wobble in War Coverage”, in The Guardian, 29th October, 2001:1.
105 – J. Borger. “How the Pentagon’s Promise of a Quick War Ran into the Desert Sand”, in The Guardian, 28th March, 2003:4-5.
106 – I. Black. “Defiant Misinformation Minister Still Fighting on Media Frontline”, in The Guardian, 7th April, 2003:5; N. Watt. “Baghdad is Safe, the Infidels are Committing Suicide”, in The Guardian, 8th April, 2003:8.
107 – Jean Baudrillard. Simulacra and Simulation, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1994:12.
108 – S. Millar and M. White. “Facts, Some Fiction and the Reporting of War”, in The Guardian, 29th March, 2003:7; S. Millar. “Fog of War Shrouds the Facts”, in The Guardian, 5th April, 2003:5.
109 – J. Revill. “Son of Comical Ali: My Father is ‘a Great Guy’”, in The Observer, 13th April, 2003:4.
110 – D. Campbell. “Sahaf Turned Into Talking Doll”, in The Guardian, 21st April, 2003:5; “Bush, Barbie, or Bob the Builder – a Choice to Toy With”, in The Guardian, 27th August, 2003:3.
111 – Jean Baudrillard. The Gulf War Did Not Take Place, Sydney: Power Publications, 1995:81.
112 – S. Jeffery. “War May Have Killed 10,000 Civilians, Researchers Say”, in The Guardian, 13th June, 2003:18.
113 – “Iraq Death Toll ‘Soared Post War’”, BBC News, 29th October 2004. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3962969.stm
114 – P. Beaumont. “Chaos Reigns as Saddam’s Plan Unfolds”, in The Observer, 31st August, 2003:24-25.
115 – J. Borger et. al. ‘”Iraq War ‘Will Cost Each US Family $3,400’”, in The Guardian, 25th June, 2004:16.
116 – I. Chevallot. “A History of Terror and Slow Progress”, in The Guardian, 28th June, 2004:4-5.
117 – Baudrillard discussed these images in his article “War Porn”, published in Liberation on 19th May 2004. Just like 9/11, he says, these photographs represented a humiliation of American power, though this time it is a self-inflicted one, their pornography becoming “the ultimate form of the abjection of war”. However, where 9/11 was “a major event” this is “a non-event of an obscene banality”, the result of a power that “no longer knows what to do with itself”, acting “in total impunity”. The photographs are an attempt to respond to the humiliation of 9/11 “by even worse humiliation”, by an attempt at the symbolic extermination of the other. The exposure and dissemination of the images, however, has reversed again onto America, Baudrillard argues. With these photographs “it is really America that has electrocuted itself”. See Jean Baudrillard. “War Porn”, in International Journal of Baudrillard Studies, Volume 2, Number 1, January 2005, Translated by Alan Taylor.
118 – J. Burke. “Evil Awakening Gives New Life to Terrorism”, in The Observer, 7th September, 2003; D. McGrory. “Two Years On, Bush May be Losing War to al-Quaida”, in The Times, 10th September, 2003:15.
119 – Jean Baudrillard. The Spirit of Terrorism. London: Verso, 2002:41.
120 – Jean Baudrillard. Cool Memories, London: Verso, 1990:5.
121 – Jean Baudrillard. “This is the Fourth World War: The Der Spiegel Interview With Jean Baudrillard”, in International Journal of Baudrillard Studies, Volume 1, Number 1, January 2004. Translated by Samir Gandesha.
122 – Jean Baudrillard. Paroxysm : Interviews With Philippe Petit. London: Verso, 1998:15.