Monday, July 26, 2010

note on crisis ... or catastrophe?

The conversation today reminded me of the series of essays 'The Spirit of Terrorism' by Jean Baudrillard. They have been bound into a slim volume and I would recommend it if you ever want to explore the intersections of 9/11, globalization, terrorism, and mass media through the eyes of a French philosopher.

Tying into Doane's argument is his observation on the fall of the twin towers:

"Among the other weapons of the system which they turned round against it, the terrorists exploited 'real time' of images, their instantaneous worldwide transmission, just they exploited stock-mark speculation, electronic information and air traffic. ... The image consumes the event, in the sense that it absorbs it and offers it for consumption." (27)

He also states, "Terrorism invents nothing, inaugurates nothing. It simply carries things to the extreme, to the point of paroxysm. ... Terrorism is unreal and unrealistic? But our virtual reality, our systems of information and communication, have themselves too, and for a long time, been beyond the reality principle. As for terror, we know it is already present everywhere, in institutional violence, both mental and physical, in homeopathic doses. Terrorism merely crystallizes all the ingredients in suspension. It puts the finishing touches on the orgy of power, liberation, flows and calculation which the Twin Towers embodied, while being the violent deconstruction of that extreme form of efficiency and hegemony." (58-59)

He also says, rather provocatively, "There is no 'good' use of media; the media are part of the event, they are part of the terror, and they work in both directions." (31)

Anyhow, it's an interesting read ... I know some people were offended when we read it as undergrads, I think because he can 'read' something like 9/11 almost as if it were a public performance piece; personally, I think it's poetic and vastly brilliant.

1 comment:

  1. agreed. i'm interested in reading it. i'll check it out. have you seen 'the oath'? i'm thinking you may have seen it at the doctalk screening. i just saw it today at POV (they're broadcasting it in september). i was struck by the use of media in the film. the doc itself can become, in baudrillard's words, part of the terror, part of a dialogue that 'crystallizes all the ingredients in suspension'. it continues even post 9/11. no surprise there really.
    thanks for the tip maureen.