Thursday, January 20, 2011

“the spirit of terrorism” & WW IV

“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”. - Jean Baudrillard

French theorist Jean Baudrillard (1929–2007) was one of the foremost intellectual figures of the present age whose work combines philosophy, social theory, and an idiosyncratic cultural metaphysics that reflects on key events of phenomena of the epoch. (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

In The Spirit of Terrorism: And Requiem for the Twin Towers (2002a),  Baudrillard argued that the 9/11 attacks represent a new kind of terrorism, exhibiting a

“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”.

In other words, the terrorists used airplanes, computer networks, and the media associated with Western societies to produce a spectacle of terror. Essentially, the attacks evoked a global specter of terror.  The very life of Western civilization was under assault by “the spirit of terrorism” and from now on, potential terrorist attacks can occur anytime and anywhere.

Before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Baudrillard complained that the contemporary era was one of “weak events”. As he saw it, no really major historical occurrences had happened in recent history, and that therefore life and thought were becoming increasingly boring.

Shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Baudrillard wrote a paper “L'esprit du terrorisme” published November 2,2001, in Le Monde. He argued that the assaults on the World Trade Center and Pentagon constituted a what should be seen as a “strong event”.  In fact, the attacks were

“the ultimate event, the mother of all events, the pure event uniting within itself all the events that have never taken place.”

For Baudrillard,

“the speeches and commentaries made since September 11 betray a gigantic post-traumatic abreaction both to the event itself and to the fascination that it exerts. The moral condemnation and the sacred union against terrorism are directly proportional to the prodigious jubilation felt at having seen this global superpower destroyed.”

Baudrillard perceived that the terrorists hope that the system will overreact in response to the multiple challenges of terrorism:

“It is the terrorist model to bring about an excess of reality, and have the system collapse beneath that excess”.

In Baudrillard's view, the 9/11 attacks represented “the clash of triumphant globalization at war with itself” and unfolded a “fourth world war”:

“The first put an end to European supremacy and to the era of colonialism; the second put an end to Nazism; and the third to Communism. Each one brought us progressively closer to the single world order of today, which is now nearing its end, everywhere opposed, everywhere grappling with hostile forces. This is a war of fractal complexity, waged worldwide against rebellious singularities that, in the manner of antibodies, mount a resistance in every cell.”

It seems that within every individual there resides a stealthy opposition to monolithic, single world orders and such resistance currently manifests in the terrible formlessness of senseless terror.

Note: the above entry was abstracted mainly from the online publication at the following link: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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