terrorism

terrorism
  ---- by Rex Butler
  Baudrillard's response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001, 'The Spirit of Terrorism', was published in Le Monde on 2 November. In his article, Baudrillard urges us not to rush to conclusions, to take time out before acting or responding to what had happened. Baudrillard cautions this because the attacks were a true 'event' that united within it 'all the events that have never taken place' (ST, 4). As a result, the usual 'calculations' regarding such acts of aggression no longer apply. Immediately striking back against the enemy - as Baudrillard notes the US already preparing to do in Iraq and Afghanistan - is to miss the true challenge of the strikes. Cutting down on civil liberties is to turn America itself into a terrorist state, in a continuation of the original logic of the hijackers. Even moral repulsion and condemnation is an 'abreaction', an attempt to deny the fascination of the terrorist act and its 'unforgettable' images (ST, 4). Against all of these, as he subsequently argues in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, Baudrillard (2004b) emphasises simply attempting to understand what happened, which is not in the first instance to explain it or give it a meaning. The events of 9/11 undoubtedly constitute a true test for theory and its ability to think the world. At the heart of Baudrillard's engagement with the terrorist attacks is the problem of how to formulate a theoretical response that would be adequate to the event, that would capture it in its singularity without reducing it or comparing it to something else (ST).
  If Baudrillard's series of responses to 9/11 - his original newspaper article, the books Power Inferno and La violence du monde (published in English as The Spirit of Terrorism (2003c [2002])) - represents a signal moment in his work, in fact terrorism was a constant subject of his theorising. Already Baudrillard's second book, The Consumer Society (1998a [1970]), concludes with a meditation on a terrorism - what Baudrillard calls there 'spectacular violence' (CS, 174) - that arises in response to the success of modern consumer society. Then in the later Fatal Strategies (2008a [1983]), undoubtedly in response to the Baader-Meinhof and Red Brigades terrorists of the 1960s and 1970s, Baudrillard theorises terrorism more explicitly. His first point - and this to go against all attempts to suggest that Baudrillard sympathises with the terrorists - is that the act of terrorism, if it is successful, necessarily goes beyond the aims and intentions of the terrorists themselves. They might think that they capture a hostage in order that someone is made to answer for society's failings or that their political grievances are heard, but there is no equivalence that can be made with the hostage in this fashion. Indeed, what the act of hostage-taking ultimately demonstrates is the very inexchangeability of the hostage, the inability of the terrorists to make demands upon society or even for the hostage to reenter society when released. The social no longer works in terms of any personal liability of the form terrorists rely upon: there is no longer any single individual whom one can hold responsible for society's failings or with whom the terrorists could negotiate. There is on the contrary a general, floating system of regulation, in which at once everybody and nobody is held accountable. That is, the paradox played out by terrorism is that there is no exchange possible between the terrorist and the social, but only because the social itself is already terrorist: everything is organised as though a terrorist attack had already taken place and everybody is potentially a terrorist (FS).
  It is just this 'impossible exchange' between society and terrorism that Baudrillard brings out in his analysis of 9/11. What Baudrillard emphasises throughout is the fact that terrorism is not simply opposed to the West or even comes from somewhere outside of it. The very means of the terrorists are western: they secrete themselves in sleeper cells within the societies they attack, indistinguishable from ordinary citizens; they use the most advanced technologies of the West, like computers and airplanes, to plan and execute their attacks. But, more than this, the terrorist impulse, the secret jubilation at seeing the collapse of the Twin Towers and the injury inflicted upon the single power dominating the world, is also to be felt within the West itself. In Baudrillard's difficult and controversial words: 'At a pinch, we can say that they did it, but we wished for it' (ST, 5). This is what Baudrillard means by the 'spirit' of terrorism. It is nothing that can be geographically located or even culturally or ideologically specified. It is not to be reduced to a battle between Islam and America. It is not even exactly real, but takes place as a real that can be seen only through fiction or images. Rather, the 'spirit' of terrorism is an abstract limit to globalisation, the fact that any system pushed to its furthest extent will begin to reverse upon itself and produce the opposite effects from those intended. In this sense, Baudrillard is not repeating anything like the well-known 'clash of civilisations' thesis that became so popular after 9/11. Islamic terrorism is not opposed to western globalisation, but arises as the necessary correlate of its historical triumph. It is for this reason that Baudrillard emphasises that the symbolic challenge of terrorism is not a matter of seeking any definitive victory over the west. The west must be kept alive exactly so that it can be 'targeted and wounded in a genuinely adversarial relationship' (ST, 26). But at this point a series of extremely complex questions emerges for Baudrillard's analysis. The first is, insofar as Islam and terrorism are only the 'moving front along which the antagonism crystallised' (ST, 15), to what extent does Baudrillard conceive of 9/11 as a limit occurring exclusively within the West itself? If any actual attack is only to take the place of an abstract 'spirit' of terrorism, can we say that this spirit can be seen only because of its earthly incarnation? And, along the same lines, is the symbolic exchange of terrorism, for all of Baudrillard's emphasis upon it as an act that risks its own death, not a true limit, insofar as both terms in a symbolic relationship are mutually dependent upon each other? Is any actual terrorist event only to stand in for another that has never 'taken place'? These are precisely the kinds of questions Derrida (1978) once put to Bataille and his attempts to theorise a certain non-dialecticisable 'terrorism'.
  Passwords
   § fatal
   § geopolitics
   § gift
   § globalisation
   § reversibility
   § singularity

The Baudrillard dictionary. . 2015.

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  • terrorism — ter·ror·ism / ter ər ˌi zəm/ n 1: the unlawful use or threat of violence esp. against the state or the public as a politically motivated means of attack or coercion 2: violent and intimidating gang activity street terrorism ter·ror·ist / ist/ adj …   Law dictionary

  • terrorism — 1795, in specific sense of government intimidation during the Reign of Terror in France (1793 July 1794), from Fr. terrorisme (1798), from L. terror (see TERROR (Cf. terror)). If the basis of a popular government in peacetime is virtue, its basis …   Etymology dictionary

  • Terrorism — Ter ror*ism, n. [Cf. F. terrorisme.] 1. The act of terrorizing, or state of being terrorized; a mode of government by terror or intimidation. Jefferson. [1913 Webster] 2. The practise of coercing governments to accede to political demands by… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • terrorism — [ter′ər iz΄əm] n. [Fr terrorisme] 1. the act of terrorizing; use of force or threats to demoralize, intimidate, and subjugate, esp. such use as a political weapon or policy 2. the demoralization and intimidation produced in this way terrorist n …   English World dictionary

  • Terrorism — Terrorist redirects here. For other uses, see Terrorist (disambiguation) …   Wikipedia

  • terrorism — /ter euh riz euhm/, n. 1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes. 2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization. 3. a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a… …   Universalium

  • terrorism — noun the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear • Syn: ↑act of… …   Useful english dictionary

  • terrorism —    Apart from small, professedly left wing groups like FRAP and GRAPO, the main terrorist organization in Spain since the late 1960s is ETA, which has been responsible for by far the largest number of deaths and injuries. The peak of ETA activity …   Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture

  • terrorism — noun ADJECTIVE ▪ urban ▪ global, international, transnational (esp. AmE) ▪ cross border ▪ state, state sponsored …   Collocations dictionary

  • Terrorism —    One of the more important factors shaping political life in Israel has been the ever present threat of terrorism. The prestate Yishuv was confronted with extended periods of violence perpetrated by elements of the local Arab community in… …   Historical Dictionary of Israel


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