- Paperback: 120 pages
- Publisher: Verso; New Edition edition (October 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1859844480
- ISBN-13: 978-1859844489
- Product Dimensions: 0.4 x 0.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #288,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Spirit of Terrorism, New Revised Edition Paperback – October 17, 2003
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“What he calls the ‘spirit of terrorism’ is the waking nightmare of fantasy become reality, which means that in the West, we are all, whether of the right or left, now engaged in a murderous game, the rules of which are constantly being changed, not according to the globalized strategies of the western powers, but according to the inscrutable, ultimately unknowable, demands of ‘the enemy’ ... Baudrillard ... offers a sober and hard-headed commentary on the events of September 11 and their aftermath. Significantly, there is no trace of the specious and pretensious nihilism that is so often claimed as the hallmark of his thinking. Rather, he offers a clear analysis of the terrible miscalculations in the West that have brought us to this point, and which seem to offer us no way back from the spectral ‘war on terrorism.’”—New Statesman
“... philosophical perfection. Each book [in the Verso series of 9-11] offers powerful and highly readable commentary that whirlwinds around the specter of the towers, and together the texts raise an indelibly valuable dialogue where many are still afraid to step. Unbreakable, these volumes are filled with extraordinary ideas and ideals that slowly piece together from one poetic line to the next.”—XLR8R Magazine
“First prize for cerebral coldbloodedness goes to French philosopher Jean Baudrillard ... It takes a rare, demonic genius to brush off the slaughter of thousands on the grounds that they were suffering from severe ennui brought about by boring modern architecture.”—New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Jean Baudrillard (1929–2007) began teaching sociology at the Université de Paris-X in 1966. He retired from academia in 1987 to write books and travel until his death in 2007. His many works include Simulations and Simulacra, America, The Perfect Crime, The System of Objects, Passwords, The Transparency of Evil, The Spirit of Terrorism, and Fragments, among others.
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I won't pretend to understand all of this great writer's words. Partly because my understanding of French is limited. Partly because I have only read a translation. And lastly because I have been fed oh so many Americanisms.
This is a good intro into exploring possible interpretations and misunderstandings embedded in our conceptions of the "World". Reading it has helped me to begin to demystify the political concept of Terrorism, especially its connotations within the virtual world of media discourse.
"To the point that the idea of freedom, a new and recent idea, is already fading from 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." (p.32 from the unrevised edition)
I would also recommend "The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomenon" (1993) by Jean Baudrillard.
His conception of the relationship between terrorism and global power (i.e. the U.S.) is less dependent on a specific historical or religious or political reading than most leftist considerations, which makes it both suspect and also much more interesting, and frankly, harder to ignore. Aside from the irritating turns of phrase which tend to accompany most critical theory (many of which Baudrillard is famous for using in his own writing), his observations here are for the most part quite concrete, and show how completely confused and utterly ridiculous a lot of our conventional thinking is about terror in our age.
(I tried to come up with some witty, post-modern version of 'jet fuel can't melt steal beams for this review, but I failed. Sorry)
Power as concentrated in the hands of any nation-state must, according to Baudrillard, inevitably lead to its misuse by its brokers and a reactionary response by those who experience an "exacerbating will to destroy" that power. Thus, power "is complicit with its own destruction." As the Twin Towers collapsed, their duo fall resulted from America's hubristic self-vision as God-like which in turn Baudrillard terms America as "declaring war on itself." The uniqueness of the events of 9/11 he further sees as a "game to complete the event."
Baudrillard tries mightily to excuse Islamic religious fervor and ideology as the root cause of 9/11: "No ideology, no cause, not even an Islamic cause, can account for the energy which feeds terror." Further, he notes that Islam "is conversely not the embodiment of terror." Finally his defense of Islam is "if Islam dominated the world, terrorism would fight against it." Where then can an unbiased observer rationally account for the willingness and eagerness of those who wish to kill uncounted numbers of innocent men, women, and children merely to provide an outlet for ideological rage? The answer lies in what he sees as the symbolic nature of violence: "Violence in itself can be perfectly banal and innocuous." It is the symbolic reversal of the traditional unwillingness of killers to die to prove a point. The terrorists of 9/11 engaged in an orgy of this symbolic reversal of violence, an act which he calls "the true victory of terrorism." Yet, nowhere in this brief essay does Baudrillard touch upon the years of brainwashing and mind control needed to bring about this reversal. Nor does Baudrillard hint at other less noble, less self-sacrificing reasons that might have accounted for the attack on the Towers and the Pentagon. In essence, Baudrillard invites the reader to focus his view on the instant the planes crashed into their targets crammed with unsuspecting human beings. Such readers are invited to view the collapse of the Twin Towers as he does: a symbolic and unique event that must be viewed in the context of rage by the poor against the rich. Such a limiting view is of course a familiar one: blame the victim and excuse the perpetrator.