Why do they hate us so?
Why do “they” hate us so?
Michel Valentin, PhD
“What a terrible time than where idiots are leading the blind.” William Shakespeare.1
It is very difficult to stay clear-headed in a very complicated world which seems to have lost its balance (a state called koyaanisqatsi by Hopi wisdom);2 especially when confronted by a constant environment of violence of all sorts (named naqoyqatsi according to the same wisdom), and its Media spectacular rendition which blurs all differences and confuses issues.3 In the world we “have” now, violence contends with hope for peaceful change, and the outcome is uncertain.
Sixteen years after the United States declared “war on terrorism,” there is no victory in sight. In fact, across the globe, the toll in death and wounded, as well as the loss of economic assets (amounting to $52 billion caused by terrorism, are worse than ever.
Why so much radical, fatal, unrelenting hate? It seems that only the Sphinx, or God, could provide answers. Common-sense points at “their” murderous jealousy (of our consumerism), “their” hateful resentment (of our “obscene enjoyment”), or Medieval-like intolerance (of our beliefs and life-style).
Maybe, instead, we should re-phrase the question as such: “What, in our society, triggers the murderous rage and extremist violence of terrorists claiming fundamentalist religious allegiance?”
To begin to understand and try to propose answers and solutions, we should first make use of the tools provided by Postmodern Critical and Textual theory that Anglo-Saxon/British Analytical Philosophy (and pragmatism) calls Continental Theory, and apply them to fundamentalist terrorism as if it was a text. We should especially acquaint ourselves with theoretical concepts such as, on the one hand, social/individual “de-territorialization” (term belonging to Deleuzian socio-philosophy out of Guattari’s anti-psychoanalytic movement), and on the other, the fundamental, intimate, intersubjective and intrasubjective intertwining of the subject/other dyad, unconsciously linked to the Other’s jouissance (term belonging to Slavoj Zizek’s socio-psychoanalytic conceptualization taken straight out of Lacanian theory). Both can help explain fundamentalist religions’ violent appeal, at the inter-personal and intra-personal levels.
At the interpersonal level, in order to understand the causal explanations and roots of fundamentalist terrorism, this essay attaches a fundamental role to the socio-economic sphere and conditions, to politics and history, and not to what the neo-con political scientist Francis Fukuyama, for instance, has called “the clash of civilizations” in The End of History and the Last Man (1992).4
At the intrapersonal level (the “terrorist psyche” so to speak), this essay minimizes the Anglo-Saxon tendency of privileging cognitivism, brain mapping (dysfunctional or abnormal brain electro-chemical functioning producing criminal or pathological/anti-social behavior for instance), and heredity (genes). We believe that human perversity, pathological and even psychotic behavior are fathomable and can be relatively well understood using Sigmund Freud’s theories [made more relevant to the postmodern world by post-structuralist work—especially the “return to Freud” done by Jacques Lacan psychoanalysis (the famous “Cause Freudienne”) and his cultural follower, Slavoj Zizek…5 What we are trying to show is that Islamist terrorism is more a symptom of the West, of globalization and hyper-virtuality (hyper-realism) and neo-capitalism, in so far as the Occident/West spearheads and imposes globalization, than a symptom of Islam itself, of Islam considered in isolation. Globalization can be considered as the third wave of colonialism, according to Michael Hardt and Toni Negri’s Empire, or postmodern capital as “the dialectical third stage of capitalism” as Fredric Jameson calls it.
Basically, before we engage the “big guns” of theory, the whole postmodern problematic of violence and otherness boils down to one main thing: death—this Tarot card that terrorists wage back/engage back so violently in their own game of life and death that they impose on us, according to their own rules. The “trump card” that the Occident wants to make disappear from its Symbolic system, as Jean Baudrillard explains in “Symbolic Exchange and Death.”6 Fundamentalist terrorism would then appear as the desperate, last resort, nihilistic attempt at stamping out the Western triumph of the semiotic commodity (materialism as the circulation of goods and merchandises…) over the “symbolic exchange” characterizing traditional societies based on the gift (Marcel Mauss’s concept)—hence the recourse to death in the “equation.” The (fatal) mistake of fundamental terrorism is not to be able to realize that capitalism has already subsumed the semiotic dimension of the commodity under the prevalence of the abstract, hyper-reality of the sign. The green crescent upheld by the materiality of bombs, guns, blood and knives, cannot do anything against the virtuality of the $ sign as floating-signifier.
That is to say that death, as the fundamental goal of all life, epitomizing the tragic and agonistic dimension of humanity, is the forgotten, hidden, common denominator of the ideology of “our” capitalist System. It is the invisible reminder that the Western capitalist mode of production and enjoyment tries to erase, escape, or ignore, and which comes back, unannounced, seemingly unwarranted, through the repressed dimension of our consumerist societies which prefer not to think that they (and we) have an unconscious. Of course, what is forgotten or repressed comes back from the unwanted, negative, or unconscionable side of things, French surrealist playwright Antonin Artaud would have said.
This willful, innocent, convenient or ingenuous omission (who really knows) is the fatal flaw in our little “socio-cosmology”—the more so because it makes us loudly protest and cry “unfair” when we are hit, as if we were innocent; as if we did not have it coming, like General Custer at the battle of the Little Big Horn River (1876). As if our actions and reactions were only/mostly motivated by the common good. Something often re-iterated, now and then, especially during times of crisis, of national doubt (when “The Real,” to borrow from Lacanian Borromean knot topology, touches ground, or brushes our faces with its lethal sweep,) by American Presidents stressing that Americans are a good and generous people; that “we” represent the good and “the others,” i.e. those which do not espouse our values, Human Rights…, who do not play fair, or by the/our rules, are “bad.” As if we had nothing to do in the making of any Evil Empires, Axis of Evil, or terrorists.
The Absolutism of Terrorism
What is new with postmodern fundamentalism is that it manipulates the postmodern state of simulation and hyper-reality/hyper-virtuality.7 As all fundamentalism, it does not tolerate nuances, and it refuses dialogue. Oriented by conservative or reactionary family values, extreme Islamists repudiate what they consider to be immoral Western permissiveness and consumerist culture, which explains the categories of ethical purity found in the religion they espouse. The violation of human rights perpetrated by ISIS on a daily basis is partly explained by the postmodern totalitarian dimension of globalization which leaves no room for relativism, and the way globalization positions itself ontologically—which explains the absolutist dimension of its vengeance. Moral rectitude used to require rhetorical violence; not any more: this violence has become physical, total and in complete contradiction with its own principles, although as we have briefly seen, in keeping with apocalyptic Islamic beliefs. Akin to the character of Linguère Ramatou in Djibril Diop Mambety’s The Hyena’s Last Laugh (1992), ISIS returns with a vengeance to punish the (Islamic or Christian) community collectively. Radical Islamists/Jihadists position themselves on God’s side. The terrorist’s violence is the weapon of absolute refusal, destructive of others and self-destructive. It distributes God’s justice apocalyptically (instrument of the will of the Big Other in Lacanian theory as we will explain later). It also distributes a certain form of Muslim revenge, i.e. to give others (Westerners) a taste of what Maghrebin, Near-East and Middle-East Muslims had to suffer for decades.
Globalization and Terrorism
Western civilization’s global reach, its hyper-technological power, its imperial world domination, its overwhelming universal propaganda and consumerism, its fundamental individualism, the particular way it objectifies everything via the economy (pensée unique), its self-righteousness and obsession with linear progress (ideology), have become unbearable for many.8 This triumphant ideology and practice inflect in many a sense of deep injustice, a sense of inferiority, of inadequacy and void (ontological despair), and, aggravating circumstance, a realization of utter impotency. This may provoke in many a deep-seated sense of rage (made worse by possible trauma—meaning that trauma and frustration will energize each other) and a definitive refusal. The radicalism of this refusal can turn absolute depending on the ways individuals, groups internalize the rejection. Poverty, unemployment, racism, racial profiling…, all conjugate their effects, re-enforcing a sense of total alienation; coming back as daily reminders of being from nowhere, of non-belongingness. Many individuals cannot process, internalize or sublimate the paradigms of this marginalization and become literally mentally fractured. But all this is not enough to turn dis-enfranchised young people into calculating, cold-blooded assassins. To make a fundamentalist a terrorist, something must go far beyond the hatred of the disinherited and exploited for the dominant ideology and economy, “those who…. ended up on the wrong side of the global order.”9 What makes them opt for a more terrible/exacting “Master,” asking for cleansing and purification by bloodbath and death, than the capitalist Western society?
The concentration of power which monopolizes and condenses everything into a technocratic/hyper-technological and informational machinery/network preempting any alternative forms of thinking creates the objective conditions for systemic violence and brutal retaliation. The overreaching form of globalization explains the overarching reach of terrorism which takes the whole world as its enemy, since the enemy is everywhere, present in everybody. Globalization implies a global body. The universal system of generalized exchange (everything/everybody can be bought/sold/traded) implies the death of many cultures, societies, animal species. Paradoxically, this global system of generalized exchange excludes death— at least officially. On the contrary, fundamentalist terrorism focuses on a singular exchange with death; Baudrillard would say an ecstatic interfacing with death.10 That is to say that the universal system of exchange which postures a pro-life concern, brings about an avenging response through precisely what cannot enter, or what is factored out from the Symbolic exchange, i.e. death; or more precisely, its one-directional relation with death—hence the US military strategy aiming at zero-American casualty. This explains the heavy reliance on High-Tech weapons, and “Shock and Awe” types of military operations—which is a form of “State Terrorism “(Bagdad Bombing, August 28 2009.)11 On the contrary, fundamentalist terrorism focuses on a singular exchange with death. Pre-empting/hyper-virtualizing history, politics and ideology (class-struggle), postmodernist capitalism transforms the world at maximum speed (Paul Virilio-12-) as if in a race for survival, a race against (its own?) death. Late capitalism transforms the world by force. Terrorism radicalizes it by the sacrifice (its own and the one of others). This corresponds to what Jean Baudrillard calls a “terroristic situational transfer.” 13Hegemonic power generates its own anti-bodies.
The flows of postmodern, late, or neo-capitalism distribute all over the world (globalization) amounts more, as the title of one of the last books of the Slovanian critic Slavoj Zizek indicates, Trouble in Paradise, than mere middle-class build-ups, lifting up of masses out of poverty, beneficial progress, and comfort enhancement. These flows and fluxes are materialized by merchandises, finances, travelers, information…, and can be characterized as “primary” (Freudian and Lacanian notion) because they work against the Symbolic system, destabilizing/ eroding/bypassing it, making it irrelevant—and, also, because of what is put into circulation.
Undercurrent to these fluxes of money, people and commodities, sustaining them paradoxically, parasitizing them like flotsam accordingly, or paralleling them clockwise or counter-clockwise, are five main flows:
- the triple distributive flows of drug trafficking (which, for instance, fed Miami’ s booming economy in the 80s and 90s);
- illicit financial trafficking (tax evasions and offshore accounts epitomized by the “Panama Scandal”);
- human trafficking (emigration—65 million emigrants in today’s world, child labor, workers slavery—sex workers included…);
- the flow of troops and military aid which guarantees the “safety of the Empire;”
- the flow of fundamentalist terrorism which, itself, intensifies the precedent one, i.e. the flow of arms and soldiers from the Occident to Africa and the Orient.
These more or less secretive flows (except for the fourth one) correspond to the other side of the coin of the generalized exchange of postmodern capital. They are the obfuscated side of “global leadership,” to borrow a title from a University of Montana curricular initiative. These five flows are not due to isolated or local forces produced by the effects inherent to a local specific playing field. They are part of the fundamental picture of postmodern capital. Not only is Islamist fundamentalism a product of globalization, like emigration, it directly feeds, follows, uses, and parasitizes the flows and fluxes of capital. For instance, Wahabbism is globalized by petro-dollars, while ISIS profits from crude oil and antiquities trafficking. That is to say that fundamentalist terrorism is the logical by-product of neo-capitalism, its dialectical reversal:
“What is called religion today (in a variety of forms, from left to right) is really politics under a different name. (Indeed, maybe religion has always been that.) What is called religious fundamentalism is then a political option, which is embraced when other political options have been shut down: most notably, left politics and communist parties all over the Islamic world, if not the third world generally… Instead, we have to enlarge our historical perspective to include the wholesale massacres of the Left systematically encouraged and directed by Americans in a period that stretches back virtually to the beginnings of the cold war… Yet the physical extermination of the Iraqi and Indonesian communist parties, although now virtually forgotten, were crimes as abominable as any contemporary genocide. These are instances in which assassination and the wholesale murder of your opponents are preeminently successful in the short run; but whose unexpected consequences are far more ambiguous historically…But this simply means that a left alternative for popular resistance and revolt has been closed off. The so-called fundamentalist religious option then becomes the only recourse and the only available form of a politics of opposition; and this is clearly the case of bin Laden’s movement, however limited it may be to intellectuals and activists.”14
As Jean Baudrillard wrote, the unrestricted world market— globalization—brings about its own shadow.15
As its name indicates, globalization works all over the world redefining nations and societies, humans and eco-systems, leaving no stone unturned.16 The world has become a fluid terrain of multiple lines of fluxes and flight of capital, goods, people…, hierarchized areas of accumulation, as well as shifting zones of intensities and forces; conflicts marked by signs and indicators pointing to all possible directions and forms of transits or dereliction—from nations in the process of economical hyper-development, or accelerated development, and “democracy-building,” to wrecked nations (failed states), illegal trafficking of all sorts, and pauperized states. Capital fluxes de-territorialize ethnic groups, forcing populations and citizens to move away from regions, areas and physical habitats—rural exodus due to industrialization, or emigration due to lack of industrialization, or rampant, endemic poverty.17 These fluxes conjugating flows of money, energy and high-tech solutions also de-territorialize people away from habits and customs, cultural habitats, mores and traditional values. To use a Deleuzian terminology, globalization prepares bodies and minds for an alignment conducive to capitalism’s extension. They streamline bodies and mentalities, transform or fracture the traditional behavior of citizens, nationals, tribal members who then become consumers, trans-nationals (paupers and migrants), individuals (called modernization), or, in the worst cases, victims rendered nomadic (refugees); i.e. (ex-)political masses turned into multitudes of broken individuals. All this partly explains the general aggravation of the mental fragility of the population at large. When global capital cannot smooth out the striated/heterogeneous body of a society/country, its implacable logic can bring about a violent de-territorialization, an up-rooting of populations (military fluxes or interventions) provoking violent emigrations of populations. In the worst case, de-territorialization brings about violent emigration, which can be mental and internal, or physical and external. The mental and internal emigration may produce terrorism (Kristeva’s “the stranger in ourselves,” or “the self violently migrating from ego to super-ego”). The physical and external emigration brings about hordes/waves of displaced people, terrified refugees fleeing for their lives towards the “First World”, i.e. the economic heart of the Empire.18
These emigration flows follow the fluxes of capital towards its areas of accumulation (North America, Australian, Western Europe—especially Germany), or flee away from its areas of rupture/resistance (capitalist obsolescence, i.e. the Maghreb and the Near- and Middle-East—the Emirates excluded), where the legacy of history (colonialism), and postcolonialism clashing with the demands of postmodernity, negatively over-determines the socio-political situation.19 One such area being the Orient, where the Eastern Maghreb and the Middle-East are undergoing extreme convulsions due to the contradictions between the different democratic movements, Islamist fundamentalism, and the pressure exerted by Western consumerism (American-based/initiated nation-building).
“Lift your eyes to the horizons of business, and with the inspiration of the thought that you are Americans and are means to carry liberty and justice and the principles of humanity wherever you go, go out and sell goods that will make the world more comfortable and more happy, and convert them to the principles of America.”20
Overall, in spite of isolationist periods, America has always tried to equate the needs of capital with her political and military leadership, by creating a U.S.-led world-order, where the global capitalist system and the projection of U.S. national power are in synchronicity. This has involved America into imposing its economic hegemony and the radical change of different peoples’ forms of social life.
Both terrorism and emigration are two faces of the same coin. They are both symptoms of radical de-territorialization.
The Spirit of Terrorism: A Collective Psychosis?21
May we like it or not, terrorism participates in the general exchange of words and things (politics, economy, culture), as well as the general exchange of what Marxists, and Gramsci especially, intuitively understood, and tentatively called “structures of feeling,” or what J.F. Lyotard calls “libidinal economy”,22 i.e. the intra-subjective and inter-subjective circulation of all that constitutes the emotional and mental life, investments and reactions at the conscious and unconscious level: energies, concerns, desires, anxieties, pleasures, revulsions, and phobias. Why such a total, all-inclusive understanding of desire and exchange? It is because desire is linked to exchange (and trade), from the prohibition of incest to the exchange of symbols, merchandises, signs, objects. Exchanges impose a symbolic value on objects as Lyotard explains.23
The pleasure principle (and its correlate, libidinality) and the way it circulates in the political and mercantile economy is linked to consciously and unconsciously motivated forms of attraction, affection and alliance, aggression, destruction, and the violence of lethal consumption/addiction (what Lacanian psychoanalysis calls the unconscious). They form the psychological part of the ego and the basis of identification (the part of the self, psyche, and emotional life targeted by American ego-psychology), as well as the unconscious underpinnings of the Subject—$, (symptoms and pathologies) which are beyond the access of the ego, consciousness (and ego-psychology). They are used and “sedimented” in the human psyche by the System, since they are at once mobile and static, helping to shape individual and collective ideology. Advertising, techniques of mass-manipulation, propaganda, consumer-related research, the entertainment industry…, all have learned how to manipulate “the libidinal economy,” as well as being a fundamental part of it. Thinkers have often declared that the fundamental force of late-capitalism was its power and savvy to know how to directly plug into the primary/secondary mental life of the subject, his/her emotions and unconscious drives.
The way libidinal economy works (as defined by Jean-François Lyotard—24), more or less corresponds to the tracings of desire or molecular lines (as defined by Gilles Deleuze—25) which reconfigurate individuals’ behavior and the micro-politics of the body-politic, as well as the socius. To each socio-economico-political system corresponds a particular libidinal economy, i.e. a specific libidinal investment. The libidinal economy of an agrarian society is obviously not the same as the one of an advanced capitalist society. Tagging, theft, vandalism used to be expressions of revolt. They still are; but something is different. The game has changed because the Symbolic system has changed.
The new, neo-liberal (European meaning), libidinal economy corresponds to the way postmodern capitalism has re-arranged, re-distributed desire, its intensity, and identification (their condensation and displacement), and the complex relationship between sexuality and the unconscious, or what Deleuze calls de-territorialization. Postmodern, as well as fundamentalist terrorism, which according to our understanding, is a by-product, a spin-off of late-capitalism, are part of the grand scheme of things consciously and unconsciously generated/organized by a totally overwhelmed Symbolic system in crisis (there is simply no exchange without a Symbolic system) and its Imaginary excess (Lacanian meaning),. The Symbolic system now coincides less and less with the configurations of globalization, or better, globalization dictates to the Symbolic new forms, configurations and actualizations of desire, a new modus operandi, which in many instances, destroys older Symbolic forms and functions, freeing the Imaginary up to one point from the Symbolic’s strictures and structures. That is to say that love and hate participate in this exchange system, not perhaps equally, and certainly not with the same equanimity, but they do. As Jean Baudrillard used to say, there is no good without bad, or love without hate. Of course, hate may be, in certain different configurations, in its concrete manifestations, the product of a different logic, i.e. a different relation between what Lacanian topology has called the Borromean rings—and this is where fundamentalist terrorism lurks. Fundamentalist terrorism shows how globalization induces psychotic behavior.
The postmodern terrorist responds ironically and directly to the industrial or technological metaphor with which Deleuze, with his “libidinal materialist” theory, describes humans as “desiring-machines” who produce the social out of desire. Aren’t terrorists “celibatory machines” who do not want to produce any social dimension—except the Caliphate perhaps, but one wonders if it is not an excuse, all things considered. In fact with their closed-in language (cyphers and encryption), their peculiar practice of “truth” (hermetic and non-communicative) does not need to disclose anything (except “the terminal act” at the end or killing/suicide redemption).Why? Because there is nothing to disclose/discuss/reveal at the level of the doxa, political system, or even mysticism. In their manicheistic system, there is no allusion to any authority, logic, tradition, politics to ground and justify their beliefs and actions, except the illusion of an incommunicado God (or deigning to speak only through a radical imam). Hence, also their indifference to any kind of persuading technique or propaganda to reach out towards the Infidels (the West).The only tool of recruitment they use is the Internet/Web, i.e. the social Media network where one can have hundreds of friends or contacts without having to face anybody in the flesh/in person, or even hear their voices if one does not want. They are the perfect incarnation of the “machine célibataire,” “male celibate automaton,” living alone, or with their mother, or in seclusion, self-sufficient, tele-guided from the outside—or the outside in them (Lacanian notion of extémité which we will visit later).26 They blend machines (High-Tech), hyper-real nervous systems (Web and social Media), and weapons incarnating the death-drive (automatic guns, explosives). Their logic is the cold logic of the Cartesian machine-body. They are little cyborgs where bodies and death are directly interfaced/linked (the body as “machine infernale”—bomb), cybernetic organisms, drugged-up biological “machines of suffering” bent on inflicting the greatest possible harm, with chemical shoes, underwear, wired chest jackets (the Brussels and Istanbul Airport attacks).
They are without any female language—except the non-referential, unconscious, primary voice of the incestuous M(o)ther, something we will consider later. This partly explains why the fundamentalist terrorists seem to prefer minimalist forms of social agglutination, of being-togetherness (sociologist Michel Maffesoli), contrary to the inner-city gangs with their hierarchy, leaders, “wives,” and their rituals such as the “symbolic castration” in parentis loco, or better, in absentia of a name-of-the-father, i.e. the “drive-by-shooting” group rite of initiation (passage from a Symbolic act to “an act in the Real” would a Lacanian certainly propose). They favor (security being not the main reason) small bands of “machine célibataires.” It is interesting to notice that many jihadists/fundamentalist terrorists are brothers (the French/Algerian Said and Cherif Kourachi brothers—the January 8, 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack; the Chechnyan/Dagestani/Kyrgyze/Kalmykian/American Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev brothers—the April 18, 2001 Boston Marathon bombers). They also form a loose coalition of individuals, or cells, organized or self-generating: the British Michael Read (shoe bomber) and the Franco/Moroccan Omar Massaoui (a member of the 9/11 terrorist-cell) met through the radical Brixton Mosque in London, where the local al-Muhajiroun (“The Emigrants”) gathered.
The asocial minimalism of many a terrorist is often caused or aggravated by depression and anxiety. Umar Abdulmutallab, the unsuccessful “Underwear Bomber” of Northwest Flight 253 (Amsterdam to Detroit—Christmas Day 2009) was also described as a student “preoccupied by university admissions and English soccer clubs…, apparently lonely and conflicted.”27 The German-Iranian shooter of Munich (July 23, 2006) was a depressed, solitary young man (a withdrawn loner), who had been bullied in school, and spent time playing “violent video games.” He also suffered from panic attacks for which he received psychiatric help. Mohammad D., the Syrian immigrant who blew himself up in the crowd at Ansbach (Germany) on July 24, 2016, was supposed to be deported. But his suicidal tendencies and his mental state which necessitated psychiatric care, suspended his deportation. Mohammad Atta (9/11 cell), who came from an Egyptian well-to-do family, was described by other students in the University Centrumraum in Hamburg as living in a “complete, almost aggressive insularity.”
What is also typical of many of these terrorists is their nomadism (again–de-territorialization), their delinquent behavior (many were petty criminals, little dealers or thieves, known from the local police where they lived), their anti-social, violent behavior, and their poverty (with the exception of Mohammed Atta, who came from a well-to-do stable family, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, son of a Nigerian wealthy banker). The Franco-Algerian G.I.A. terrorist Khaled Kelkal, involved in terrorist bombings in France in 1995, was a top-of-his class student, who became a delinquent with his brother. Omar Moussaoui was born with three siblings in a milieu of domestic violence (abusive father who deserted the family) and poverty. The Moroccan/Algerian/French Salah Abdeslam— involved in the Paris mass attack of November 18, 2015, was a petty criminal living in the Molenbeeck district of Brussels. The Moroccan Ayoub El Khazzani –the Thalys train shooter (subdued by three American and one British passengers) was living homeless in Brussels. Most came from poor, dysfunctional emigrant families.
That is to say that they carry with them their symptoms, until these can be discharged unto the Cause, the ready-made, awaiting ideological recipient—which is not surprising, since these symptoms often come from their childhood and correspond to residual unsolved trauma (racism and rejection in Moussaoui’s case). These trauma are, of course, aggravated by their being unwanted, marginalized, rejected situation.
The Other (Lacanian big Other), and this is important, is out of fundamentalist terrorists’s psychic structure; it is certainly foreclosed—which would give their language and actions a quasi-psychotic dimension. As for any good “celibate machines,” pure exteriority takes the place of the name-of-the-father, which makes them vulnerable to any sublation (a tragic, ironic, or pathetic—accordingly, version of the Hegelian Aufhebung) by an external cause which is then internalized. Of course, this internalization of an externality has to be grounded by a locality or dislocation of locality, an absence or non-lieu allied to a phobia (ambivalent homophobia in Omar Mateen’s case—who Valentin
killed more than 50 clients of Orlando’s Gay Club Pulse, on June 12, 2016), hatred of the banlieue for the beurs, the ghetto, decayed inner-city, or project for American black youth, the traumatic loss of the homeland, the killings of Muslims by Americans and their allies in North-Africa and the Orient… This is where the postmodern, capitalist de-territorialization espoused/extolled by Deleuze meets head on the physical de-territorialization of the youth or would-be terrorists. They reinforce each other.
In more ways than one, the terrorist is literally “beside himself.” In this lost/confused situation, Islam may come only a posteriori, as a fill-up, or desperate, last minute motivation to justify the terrorist act (libidinally oriented of course by the obfuscation/trauma of the origins—probably Omar Mateen’s case). Since they have no interiority, but the confused and confusing arcane of a private world/hell without name-of-the-father to point towards the way out, and to help ground an identity, a subjectivity and interiority, jihadists cannot be mystics. The exteriority of God has never shone in them through any mirroring interiority: the soul (representation of identity and transcendental subjectivity). This is why their passion has no compassion. Fundamentalist terrorists have refused the title/function of “son” in search of a super image of the father, which then lives in them in a way that Lacan calls “extimate.” Since their jouissance is heavily marked by death (it is the Big Other which puts a damper or limit on jouissance—the limit being called pleasure), suicide is the logical outcome of their enterprise: the fusion with (the) God (of wrath). This is why the terrorist’s apparatus is replete with the paraphilia of a death-yielding-machinery (juvenile, fetishistic obsession): black Kalashnikovs, black Ninja clothing, grenades, bombs, knives, and especially the shining-like blade of the sword (scimitar) which delivers a “fast and clean-like popular-type of justice” (aka the guillotine) with no compensation and no recourse (absolute), and with the smoothness of the perfect execution and/or suicide, since they are in inverted position to each other in Jihadists’ minds—the sword was the preferred weapon of the Samurais and the “art of seppuku.” The justice-yielding sword is also the mediatic and “Hollywoodianally medievalist” tool par excellence, whose symbolic dimension makes way for a world with no alterity—a terrifying world under the black sun of Allah, their own version of a God with no actual mothers or fathers (the only women allowed besides the supernumerary virgins awaiting the warriors in Paradise are the concubines and wives of forced marriages—the infamous repos du guerrier).
As if following the inclinations of their libidinal economy, Jihadists, on the contrary, aggressively affirm the instantaneous nature or ephemerality of desire. As if following Lyotard’s understanding of desire (“after the letter,” so to speak), they do not create anything other than a “happening,” as if terrorists had no other purpose but to produce a response of the highest intensity. Fundamentalist terrorism incarnates the form of desire bent on pointless pleasure which does not seek any particular needs except the totalitarian vow to exact tribute. This explains that the terrorist act has both an “event status” as a malevolent, political and even “cultural” event (to strike terror and provoke/precipitate a schism, a conflict, a civil war) and a “representational one” (amplified by the Media).28 It is an in-site happening centered on a death-type-of-art-piece, a sacrifice of postmodernity to postmodernity, targeting the happiness, jouissance, well-being, pleasure, of the West via a vengeance, a revenge, a phantasmatic strike of God (we will come back on this aspect).
If postmodernism, according to J.F. Lyotard, denies good form and value by setting the non-representable in representation itself, not via symbolization because symbolization is exteriorization, then jihadist terrorism is a postmodern form—albeit eruptive, violent of course, and total. It brings the inside of the symptomatic other at war, in turmoil, or in agony, into the inside of the subject at peace via the event. It is not metaphoric since it does not transport the subject to the outside meaning of an event, in order to convince him/her, by opening his/her interiority to his (the terrorist’s). They bring the “event” on a plateau, like Saint John the Baptist’s head on a charger (flat dish), to Salome after her “seven veil dance” at the court of Herod and Herodias in the New Testament, as spiteful revenge. The fundamentalist terrorist act is totalitarian because it reduces everything and subsumes all contingencies to the totality of a revenge. The type of absolute revolt it incarnates has no revolutionary dimension as such since it is not concerned by any objective necessity of History and has no self-consciousness of history necessity. It is a peculiar form of desire, of jouissance directly produced by social. Although terrorists try to give an overarching purpose to their jouissance, the anomies of terrorists are directly plugged into the antinomies of the body politic. Their pitiless, unrelenting, undaunted, “on a mission-like” behavior is fueled by the jouissance of the death drive—something very postmodern and illustrated by Kroenenberg’s Crash (1996)—where jouissance comes out of the “planned happening” of a car accident followed by the enjoyment of scared/maimed bodies, giving to the “petite mort” (French for orgasm) a Real dimension (Lacanian meaning). Furthermore the terrorist’s desire inscribes itself in a harsh, horrific reality, the one of a mangled, dismembered, fragmented or exploded body—the body-politic of the West and its socius. All this points towards a tragic re-enactment of the fear and doubting absence of origins in the terrorist’s psyche. The loss or absence of the father as big Other (guaranteeing the consistency of the Symbolic system, of the cultural realm), provokes an identification of the terrorist, at the level of the imago (Lacanian concept of the mirror stage first theorized in 1949), with an image of his own fragmented body, i.e. an image of castration expressing the subject’s total lack of any substantial, coherent unity, provoking extreme anxiety, and even desperate violence to the point of affecting his actual body, symptomizing it, or arousing fantasy-projections of this violence onto the other’s body.29 In fact, the historical changes within the economy (libidinal and other) of the family structure plays a key-role in the narrativization and display of sexuality and violence. New research links the appearance of’ “terrorism” as a category of modern political action, towards the end of the 18th century (The French Terror period), to the growth of what was called in England “terror fiction” or “ terrorist novel writing” (1797),30 a genre now known as “Gothic,” and to conspiracy theory.31 It is interesting to notice how, in the Gothic or “terrorist” narrative, supernatural agents avenge those who have suffered too much in a world without justice, as if the Judeo-Christian motto had turned around: “do upon others what others have done upon you, or ‘your people’.”
The terrorist is an anti-romantic figure (despite the aura projected by the in/famous Carlos), investing energy away from the traditional family (many left children and family behind), de-coding desire, hi-jacking it via the “molar lines” of the Web, in order to over-code it along a frozen interpretation, an old reading of Koranic lines, re-investing it in the tribe/ gang, or a fantasy of the primal group, à la Lord of the Flies,32 ironically following the new “nomadology” favored/initiated by postmodern capital. These Jihadists function as “celibatory machines” (Tausk) for whom women are but the “repos du Guerrier.” They are autopoietic machines of unconscious investment—meaning that their unconscious orientations pre-determine/ favor their libidinal energetic investment in the cause as ultimate revenge and defiance. Many terrorists behave as if they were the a-social product of a “molecular unconscious” (à la Deleuze and Guattari) that would only know energy parameters and energy functions, like the “de-Oedipalized” street-gangs (most of them have no father or have an “obscene father”) of inner-city ghettoes’ marginalized youth (they are examples of Deleuzian ‘Anti-Oedipuses’ alright!). Phenomenologically, their “fatherland” (and “motherland”) is the “no man’s land” of the banlieue (“banishment place” out of the city-walls defining the security of the locus and the community in Medieval France); i.e. a zone of non sequitur logic and non-lieu status (both in the meaning of “nonsuit” and “no man’s land,” where today the police (or its militarized version, the C.R.S.) only ventures when riots explode.) The neo-con analyst Kaplan already pre-figured the descent into dystopianism of future megalopolises in The Coming Anarchy. The ontic situation of the terrorist can be metaphorized by two images: the one illustrated by Scorcese’s film The Wolf of Wall Street,33 and the numerous images of “lone-wolf-terrorists”— meaning that the financial predator goes hand in hand with the lone mass-killer.
Muslim fundamentalists are not so much “sick-unto-God” as they are “sick-unto-the-father.”
Psychotic Logic of ISIS34
Sometimes God has to be reminded of his duty toward mankind.35
ISIS via men reminds God to respect the order of the universe, i.e. to play God. ISIS put God back in its place, in its godly place—a universe displaced by Satan (modernity and its symbol, America), put out of order by the Infidels, the West, and Christianity who let the universe escape God. This reminder can be very violent and extreme as if Muslim fundamentalists were angry against God for having given free rein to the infidels. ISIS violently reminds God of his task/duty towards mankind. ISIS is the instrument of this task, of this Revival in “the Real” (Lacanian terminology):
“There are still religious associations that are bound together by a practice of crime—crime in which their members know how to find anew the superhuman presences that ensure destruction in order to keep the Universe in balance.”36
ISIS’s jouissance is to be the arm of God by assuming the role/place of the ultimate paternal metaphor, the Lacanian big Other. ISIS is not playing the role of a mediator listening to an angel, or the Virgin Mary (intercessor between God and Man), or even a facilitator listening to God via his archangels, like Joan of Arc. They express the direct wrath of God. They are the arm of his vengeance. This what makes fundamentalist terrorists psychotics. Ironically, and very logically, it is because they are missing the presence of this paternal metaphor themselves, originating for the most part from broken, dysfunctional families, with absent fathers, and places of ultimate de-territorialization (French banlieues), that DAECH/ISIS terrorists reclaim this absence at another level, from another perspective. Since they were not given the means to assume this fundamental absence, or in Deleuzian terms, to re-territorialize themselves (something they more or less rightfully blame on the host country—France, for instance), they defend the paternal metaphor against itself, against all odds (Jihad). Fundamentalist terrorists (all young) function in many ways like groups of young men of American inner-cities’ gangs. The gang offers solace, shelter, and identification in exchange for total submission.
They therefore become more Muslims than the Muslims themselves, since religion is of crucial importance in fundamentalist terrorism. The problem is that there are many divergent interpretations of religion, as the history of religions easily show. Contrary to what many critics assert, who want to deflect terrorists’ acts away from religion, in order to safeguard it, fundamentalist terrorists are religious.
“Nature is a slave of its own laws…; the only way to create something effectively new is therefore an absolute Crime… It is therein that Lacan locates the link between sublimation and the death-drive: sublimation equates to creation ex-nihilo, on the basis of annihilation of the preceding Tradition. It is not difficult to see how all radical revolutionary projects, Khmer Rouge included, rely on this same fantasy of a radical annihilation of Tradition and of the creation ex nihilo of a new (sublime) Man, delivered from the corruption of previous history.” 37
By fighting off Western oppression, and rejecting any reign of law, the fundamentalist terrorist puts himself at the mercy (under the sway) of the M(o)ther (the “primordial Other” fantazised as being one with the infant—the id) who appears later as the specter of total Omnipotence. Since he desperately yearns for the desire of this foreclosed big Other (or father), whose love/guidance/acceptance he unconsciously craves, and since this name-of-the-father is not accessible, the big Other is replaced by the “Primordial Other,” this “impossible symmetric other” of the big Other or name-of-the-father. It is an “Other” without any lack and beyond/before any law (i.e. the “incestuous M(o)ther”) upon whom the subject becomes unconsciously totally dependent, submitted, and subservient. It is interesting that ISIS’ war flags are made of black cloth inscribed with white Arabic sentences—black as the color of the sun of the foreclosed name-of-the father coming back under the guise of incestuous M(o)ther. Paradoxically the freedom of the fundamentalist terrorist by identifying with the absolute/ unbound desire of the “primordial Other” becomes totally alienated. Aby Musab al-Zarqawi, the son of an impoverished Palestinian family resettled in Jordan, also a high-school dropout and petty criminal in his youth (he was killed in 2006 by two American guided bombs dropped from two jets while in a “safe-house” in Iraq), whose nickname was “Shaykh of the Slaughterers,” wanted to turn Islam into a weapon to crush the West by creating a constant existential threat. In a way, one can speak of a hijacking of Islam, in the same way as Al-Qaeda masterminds of 9/11 have hijacked the Western vectors of transport, travel and communication and turn them into missiles of destruction/annihilation. It is therefore wrong to associate Jihadists with the worst kind of male, sexist, and patriarchal behavior, because the paternal metaphor of ISIS is foreclosed. Its void was filled by the M(o)ther-of-all-otherness: the phallic m(o)ther who haunts the intersectional “space” of the Imaginary and the Real, and who does not know any boundaries.
Terrorists’ Split Personalities
The projection of hatred and self-disgust which typifies fundamentalist terrorists’s mentalities starts when emigration fails or has failed. There is a “non-lieu”, as we have analyzed before, in the execution of the emigration movement. This failure of emigration migrates into the self and splits it into two. The terrorist feels as an abject object, only worthy in ethnic- and class-terms of the West worst place of exclusion besides the prisons (the banlieues or ghettoes ) where the abject of the West, its “lumpen proletariat” is dumped. The ethics of space and movement have affected the terrorist directly in a negative way. The physical marginalization incarnated in the bidonville/banlieue/ghetto/transit city (Calais’s jungle)/refugee camps, rotten inner-cities epitomizes the social devaluation and stereotyping. The breeding ground for jihadists is the physical and mental transitory state of poverty and indifference between two worlds from which one cannot escape: one unwelcoming or rejecting; the other inaccessible because locked in the parental past. A geomorphy or even geomorphological analogy explains the dilemma, who, like a situational differential cannot gear up. The transitionary state turns into a permanent hiatus, crack, or fall where two conflicting domains clash like two tectonic plates, one subsumed, the other lifted up—hence the volcanic eruptions. The interstitial, the libidinal, the molecular, and the fragmented, all in their own ways, symbolize the different conceptual approaches to explain the fundamentalist terrorism phenomenon phenomenologically. The impossibility of hybridity within a totally de-territorialized status where the self has no place to go, and where the right to difference turns into public indifference and/or anxiety about the other’s jouissance (by-product of multiculturalism and communitarianism).
The target-recipient of terroristic violence is really of no importance (race, sex, age, proximity) since everybody is collectively guilty, although those deemed directly responsible are first targeted (Americans, Europeans…). The target is chosen in function of its symbolic dimension (places and nexuses of traffic, flows and exchange) and Mediatic importance (Pentagon, Twin Towers, the White House, international hubs such as airports), places of entertainment (Western jouissance seen as debauchery) such as Paris’s night life places, restaurants or night-clubs, heterodox mosques (in Muslim countries), monuments (considered as places of idolatry), etc.
The ego-ideal (Freudian secondary dimension) is absorbed or recovered by the ideal-ego (Freudian primary dimension) since the name-of-the-father is absent, inexistent, obscene or impotent. This is important since it explains the “high” reached by the terrorists (remember the shoe-bomber’s extreme frustration when he was not able to carry on his plans— passengers were forced to restrain him for the duration of the flight) and the intense narcissism inherent to the terrorist passage à l’acte (acting out) which implies a glorifying self-sacrifice for a cause larger than the individual/subject. The ideal-ego is projected on the act and the cause. Here the Imaginary and the Real are directly inter-connected imposing another logic on the Symbolic, or simply by-passing it. The ego-ideal generally develops love and objects of love attached to other persons, while the ideal-ego develops grandiosity, delusion and extreme narcissism.
Terrorism Paradoxical Inversions
The Occident and the Orient (or, at least, its most tragically affected regions) now exchange missiles and missives of radical ideas (letters of hatred), terrifyingly exhibitionist images, i.e. a generalized rhetoric of escalating violent behavior which vies for the control of minds and bodies of whole populations. The “weird game” of this fatal logic played by the terrorists not only works “tit for tat,” but also inverts the “benevolently utilitarian” and “pacifying” image the West wants to project to the world which invokes an eternal and universal conscience of the Rights of Man.
Why this paradoxical and peculiar inversion? For four main, interconnected reasons.
Because the Western mode of total development and its only existing challenge, i.e. the terrorist, fundamentalist, total rejection, both pursue immortality and the negation of time, but from opposite directions.
Because collectivities cannot sustain themselves on mere humanitarianism (human rights, and so on), on what Slavoj Zizek calls the “collective links of love” without any support in the big Other (God). A disappearance of the big Other brings about another logic, another reality, another binary system.
“The transgression of the code is the reversion of opposite terms, and therefore of the calculated differences through which the dominance of one term over the over is established.”38
Because, as the following quote from Slavoj Zizek indicates, the logic of Lacanian psychoanalysis applied to communication explains why the message (if we may say so) sent by fundamental terrorism is inverted:
“According to Lacan’s definition of successful communication, I get back from the other my own message in its inverted form, which is to say with its true meaning, the truth about myself that I had repressed. Is today’s Western capitalism getting back from the Islamist fundamentalists its own message but in its inverted true form? In other words, is Muslim fundamentalism the symptom of capitalist globalization and liberal tolerance? Is the exploding in fury against liberal corruption the very figure who enables the liberal to encounter the truth behind his own hypocrisy? Perhaps we should learn from the most popular song about Kansas, and look for our allies somewhere over the rainbow: beyond the “rainbow coalition” of radical liberals and their single-issue struggles, and towards those who they see as their enemy.”39
Secular, Western rationality (under its hard or soft forms— atheism, or “temperate” religiosity) is answered with religious Medieval fanaticism;40 progressive and liberal tolerance with transgressive and “barbarian” provocations; Western Humanism (“human rights,” “normality,” quality of life,”…, or what Jean Baudrillard calls “the vissicitudes of profitability”) with inhuman acts;41 the capitalist privatization of all space with a nomadic-type of communal, neo-tribal space; the Media hyper-virtual manipulation/simulation of reality (from TV-reality to survivor shows) with “live” videos of raw, bloody, “real” public executions. The Social Media become a-social: Facebook is defaced: instead of hundreds of friends, hundreds of terrorists.
Commercial advertising is countered by religious propaganda; the West’s drones and smart bombs by cleverly hidden explosives smuggled on-board jet-planes; the US-led coalition of neo-crusaders by a new “Internationale” of radicalized, Muslim jihadists (the new form of “International Brigades” is made up of 100,000 to 200,000 jihadists according to Western intelligence, American nation-building by the Caliphate; the Founding Fathers’ model legacy by the Prophet’s voice; Political Correctness and Western-cloned democracies by a literal and reactionary interpretation of the Koran; the subordination of egotism to the self-reproduction of Capital by the subordination of individualism to the Sharia, etc.
The Western exhibitionist, ubiquitous gaze which wants to make everything visible and transparent is opposed by black veils and djellabas which cloak faces and bodies, blocking the introspecting gaze; to Western pornography, prurient nakedness, and promiscuous bodies (especially women’s) the response is a veiled female dimension and a de-eroticized male presence (bushy beards and hair, unkempt appearance, loose djellabas…). The Western crass-materialism is answered by the crass ideology of mentally/morally desperate people—sons and daughters of failed nation-states, war-ravaged countries, or neo-colonized states. To the nothingness and vacuity of Western individualism and reification answers the fullness of a hypostatized and hystericized Islam. To the rhizome-like proliferation of capital answers the viral-like propagation of terrorism. To the viral dimension of globalization’s High-Tech network of interconnection in real time propagating the information/data necessary to the life of capitalism, answers the viral, encrypted messages bringing about death and mayhem.
The fundamentalist, ideological propaganda even reaches into the heart of the West, addressing its inner contradictions, i.e. the ethnically and culturally alienated youth (the hybrid, impoverished, and marginalized “suburbanites” of large European cities, the poor and marginalized of American “ghettos”…) and, something new, the “estranged/alienated” youth of the relatively affluent Western middle-class (now “courted” by ISIL).
Terrorism and emigration form two sides of the same coin.
From what we know of recorded history and what we can deduct from prehistory, insect, animal and human emigrations have always been part of life on this planet (at least). The annual migration of the monarch butterfly is called by biologists one of nature’s miracles. Early on, for reasons still unknown, humans migrated from Africa, generating the different races we know. Climate changes, push from other migrating people (such as the Huns who pushed Germanic tribes Westward), socio-political upheavals, poverty and persecutions are the key reasons for emigration. A combination of unemployment, famine and religious persecution drove more than 30 million European immigrants to the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The first major wave of immigration to the U.S. occurred between 1820 and 1870, when a famine in Ireland and Northern Europe and economic troubles in Germany brought more than 7 million immigrants to America. But the height of immigration was between 1880 and 1920, when more than 20 million immigrants from Central, Eastern and Southern Europe, including millions of Russian Jews fleeing religious persecution, came to the U.S. The open door immigration policy ended with the passage of the Emergency Quota Act in 1921 which set quotas according to nationality.
So what is new with the postmodern emigration due to globalization?
Globalization exemplifies and exacerbates, by bringing out into the open the uncertainty and fragility of the identity attached to the Subject, by re-ifying the Subject’s desire (consumer’s society) along certain socio-political lines which are not all-inclusive (since the System’s “gratuities” are based on competition, rivalry, merit, work, etc.), by bringing to the Subject’s proximity the jouissance of the other, therefore threatening the integrity of the Subject’s desire, by de-stabilizing the fragile balance of the subject, by bringing out the movement of transit inherent to the group and the individual (question of geo-psychoanalysis.) Transit between the inside and outside, in ourselves and out of ourselves, between the ego, the subject and otherness: “we are all in the process of becoming foreigners in a universe that is being widened more than ever, that is more than ever heterogeneous beneath its apparent scientific and media-inspired unity.”42
What defines globalization is massive circulation, immigration/ emigration.
Emigration and terrorism imply the highest development of the panoptical apparatus and technological procedures. Emigration obeys subordination. Terrorism terrorizes subordination, in its will to counter the police action extended by Western civilization to the entire world. Although emigration plays an important role in the socio-economic dimension of the world, it goes beyond its limits and brings about racial fantasy into the heart of the postmodern Empire.
The Roman (as pre-Modern or Modernist) Empire’s demise according to many historians was partly caused by the inability of Rome to accommodate the constant trickling down of immigrants (called barbarians by the Romans).
The cultural and societal disintegration (High-Tech and consumerism), and the fluxes of identity that postmodernism effectuates/generates on individuals and societies cannot be faced; the disintegration of one’s reality is always frightening—hence the necessity to find a scapegoat. “The ear is receptive to conflicts only if the body loses its footing.”43
The emigrants are the ready-made scapegoats, because:
- The sudden and massive intrusion of the other brings in the rigid persona (i.e. the self-correct and self-correcting positioning keeping the footing of the Subject on the bedrock of what s/he perceives as his/her own authenticity, identity and coherence. It is rigid because it is a shield against fragmentation, insanity and cultural disintegration, and the violent reactions against disintegration, which can bring about hysteria. Hysteria fuses together enjoyment, horror and disavowal and can induce hallucinations. The big Other is the only means through which the subject is made thinkable, possible. The irruption of otherness (emigrants) may arouse in rigid personae mechanisms of primary narcissism accompanied by coercive appeals to defensive dimensions of destruction and aggression. These mental/a-cultural phenomena can sediment into collective formations such as those that characterize postmodern populist reactions to the sudden intrusion of otherness.
- Ideology makes sure that the boundaries of the self join with (or coincide with) the boundaries of a nation—uniting the collective and the individual. On the border, the individual and the collective meet as Orson Welles’ s Touch of Evil illustrates.
- The intrusion of illegal, speechless, generally poor immigrants without any status and standing, arouse sadomasochistic exchanges between immigrants and nation-state civil-servants [Hungarian police (women officers included) beating immigrants with belts for instance]. Sadism is the logic of an institutional,
- bureaucracy under siege. The tormenting of helpless victims redoubled by the obscene superegoic sadistic injunctions of the Law, form the underside of any governmental system.
- · Emigrants/immigrants represent, in spite of themselves, a dialectical force of presence and absence which brings to the fore in each citizen, the gap between the core of the personality of the individual, and the symbolic narrative in which the individual lives.
- · The spectacle of anarchic and obscene jouissance generally arouses the “punitive ego” in the by-stander or the citizen.
- · What is at stake in immigration is the fear of fragmentation in “nation-staters” or sedentary citizens. The flood-like fluidity, and the heterogeneous over-flow that immigrants incarnate make citizens uneasy.
The immigrant represents this other which delineates, opposes, subverts (linguistically for instance) or complements the subjectivity of identity. In extreme cases, it becomes a symptom, i.e. a body foreign to the ego of the subject, since the symptom is always a foreign body. It arouses fears of phagocytation, of being devoured by the Other: “For the foreigner perceived as an invader reveals a buried passion within those who are entrenched: the passion to kill the other, who had first been feared or despised, then promoted from the ranks of dregs to the status of powerful persecutor against whom a “we” solidifies in order to take revenge.”44This is why the more disturbing the outsider is as immigrant, the more s/he is seen as a symptom, and is often banished as far as possible.
Emigration is not due to isolated forces produced by contradictions inherent to a local, specific playing-field, but is the result of complex interactions between the “First World” and the ex-“Third World.”45
1 Julius Caesar.
2 Name of the first film (1982) of Godfrey Reggio’s qatsi trilogy; the second, Powaqqatsi (1988), means “parasitic way of life” or “life in transition”, followed by the more hyper-virtual film Naqoyqatsi (2002) meaning “life as war”, “civilized violence”, or “a life of killing each other.” The sound-track music of all three films is by Philip Glass.
3 Guy Debord. The Society of the Spectacle. 1967. Joshua Oppenheimer’s 2012 documentary The Act of Killing about the massacre of 2 million plus communists and leftists during the Indonesian power struggle between President Sukarno and General Suharto, dramatically illustrates the grotesque back-and forth of movement of “the spectacle” between “reality,” “the trauma,” “memory,” the Real (Lacanian definition), the re-enactment of the historical past, and its spectral hyper-virtuality. These themes also constitute the main fray of the cinema of Alain Resnais.
4 Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations (1993/6) and Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man (1992). Fukuyama argues that the worldwide-spread of liberal democracies, Western free-market capitalism, and its lifestyle signal the end point of humanity’s socio-cultural evolution and represents the final form of human government. Jean Baudrillard with his Hystericizing the Millenium (1994) pokes fun at Huntington and Fukuyama.
5 The École de la Cause Freudienne (ECF) was founded in 1981 to restore the original power and revolutionary effect of psychoanalysis. The ECF, with more than 300 members, organizes many ongoing courses and conferences, maintains a large library and promotes the teaching of psychoanalysis, particularly in the small “cartel” groups devised by Jacques Lacan.
6 L’Echange Symbolique et la Mort. 1974–translated in English in 1993.
7 See Alain Badiou whose work based on mathematics (set theory), Lacanian psychoanalysis, and Althusserian Marxism is of relevance for the analysis of postmodern violence; especially his Ethics: an Essay on the Understanding of Evil (1998—2001 for the English translation), in which the French philosopher articulates a strong, albeit complex, critique at the “moral terrorism” of the discourse of human rights, and particularly its US-orchestrated component, i.e. the “humanitarian” interventionism that the US tries to propagate all over as the moral compass and umbrella of globalization. Badiou’s political critique of the moralization of postmodern politics (post Cold War) has been echoed by the international Marxian-Lacanian thinker Slavoj Zizek. Badiou’s “principal target” is not so much Emmanuel Lévinas (Lithuanian-born, French-Jewish philosopher known for his ethics of “otherness”) than the general influence of Lévinas’ thought on contemporary, political and theoretical discourses. Lévinas stands in for the contemporary valorization of otherness, difference, and victimization as the grounds and stakes of a generalized ethics.
8 We are the world sings Bruce Springsteen. The problem is who is “we.”
9 Jean Baudrillard. The Spirit of Terrorism. Verso. 2000. 7
10 In fact, in The Vital Illusion. Baudrillard writes that postmodern terror is the ecstasy of violence.
11 Shock and awe— technically known as rapid dominance, is a military doctrine based on the use of overwhelming power and spectacular displays of force to paralyze the enemy’s perception of the battlefield and destroy its will to fight.
12 Paul Virilio. Speed and Politics. 1977—2006 in English.
13 Baudrillard. Idem. 8, 9.
14 Fredric Jameson. The Dialectics of Disaster in Dissent from the Homeland (Essays after September 11). Edited by Stanley Hauerewas and Frank Lettrichia. Duke U. Press, 2003. 59, 60.
15 “Capitalism inherently possesses the power to derealize familiar objects, social roles, and institutions to such a degree that the so-called realistic representations can no longer evoke reality except as nostalgia or mockery.” Jean-François Lyotard. The Postmodern Condition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984. 74. This sentence is reminiscent of another famous one: “everything that is solid dissolves in thin air.” Communist Party Manifesto. Marx and Engels (1848).
16 3% of the earth land mass is urbanized (about 3.5 million square kilometers.
17 The journalist Robert Kaplan wrote in the Atlantic Monthly (February 1994) an influential article about “the new anarchy to come” in the megalopolises of the future, due to extreme income disparity and the ghettoization of the poor, while the rich live in gated communities. His Post-Cold-War thesis played a seminal importance along with the ideas of Huntington and Fukuyama, in shaping the socio-politics of the “neo-con” movement in the US.
18 According to UN statistics, in 2015, 244 million people (3.3 % of the world population) lived outside their native country. The majority crossed borders in search of better socio-economic opportunities; the others were forced to flee political crisis. The current mass movement of refugees (displaced persons) has given rise to xenophobia and identity reactions based on fear and insecurity. This has politically resulted in calls for more border-security-tightening and refugee-control policies (what is called “vetting” in the US). In Europe, this sudden mass-emigration puts into question the free circulation of citizens and the open-border policy as defined by the Schengen agreement. For capitalism, emigration is an important factor for economic development (and profits).
The seriousness of the situation forced many governments to put a high-priority on political and humanitarian issues (half of migrants are women, and many with children) for both developed and developing countries.
19 Many French jihadists are of Algerian or Berber origin, a fact which stresses the over-determination played by history (French colonialism).
20 Woodrow Wilson to American businessmen as quoted by Perry Anderson in American Foreign Policy and its Thinkers. Verso. 20144.
21 Inspired by Serge André’s essay on psychosis: La Structure Psychotique de l’Ecrit. La Muette. 2000.
22 Jean-François Lyotard. L’Economie Libidinale (1994—in English in 1975: Libidinal Economy.)
23 J. F. Lyotard. Dispositifs Pulsionnels. UGE-10/18. 1978. 176,177.
24 J.F. Lyotard. Idem. Libidinal Economy.
25 Gilles Deleuze and André Guattari. L’Anti-OEdipe: Capitalisme et Schizophrénie. 1972—translated into English in 1983 (University of Minnesota Press).
26 The term “machine célibataire” comes from Duchamp’s famous Large Glass, or La Machine Célibataire, or The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors (1913-1923)— Philadelphia Museum of Art. The uncanny alliance between machine and human, goes back to Descartes via Lamettrie, de Sade, Huyssen, the German cineaste Fritz Lang, the surrealist painter Picabia, and the critic Michel Carrouges, without forgetting the Viennese psychoanalyst Viktor Tausk who wrote “On the Origin of the ‘Influencing Machine’ in Schizophrenia” (1919), published in the journal Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse and then, after translation into English by Dorian Feigenbaum, in the Psychoanalytic Quarterly in 1933).
27 Tracey D. Samuelson in The Christian Science Monitor.
28 This may explain the German composer of aleatory and musical spatialization,, serial composition and electronic music Karlheinz Stockhausen’s regrettable and misunderstood comment.
29 Something mangnificently illustrated by the Chadian filmmaker Mahamat Saleh Haroun in Abouna (Our Father in English)—2002.
30 Terrorist Novel Writing in The Spirit of the Public Journals. (vol. I). Anonymous. 1797.
31 Joseph Crawford. Gothic Fiction and the Invention of Terrorism: The Politics and Aesthetics of Fear in the Age of the Reign of Terror. Bloomsbury. London; 2014.
32 William Golding. 1954.
34 The Greek historian Herodotus (5th century BCE) described the Egyptian Goddess ISIS as offering initiates guidance in the afterlife and a vision or rebirth. We will not dwell on the homophony between the Egyptian Goddess and the fundamentalist radical group, especially since in traditional heuristic literary criticism, etymology was used to reveal the essential or primordial nature of things named.
35 A theme which returns with an obsessive passion in a “world abandoned by God,” in the “low-brow,” popular culture and the entertainment industry—such as the Cinemax TV series Outcast (2016) adapted from the comics of the same name by Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta or the TV series Preacher (2016) adapted by Evan Goldberg, Seth Roger and Sam Catlin for AMC, from the comic book series of the same name created by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon (DC Comics Vertigo).
36 Lacan. Ecrits. Norton, 2006. 122.
37 Slavoj Zizek. For they know not what they do: Enjoyment as a political factor. Verso Press. 1991.
38 Jean Baudrillard. The Ecstasy of Communication. Verso, 2012. 66.
39 Slavoj Zizek. The Desert of the Real. Verso, 2013. The book’s title is “a quote of a quote of a quote.” It comes from an ominous, ironic sentence delivered by the character Morpheus in the first “Matrix” film (1999),”Welcome to the desert of the real,” himself quoting Jean Baudrillard’s sentence in his analytical essay on societies, simulation and reality, Simulacra and Simulation (1981): “If once we were able to view the Borges fable in which the cartographers of the Empire draw up a map so detailed that it ends up covering the territory exactly…, this fable has now come full circle for us, and possesses nothing but the discrete charm of second-order simulacrum… It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges persist here and there in the deserts that are no longer those of the Empire, but ours. The desert of the real itself.” That is to say two conceptions of the Real are conjured up via postmodern/ fundamentalist terrorism.
40 Something curiously reiterated by Pope Benedict during his visit to Turkey.
41 Simulacra and Simulations. Jean Baudrillard, Selected Writings. Ed. M. Poster. Stanford U. Press. 183.
42 Julia Kristeva. Strangers to Ourelves. Columbia U. Press, 1991. 104.
43 Julia Kristeva. Idem. 17.
44 Julia Kristeva. Idem. 20.
45 Michael Hardt and Toni Negri’s Empire.