[NetBehaviour] The Mask of War (CTHEORY)
marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Sun Nov 6 02:26:47 CET 2005
The Mask of War
~Not for or Against~. Quite the contrary. This is precisely the title
of Cedric Klapisch's film. Neither for, nor against the war.
"Quite the contrary" signifies that there is no difference between the
war and the non-war, and that before deciding, it is necessary to be clear
about the status of the event. However, this war is a nonevent, and it is
absurd to come to a conclusion about a nonevent.
It is first of all necessary to know what it masks, that which it holds in
place, that which it exorcises. There is no need to search for long: the
event that opposes the nonevent of the war is September 11.
The analysis must start with this will of cancellation, obliteration, and
laundering of the original event, which makes this war ghostly, to some
extent unimaginable since it does not have a final purpose, a necessity, or
even of a true enemy (Saddam is only a puppet). This war merely has the
form of a conspiracy, of an event that is precisely impossible to do away
with. The result is that it is already perpetual, before even having been
started. In fact, it has already taken place, and the suspense itself is
part of this masquerade. It opens towards an endless war that will never
take place. And it is this suspense that awaits us in the future, this
diffuse topicality of blackmail and terror in the form of a universal
principle of prevention.
One can grasp this mechanism in ~Minority Report~, the recent film by
Steven Spielberg. On the ground of preventing future crimes, police
commandos intercept criminals before they have a chance to act. It is
exactly the same scenario with the war in Iraq: to nip a future criminal
act in the bud (the use by Saddam of weapons of mass destruction). The
question that irresistibly arises is whether the supposed crime would have
taken place? One will never know since it will already have been prevented.
(Saddam himself is of no
importance.) But what is apparent through Saddam is an automatic
deprogramming of all that could have taken place, a kind of disease
prevention on a worldwide scale, not only of any crime, but also of any
event that could disturb the hegemonic world order.
This is an ablation of "evil" in all its forms, an ablation of the enemy
who does not exist anymore as such (one exterminates it quite simply), an
ablation of death: "Zero death" [~Zero Mort~] becomes the leitmotiv for
universal safety. A veritable principle of contraception and deterrence
(dissuasion), but one without a balance of terror. This dissuasion without
a cold war, this terror without a balance, and this relentless prevention
placed under the sign of security will become a planetary strategy.
"Evil" is what arrives without prevention, and therefore without the
possibility of prevention. It is, of course, the case with September 11. It
is precisely that event that is radically opposed to the nonevent of the
war. September 11 is an impossible and unimaginable event. It is carried
out even before being itself possible (even disaster films did not
anticipate it; on the contrary, they exhausted the imaginary possibility of
such an event). It is about the extreme unforeseeable (where one finds a
paradox according to which a thing does not become possible until only
after it has taken place).
The difference is complete with the current war, which, by contrast, has
been envisaged, programmed, and anticipated so much that it does not even
need to take place. And even if it takes place in "reality,"
it will already have virtually taken place and thus it will not be an
event. Here, reality is a virtual horizon. This take-over by the virtual is
further reinforced by the fact that the announced war is like the double,
the clone of the first Gulf war (just like Bush is his father's clone). The
crucial event has thus been bracketed by two cloned events.
One can understand better from this perspective how this current war is a
substitute event, a ghost event, and a puppet [~fantoche~] event bearing
the image of Saddam. This is an immense mystification -- for the Americans
themselves. With September 11 a gigantic task of contraception developed at
the same time as a process of mourning.
The idea was to ensure that September 11 had, in fact, not taken place,
using the same principle of prevention, but this time retrospectively. An
endeavor without hope or end.
But then, what is the final strategy or at least the objective result of
this preventive blackmail? It is not to prevent the criminal act, to bring
into being the Good, or to correct the irrational course of the world. Even
oil and direct geostrategic considerations are not the underlying reasons.
The ultimate reason is to create a securitized order, a general
neutralization of peoples on the basis of a final nonevent. To some extent,
the goal is the end of history, but not one that would be placed under the
heading of a triumphant liberalism, or with a democratic realization as
seen in Fukuyama, but rather on the basis of a preventive terror putting an
end to any possible event.
Terror is distilled everywhere. The system ends up terrorizing itself
under the aegis of security. This is the very point at which the victory of
terrorism manifests itself. And if the virtual war is already won on the
ground by the world power, it is rather terrorism that has won the symbolic
victory through the instauration of a general worldwide disorder. It is, in
fact, the attacks of September
11 that have completed the process of globalization -- not the
globalization of the market, of the flows of capital, but of a symbolic
system that is much more fundamental for world domination -- by causing a
coalition of all the powers, democratic, liberal, fascistic or
totalitarian, spontaneously made to be complicit and solidly in defense of
the world order. All powers are geared against a single "alien." And all
the rationalizations are raging against the advent of "Evil." Still, it is
against this world power that everyone rises, and it is against it that the
eruption of the symbolic system of terrorism finds its counter-force.
Terrorism will have burst the arrogance and the disproportional power that
holds the whole world with respect to the imminence of an incomprehensible
This preventive terror, in total contempt for its own principles
(humanistic and democratic), reached a dramatic extreme in the Moscow
theatre incident where everything happened exactly as in the "Mad Cow"
affair: one butchers the whole herd out of precaution. God will then
recognize his own. Hostages and terrorists are confused in the massacre and
thus virtually become accomplices. The terrorist principle is extrapolated
to the whole population. It is the implicit assumption of power:
populations themselves are a terrorist threat for it. Terrorism, in its
action, seeks this solidarity with the people but without finding it. But
here it is power itself that carries out this involuntary complicity in a
We are power's virtual hostages, and we are dealing with a coalition of
all the powers against all the populations. This is completely visible
today with the proximity of the war that will take place in any case in
total contempt for world opinion.
This global situation gives credence to Virilio when he speaks about a
planetary civil war. The most dramatic political consequence of these
events is the collapse of any concept of international community and, more
generally, of any system of representation and legitimacy. And the recent
world mass demonstrations against the war where, one believes, a rising
countervailing power is emerging, are themselves only a worrying symptom of
this hiatus, of this fracture of representation. Nobody wants the war, and
yet it will take place no matter what, with the more or less camouflaged
approval of all powers.
One deals from now on with an exercise of power in a pure state, a power
without sovereignty. As long as power draws its sovereignty from the
concept of representation, as long as it has a political reason, its
exercise can find a balance; in any case, it can be fought and disputed.
But the obliteration of this form of sovereignty leaves an unrestrained
power, without an opposite number, in a state of nature (with no longer a
natural brutality, but a technological one). And this power that does not
have a legitimate reference any longer or even one true enemy (since it
transforms it into some kind of criminal ghost) turns without compunction
against its own populations.
But the integral reality of power is also its end. An integral power that
is no longer one of prevention, dissuasion, security and control is a power
that is symbolically vulnerable. It can no longer be brought into play and,
finally, it turns on itself. It is this weakness, this internal failure of
world power, which terrorism in its own way reveals, just like an
unconscious angst is betrayed by a failed act. This is properly speaking
"the hell of power." September
11 thus appears from the point of view of power like a gigantic challenge
in which world power lost face. And this war, far from taking up the
challenge, will not erase the humiliation of September 11. There is
something terrifying in the fact that this virtual world order can make its
entry into "reality" with such facility.
The terrorist event was strange. It was an unbearable strangeness. As for
the non-war, it inaugurates the worrying familiarity of terror.
First published in Rebonds, ~Liberation~ on March 10, 2003.
Translated by Alex Barder
Special thanks to Francois Debrix for his very helpful comments on this
 The French title of the film is ~Ni pour ni contre (bien au
contraire)~ which has been translated for the English language version of
the film as ~Not for or Against~. Baudrillard's reference to ~bien au
contraire~ present in the French title has been translated separately as
"Quite the contrary."
 Quotations are used in the original text.
 English word used in the French text.
Jean Baudrillard is an internationally acclaimed theorist whose writings
trace the rise and fall of symbollic exchange in the contemporary century.
In addition to a wide range of highly influential books from _Seduction_ to
_Symbollic Exchange and Death_, Baudrillard's most recent publications
include: _The Vital Illusion_, _The Spirit of Terrorism_, _The Singular
Objects of Architecture_, _Passwords_, _The Conspiracy of Art: Manifestos,
Texts, Interviews_ (September 2005) and _The Intelligence of Evil or the
Lucidity Pact_ (November 2005). He is a member of the editorial board of
Alex Barder is pursuing graduate studies at Florida International
* CTHEORY is an international journal of theory, technology and
* culture. Articles, interviews, and key book reviews in
* contemporary discourse are published weekly as well as
* theorisations of major "event-scenes" in the mediascape.
* Editors: Arthur and Marilouise Kroker
* Editorial Board: Jean Baudrillard (Paris), Paul Virilio (Paris),
* Bruce Sterling (Austin), R.U. Sirius (San Francisco), Siegfried
* Zielinski (Koeln), Stelarc (Melbourne), Richard Kadrey (San
* Francisco), DJ Spooky [Paul D. Miller] (NYC), Timothy Murray
* (Ithaca/Cornell), Lynn Hershman Leeson (San Francisco), Stephen
* Pfohl (Boston), Andrew Ross (NYC), Shannon Bell (Toronto),
* Gad Horowitz (Toronto), Andrew Wernick (Peterborough).
* In Memory: Kathy Acker
* Editorial Correspondents: Ken Hollings (UK),
* Maurice Charland (Canada) Steve Gibson (Canada/Sweden).
* Editorial Assistant: Ted Hiebert
* WWW Design & Technical Advisor: Spencer Saunders (CTHEORY.NET)
* WWW Engineer Emeritus: Carl Steadman
To view CTHEORY online please visit:
To view CTHEORY MULTIMEDIA online please visit:
* CTHEORY includes:
* 1. Electronic reviews of key books in contemporary theory.
* 2. Electronic articles on theory, technology and culture.
* 3. Event-scenes in politics, culture and the mediascape.
* 4. Interviews with significant theorists, artists, and writers.
* 5. Multimedia theme issues and projects.
* The Editors would like the thank the University of Victoria for
* financial and intellectual support of CTheory. In particular, the
* Editors would like to thank the Dean of Social Sciences, Dr. C.
* Peter Keller, the Dean of Engineering, Dr. D. Michael Miller and
* Dr. Jon Muzio, Department of Computer Science.
* (C) Copyright Information:
* All articles published in this journal are protected by
* copyright, which covers the exclusive rights to reproduce and
* distribute the article. No material published in this journal
* may be translated, reproduced, photographed or stored on
* microfilm, in electronic databases, video disks, etc., without
* first obtaining written permission from CTheory.
* Email ctheory at uvic.ca for more information.
* Mailing address: CTHEORY, University of Victoria, PO Box 3050,
* Victoria, BC, Canada, V8W 3P5.
* Full text and microform versions are available from UMI, Ann Arbor,
* Michigan; and Canadian Periodical Index/Gale Canada, Toronto.
* Indexed in: International Political Science Abstracts/
* Documentation politique international; Sociological Abstract
* Inc.; Advance Bibliography of Contents: Political Science and
* Government; Canadian Periodical Index; Film and Literature Index.
ctheory mailing list
ctheory at lists.uvic.ca
This message has been scanned for viruses and dangerous content by the
NorMAN MailScanner Service and is believed to be clean.
The NorMAN MailScanner Service is operated by Information Systems and
Services, University of Newcastle upon Tyne.
This e-mail is intended solely for the addressee. It may contain private and
confidential information. If you are not the intended addressee, please take
no action based on it nor show a copy to anyone. Please reply to this e-mail
to highlight the error. You should also be aware that all electronic mail
from, to, or within Northumbria University may be the subject of a request
under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and related legislation, and
therefore may be required to be disclosed to third parties.
This e-mail and attachments have been scanned for viruses prior to leaving
Northumbria University. Northumbria University will not be liable for any
losses as a result of any viruses being passed on.
Distributed through Cyber-Society-Live [CSL]: CSL is a moderated discussion
list made up of people who are interested in the interdisciplinary academic
study of Cyber Society in all its manifestations.To join the list please
More information about the NetBehaviour