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ISSN: 1705-6411

Volume 3, Number 2 (July 2006)

Virtuality and Events: The Hell of Power1

Jean Baudrillard
(Paris, France).

Translated by Chris Turner.

            Two images: that of the bronze technocrat, bent over his brief-case, sitting on a bench at the foot of the Twin Towers, or, rather shrouded in the dust of the collapsed towers like one of those bodies found in the ruins of Pompeii. He was, so to speak, the signature of the event, the pathetic ghost of a global power hit by an unforeseeable catastrophe.

            Another figure: that of that artist working in his studio in the Towers on a sculpture of himself – his body pierced with aeroplanes – intended  to stand on the plaza of the World Trade Centre like a modern Saint Sebastian.2

            He was still working on it on the morning of 11 September when he was swept away, together with his sculpture, by the very event the work prefigured. The supreme consecration for a work of art: to be realized by the very event that destroys it.

            Two allegories of an exceptional, earth-shattering event, cutting at a stroke through the monotony of a declared end of history. The only event worthy of the name, contrasting starkly with the non-event to which we are condemned by the hegemony of a world order nothing must disturb.

            At this present stage of a networking of all functions – of the body, of time, of language – of a drip-feeding of all minds, the slightest event is a threat; even history is a threat.

            It is going to be necessary, then, to invent a security system that prevents any event whatever from occurring. A whole strategy of deterrence that does service today for a global strategy. Steven Spielberg's recent film, Minority Report, provides an illustration of such a system. On the basis of brains endowed with a gift of pre-cognition (the “precogs”), who identify imminent crimes before they occur, squads of police (the “precrimes”) intercept and neutralize the criminal before he has committed his crime. There is a variant in the film Dead Zone (directed by David Cronenberg): the hero, who, following a serious accident, is also endowed with powers of divination, ends up killing a politician whose future destiny as a war criminal he foresees. This is the scenario of the Iraq war too: the crime is nipped in the bud on the strength of an act that has not taken place (Saddam's use of weapons of mass destruction). The question is clearly whether the crime would really have taken place. But we shall never know. What we have here, then, is the real repression of a virtual crime. Extrapolating from this, we can see looming beyond the war a systematic de-programming not only of all crime, but of anything that might disturb the order of things, the policed order of the planet. This is what “political” power comes down to today. It is no longer driven by any positive will; it is merely a negative power of deterrence, of public health, of security policing, immunity policing, prophylaxis.

            This strategy is directed not only at the future, but also at past events – for example, at that of 11 September, where it attempts, by war in Afghanistan and Iraq, to erase the humiliation. This is why this war is at bottom a delusion, a virtual event, a “non-event”. Bereft of any objective or finality of its own, it merely takes the form of an incantation, an exorcism. This is also why it is interminable, for there will never be any end to conjuring away such an event. It is said to be preventive, but it is in fact retrospective, its aim being to defuse the terrorist event of 11 September, the shadow of which hovers over the whole strategy of planetary control. Erasure of the event, erasure of the enemy, erasure of death: in the insistence on “zero casualties” we see the very same imperative as applies in this obsession with security.3

            The aim of this world order is the definitive non-occurrence of events. It is, in a sense, the end of history, not on the basis of a democratic fulfillment, as Fukuyama has it, but on the basis of preventive terror, of a counter-terror that puts an end to any possible events. A terror which the power exerting it ends up exerting on itself under the banner of security.

            There is a fierce irony here: the irony of an anti-terrorist world system that ends up internalizing terror, inflicting it on itself and emptying itself of any political substance – and going so far as to turn on its own population.

            Is this a remnant of the Cold War and the balance of terror? But this time it's a deterrence without cold war, a terror with­out balance. Or rather it is a universal cold war, ground into the tiniest interstices of social and political life.

            This headlong rush by power into its own trap reached dramatic extremes in the Moscow theatre episode, when the hostages and the terrorists were jumbled together in the same massacre. Exactly as in Mad Cow Disease: you kill the whole herd as a precautionary measure –  God will recognize his own. Or as in Stockholm Syndrome: being jumbled together in death makes them virtually partners in crime (it is the same in Minority Report: the fact that the police seize the presumptive criminal before he has done anything proves a posteriori that he cannot be innocent).

            And this is, in fact, the truth of the situation: the fact is that, one way or another, populations themselves are a terrorist threat to the authorities. And it is the authorities themselves who, by repression, unwittingly set the seal on this complicity. The equivalence in repression shows that we are all potentially the hostages of the authorities.

            By extension, we can hypothesize a coalition of all govern­ments against all populations – we have had a foretaste of this with the war in Iraq, since it was able to take place in defiance of world opinion, with the more or less disguised assent of all governments. And if the world-wide demonstrations against war may have produced the illusion of a possible counter-­power, they demonstrated above all the political insignificance of this “international community” by comparison with American Realpolitik.

            We are dealing henceforth with the exercise of power in the pure state with no concern for sovereignty or representation; with the Integral Reality of a negative power. So long as it derives its sovereignty from representation, so long as a form of political reason exists, power can find its equilibrium – it can, at any rate, be combated and contested. But the eclipsing of that sovereignty leaves an unbridled power, with nothing standing against it, a savage power (with a savagery that is no longer natural, but technical). And which, in a strangely roundabout way, might be said to get back to something like primitive societies, which, not knowing power, were, according to Claude Levi-Strauss, societies without history. What if we, the present global society, were once again, in the shadow of this integral power, to become a society without history?

            But this Integral Reality of power is also its end. A power that is no longer based on anything other than the prevention and policing of events, which no longer has any political will but the will to dispel ghosts, itself becomes ghostly and vulnerable. Its virtual power – its programming power in terms of software and the like – is total, but as a result it can no longer bring itself into play, except against itself, by all kinds of internal failures. At the height of its mastery, it can now only lose face. This is, literally, the “Hell of Power”.

            The policing of events is essentially carried out by information itself.4 Information represents the most effective machinery for de-realizing history. Just as political economy is a gigantic machinery for producing value, for producing signs of wealth, but not wealth itself, so the whole system of information is an immense machine for producing the event as sign, as an exchangeable value on the universal market of ideology, of spectacle, of catastrophe, etc. – in short, for producing a non-event. The abstraction of information is the same as the abstraction of the economy. And, as all commodities, thanks to this abstraction of value, are exchangeable one with another, so all events become substitutable one for another in the cultural information market. The singularity of the event, irreducible to its coded transcription and its staging, which is what quite simply constitutes an event, is lost.

            We are passing into a realm where events no longer truly take place, by dint of their very production and dissemination in “real time” –  where they become lost in the void of news and information.

            The sphere of information is like a space where, after hav­ing emptied events of their substance, an artificial gravity is re­created and they are put back in orbit in “real time” – where, having shorn them of historical vitality, they are re-projected on to the transpolitical stage of information.

            The non-event is not when nothing happens. It is, rather, the realm of perpetual change, of a ceaseless updating, of an incessant succession in real time, which pro­duces this general equivalence, this indifference, this banality that characterizes the zero degree of the event.

            A perpetual escalation that is also the escalation of growth – or of fashion, which is pre-eminently the field of compulsive change and built-in obsolescence. The ascendancy of models gives rise to a culture of difference that puts an end to any historical continuity. Instead of unfolding as part of a history, things have begun to succeed each other in the void. A pro­fusion of language and images before which we are defenseless, reduced to the same powerlessness, to the same paralysis as we might show on the approach of war.

            It isn't a question of disinformation or brainwashing. It was a naive error on the part of the FBI to attempt to create a Disin­formation Agency for purposes of managed manipulation – a wholly useless undertaking, since disinformation comes from the very profusion of information, from its incantation, its looped repetition, which creates an empty perceptual field, a space shattered as though by a neutron bomb or by one of those devices that sucks in all the oxygen from the area of impact. It's a space where everything is pre-neutralized, including war, by the precession of images and commentaries, but this is perhaps because there is at bottom nothing to say about something that unfolds, like this war, to a relentless scenario, without a glimmer of uncertainty regarding the final outcome.

            It is in the sphere of the media that we most clearly see the event short-circuited by its immediate image-feedback. Information, news coverage, is always already there. When there are catastrophes, the reporters and photojournalists are there before the emergency services. If they could be, they would be there before the catastrophe, the best thing being to invent or cause the event so as to be first with the news.

            This kind of speculation reached a high point with the Penta­gon's initiative of creating a “futures market in events”, a stock market of prices for terrorist attacks or catastrophes. You bet on the probable occurrence of such events against those who don't believe they'll happen.

            This speculative market is intended to operate like the market in soya or sugar. You might speculate on the number of AIDS victims in Africa or on the probability that the San Andreas Fault will give way (the Pentagon's initiative is said to derive from the fact that they credit the free market in speculation with better forecasting powers than the secret services).

            Of course it is merely a step from here to insider trading: betting on the event before you cause it is still the surest way (they say Bin Laden did this, speculating on TWA shares before 11 September). It's like taking out life insurance on your wife before you murder her.

            There's a great difference between the event that happens (happened) in historical time and the event that happens in the real time of information.

            To the pure management of flows and markets under the banner of planetary deregulation, there corresponds the “global” event – or  rather the globalized non-event: the French victory in the World Cup, the year 2000, the death of Diana, The Matrix, etc. Whether or not these events are manufactured, they are orchestrated by the silent epidemic of the information net­works. Fake events.5

            François de Bernard analyses the war in Iraq this way, as a pure transcription of film theory and practice. What we are watching as we sit paralyzed in our fold-down seats isn't “like a film”; it is a film. With a script, a screenplay, that has to be followed unswervingly. The casting and the technical and financial resources have all been meticulously scheduled: these are professionals at work. Including control of the distribution channels. In the end, operational war becomes an enormous special effect; cinema becomes the paradigm of warfare, and we imagine it as “real”, whereas it is merely the mirror of its cinematic being.

            The virtuality of war is not, then, a metaphor. It is the literal passage from reality into fiction, or rather the immediate metamorphosis of the real into fiction. The real is now merely the asymptotic horizon of the Virtual.

            And it isn't just the reality of the real that's at issue in all this, but the reality of cinema. It's a little like Disneyland: the theme parks are now merely an alibi – masking the fact that the whole context of life has been Disneyfied.

            It's the same with the cinema: the films produced today are merely the visible allegory of the cinematic form that has taken over everything – social and political life, the landscape, war, etc. – the form of life totally scripted for the screen. This is no doubt why cinema is disappearing: because it has passed into reality. Reality is disappearing at the hands of the cinema and cinema is disappearing at the hands of reality. A lethal transfusion in which each loses its specificity.

            If we view history as a film – which it has become in spite of us –  then the truth of information consists in the post­-synchronization, dubbing and sub-titling of the film of history.

            In the former West Germany they are going to build a theme park where the decor and ambience of the now defunct East will be re-created (Ost-algia as a form of nostalgia). A whole society memorialized in this way in its own lifetime (it has not completely disappeared).

            So the simulacrum does not merely telescope actuality, but gives the impression that the “Real” will soon eventuate only in “real time”  without even passing through the present and history.

            As a result, history becomes once again for us an object of nostalgia, and a desire for history, for rehabilitation, for sites of memory, can be seen flourishing everywhere, as though, even as we suffer it, we are striving to fuel this same end of history.

            History too is operating beyond its own end. There was a definition of the historical event and the French Revolution was its model. The very concepts of event and history date really from that point. The event could be analyzed as the high point in a continuous unfolding and its discontinuity was itself part of an overall dialectic.

            It is not that way at all now, with the rise of a world order exclusive of all ideology and exclusively concerned with the circulation of flows and networks. In that generalized circulation, all the objectives and values of the Enlightenment are lost, even though they were at its origin. For there was once an idea, an ideal, an imaginary of modernity, but these have all disappeared in the exacerbation of growth. It is the same with history as it is with reality.

            There was a reality principle. Then the principle disappeared and reality, freed from its principle, continues to run on out of sheer inertia. It develops exponentially, it becomes Integral Reality, which no longer has either principle or end, but is content merely to realize all possibilities integrally. It has devoured its own utopia. It operates beyond its own end.

            But the end of history is not the last word on history. For, against this background of perpetual non-events, there looms another species of event. Ruptural events, unforeseeable events, unclassifiable in terms of history, outside of historical reason, events which occur against their own image, against their own simulacrum. Events that break the tedious sequence of current events as relayed by the media, but which are not, for all that, a reappearance of history or a Real irrupting in the heart of the Virtual (as has been said of 11 September). They do not constitute events in history, but beyond history, beyond its end; they constitute events in a system that has put an end to history. They are the internal convulsion of history. And, as a result, they appear inspired by some power of evil, appear no longer the bearers of a constructive disorder, but of an absolute disorder.

            Indecipherable in their singularity, they are the equivalent in excess of a system that is itself indecipherable in its extension and its headlong charge.

            In the New World Order there are no longer any revolutions, there are now only convulsions. As in an allegedly perfect mechanism, a system that is too well integrated, there are no longer any crises, but malfunctions, faults, breakdowns, aneurysmal ruptures. Yet events are not the same as accidents.

            The accident is merely a symptom, an episodic dysfunction, a fault in the technical (or natural) order that can possibly be prevented. This is what all the current politics of risk and pre­vention is about.

            The event, for its part, is counter-offensive and much stranger in inspiration: into any system at its peak, at its point of perfection, it reintroduces internal negativity and death. It is a form of the turning of power against itself, as if, alongside the ingredients of its power, every system secretly nourished an evil spirit that would ensure that system were overturned. It is in this sense that, unlike accidents, such events cannot be predicted and they form no part of any set of probabil­ities.

            The analysis of revolution and the spectre of communism by Marx offers plenty of analogies with the current situation. He too made the proletariat the historic agent of the end of capital – its evil spirit, so to speak, since, with the rise of the proletariat, capital fomented the internal virus of its own destruction.

            There is, however, a radical difference between the spectre of communism and that of terrorism. For capital's great trick was to transform the agent of disintegration it carried within it into a visible enemy, a class adversary, and thus, beyond economic exploitation, to change this historic movement into a dynamic of reintegration leading to a more advanced stage of capital.

            Terrorism operates at a higher level of radicalism: it is not a subject of history; it is an elusive enemy. And if the class struggle generated historical events, terrorism generates another type of event. Global power (which is no longer quite the same as capital) finds itself here in direct confrontation with itself. It is now left to deal not with the spectre of com­munism, but with its own spectre. The end of revolutions (and of history in general) is not, then, in any sense a victory for global power. It might rather be said to be a fateful sign for it.

            History was our strong hypothesis, the hypothesis of maxi­mum intensity. Change, for its part, corresponds to a minimum intensity – it is where everything merely follows everything else and cancels it out, to the point of re-creating total immobilism: the impression, amid the whirl of current events, that nothing changes.

            Generalized exchange – the exchange of flows, of networks, of universal communication – leads, beyond a critical thresh­old we passed long ago, to its own denial, which is no longer then a mere crisis of growth, but a catastrophe, a violent in­volution, which can be felt today in what might be called the “tendency of the rate of reality to fall” (similarly, the profusion of information corresponds to a tendency of the rate of know­ledge to fall). Zero degree of value in total equivalence.

            Globalization believed it would succeed in the neutralization of all conflicts and would move towards a faultless order. But it is, in fact, an order by default: everything is equivalent to everything else in a zero-sum equation. Gone is the dialectic, the play of thesis and antithesis resolving itself in synthesis. The opposing terms now cancel each other out in a leveling of all conflict. But this neutralization is, in its turn, never definitive, since, at the same time as all dialectical resolution disappears, the extremes come to the fore.

            No longer a question of a history in progress, of a directive schema or of regulation by crisis. No longer any rational continuity or dialectic of conflicts, but a sharing of extremes. Once the universal has been crushed by the power of the global and the logic of history obliterated by the dizzying whirl of change, there remains only a face-off between virtual omnipotence and those fiercely opposed to it.

            Hence the antagonism between global power and terrorism – the present confrontation between American hegemony and Islamist terrorism being merely the visible current twist in this duel between an Integral Reality of power and integral rejection of that same power. There is no possible reconciliation; there never will be an armistice between the antagonistic forces, nor any possibility of an integral order. Never any armistice of thought either, which resists it fierc­ely, or an armistice of events in this sense: at most, events go on strike for a time, then suddenly burst through again.

            This is, in a way, reassuring: though it cannot be dismantled, the Empire of Good is also doomed to perpetual failure. We must retain for the event its radical definition and its impact in the imagination. It is characterized entirely, in a paradoxical way, by its uncanniness, its troubling strangeness – it is the irruption of something improbable and impossible – and by its troubling familiarity: from the outset it seems totally self-explanatory, as though predestined, as though it could not but take place.

            There is something here that seems to come from else­where, something fateful that nothing can prevent. It is for this reason, both complex and contradictory, that it mobilizes the imagination with such force. It breaks the continuity of things and, at the same time, makes its entry into the real with stupefying ease.

            Bergson felt the event of the First World War this way. Before it broke out, it appeared both possible and impossible (the similarity with the suspense surrounding the Iraq war is total), and at the same time he experienced a sense of stupefaction at the ease with which such a fearful eventuality could pass from the abstract to the concrete, from the virtual to the real.

            We see the same paradox again in the mix of jubilation and terror that characterized, in a more or less unspoken way, the event of 11 September. It is the feeling that seizes us when faced with the occurrence of something that happens without having been possible.

            In the normal course of events, things first have to be possible and can only actualize themselves afterwards. This is the logical, chronological order. But they are not, in that case, events in the strong sense.

            This is the case with the Iraq war, which has been so pre­dicted, programmed, anticipated, prescribed and modelled that it has exhausted all its possibilities before even taking place. There is no longer anything of the event in it. There is no longer anything in it of that sense of exaltation and horror felt in the radical event of 11 September, which resembles the sense of the sublime spoken of by Kant. The non-event of the war leaves merely a sense of mystifica­tion and nausea.

            It is here we must introduce something like a metaphysics of the event, indications of which we find once again in Bergson.

            Asked if it was possible for a great work to appear, he replied: No, it was not possible, it is not possible yet, it will become possible once it has appeared: “If a man of talent or genius emerges, if he creates a work, then it is real and it thereby becomes retrospectively, retroactively possible”.6

            Transposed to events, this means that they first take place, ex nihilo as it were, as something unpredictable. Only then can they be conceived as possible. This is the temporal paradox, the reversed temporality that designates the event as such.

            As a general rule, we conceive of an ascending line running from the impossible to the possible, then to the real. Now, what marks out the true event is precisely that the real and the possible come into being simultaneously and are immedi­ately imagined. But this relates to living events, to a living temporality, to a depth of time that no longer exists at all in real time.

            Real time is violence done to time, violence done to the event. With the instantaneity of the Virtual and the precession of models, it is the whole depth of field of the duree, of origin and end, that is taken from us. It is the loss of an ever-deferred time and its replacement by an immediate, definitive time.

            Things have only to be concentrated into an immediate presentness by accentuating the simultaneity of all networks and all points on the globe for time to be reduced to its smallest simple element, the instant – which is no longer even a “present” moment, but embodies the absolute reality of time in a total abstraction, thus prevailing against the irruption of any event and the eventuality of death.

            Such is “real time”, the time of communication, information and perpetual interaction: the finest deterrence-space of time and events. On the real-time screen, by way of simple digital manipulation, all possibilities are potentially realized – which puts an end to their possibility. Through electronics and cybernetics, all desires, all play of identity and all interactive potentialities are programmed in and auto-programmed. The fact that everything here is realized from the outset prevents the emergence of any singular event. Such is the violence of real time, which is also the violence of information.

            Real time dematerializes both the future dimension and the past; it dematerializes historical time, pulverizes the real event. The Shoah, the year 2000 – it did not take place, it will not take place. It even pulverizes the present event in news coverage [l’information] which is merely its instantaneous image­-feedback.

            News coverage is coupled with the illusion of present time, of presence – this is the media illusion of the world “live” and, at the same time, the horizon of disappearance of the real event. Hence the dilemma posed by all the images we receive: un­certainty regarding the truth of the event as soon as the news media are involved. As soon as they are both involved in and involved by the course of phenomena, it is the news media that are the event. It is the event of news coverage that substitutes itself for coverage of the event.

            The historic time of the event, the psychological time of affects, the subjective time of judgment and will, the objective time of reality – these are all simultaneously thrown into question by real time. If there were a subject of history, a subject of knowledge, a subject of power, these have all disappeared in the obliteration by real time of distance, of the pathos of distance, in the in­tegral realization of the world by information.

            Before the event it is too early for the possible. After the event it is too late for the possible. It is too late also for representation, and nothing will really be able to account for it. September 11th, for example, is there first – only then do its possibility and its causes catch up with it, through all the discourses that will attempt to explain it. But it is as impossible to represent that event as it was to forecast it before it occurred. The CIA's experts had at their disposal all the information on the possibility of an attack, but they simply didn't believe in it. It was beyond imagining. Such an event always is. It is beyond all possible causes (and perhaps even, as Italo Svevo suggests, causes are merely a misunderstanding that prevents the world from being what it is).

            We have, then, to pass through the non-event of news coverage (information) to detect what resists that coverage. To find, as it were, the “living coin” of the event. To make a literal analysis of it, against all the machinery of commentary and stage-management that merely neutralizes it. Only events set free from news and information (and us with them) create a fantastic longing. These alone are “real”, since there is nothing to explain them and the imagination welcomes them with open arms.

            There is in us an immense desire for events. And an immense disappointment, as all the contents of the information media are desperately inferior to the power of the broadcasting machinery. This disproportionality creates a demand that is ready to swoop on any incident, to crystallize on any catastrophe. And the pathetic contagion that sweeps through crowds on some particular occasion (the death of Diana, the World Cup) has no other cause. It isn't a question of voyeurism or letting off steam. It's a spontaneous reaction to an immoral situation: the excess of information creates an immoral situation, in that it has no equivalent in the real event. Automatically, one wants a maximal event, a “fateful” event – which repairs this immense banalization of life by the information machine. We dream of senseless events that will free us from this tyranny of meaning and the constraint of causes.

            We live in terror both of the excess of meaning and of total meaninglessness. And in the banal context  of social and political life these excessive events are the equivalent of the excess of signifier in language for Lévi-Strauss: namely, that which founds it as symbolic function.

            Desire for events, desire for non-events – the two drives are simultaneous and, doubtless, each as powerful as the other. Hence this mix of jubilation and terror, of secret elation and remorse. Elation linked not so much to death as to the unpredictable, to which we are so partial. All the justifications merely mask precisely this obscure desire for events, for overthrowing the order of things, whatever it may be.

            A perfectly sacrilegious desire for the irruption of evil, for the restitution of a secret rule, which, in the form of a totally unjustified event (natural catastrophes are similarly unjustified), reestablishes something like a balance between the forces of good and evil. Our moral protestations are directly proportionate to the immoral fascination that the automatic reversibility of evil exerts on us.

            They say Diana was a victim of the “society of the spectacle” and that we were passive voyeurs of her death. But there was a much more complex dramaturgy going on, a collective scenario in which Diana herself was not innocent (in terms of display of self), but in which the masses played an immediate role in a positive “reality show” of the public and private life of Lady Di with the media as interface. The paparazzi were merely the vehicles, together with the media, of this lethal interaction, and behind them all of us, whose desire shapes the media – we who are the mass and the medium, the network and the electric current.

            There are no actors or spectators any more. We are all immersed in the same reality, in the same revolving respons­ibility, in a single destiny that is merely the fulfillment of a collective desire. Here again we are not far removed from Stockholm Syndrome: we are the hostages of news coverage, but we acquiesce secretly in this hostage-taking.

            At the same time we violently desire events, any event, provided it is exceptional. And we also desire just as passionately that nothing should happen, that things should be in order and remain so, even at the cost of a disaffection with existence that is itself unbearable. Hence the sudden convulsions and the contradictory affects that ensue from them: jubilation or terror.

            Hence also two types of analysis: the one that responds to the extreme singularity of the event and the other whose function might be said to be to routinize it – an orthodox thinking and a paradoxical thinking. Between the two there is no longer room for merely critical thought.

            Like it or not, the situation has become radicalized. And if we think this radicalization is that of evil – evil being ultimately the disappearance of all mediation, leaving only the clash between extremes – then we must acknowledge this situation and confront the problem of evil. We do not have to plump for the one or the other.

            We experience the simultaneous attraction and repulsion of the event and the non-event. Just as, according to Hannah Arendt, we are confronted in any action with the unforeseeable and the irreversible. But, since the irreversible today is the movement towards virtual ascendancy over the world, towards total control and technological “enframing”, towards the tyranny of absolute prevention and technical security, we have left to us only the unpredictable, the luck of the event. And just as Mallarmé said that a throw of the dice would never abolish chance – that is to say, there would never be an ultimate dice throw which, by its automatic perfection, would put an end to chance – so we may hope that virtual programming will never abolish events.

            Never will the point of technical perfection and absolute prevention be reached where the fateful event can be said to have disappeared. There will always be a chance for the troubling strangeness [das Unheimliche] of the event, as against the troubling monotony of the global order.

            A fine metaphor for this is that video artist who had his camera trained on the Manhattan peninsula throughout the month of September 2001, in order to record the fact that nothing happens, in order to film the non-event. And banality went right ahead and blew up in his camera lens with the Twin Towers!

Jean Baudrillard is among the most important theorists of our time. He has been employing theory to challenge the real for many years.  His recent books include The Intelligence of Evil or the Lucidity Pact (2005), The Spirit of Terrorism and Requiem For The Twin Towers (2002),  Cool Memories IV (2004) and Passwords (2003). His most recent book (with Enrique Valiente Noailles) Les Exilés du dialogue. Paris: Galilée, 2005, is not yet in print in English translation.  He is an editor of the International Journal of Baudrillard Studies.


1 Editor’s note: This article appears in Jean Baudrillard. The Intelligence of Evil or the Lucidity Pact. New York: Berg Publishing, 2005. Translation and endnotes 2 through 6 by Chris Turner. Reprint by permission of Berg Publishing, see: www.bergpublishers.com

2 The works referred to here are by J. Seward Johnson and the late Michael Richards, respectively.

3 The French terms “la sécurité” and “l'insécurité” advert more clearly than their English cognates to the debate on what is colloquially known in English as “law and order”.

4 “L'information” in French has a broader range of reference than in English, de­noting both information in the English sense, where it connects with informa­tion technology (l'informatique), and also news coverage in a general sense (cf. la presse d'information: the newspapers).

5 “Fake events” in English in the original.

6 Henri Bergson. La pensée et Ie mouvant. Third edition, Paris: PUF, 1990:110.

©International Journal of Baudrillard Studies (2006)

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