Virtuality and Events: The
Hell of Power1
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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.
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,
The works referred to here are by J. Seward Johnson
and the late Michael Richards, respectively.
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”.
“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).
“Fake events” in English in the original.
Henri Bergson. La pensée et Ie mouvant. Third
edition, Paris: PUF, 1990:110.