9-11+11 (TeRRoRiSM CLoNeD BY CRoNY CaPiTaLiSTS)

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I posted the first version of this video slide show on November 5, 2010. I incorporated the imagery and speech from the film V For Vendetta before it became fashionable to wear Guy Fawkes masks largely owing to the OWS movement. I originally used news images, but have since incorporated many of the images I subsequently produced.

The point of using V was the protagonist's speech near the end of the film, not the mask. The speech is the top layer of the sound track which syncopates Bush, Obama and Jimi Hendrix's Star Spangled Banner. I strongly recommend you google and read it if you are not familiar with it. 

The theme of this video is not to be construed as a marginalization of the terrible tragedy suffered by so many on September 11, 2001. I believe we should remember and honor in our own way on this day.

But as we all know, there are many other facets of the event known as "9-11." The impact of 9-11 on the direction and world view of America is the other great tragedy.

While most of us think of the so called "war on terror" as conventional versus unconventional war, WJT Mitchell has written a book titled "Cloning Terror." He characterises the "Clone War" as a war of images and verbal/visual metaphors. An excerpt from the introduction of the book follows:


Cloning, like terrorism, is an iconic concept, loaded with ideological and mythic connotations. It is not merely an abstract or technical idea, but conjures up associations with abortion, test-tube babies, reproduction without sex or sexual difference, Nazi eugenics, and the commodification of organs and organ donors. It has the ability, then, to mobilize deep antipathy across the political spectrum, arousing both secular anxieties about “unnatural” processes and religious taboos on “playing god” with the creation and destruction of life. The figure of the clone has become synonymous with images of mutants, replicants, cyborgs, and mindless, soulless masses of identical warriors, ready to sacrifice themselves in suicide missions. What might be called “clonophobia” embraces a host of anxieties, from the specter of the uncanny double and the evil twin to the more generalized fear of the loss of individual identity.

If the so-called War on Terror was the dominant foreign policy melody of the Bush era, then, what could have been called the “Clone Wars” provided the baseline foundation for domestic policy. The war on terror united the faith-based community with a larger popular majority traumatized by the attacks of 9/11. Meanwhile, the stem cell issue fortified the faith-based community’s hostility toward science, especially the sciences concerned with life and reproduction, and coupled it with suspicions on the left about the commodification of life forms by technology. Karl Rove, Bush’s chief political advisor, made cloning the signature issue of the first year of Bush’s presidency. From a political standpoint, however, the shift from cloning to terror was the greatest good fortune the Bush administration could have wished for. Instead of fighting an indecisive battle over bioethics, it drew the winning hand in a holy war on terrorism. While cloning is debatable, a matter for serious ethical reflection, almost no one is willing to take the side of terrorism.

The iconic ideas of cloning and terrorism are not merely linked, then, by historical coincidence, but are connected by a deep cultural logic that began to manifest itself visibly after 9/11. This logic has roots that go down deeper than the era of the Bush presidency. They are symptoms of a comprehensive cultural formation summarized by Michel Foucault as “the birth of biopolitics,” and of a period that extends back into the Cold War era that I have called “the age of biocybernetic reproduction.” Biocybernetics is the historical successor to Walter Benjamin’s characterization of the modern era (in the 1930s) as the “age of mechanical reproduction,” a period defined by the twin inventions of assembly line industrial production, on the one hand, and the mechanical reproduction of images in the technologies of photography and cinema, on the other. In the age of biocybernetics, the assembly line begins to produce, not machines, but living organisms and biologically engineered materials; meanwhile, image production moves from the chemical-mechanical technology of traditional photography and cinema to the electronic images of video and the digital camera. The Turing machine and the double helix model of the DNA molecule might be taken as the emblems of the twin revolutions of biocybernetics—the decoding of the secret of life and the encoding of information, actions, and communication in the language of machines, i.e., the computer.

While it is relatively clear why the clone serves as a figurehead of biocybernetics, the twin revolutions of informational and biological science, the computer and the petri dish, it may not be evident how international terrorism fits the biocybernetic model. Terrorism has been a well-established tactic of warfare, insurgency, and the manipulation of mass emotions since at least the French Revolution, and probably before that. But contemporary terrorism has consistently been described in the framework of a bioinformatic model, as a social phenomenon that is comparable to an infectious disease. This is partly because the fact of new media and the Internet makes images of terrorist violence much more rapidly and broadly disseminated, as if a plague of images had been launched. Terrorism is so routinely analogized to things like sleeper cells, viruses, cancers, and autoimmune disorders that one is tempted to say that, at the level of imagery and imagination, all terrorism is bioterrorism, even when it uses traditional forms of violence such as explosives. (One should recall here that the anthrax attacks that followed soon after 9/11 were immediately assumed to be acts of Arab terrorism; it is more likely that they were homegrown.) The key thing about terrorism is not the weaponry employed (box cutters were the only thing the 9/11 hijackers required) but the psycho-biological assumptions that underlie it. Nonstate terrorism is a tactic of psychological warfare designed to breed anxiety and fear in a population; it is not a direct military engagement like invasion, siege, or occupation, but the staging of relatively limited acts of violence, usually against symbolic targets, designed to demoralize a population, and incite a reaction (generally an overreaction) by the police and military apparatus of a nation-state. Its aim, as Robert Pape has shown, is not conquest, but the influencing of political changes in established regimes—from the lifting of an occupation to the incitement of a civil war or revolution. “Shock and awe” and the murder of innocent noncombatants are the crucial elements in a terror campaign, whether or not it is state sponsored, not direct military engagements. If all wars deploy images and the destruction of images as attacks on the collective imagination of a population, terrorism is a tactic that operates primarily at the level of the imaginary. The attacks on the World Trade Center had no military significance, but were the production of a spectacle designed to traumatize a nation.

The concept of a “war on terror,” in this light, is revealed as a highly dubious fantasy, a form of asymmetrical warfare that treats the enemy as an emotion or a tactic (as if one could make a “war on flanking maneuvers”). And in fact the very idea of a war on terror is derived from earlier, explicitly figurative expressions that treat war as simply a metaphor for something like “maximum effort.” The phrase was probably first used, as linguist Geoffrey Nunberg has pointed out, in the late nineteenth century’s “war on tuberculosis,” and it has been applied more generally as a “war on disease.” (The fact that terrorism is so frequently compared to a disease independently of the war metaphor should be noted here.) The metaphor was updated by Lyndon Johnson’s “war on poverty” and Richard Nixon’s “war on drugs” (another war, incidentally, that has proved to be endless and unwinnable). All these “wars” were properly understood in quotation marks, as serious efforts to solve systemic problems in public health. LBJ did not envision the bombing of poor neighborhoods as the way to conduct a war on poverty. (The drug war, on the other hand, is well on its way down the slippery slope toward literalization as military action.)

Of course innumerable commentators have insisted that the War on Terror is no metaphor, and in a sense they are right. It is a metaphor that has been made literal, an imaginary, fantastic conception that has been made all too real. And this is the key to the historic novelty of the post 9/11 era. It is not that terrorism was anything new; the radical innovation was the war on terror and terrorism. There is a striking parallel in this regard to the historic novelty of reproductive cloning in animals and humans. The idea of creating a living replica of an organism, an “imitation of life,” has been a goal of art, aesthetics, and image technology at least since Aristotle. But the clone is a literalization of this goal, a realization of what was previously imaginary. Modern advances in biotechnology have made what was previously “only a metaphor” into a literal, technical possibility.

Once established as a technical and material actuality, however, cloning has been remetaphorized as a figure of speech for all kinds of processes of copying, imitation, and reproduction—as, in other words, an “image of image-making,” or what I have elsewhere called a “metapicture.” The tool for copying parts of an image in Adobe Photoshop may be represented with the tiny icon of a rubber stamp, but it is named the “clone stamp” tool. The clone and cloning have become cultural icons that go far beyond their literal reference to biological processes. But it is the new reality and literalness of cloning technology that underwrites the proliferation of its metaphoric uses. Small wonder that the phrase “cloning terror” comes naturally to the lips as a way of describing the way that the war on terror has had the effect, not of defeating or reducing the threat of terrorism, but exactly the opposite. Of course, many terrorists have been killed. But why does it seem as if every time the killing of a terrorist is announced, it is quickly followed by an account of the more numerous innocent people who had to be killed along with them? Why are there as many stories of “mistakes” with drone attacks as there are successful targeted assassinations? Is conventional war (bombing, invasion, occupation) the proper cure for the disease known as terrorism, or is it one of those cures that has the effect of making the disease worse? Why does it seem like every tactical victory in the war on terror (e.g., the destruction of the city of Fallujah in Iraq) seems to contribute to a strategic defeat for the overall goal of democratization and “winning hearts and minds”? The perverse logic of a war that seems to make the enemy stronger, more determined, and more numerous is reminiscent of the earlier perversity of an American war in which the U.S. military could talk about “destroying” villages in order to “save” them.