Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

7-11, 9/11, and Postpolitics

Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

7-11, 9/11, and Postpolitics

Article excerpt

    The immanence of terror, regardless of its source, is evident not
    Only in the protagonists' behaviour, but also in their choice of
    methods, pathological copies of the enemy like those made by a
    retrovirus of the attacked cell.
    --Hans Magnus Enzensberger, 2001

    The worst damage from many nerve injuries is secondary--it happens
    in the hours after the initial trauma, as the body's reaction to the
    damage kills more nerve cells.
    --Richard Stallmann, 2001

When the British comedian S. B. Cohen--better known as Ali G--recently crossed the Atlantic "to help the US with some of the problems following 7-11," his deliberate confusion of 7-11 with 9/11 was found "tasteless" by most critics. (1) Indeed, "one would think that Sacha Baron Cohen was the Salman Rushdie of TV." (2) In other words, 9/11 is a sacralized event; it is sublimated and elevated to a level above politics, dialogue, and humor in a way reminiscent of the Holocaust. Hence the "tastelessness" of Ali G's linking 9/11 (the 2001 terror attack) to 7-11 (globalization) and the "obscenity" of Stockhausen's infamous depiction of the attack as "the greatest work of art imaginable." (3)

Condemnations of terror, however, must be combined with an understanding of the complex global interdependencies of the network society. Taking a "sociologizing" stance against the political and cultural adiaphorization of September 11, 2001, (4) we here seek to think with Ali G and deliberately confuse some conjugated categories. We open with a discussion of the difference between classic terrorism and new terrorism, relating this distinction to the politics of security. We then link globalization (7-11) and terrorism (9/11) together, stressing that they share in common both the logic of networking and an emphasis on mobility; that is, the "network society" and "terror networks" mirror each other in a mobile network space.

However, we argue that the theorization of the emergent gap between the mobile elite and the immobile masses must be supported by an understanding of the processes of internal stratification within the mobile, especially that between the mobile elite and the terrorists. The issue of terrorism, in other words, gives a significant twist to what Bauman calls the "revenge of nomads," (5) suggesting that mobility does not have an irresistible emancipatory calling but changes meaning drastically depending on the context. (6)

This takes us to the second part of the article, where we discuss the notion of postpolitics in relation to terrorism so as to consolidate the link between the two deterritorialized networks: global capitalism (7-11) and global terrorism (9/11). We support the analysis of this mimetic relation with another relation, that between the politics of security as a form of contemporary (political) fundamentalism and the religious fundamentalism that it seeks to fight. When security becomes the dominant form of politics and the law is replaced by a permanent state of exception, a state "can always be provoked by terrorism to become itself terroristic." (7)

The New Terror

Sacrificing the most sacred of the sacred, human life, the 9/11 suicides articulate a new, postmodern fear: the fear of enlightened right-wing extremism. Today, the opposition between public (state) authorities and the marginalized, local resistance seems to be replaced by an opposition between the radical Right and civil society. (8) Thus, the 9/11 attacks did not come from the usual suspects of a modern, disciplinary order, from the other(ed) occupying the margins without "touching" the rest of the society. On the contrary, the terrorists were "normal" people. They were fundamentalists, but this in no way prevented them from functioning as an integral part of U.S. society. Their neighbors, for instance, were utterly surprised to realize that they had been in contact with a terrorist. "Fundamental" religiosity does not, in other words, mechanically make one a "potential terrorist" (or one should formally consider the Christian Right in the United States, for instance, to be potential terrorists). …

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