Information and Links That You Can Look Up At Your Leisure

So, here are the links I wanted to talk about during my presentation today, but didn’t really have the chance.  Please please please, at the very least, watch New York City: After The Fall, We Can’t Rewind.  It’s particularly interesting in the elements of spectacle used; you literally cannot rewind or fast forward and I think that is purposeful.  It tries to make a point, but I think it fails to do so.  The elements of spectacle we could talk about based on this sight are numerous.  Other than that, take the time to really go through these and consider the relevance and connections you can make to our class materials; I think some of this will astound you.  Let me know if you have any questions!  Thanks guys and have a great break!

•         Days Of Terror: A Photo Gallery  http://nymag.com/news/articles/wtc/gallery/21.htm

•         September 11, 2001 Event Archive                                    http://nymag.com/news/articles/wtc/index.htm

•         Shattered 9/11/2001                  http://www.time.com/time/photoessays/shattered/

•         Brainstorms & Raves: Attack On America-Weblogs and   Personal Stories        http://brainstormsandraves.com/attack/weblogs/

•         Project Rebirth 9/11                                                                                               http://www.projectrebirth.org/

•         Black Day-911-                                                                                               http://911.navexpress.com/

•         The September 11 Digital Archive                            

  http://www.911digitalarchive.org/

•         Ironic Sans—3D Images Of   http://www.ironicsans.com/2006/05/911_in_3d.html#more

•         New York City:  After The Fall, We Can’t Rewind           http://www.hillerphoto.com/nyc/#

•         The Road Through 9/11                                      http://cnparm.home.texas.net/911/Intro.htm

•         Lebanon’s 9/11         http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article14069.htm

A name for sure but what’s in a partial date?

Please forgive my very late post. 

 

Who could forget 9/11?  Isn’t it interesting that we have so many 9/11s – I mean each year we have one but yet there is truly only one ‘real’ 9/11, which took place in 2001. Most people no longer use the year to refer to the events.  I wonder if previous and especially subsequent 9/11s are anything except before and after 2001, and if they are any less ‘real’ than that fateful day in September 2001.  Does 12/7 signify in the same way as 9/11?  12/7 is also the date of an historic OH MY GOD IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE OR TO US – YET IT DID HAPPEN event.  Pearl Harbor happened on December 7, 1941.  Granted we don’t use the date to refer to the Pearl Harbor events, but I wonder if it would mean the same if we did.  Personally I would hate to think of December 7 as forever 12/7 because it happens to be my birthday, but that’s beside the point.  Is 9/11/01 any more of a spectacle than Pearl Harbor?  Can we make something a spectacle retroactively?  And did the movie Pearl Harbor do this for the actual ‘real’ 1941 events?  It strikes me that “witnessing” the event your self – not that most people witnessed 9/11 and of course this means witnessing it through television, might make it more real than an historic event like Pearl Harbor, but this doesn’t seem the only answer.  It does make me wonder about the longevity or endurance of such spectacles, especially on the eve of the 64th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

 
It’s funny how vividly I recall what I did on September 11 2001.  I remember the first time I heard what of the event – I was driving along to an appointment and hoping to enjoy my day of no work but instead ended up glued to the TV at the business place of my appointment no less.   I never questioned it before because it seemed so natural for a Caribbean national to get US cable TV feed and so partake of the US, but upon reflection, I think most people I know spent the entire day watching, discussing and agonizing over the events replaying on television.  Courtney suggests in her post “the degree to which everyone was affected certainly had to do with the bonds of nationalism” and while I think this applies to the US it doesn’t apply to me or the other Caribbean nationals I know who followed the unfoldings closely.  Beyond this however, I think the other important thing about 9/11/01 (this looks really weird to have the 01 at the end, I hope people realize I mean 9/11) is that it couldn’t be only about nationalism because it affected so many nationalities.  We could all be devasted because not just because of the global spectacle television creates but also because of globalization – we are all connected to each other, but more so to the current major superpower, the US.  Too many nationalities were affected by the tragedy for it it be defined only in nationalistic (read US nationalism) terms.   So which of Jameson’s explanations for the collective devastation and grief – collective fantasy, fear, pity, putting self in the victims shoes and morbid curiosity (298) would this fall within?

What to do!

 

I swear I didn’t put off this post since it was the last of the semester. I really enjoyed this weeks writings and thought that we could have spent weeks on them alone as an example of spectacle in (at least our own) society. 

But looking at the writings as a whole, I am struck by the coldness of the articles. I understand the need to analyze the event and the effects it has had on our social consciences, but it just seems like all of the authors (minus DeLilo) wanted to remove themselves so far from the tragedy that the tragedy itself becomes almost a scientific experiment. This seems to me to be one of the problems with the critical crowd and the way that they approach 9/11. It was a tragedy; but they approach it like it is part of a broader social experiment that they can dissect and pry into. 

I understand the need for this. Even though they themselves were not directly affected by this, they still are involved. Society and the broader impact is all part of what these people are continually looking at, yet the level at which this is analyzed seems to border on obsessive. Each of them dissects this down to the smallest piece of significance, even to the flag and the sales charts after 9/11. What does it mean when we have to break down incidents of suffering and pain in such a way? Is it a way to find meaning and justify the pain that they feel? I know that DeLilo feels an obvious effect from the incident, and other authors (my favorite being Spiegelman) approach their pain in a very personal way rather than in a analytical way rather than in a manner that detached itself from the incident. We can look at the name we have given the incident, 9/11, as a way of making it even more foreign than it was. Now it is just numbers, while Spiegelman’s title, “In the Shadow of No Towers”, directly approaches what happened and what was lost. 

At the base of this ramble, I just wonder if anything is gained by the intellectual detachment that can be found in these articles? Does it help us to understand what happened to the Twin Towers any better, or does it only help us to get further away from the incident and what we may possibly feel about it? 

 

 

9/11 Spectacle

I was a seventeen year old high school senior in Arlington during the events of 9/11. I remember walking into a second period government class and seeing the first plane’s impact crater already smoking, embedded in the rubble of tower one. At the time, everyone thought this was some kind of chance airliner accident. It was only when the second plane hit, a few minutes later, that a girl in my class said, “it must be a terrorist act.” I will never forget the response that followed from a boy on the other side of the room. “No,” he said, “that doesn’t happen in America.” Though this statement was, as we now know, entirely incorrect, I think that it does speak to the mentality of a generation of Pax Americana Clinton kids who had grown up, for the most part, removed the violence in the rest of the world. The two happenings that I remember most vividly from that day were: 1) the barrage or rumors and conspiracy theories which found their way around the high school that the capitol had been bombed, that their was a truck bomb outside of the state department, or that camp David was under fire just to name a few. And 2) A brief, emotional conversation with my older sister who was, at the time a 21 year old new nurse in Arlington hospital (where most of the Pentagon burn victims were taken.) She said that the hospital didn’t have enough resources to handle the volume of patients, but that everyone was, of course hoping for more. And that she was afraid that she would have no idea what to do in the face of so much chaos.

I almost immediately sought to distance myself from the spectacle of the events. Like a few other’s experiences that I’ve read, I watched the obligatory few days of television and saw the images of impact over and over, as we all did, on the continuous news coverage. Following that though, I have never watched any documentary coverage of the events, read books on the subject or watched any of the movies. Mostly, I suspect, because we are reminded of the events of 9/11 almost daily as a result of the events on the news and for me, those images didn’t need any additional reinforcement to remain permanently lodged in my brain.

I would agree certainly with Jameson’s assertion that the “collective delirium, media hype and subsequent [reactionary] patriotism evolved into a kind of fantasy without meaning that it was in any way unreal.” (Jameson, 298) I don’t know if I buy into his argument though that 9/11 was a time in which “not America, but rather its media, lost its innocence.” (Jameson, 230) To say that the American media was wholly unprepared for a tragedy of this magnitude is, I believe, correct. It is important to remember though that media events of the past, from the Iran contra scandal, to Watergate and certainly the events of the Cold War, have been sensationalized in much the same way.

Also, the degree to which everyone was affected certainly had to do with the bonds of nationalism, no matter how intimately involved one was or was not with the events of the day. Because of its far reaching effects, I don’t think true objectivity about the tragedy will be possible for years to come. Yet it is interesting to consider, without meaning to devalue the gravity of anyone’s personal feelings on the subject, whether the nation as a whole would have been so deeply and personally affected without the advent of television, and the vast role both it, and the internet, played in 9/11 media sensationalism.

Jameson’s point about the impersonality of mourning in the new media age is a good one: “what we feel are no longer our own feelings anymore but someone else’s, and indeed, if we are to believe the media, everybody else’s. This new inauthenticity casts no little doubt on all those theories of mourning and trauma that were recently so influential, and whose slogans one also finds everywhere in the coverage.” (Jameson, 232)

On an unrelated note, I think Jameson’s discussion of the recent blending of religion and politics, as well as his definition of religious fundamentalism as a political stance is a valuable and important one. I look forward to discussing this more in class.

Thanks, everyone for putting up with my nonsensical ramblings all semester. I was not crazy about the idea of blogging in the beginning, but I really do think that it added a greater sense of community to the class and I have truly enjoyed reading your (far more eloquent) perspectives on the various topics we’ve covered.

-See you Wednesday.

Courtney Riley

Ps. This was actually posted at 9:20 am. Not that that matters, but the blog timing mechanism seems to be a litte off. 

“It is the very world itself that resists globalization.”

I love the personified Earth image- Gaia is a comforting idea. Since the more I see and learn about politics and war, the more I become completely bitter about humans beings in general, it makes me happy to think the earth might just resist us all. There is one scientist who asserts that global warming is the aftermath of the earth defending itself from us and losing- kinda like it has a fever. I think that what is really meant in the above quote is the world of the people, but humor me. At points, I found the Baudrillard article to be…esoteric. But the above part was poetically esoteric. Also,

“There are no solutions to this extreme situation, above all not even war, which only offers an “already been there” type of solution, with the same deluge of military forces, “spook information,” useless carpet bombings, pathetic and hypocritical speeches, technological deployment, and intoxication campaigns. In short, like the Gulf War, any solution would be a nonevent, an event that did not really happen.”

Well, I certainly wish that the “solution” did not really happen. I knew reading these essays, since they were all written before the bombs were dropped in 2003, would be infuriating. And it definitely has been. I guess, like mary says, I resist talking about 9/11. For me, it was scrawled on the lunc specials outside a British pub: “New York and Washington D.C. under attack.” It meant my father, who had just arrived to visit me, had to go home, because he worked at the Pentagon. British people were super nice to me, and said they would do all they could to get those bastards. I came home that semester to all the flags and the sense of detachment continued. Not that many people died, in comparison to most of our attacks on other countries. And not that many Americans would die as a result of the “response,” as opposed to Iraqis, particularly civilians. I really do hate to talk about this. Moving on to DeLillo.

“If others in less scientifically advanced cultures were able to share…Would they need to invent a God who rewards violence against the innocent with a promise of “infinite paradise”, …? (DeLillo)

I immediately rail against this sort of thinking, if it is indeed the thought path DeLillo is following- that being a member of a scientifically advanced society” necessarily means not believing in a God who justifies killing the innocent or a God who licenses a war to bring back the past.

I have to give a disclaimer here- I recently watched Jesus Camp, which was absolutely terrifying and which is probably framing a lot of my thoughts. I recommend it to anyone, even if you are not as overly interested in American spirituality as I am.

DeLillo calls this the idea of a theocratic state “obsolete” and implies that it is ephemeral, but I think that is a dangerous and false assumption, like when pundits thought the industrial or scientific revolutions would bring with them the death of God. Nope. He implies that its ideas are old, outdated and will soon fall out of what little power they have. Really, of course, many fundamentalist movements are new, with new ideas, new readings (butcherings) of past texts coupled with astounding powers of purposeful ignorance and the use of new technology. Many of these movements around the world seem to cast a glorifying gaze at the past with eyes from an utopia-like, apocalyptic future. They don’t see themselves as having anything to do with now, which is part of how “They succeeded in turning their own deaths into an absolute weapon against a system that lives off the exclusion of death, whose ideal is the dead zero (zéro mort).” (Baudrillard).

I can’t keep rambling, so I’ll say: I thought this class was not just important, but really fun. Thanks to everyone!

Spectacle of a Tragedy

What’s so interesting about a few of this week’s blog posts (the ones I’ve had a chance to read ) is that I wondered if a few people felt a little weary of talking about September 11th honestly; it may be completely imagined, but some people seemed to be a little afraid to really delve into the event objectively. This fear seems completely understandable, but I was a little surprised to see it in a graduate study. Not wanting in any way to demean the tragedy that 9/11 was, it reminds me of when my roommates’ really mean uncle died; he had been a miserable person, but upon his untimely death, it suddenly became very uncomfortable within their family to talk about him in any negative manner. I don’t know what my point is, really. I guess it was just an observation.
I am also presenting this week and therefore don’t want to waste everyone’s time talking about DeLillo in detail on this blog, but I do want to talk about an aspect of “In the Ruins of the Future” that I won’t be talking about in my presentation. Living language, according to DeLillo “is not diminished” despite the awareness that the events of September 11th were horrible. He talks of a writer’s desire to dismantle the realities and consequences of such an event; he also says, “Language is inseparable from the world that provokes it,” which I found incredible interesting. However, DeLillo’s discussion of living language left me feeling much the same way the rest of his piece did. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. On the one hand, DeLillo seems even handed and objective talking about America and its “high gloss modernity.” On the other hand, he categorizes and slaps a label on terrorists that seems without real facts to back it up. Whether or not I agreed with DeLillo seemed irrelevant to how I felt about many of his claims; I found myself wanting to ask him where he was getting some of this. Was this just his opinion or did he think this article was politically relevant? I also thought it was surprising that this article was published in The Guardian, simply based on its tone. I was definitely not sure what to make of the narratives within this article; I thought they were engaging, but maybe because I was presenting on it, I may have been looking to hard for conclusions. DeLillo seems to offer a lot of questions and his tone at the end is still unclear to me. I hope we can discuss this further in class, since it happens to be a question I ask.
Moving away from my presentation reading, I want to comment on Zizek’s essay, “Welcome to the Desert of the Real!”, and what Marique asked about sacrifice. She quoted what Zizek writes on page 388, saying terrorists “disregard for their own lives” is shocking to Americans (388). Does “this surprise reveal the rather sad fact that we…find it more and more difficult even to imagine a public or universal cause for which one would be ready to sacrifice one’s life?” (388). I understand Marique’s hesitation with this comment, since it is unbelievably difficult to conceptualize heralding anyone responsible for death. However, I was really intrigued by the point/question, wondering what it would take to be willing to die for something. I’m not sure, but I do think it’s an extraordinarily interesting to examine what it would take for each one of us in class to kill. Self defense? Ultimatum regarding a child? Loss of freedom? Isn’t there some circumstance that would put you in a position to kill? I don’t know, but situational ethics seems applicable here in some way, though I’m not formulating my point very well…. I also wonder what DeLillo would say now about this very issue since he doesn’t seem to consider terrorists’ motivations at all in his piece.
Researching this topic this week was really crazy, I have to say. I would never have guessed how many very disturbing websites, photos, videos, etc. I would find. It was seriously troubling…
I also wanted to talk about what Fredric Jameson says in “The Dialects of Disaster.” He suggests, “Yet the seeds of the event are buried far more deeply than that, and suggest that we need to revise the current overestimation of religion’s role in society today.” I thought that a lot of what I read in terms of religion in my research varied. Some people blasting the Koran and others heralding Christianity; it is difficult to understand the difference. Jameson’s point resonated with me and maybe that’s because I’m not a religious person: I hope, however, that if I was a religious person, I would also have the mind to evaluate the impact of religion in a society or government. It seems that if you’re religious in society today, you can’t understand separation of church and state; I wonder how many non-religious people are out there trying to limit a women’s right to choose and prevent marriage of certain sexes….

Anyway, I’m definitely all over the place here and not making a lot of conclusions. I will say that as someone who feels like this class has been very valuable, I think this blog forum has played a significant role in that value. So, to copy all the others who’ve already said it, thanks for the thought inducing sharing.

The real world of material decay.

Somehow, I’ve managed to make it five years without ever really confronting the spectacle of 9/11. I watched two days of television–Tuesday, Sept. 11 and Wednesday, Sept. 12–with my college roommates, and that was it. No more. I never watched any of the specials, the movies, the ____-year-after-9/11 anniversary shows, or looked at any of news magazines or big, coffee-table books they made “commorating” the tragic events of that day. I went to one vigil at my school, but looking around me and seeing people weeping for loved ones living somewhere in New York City, I felt I had no place standing next to them and trying to imagine how they felt. When flags became all the rage, I pledged to show my patriotism in action–voting, being a good citizen, volunteering–rather than to cover my car with red, white and blue. When the “9/11 Commission Report” came out, yes, I had my ordered copy waiting, and I went home and read the whole thing in a week–marveling at just how stupid and inept and completely, depressingly chaotic our government was that day, all the days leading up to it and all the days after–but I avoiding talking about the book with others who had read it because, as I watched it hit the top of the bestsellers’ list, I kind of regretted having bought it, thinking for the hundredth time how I didn’t want to be a participant in 9/11-related money-making. At no point did I want to feel as though I was a consumer in the media frenzy surrounding such a truly horrific and uncomprehendable event whose magnitude I couldn’t, for the life of me, wrap my head around.

All that being said, it was especially interesting and difficult doing the readings for this week and doing research for my presentation tomorrow. I’ll admit, I called my father crying when I found an entire site devoted to images of the people who leapt, rather than burnt, to death. Sure, I’d heard about those photos, but I’d never seen them. And, I couldn’t believe the other things I found: countless–literally–Web sites completely devoted to online images of the planes hitting, the towers falling, the New Yorkers running, wailing, standing still and looking absolutely dumbstruck, and the firefighters, for weeks after, digging through the wreckage. Susan Willis says how “the display of [post-9/11] flags underscores the importance of quantity over quality” (378). Well, the Internet world of 9/11 spectacle certainly echoes quantity over quality as well.

I don’t know how much I have to contribute to the overall discussion here, given the remarkably poignant things people have already written. And, short of going into what I want to talk about during my presentation tomorrow, I’ll just stick with rather general points about a few of the many connections I saw in the readings this week to the readings we’ve done through the course of this semester.

1. In “Old Glory,” Willis writes about the powerful effect the American flag began to have in the months and year after 9/11. What she wrote on p. 379, specifically, seemed to echo DeLillo’s crowd mentality in “Mao II.” Willis writes how the unspoken mantra behind the flag craze seemed to be the age-old slogan, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us” (379). You’re either in the crowd or you aren’t, harkoning back to Le Bon and Canetti, as well as DeLillo. Interesting how outside of the proud flag-bearing crowd another equally opinionated and elitist anti-flag crowd (some might call them the liberals…) formed, too.

2. During this week’s readings, I was especially drawn to the idea of commodity–of Americans, images and products–in relation to 9/11. Again, looking at Willis, she made an interesting comment on p. 381 about how funds for DNA testing were rerouted from death-row inmates to Ground Zero, and how “Clearly, some lives–or deaths–count more than others.” She goes on to say, “…Americans generally count more than the world’s others” (381). Did 9/11 commodify even the people who died from it? Also, obviously the images from 9/11 have certainly been commodified (if that’s a word) into posters, books, Web sites, magazines, etc. Some people have made God knows how much money off of 9/11 memorabilia. There were specific Sept. 11 “curators,” for pete’s sake. Commodity to the extreme.

3. I’m not entirely sure where I want to go with this last point or how exactly it might tie into some of the works we’ve read this semester, but I was too caught by it to not bring it up here. In Zizek’s (excuse the lack of proper accent marks there!) essay, “Welcome to the Desert of the Real!”, he says how Americans were so confused as to how these suicide pilots “have such a disregard for their own lives” (388). He then goes on to say, “Does not this surprise reveal the rather sad fact that we, in the first world countries, find it more and more difficult even to imagine a public or universal Cause for which one would be ready to sacrifice one’s life?” (388) I didn’t quite know what to think about this. Is he saying that extreme terrorists are actually commendable because they have a cause they deem worth dying for? Are we lesser people if we don’t have that conviction for something as abstract as religion or God? Like I said, I didn’t really know where to take this, but it was too jarring a statement to ignore.

Although I have rambled on long enough, I’d like to echo Joe’s sentiments about this blog. I’ve been so impressed with the many wonderful and insightful comments, criticisms, questions and clarifications I’ve read here this semester. Thank you all for sharing.

A Tangled Mess Indeed

Is there a way to view 9/11 outside the realm of spectacle? Or, is there a way to discuss the event without the referent of television and images? Baudrillard asks, “What, then, is a real event if everywhere the image, fiction, virtuality perfuse this very reality?” (413). It’s a darn good question. How “real” is 9/11 when the comparisons are immediately to how unreal it felt? My own reaction on seeing the images of people running in terror through the destroyed streets of downtown was that it looked like a movie. We have been corrupted by Hollywood, as Zizek says, and I experienced the event as I would have a movie or tv show or newscast, by watching it on TV. It was real and unreal at the same time, a spectacle but so much more.

From reading the responses below, and from my own personal experience with the events of 9/11, I think that it makes not one bit of difference where we were physically, geographically located on that September morning since (and I’m assuming the majority of us were neither at the Pentagon or anywhere near the WTC Towers) we all shared the same tele-visual (or going back to last week’s readings) or virtual space. Fan writes that she was in Ohio and I was in Bangkok, Thailand (backpacking through South East Asia) but I’d bet that the images we consumed were pretty much the same. We could only experience the spectacle of the event—not the event itself—and I don’t think that makes much of a difference. Of course, 9/11 is an event outside of what we saw and heard and felt that day. And one that’s been re articulated in many different ways in the five years that have passed.

Baudrillard keeps going, asking “So did reality actually overtake fiction? If it appears to have done so, it is only because reality absorbed the energy of fiction and itself became fiction. One could almost say that reality is jealous of fiction and real events are jealous of images . . . a sort of duel between them, to see who will be the most inconceivable.” (413) In the immediate weeks and months after 9/11 it did seem that the real had over taken the fiction, but now, a short five years after the initial event, the scales seem to be tipping back again towards fiction. When Oliver Stone’s recent 9/11 movie came out, I think a large part of the unexpressed ambivalence surrounding it had to do with the resistance against not only commercializing the experience but fictionalizing it as well. Perhaps people felt that this was too real to be made unreal. Of course, Baudrillard sidesteps the dialectic he sets up (clever guy!) and says that the event was worse then real, it was symbolic. I guess.

Going back to Benjaim and the great garbage heap of history, five years later and “9/11” as an event starts to become just another discarded item amid the chaos and dirt. However “real” it once was, the event has been fictionalized and politicized (as the readings show us) to such a degree that it hardly seems an event anymore, but a series of very long moments.

Baudrillard writes that “reality and fiction have become a tangled mess” (413) and this is the essence of spectacle. From the posts that I’ve read below to Delillo‘s essay, the personal narrative is the most moving and intriguing part of the story and it is bound to the political narrative that follows. So, is the “tangled mess” worth more than the actual event? Our personal narrative’s of the event seem to be something that we want to share, to use the spectacle to connect or to express pain. Debord says that the spectacle only drives people farther apart, but it seems that as divisive as 9/11 was, it also provided a point of unity for many people, perhaps for a short time.  A shared event is a shared event, regardless of how you experience it.

The process of critical interpretation, and Delillo

“Where were you…?” Boy, does that phrase (as a country song) make me cringe, whether out of its hokiness or faint scent of sell-out, or from wanting to be intellectually (coolly) apart from mass cultural-emotional reactions to big events that I just know will lead to chain email prayers that want to….include me in a common grief/hope against my will? I don’t know. That’s pretty harsh, and here I am about to go against my years of anti-reaction (not always admitted to) and give just that kind of story.

In the same year 9-11 happened (either that semester or the very next) I was in class and we were talking about the events of the crashes when I thought to raise my hand, thinking in college (my freshman year) it was encouraged to venture brave interpretations on hot, even taboo topics, and we were all intellectually sound enough to consider legitimate comments. My words were something to the effect that since “9-11” had happened, and there were so many political ventures that had failed to come to a head before this point, that the government would now have a chance now to perform in a way that it couldn’t before, and wouldn’t that be interesting to see, etc. Forget the generality and idiocy of the actual statement for a second, and just focus on the idea that 9-11 was an object that could exercise as a political weapon. Perhaps it sounded too much like I was trying to insert some necessity into the event? My own teacher yelled at me that people had died, it wasn’t a “good thing!” Well didn’t that make me feel like a heartless moron. Perhaps I was, or am. I think now that I wanted to scholar-ize the events of 9-11 way earlier than should have been done, at least in that particular place with my serious lack of skill. Did I skip the appropriate emotional response for the intellectual? Why would I want to do this (insert psychological analysis)?

My point? Well, I’ll start with Delillo. Even as Delillo analyzes 9-11 as a spectacle (with 3 months of its occurrence, meaning he began writing even earlier), he does so in a language that is tender, respectful, almost wistful at times, and calmly aggravated at others. He doesn’t question “Our tradition of freedom” (even as he does?), and he delves into images of humanity rather than avoiding them–not that humanity is or should be separate from critical interpretation. There’s more to scholarship than the stereotypical “dusty” and remote critical theory. But it’s almost as if the article is written as a kind of scrapbook of phrases and images for the reader, in addition to being a “scholarly” or “critical” article. I couldn’t help but feel a dual purpose. I wonder how differently it would be written now, if it would be written at all, if it would be different at all. I was suspicious as I read, not sure what I was meant to think, what I should think, or what the tone was trying to convey exactly. Maybe reading it 4 years later is too altered of an experience.

I certainly was no Delillo my freshman year (or ever will be), nor did I have anything real to say at the time. Behind my statements was my (selfish) self. Behind his was an idea, a theory of ideas even. I guess eloquence is pretty significant, and if you have something to say on such a touchy subject, it better be very important, not casual, not shooting the breeze like you can do on more distant events. The politics of “beginning the process” of critical interpretation on disasters is complex, as has been discussed in previous posts. Who you are is no small part of it either, I’m sure.

Well, I’ve already written too much, and I’ve hardly gotten past my own random thoughts on one article. See how that last sentence used a method of self-deprecation in order to disarm critical response?

Classifying and the American Flag

On 9/11/01 I was in school at the U.S. Naval Academy. By noon meal, afternoon classes were canceled and the next time I passed through the gates of the yard I saw tank traps and M16s (up until then the guards were modestly armed and there was only a steel gate). Those tank traps were later replaced with over-sized cement flower pots that functioned as tank traps (“everything is fine here, we’re just planting some colorful flowers”). Civilian cars have not been permitted on the yard since (my civilian girlfriend used to drive on to pick me up so I could sneak out on weeknights). Everyone was fired up to fight someone but no one knew whom. As Jameson wrote, our reaction and the enemy had to be quickly given some sort of name/classification so we could all have a communally acceptable reaction and focus our anger on a nameable enemy. We feel a satisfaction when we can name the sources of our problems (this is Freudian and outdated; we haven’t yet socialized Ericksonian psychology where we determine the best steps to our desired state instead of trying to classify how we got here). I personally continue to avoid any movies or coverage of 9/11 to keep the media from manipulating my individual response to the event and its implications.I am also one of those flag etiquette sticklers that Susan Willis talks about (a flag should not be plastic, magnetic, or laced with adhesive). If a flag represents an American ideal (or other economic ideology or religion), then what is the static symbol of that ideal’s current enemy? During the cold war we could place the Stars and Stripes opposite the hammer and sickle to signify the conflict (like Rocky IV). Is the current appropriate symbol the U.S. Flag opposite a bomb vest (I’ll mention that to my roommate, she is an Exec. Producer for Fox; they’ll probably show it)? I like Willis’ discussion of the “sliding signifier” of the multi-ethnic NYC firefighters statue. I continue to have mixed feelings regarding the ‘re-writing’ of truth through the statue. But the idea of the broader American community can be considered more true (or right) than the truth of the Italian and Irish NYC firefighters (I don’t expect they mind considering they are first Americans (do not read U.S. Citizen, that is something different) and second Anglo-Americans). I think Willis stretches her ideas when she considers flags on mailboxes as ‘flag-shrines’ acknowledging the unequal treatment of postal workers versus congressional offices. It is true they receive unequal treatment, but she arbitrarily assigned the signification to express her views (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but at least the terrorists let the media/public make significations on their own). Instead the flag on a mailbox could represent the importance of secure communication channels to a community (one of the first official positions created by our government was the Postmaster General). And it is no doubt true that communication is vital for the global community (globalization or not).

Baudriallard wrote that it is the world itself that resists globalization, regardless of the entities promulgating that globalization. This makes sense to me, but is there a force that could push for globalization without so much violent opposition? And if so, would that force be a better option than Western Capitalism? This is a question worth further exploration. -Tim