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title: the title of our symposium being The Invisible Threat, my initial argument would be that the title itself is pleonastic; so that the two words of the title are, if not tautological, then at least much more closely welded together, semantically fused, than it would seem; the one is implicated in the other, the one follows from the other, or the one is - invisibly? - hidden in the other. There is a redundancy, one doesn't quite need the two words, the argument would be that the threat is always an invisible threat, by its very nature, and that invisibility would always represent a threat - that is, insofar as something invisible can represent anything at all, which calls for some reflection. And by extension, the argument would be that the invisible threat - those two closely linked words that are perhaps but two facets of one and the same thing - that the invisible threat presents the very structure of power, its minimal kernel, its simple core. That there is no functioning of power without an invisible threat. At first sight the argument is not self-evident at all, for it would seem that threats can be of all kinds, but whether visible or not, whether ostensible or not, they have to be ostentatious, and it is in the nature of the threat to be ostentatious in some way, for otherwise it wouldn't work, it wouldn't intimidate those it is directed against. The threat has to show itself, it has to be on display, it has to be expressed in order to be a threat at all, and the more menacing it shows itself, the more massively and aggressively it is expressed, the more it works, seemingly. So that our argument, on the face evidence, doesn't seem to be going well, for it would appear, quite the contrary, that an invisible threat is a contradiction in terms. A threat has to obtain visibility, in one form or another, if it is to be a threat at all. No visibility, no threat. Yet, it is at the same time obvious that such a paradoxical entity does exist, that it works, and even more, that a threat functions particularly well if not visible, so that invisibility enhances the threat, it doesn't make it vanish but actually makes it most effective, it endows the threat with a new quality which makes it possible that the threat gains its full deployment, it obtains the proper quality of the threat. This is something that can be intuitively grasped on the grounds of most common experience: one feels particularly threatened and exposed in the dark, and there is something inherently threatening and sinister in total silence. The threat works at its best, that is at its most pernicious, when invisible. It is only then that it achieves an omnipresence, a presence lurking from every corner, and in this omnipresence lies its seeming omnipotence. So why is it that the threat attains its full nature, so to speak, when it is invisible? And why would one fear a threat one cannot see? I think this follows from the very nature of the threat. Let's take a most visible threat, a hand holding a stone - an elementary case made famous by the use Aristotle made of it, in passing, in the Nicomachean Ethics (1114a). The stone in the hand, the
hand with the stone being raised, the hand brandishing the stone, waving it, the stone almost departing from the hand, but not quite, one can almost see its departure, one can surmise the curve it would make in the air towards us, one can mentally pursue its path, one can foresee the way it would hit the mark, one anticipates the pain it would cause, one starts to run for cover: yet the stone is still in the hand, it hasn't departed yet, its departure is postponed, it is deferred, perhaps indefinitely deferred. Still this works very well, the stone and the hand which wields it (and by extension the owner of the hand) have achieved a remarkable feat: the stone has hit the target without ever leaving the hand. It may not have physically hit us, but it has achieved its goal: here we are, running away, running for cover, retreating in panic, taking flight from this menace, fleeing the power of the stone not thrown. And there lies the whole structure of the threat in its minimal form: to be sure, the source of the threat is very well visible, we can see the stone in the hand, the most palpable thing there is, but the threat relies on that what cannot be seen, it is the extension of the visible that we have mentally made, the departure from the visible, the anticipation which has taken its starting point in the observable, in the tangible evidence of the senses, in sense certainty, but has left it behind, abandoned it, used it as a material for something else which has only an invisible, an immaterial, a virtual existence. The anticipation may well have its counterpart in retention, in the remembrance of things past, in past experiences, the past painful encounters with the thrown stones, the sore history of the bumps on the head - and history is what hurts, as Fred Jameson has very well put it, there is no other sense to historicity, only what hurts makes history. So on the basis of this remembered history one can suspect what is coming this time, one can guess and infer, one is not inclined to wait for more. The retention, the memory may well be the basis for anticipation, for the expectation, although one may as well suspect that the relation between the two is never straightforward, linear and clearcut: to put it simply, the inference one makes, the deduction, is never quite warranted by the past experience; one infers and surmises more, and other things, than what is vouched for, there is always an element of the leap in the dark in the anticipation, there is a structurally necessary faulty deduction which lies at the bottom of the threat; and this quite apart from the fact that the memory is far from reliable, so that the very premises on which the deduction is based is already itself faulty, twisted, deformed, deficient, permeated by holes. So even in the simplest of threats there is a 'jumping to the conclusion', as the saying has it: the premise itself is already suspicious, and even from the flawed premise one jumps, one leaps, instead of following the steady path of the Aristotelian syllogism. But the past is not shaky only because of unreliable memory, perhaps the most spectacular jumps to a conclusion are made on no past basis at all, or even better, the hasty anticipated jump creates its own past, a past no less hasty or hazy; one jumps to the premise, as it were, no less than one jumps to the conclusion. It is not just the matter of anticipating a future on the basis of past experience, it is
also the past experience which is created, or twisted, in the very anticipation. There is, in the very structure of the threat, a break in the causality, a missing link, or rather the link is there, only the bits to be linked are missing. This leads us to the simple conclusion (or am I jumping as well?): that the threat is never in the present, it may take the present and the observable as the starting point, but what endows it with the nature of the threat is what is not visible, the invisible extensions into the future, linked to the invisible extensions into the past. The threat is the non-actual, it is a pure potentiality, to use another great Aristotelian theme. But the paradox is not simply in its potentiality, in the hypothesis, founded or not, about what the stone, once thrown, may do to us. The paradox is in the fact that the potentiality as such already works, it is actual while remaining a pure potentiality. It has an effectiveness of its own while remaining in the realm of the possible, never leaving its confines. The threat is infinitely deferred, it may never be carried out at all, yet in this infinite deferral it produces its own temporality as well as the most tangible effects, it holds us in sway, we are awestruck by the invisible stone in the air while we see it still in the hand; not just awestruck, but effectively struck. The stone not thrown exerts authority and command, and one can see that this lies at the bottom of power relations, that every authority, in a nutshell, could be seen as the authority of a stone not thrown. So that subjection to power is never simply a matter of physical coercion, the bonds that one can see, but relies, in one way or another, on the structure of the invisible threat, on the mental extrapolation one has made, on trespassing the line between the visible and the invisible. There is always also the implication in reverse, as it were, from the invisibility to the threat: the invisible conceals a menace, one suspects the dagger in its bosom, its peril and its hazard, one accomplishes the deduction in the opposite direction, from something unobservable to the imagined consequences of its imagined actuality. For invisibility only exists as a surmise, an unwarranted extension of the visible, as its negative mode, it exerts power as a non-entity which by virtue of its invisibility already possesses the power of a threat. (Or the least one can say is that the invisible is structurally ambiguous: no matter how much one may try to imagine the invisible good spirits that wander around the world and pervade it, the guardian angels, their very invisibility makes them undecidable and endows them with a complement which is necessarily threatening). The threat has a status of its own insofar as it is by its nature a gesture. Let me somewhat abruptly quote some Lacan here: "What is a gesture? A threatening gesture, for instance? It is not an action which is interrupted. It is rather something which is made in order to be arrested (halted, stopped) and suspended. … This very particular temporality that I defined by the term arrest (halt) and which creates its signification behind itself, this temporality distinguishes the gesture and the act." (Séminaire XI, Seuil, Paris 1973, p. 106)
The gesture creates its signification in the very act of being suspended, arrested midway, in the mid-air, before the stone would leave the hand. There can be a choreography of gestures, of those arrested acts which were never meant to be executed, never meant to become acts but which exert power in their suspension, create meaning in the temporality of the halt, in the pause. The gesture calls for signification, it is itself but a signifier that one must supplement, endow with a meaning: it is a half-creature, it only shows its visible half, one has to supply the meaning to supplement it with the invisible half, the half hinted at in the gesture. The gesture is not an act, it is a stand-in for an act, an ersatz, but a stand-in which acts, it acts in the absence of the act, it creates meaning in the very moment of an act not accomplished, it moulds our behaviour in its very non-completion. To make a step further (and I fear I am just spelling out the elementary and the obvious, though I think one should never avoid dwelling upon the elementary and the obvious), one can see that the most common occurrence of the threat is not that of the stone in the hand, and not of a gesture, but rather the threat that one utters. It is as if language would itself function as the suspended act, the gesture in place of the act, the gesture which has become the linguistic act. The threat dwells in language, it inhabits the speech, this is where it is most at home, it seems to be linguistic, if not by its nature, then at least by its spread, its range, its common distribution, it has found there its ideal medium. And one can easily see why: the language has the great advantage of maintaining the infinite deferral, of keeping the threat alive in its very invisibility, of keeping its virtual existence, proceeding from the virtuality with which, as we have seen, even the most visible threats are endowed - if, for our present purpose, virtuality is the name of that actuality of the potential, the potentiality taken - mistaken - for actuality. The animal running from its predator may well be making a correct inference on the basis of its memory, be it genetic or Pavlovian memory, but the virtuality implicit in the threat cannot be sustained and deferred. There is no proper threat without language.
The threat as a linguistic gesture demands a rhetoric of its own. There is a deep complicity of language and the invisible threat, language thrives on invisible threats, it is the ideal vehicle of invisible threats. So many of its utterances can be interpreted as implicit threats even if they lack, as they mostly do, the external explicit form of a threat. If language is a means of struggle - the description which fits so much better than the platitude of its being a means of communication - then one can see that the invisible threat is indeed one of the paramount references of speech. Not only does speech refer with complete equanimity and promiscuity to things present or things absent, things past and things future, not only does it easily bring the absent things into a virtual existence, as if by a permanent conjuring trick; it also conversely
turns the things present into virtualities. And the virtual reference, as opposed to the visible and ostensible reference, is the reference to the invisible threat as the hidden spring of the unwarranted extension. But that is bringing us too far; what I want to argue for the moment is merely this: the deferral of the invisible threat which lies at the core of power and authority finds its perfect medium in language, in various modalities of its use which are discourses. Hence no power without a discourse, and no discourse without a reference to an invisible threat, a reference which sustains its authority. And if I take a brief glimpse at the theory of discourse as the theory of a social bond, that is, of the elementary power structure, as proposed by Lacan, then one could say that the discourse of the master, the basic matrix of the four discourses, is based precisely on the signifier of the master, that is, on the master signifier, as a signifier without a signified, whose reference is none other than the invisible threat. All other signifiers (the chain of S2) may well refer to particular entities, one can unravel their meaning and signification, but they are held together by one whose signification escapes, which lacks meaning, which seems to be purely self-referential, yet the meaning which is hinted at and at the same time evasive is precisely the invisible threat, the unfathomable object (invisible threat - not a bad way to introduce the object a). Not only invisible, but in the further and correlative step also unnamable, unspeakable, unutterable, so that it can only be confided to the pure S1, the meaningless sign. The master signifier, S1, is precisely the gesture of the master, or rather the master as a gesture, a gesture parading as act, an unnamable threat which cannot be pronounced. So the paradoxical rhetoric of the threat is ultimately the rhetoric of the unspeakable, the art of handling the arms of that which cannot be said, for if it were to be spelled out, it would cease to be a threat. Again this can be grasped on the most everyday level where there is no shortage of threats like 'Only you wait! I'll show you!' - wait for what, show what? The threat resides in the suspended sentence. - Thus the chain of S2 relies on the authority of S1 (the master signifier of the hidden threat), but it is also conversely the S2 which sets a limit to S1, it encircles it with sense and reference. Maintaining the invisible threat, maintaining the threat invisible, maintaining its potentiality, is one of the main businesses of power. For the moment the power actually carries out its threats, when it makes the implicit threats explicit and something to be executed; the moment the stone leaves the hand which was wielding it, the moment the power uses stones instead of signifiers is also the moment the power may well be losing power, the potentiality turned into actuality diminishes power; its resources, once reduced to the actual deployment of force, may well be running out, its days may be numbered. For power thrives on potentiality taken for actuality. As Aristotle puts it in the aforementioned spot in the Nicomachean Ethics: "When you have let the stone go it is too late to recover it." (1114a) The power of potentiality went lost, and the power of actuality is something far more easily exhausted
and dealt with, although it can be, and generally is, far more painful. If the power is forced to carry out its threats, it displays its lack of power, it makes apparent its fatal weakness. - This is where the strategy of provocation, often promoted on the left, aiming at soliciting the display of power, counts on weakening the power and provoking it into showing its true nature, that is, the impossibility to actualize the potentiality. The power which would carry out its implicit threat would have to lay its cards on the table and would, allegedly, present a clear-cut case, there would be an end to deception, one would deal with hard facts and not fictions. But this is of course a lure and this strategy tends to be fatal. So as not to remain in the realm of abstract ruminations, let me make a simple historical point, before moving to the present (that is, to what is least visible and most obfuscated). To make it quick and to simplify matters, let me call Michel Foucault to the witness stand. It remains to be seen whether as the witness for the defense or for the prosecution, and the defense and prosecution of what. Let's take this quote as the starting point: "A man who is chained up and beaten is subject to force being exerted over him. Not power. But if he can be induced to speak, when his ultimate recourse could have been to hold his tongue, preferring death, then he has been caused to behave in a certain way. His freedom has been subjected to power. He has been submitted to government. If an individual can remain free, however little his freedom may be, power can subject him to government. There is no power without potential refusal of revolt." It is one of the rather few instances where Foucault deals with the basic structure of power as related to freedom and to potential revolt. But here we have it: power starts when the chain is broken, where an invisible chain takes over the visible one, the chain of the invisible threat which makes the job just as well to hold the subject in place; power starts where the beating stops and is adequately replaced by the threat of beating, by the beating deferred, infinitely postponed; power is exercised over someone who has the possibility of revolt, of not sharing the discourse of power, of remaining silent, and who could at any time refuse to trade in invisible threats, who could have called the bluff, the bluff of power, and thus risk his/her own life, since calling the bluff of the invisible threat may well imply the end of its invisibility and its mere potentiality, and thus the end of the rebel. But if I am invoking Foucault here, it is for a particular and simple purpose. Let's take his most famous book, Discipline and Punish (Vintage Books, NY, 1995), and follow the simple red thread that runs through it. I don't mean the red thread of blood, but rather the red thread that takes over when the bloodshed is seemingly no longer necessary. The whole book is constructed around two scenes of power. The first one, the one from the opening chapter, takes place in 1757, the public execution of Damiens the regicide, a most memorable and traumatic scene for anyone who read it, the scene of the
massive public display of power, the prolonged torture of the condemned, literally his cutting to pieces in front of the crowd, the crowd who came from near and afar in great numbers to feast on the spectacle, the spectacle of power, the display of power in all its glory, in its gory glory, the power at its goriest. This is the show of power as a threat, but as the most visible threat imaginable, the threat staged as an example for the edification of the crowd, a massive warning to forestall and prevent any emulation of the crime. We have seen that the threat can function only if the fantasy takes part, if one extends it in one's imagination, but here we can see rather the opposite: the actualization of the threat far exceeds any imagination, it surpasses any fantasy, it outstages the most frightful suppositions, and in that very excess fuels new fantasies, feeds the new blossoming of imagination. The actualization of the threat is over-actualization, its visibility is excessive visibility. This is the wager: to achieve maximum effects with the minimal means; the maximum effects of fantasy with the carefully selected instruments, selected for their spectacular value, so that a massive theatrical presentation of the threat carried out could trigger off the proper deterring effect; at least this is the ambition, but which can never quite have such straightforward consequences. The excessive visibility of a threat carried out is supposed to have the effect of endowing all manifestations of power with the invisible threat and thus grant them the proper authority. Then there is the second scene of power, the Panopticon, this curious architectural disposition proposed by Jeremy Bentham. I will not dwell on this and will suppose it generally known, so just the most elementary: the main point of it is simply a mechanism of power which works while remaining invisible, which works through its invisibility, by virtue of being a permanent invisible threat. There is a maximum opposition between the two scenes: on the hand, the regal power which displays itself in the most spectacular manner; on the other hand, the power which hides itself and works at best when concealed; and since it is hidden, anybody can occupy the place of power, or the place of power can be left empty and it would continue to function in its very invisibility, it would still produce real effects, the effects of subjection. If there is a display of punishment on one hand, then there is the pervasive flood of discipline on the other with its carefully crafted display of invisibility. If the power is located at a certain spot in the first instance and presents its spectacle from there, then it seems to be all-present in the second one, with the nasty tendency to spread from the central tower and permeate the social space, thus abolishing all distance between an inside and an outside of power, traversing bodies, spaces, utterances, institutions as a quasiuniversal contagion, omnipresent and invisible at the same time. What divides the two scenes is the advent of modernity, what separates them is, most simply, deceptively simply, the French revolution, a new construction of the social space and a new construction of power. And for our limited present purpose we can draw a simple lesson: the advent of modernity means a
new quality of the invisible threat, as if the invisibility which since times immemorial always pertained to the threat, to power as a threat, would emancipate itself from the visible and start a new show of its own, as the theater of shadows emancipated from that which casts shadows. One could go even so far as to say that a reversal has taken place, so that any visible manifestation of power would now no longer appear as a starting point of imaginative extensions, but rather as a haphazard glimpse into its all-pervasive invisible nature. In short: the modern power appears as the management of invisible threats; the invisibility inherent in a threat has lost its footing in the observable and started to perpetuate itself on its own. The management of the invisible threats coincides with the what Foucault has called the disciplinary society. In that light modernity (to go fast) would be the intertwining of two processes which seem contradictory. We have on the one hand the demands for human rights as the basis of modern legitimacy, the establishment of democratic procedures, the point of which is to make power accountable and transparent, that is, to reduce as far as possible its thriving on threats, visible and invisible, on fantasies fuelled by spectacles: accountability vs. theatricality; bureaucratic procedures vs. the pomp and circumstance; the literal validity of the law, the rule of law vs. the unspoken threat (the threat is necessarily always the unspoken threat, it is the unutterable). It is this part which rendered the public executions and the despotic whim impracticable. On the other hand this very attempt towards the circumscription of power, the drawing of its limits, the attempt to base it in reason alone and discard its unreasonable excess, this attempt was underpinned by a new spread of invisibility, a new era of invisible threats tightly knitted into a disciplinary network. The more accountability there is, the more there seems to be invisibility, the hidden levers far more intractable than those of the power on display, the pre-modern power which shamelessly showed itself. The more one has become the enlightened and the emancipated subject of human rights, the more one has become, in the very same process, the subject of control and surveillance far greater than anything that ever went before in history. It is as if the contest between the two sides has pretty much defined what went on in our social lives in the past two centuries; the contest and the collaboration, the hidden connivance of the two, so that the progress in one would be accompanied by the progress in its counterpart, secretly relying on the other. The invisible power which underpins the visible and the official front has much to do with what Giorgio Agamben has described as the structure of sovereignty - and he has given much thought to the intrinsic relationship of potentiality to sovereignty. Indeed he would be a good candidate for our next witness on the witness-stand, if we had more time. To make it short, sovereignty is precisely the realm of the invisible potentiality that acts without acting and which can at any point invade and invalidate the visible. It is the possibility of the state of emergency within any state, the threat of emergency, the potentiality which
cannot be easily circumscribed. Or rather, in a quid pro quo, in a great reversal, where things seem to get blurred, the state of emergency tends to be organized as the defense against the invisible threat. Here is one of the great inventions of the twentieth century, or rather something that the century has brought to new heights since the device existed since times immemorial; it brought it to a new quality of a self-propelling device. The problem is not the invisible threat which constitutes the gesture of power, the power as a gesture, the master signifier, the part of fantasy which supplements the gesture and turns us into subjects. The problem is rather the reverse: that power itself becomes organized as the defense against the invisible threat, a threat pertaining to an unfathomable other. The power itself is the victim, the victim of threats, and all it does is defend itself. It is not the surmised Panoptical gaze which made us obey to its very invisibility, it is rather that the other of power is invisible, omnipresent and omnipotent, and it follows that power has to become equally omnipresent and omnipotent in order to counter this other, that is, to organize our social and political lives as a permanent warfare against the invisible threat. The invisible threat seems to be at the core not of power itself, but of its enemy, the invisible arch-enemy, which endows the deployment of power with legitimacy. The consequence of this is simple, striking and surprising: the power itself becomes more and more indistinguishable from its enemy. It is structured like its other. It turns into its twin and double; even more, it far surpasses its double, it does everything that the double was supposed to do, was imagined to do, and far more. There is an emulation of the invisible other: this is where the war on terror does everything that the terror does, only on a far bigger scale; this is where the weapons of mass destruction are massively deployed in emulation of the invisible weapons of mass destruction. In a perverse reversal, power not only becomes indistinguishable from the terror it fights, but actually far more sinister than its opponent. September 11 has a strange structure if we read it in the light of what was said so far. Its structure is striking, in many senses of the word. It appears as an event which presents the inverted temporality of the mechanism of threat that we have been scrutinizing: first the act, the actualization, then the threat. The act preceded the threat. Most strikingly, 9/11 is an image which is at the very opposite end of an invisible threat, it is an image of excessive visibility, an excess of the visible. It is an image which worked so well, and which hit at the heart, because it was made according to the best rules of visibility, that is, the Hollywood rules, the rules of the enhanced visibility, the visibility so enlarged that it can't possibly find a lesser object than a grand catastrophe to measure up to it. The rule of catastrophe, as well as the rule of Hollywood which created it, is that nothing should be invisible - hence the special effects cinematography which brings us ever closer, with an ever more realistic detail, ever closer to the unfathomable object which stands for total emergency: the most visible can only be the total exception, something beyond any measure
and rule. No doubt the biggest shock of 9/11 was that someone has outHollywooded the Hollywood, produced an even more striking image, mastered the rules of image making even better (someone who is the antipode of our civilization, the anti-Hollywood). If there is anything deceptive in the image of 9/11, then it is its total visibility, its seeming total clarity. A clarity so piercing that it is immediately translated into evidence, it is evidence at its most evident, no need for explanation or interpretation - and this is precisely how ideology works, it presents images of total clarity and evidence, images which say it all in complete transparency and self-presence. (All one needs is l'instant de voir, the instant of seeing, no need for le temps pour comprendre, he time for understanding, let alone le moment de conclure, the moment of conclusion - the conclusion is already encapsulated in the first instant.) The point is not that this is an image and not a signifier, the point is rather that the image functions as the ultimate signifier which is so evident that its meaning is glaring, so glaring that it needn't be spelled out, but has the effect of immediate mobilization. The success of the image was such that it no doubt surprised its planners, just as it surprised the media for which it was ideally suited - the problem was rather that it fit all too well, there was an excess of suitability. Then, in maximal contrast to this clarity, what comes to follow in this reversed temporality is the threat, the universal invisible threat as the after-effect of the actualization. The threat was first spectacularly carried out and only then, in the aftermath, appeared as a threat. Just as the image was punctual, that is, point-like, reduced to a brief flash, so the threat is permanent, with no expiry date in sight. Just as the image was visibility itself, so the threat is invisible, an ever receding secret. Just as the image was localized, precisely confined to a couple of strategically selected points, so the threat is widespread and non-localizable, it lurks from everywhere, the world is its oyster. The new world order which was quickly deployed after 9/11 (without much need to convince the willing) is based on the new regime of visibility. The visible world is structured by invisible threats, indeed its political and ontological core is hidden and hence calls for permanent vigilance. The paradox of this political ontology is that the invisible constantly calls for very visible and palpable measures, since the only way to deal with it is the preemption. Its strange temporality is based on the fact that invisibility calls for precipitation, for we must strike first before the invisible gets us. Who would have thought that the invisible weapons of mass destruction - to which we gave credence by imaginatively supplying the missing half - will present such a clear-cut case of the new ontology, for it is a great wonder of new ontology that invisible entities have the power to move great armies, all the technological panoply and the incredible amounts of money. But the designation of political ontology is rather faulty and misleading, for the new ontology is not the politics of visibility, quite the reverse (arguably, all politics is a regime of visibility, it distributes what is visible or not, what is
more visible or less, the light and the darkness, and bestows rights and powers accordingly). But here we have rather the non-visibility as the trigger of nonpolitics, the source of the abolishment of politics, since what the invisible threat calls for is not politics but warfare, the politics coinciding with war, the difference between the two progressively dwindling. The invisible is best countered by war, that is, not with the power as the infinitely deferred invisible threat, but with the series of preemptive actualizations, the threats preemptively carried out, not threats as potentialities, not gestures, but actions, or rather quasi-actions. The invisible calls for material action and crude force, that is, for quasi-action as the avoidance of politics. We have initially seen that the threat was the power of the stone not thrown, but here we find ourselves at the opposite end: the stones are amply thrown to counter an invisible threat. The temporality of the threat was the (infinite) deferral, but here we have the inverse temporality of precipitation and preemption where no amount of material activity can ever hit the mark. Every mark is just a provisional and temporary mark, a stand-in for the intractable invisible threat, the ever receding and unspeakable ultimate mark. The invisible threat calls for security measures, and the regime of defense against the invisible threats is always conducted in the name of security. Security is no doubt the most dangerous thing there is, the most dangerous political concept around, for in the name of security one can defuse precisely those mechanisms which have been the best measures to counteract the threat that power itself presented, the measures to limit and circumscribe the threat which lies at the core of power. The power which is itself threatened is the power which can shed its limits, overstep its boundaries, precisely in the name of the threat to itself. The power which sees itself, or rather presents itself as the victim which merely has to defend itself, that is the most dangerous power there is. It is the case of security vs. the law; the defense - defense of human rights, defense of democracy - vs. those rights and democracy itself; security and defense vs. that what is defended and secured. It is the very act of defense and securing that jeopardizes that what is being defended and secured. Here I can draw again on Agamben, my second witness, who develops this argument in "Security and Terror" (July 2002, on internet). E. g.: "While the law wants to present and prescribe, security wants to intervene in ongoing processes to direct them." And one can pursue: while the law is universal, the measures of security are global, which is quite a different thing, actually the very opposite thing. The universal has the power to display an utter indifference to 'us' or 'them', it treats this difference as a matter of indifference, in the eyes of the universal we are all aliens (at least the perspective is opened where this is in principle feasible), whereas security secures 'us' vs. 'them', and since the threat is global, it has to do it globally, but no matter how global it goes, it will never reach the universal, it is premised on the exception of the invisible threat as that against which security has to be secured. The war on terror has to be global, but it has no making of universality, that is, of the political proper. Security requires a constant
reference to a state of emergency, that is, to the suspension of the law; effective measures of security demand an exception, they demand a choice, a vel: one has to opt for security against legality; security can be secured only if the law can be treated as optional. (Ironically, the body named the Security Council was actually the last resort against the strategy of security, the last rampart of legality vs. security.) I must finish, I suppose disappointingly, half-way, with a suspended sentence, as it were, which no doubt needs many supplements; the suspended sentence of a warning: that the invisible threat is indeed a great designator to name the present predicament we are in, in the sense that maintaining the prevalence of the invisible threat makes is the very operator of defusing the democratic structures, all this under the banner of the defense of democracy against the invisible threat of terror. So that the great threat which is in turn spectacularly palpable and completely invisible, a creature at the same time too obvious and too secret and hidden, is indeed that of the effects produced by the defense against an invisible threat. Fear not invisible threats, but fear the people who fear them.
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