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VOLUME 1, ISSUE 3 PP 339–352
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DEMOCRACY OF EMOTION
PAUL VIRILIO Translated and Introduced by Julie Rose
PAUL VIRILIO TAUGHT FOR MANY YEARS AT THE ECOLE SPÉCIAL D’ARCHITECTURE IN PARIS. HE IS THE AUTHOR OF, AMONGST NUMEROUS OTHER BOOKS, WAR AND CINEMA: THE LOGISTICS OF PERCEPTION, OPEN SKY AND ART AND FEAR.
“Democracy of Emotion” seems almost eerily apt in the wake of the global disaster that occurred around the Indian Ocean on Boxing Day 2004.1 Now known as “the Asia Tsunami”, the series of tsunamis that were thrown up by an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra represent a global accident by anyone’s deﬁnition. An ecological accident, though, and not one of the Chernobyl kind, which was entirely man-made, but an act of God. That makes it an interesting kind of “test case” for Virilio’s pivotal notion of how the electronic relaying of our reality has hijacked democracy in a mediatized, claustrophobic world in which we all see the same images at the same time on the screens that have become our ubiquitous horizon and accordingly feel the same emotions – instantly, and with panic dominant among them. With close to 300,000 dead – the exact toll will never be known – the “Asian tsunami” was of a magnitude of approximately one hundred times that of September 11. It was on an intercontinental scale, directly hitting Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, parts of western Africa and sundry islands scattered about the Indian Ocean. It also directly hit
as victims. to the onslaught of the roilng waves. at least 1500 people. a panic replay. the entire “global village” gasped. This mechanical antidote to sitting duck syndrome got short shrift from Virilio. reminiscent of the WTC sequence that has never stopped popping up since that terrorist attack – though with much greater restraint as beﬁtting a humanitarian crisis so excessive as to be unfathomable – and this televisual notion of a repeat has been joined by an actual physical repeat. many of them soon to disappear. “the shipwreck in the invention of the ship”. Such images were relayed on a loop. cars. for perhaps only a moment. What kind of democracy such acts might represent is hard to deﬁne and clearly not all gloomy. from the sucking back of the seas on beaches suddenly frozen in time. Indirectly. and rivers of shattered building materials. so much a part of our mental landscape. but in the vacant sense of a cheerful consensuality overcoming. with a fresh earthquake not far from the last killing. when everything is spectacle. easily swamped. right as the panic it induced was promoting outraged calls for early-warning systems. It is also political despite such a shift and we have yet to see where the fallout leaves us. three months down the track. that Australian surfers have evolved their own mourning rituals. so too he sounded a note of salutary caution about the aftermath of the catastrophe. as the many thousands of locals going about their business were joined. And just as Virilio has always ﬂagged the negative side of innovation in all things. At home in La Rochelle. as per Virilio. by international travelers enjoying the resort life offered by some of the poorest tropical paradises on the planet. But the line between orchestration of emotion – for a speciﬁc campaign – and synchronization of emotion – as a condition of reality – is a very ﬁne one. Such sudden and shocking loss of life. nine of them Australian rescue workers whose “Sea King” helicopter went down during a mission. to date. has become so commonplace.PAUL VIRILIO the world at large. “They 340 CULTURAL POLITICS . as print media and television relayed images of every phase of what looked like a Biblical curse unfolding. involving the observance of silence by boardriders in ring formation out on the water. in “natural” or man-made terror. white goods – the ﬂotsam and jetsam of civilized life – surging through reconﬁgured landscapes to end in a limbo of mud that answers perfectly to the kind of “expressionism” Virilio describes here. reinforcing that divide? It was no doubt democratic. with people ﬂailing about in the foam. as he puts it. a denial of humanity that has become a general rule as the democratic stage is transformed into a humanitarian stage. he told me. Was the global relief effort the tsunami devastation spawned one of the most heartening expressions of solidarity and compassion we have seen recently? Or was it a large-scale manifestation of the administration of “humanitarian” aid from the haves to the voiceless have-nots.
through the person-less “celebrity” of the age. The terror he is talking about. a situation in which. of course. It remains to be seen how the latest awesome “act of God” will be processed by that device in the soul wars and the wars of state currently being waged.DEMOCRACY OF EMOTION always want The Machine to solve the problem. civilian populations have never stopped being the targets of terror for the past hundred years – since the modern city. by simple subtraction of the work. the terror that induces maximum panic for maximum effect is a political device of the technological age whose workings Virilio lucidly deﬁnes. without discontinuity. For Virilio does not leave you high and dry. a reality falsiﬁed by a multitude of props. as we know it. most often. regarding the accident that cost the duc d’Orléans his life. waves wash over waves. in the age of media conformism. without hope. to the reigning mechanism of crowd control as rule-by-terror. and create. critical – to Virilio” work in general and to City of Panic in particular. according to Virilio. audiovisual and otherwise.2 A hundred and sixty years later. Whatever the ﬁt. but a security helicopter hovering overhead managed to drown out the angelic voices of the Vatican choir. at the funeral of Pope Jean-Paul II in the “Eternal City”? Nothing happened. from the notion of “creating an event” as sheer disruption. The tool Virilio holds out below in describing this emptiness. no matter how impossible a more original globalization might seem. Whence the resounding CULTURAL POLITICS 341 .” Conjuring up an image of the elephants and ruminants and other animals that ﬂed disaster sites hours before the tsunamis struck. it is certain that now public life is calibrated in advance as a series of potentially disastrous events regardless of any actual outcome. Such phenomena are created by. this notion is. Have we not just witnessed the biggest “social” event in history. took shape. The warning system is within. in fact. *** “Events wash over events.” wrote Victor Hugo in 1842. intact. It is the evacuation of both the personal and the political. To be exemplary now means to create without any creation. in fact. without change and without letup. goes some way to countering it. in which 200 heads of state and up to 4 million civilians and clergy were said to present the single greatest potential terrorist target yet. the abandonment of authenticity that Virilio decries in the extract that follows. and it is in deﬁning the havoc wreaked on our representative political systems by demagogic media representation – presentation – that a positive notion of what is thereby lost strikes with such a charge. where the loss of the real and synchronized emotion meet. the fact ﬂoats on always. the standardisation of opinion is at its peak and exemplariness has taken over from celebrity to the point where the expression “to create an event” no longer corresponds to reality.
in the course of the twentieth century. And this merely portends the fatal confusion between “terrorist attack” and “accident” – of the kind involved in the explosion at the fertilizer factory in Toulouse – uncertainty then becoming a feature of the accident in knowledge and no longer solely in the incriminated substance. of the art scandal – as well as the political attack. to snap the chain of causality that so perfectly characterises everyday reality.” the actor. an untimely accident. from LOFT STORY to STAR ACADEMY. recently lamented. that crops up and breaks up the monotony of a society in which synchronisation of opinion cunningly ﬁnishes off the job of standardisation of production. of INTERNATIONAL INTEGRATION. . also. as well as the creator (the artist. Whence. also entails the overkill of the accident for accident’s sake. an event is exclusively a break in continuity. . Today. the sheer authenticity of a signature. by contract.3 not to say the most total anonymity. Now you can be dispossessed. . numberless epigones. All that now counts is the logotype and its promotional logomachy – the semantic argument behind it. a whole host of literary and scientiﬁc bigwigs play on dissimulation. . .PAUL VIRILIO success. that form of postmodern “art for art’s sake” that takes us from the local accident – of the kind involved in the Challenger space shuttle or the Concorde supersonic – to the global accident involving ecology – of the Chernobyl kind. opposing this. as much by “terrorists” as by “artists” and all the contemporary activists of the age of planetary globalisation. when all examples are followed in real time by the hyperpowerful mass media. And this has only served to promote this “angel of the banal” that has joined the angel of the bizarre celebrated by Edgar Allan Poe with the (media) success we’re all familiar with. which is suicidal in the long run for all true creation. Such a denunciation of contemporary celebrity in the age of globalisation goes hand in glove with the threat that now menaces copyright. Note that this logic of contemporary MODELLING. on the other hand. . writers who refuse to grant any interviews whatsoever to the press and who systematically refuse to be photographed . of your own name once it has become a “brand name” along the lines of what has happened to Inès de la Fressange or Yves Saint Laurent. .) over the course of the century that followed. is a kind of expressionism now universally sought. “Being known is inhuman. To create an accident rather than an event now . I’m thinking of Henri Michaux in days gone by or Thomas Pynchon today. the poet . 342 CULTURAL POLITICS . the discreet discrediting of the celebrity of the producer (the craftsman. Note also how.) from the beginning of the nineteenth century. . Note also those “sleeping” terrorists who have inﬁltrated daily life in all its banality and who no longer even claim paternity for their acts though they do manage. to spawn imitators. the worker . John Malkovich.
The terrorism of September 2001 is one of the ultimate manifestations of this – only. why the feigned surprise in 1912 when the Titanic. the creator. . of the work in black. there is a certain pyromania in this thirst for exemplariness without real celebrity. At an hour when all-out mediatisation is cobbling creation in all its forms. the eternal return. Pursued in vain by two F15 ﬁghter planes and a coast guard helicopter. But isn’t an accident an indirect kind of œuvre. as we were saying earlier. On his body a letter would be found revealing that he subscribed to the tenets of Osama Bin Laden. which houses the US Air Force Central Command for Afghanistan. what remains of the notion of the œuvre. of the birth of philofolly and of the aesthetics of disappearance that has marked the whole of the past century. the ocean liner that was unsinkable according to the advertising spiel of the White Star line. And so. an unveiling of its nakedness. before ending his ﬂight by crashing into the twenty-eighth ﬂoor of the Bank of America tower. a ﬁfteen year old adolescent who cleaned tourist planes in exchange for a few ﬂying lessons. that chef-d’œuvre in negative. if proof were needed after Auschwitz and Hiroshima. a panic-driven manifestation whose counterpart is the pathetic attack at Tampa.DEMOCRACY OF EMOTION When it comes down to it. according to the equally promotional spiel of Frederick Nietzsche? Today. promoting instead an exemplariness that is purely accidental. . when the whole notion of the “chef-d’œuvre” has long since gone west along with the notion of apprenticeship? What remains of the parallel notion of the author. 2002. a consequence of substance? The airliner innovates the crash on the ground or against the Twin Towers. It’s worth recalling the circumstances of that anti-event. .4 We were talking about creating an event . Charles Bishop.5 Proof. Bishop ﬂew with impunity over MacDill Air Force Base. The ship or ocean liner invents its shipwreck at the same time as its launch. by subtraction. every bit as much as lift-off from an airport . which.6 usher in the crisis in traditional and substantial celebrity based on actual production. This is why this issue of the major event is so topical at the beginning of the twenty-ﬁrst century.” he lends credence to the notion of a return of the tragic and also of the abandoned masterpiece. 343 CULTURAL POLITICS . . took off without authorisation from Tampa airport on board a Cessna 142. is only ever a miracle in reverse – in a word. when Karl Heinz Stockhausen can say of Satan and the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center: “It’s the greatest work of art ever made. once God is dead. the crisis in the “work in clarity” and the return. a lay miracle. Since this is nothing short of obvious. On January 5. on some concrete creation. sank? An accident is in fact an attack on the humbleness of substance. of the poverty of whoever is confronted by what happens unexpectedly – to a person as much as to their creations. like the accident.
8 “The main focus of the second Gulf War was not so much air strikes as the shock of images and ideas.PAUL VIRILIO “He didn’t really support Bin Laden. a friend of the apprentice kamikaze pilot of Tampa. 344 CULTURAL POLITICS .” Jérôme Charyn wrote. Whether we like it or not. Maybe he only wanted to top himself so that he would be remembered. inevitably accompanying the globalisation of social behaviour. as well as mental. While children and soldiers were getting themselves killed. with promotional modelling. . with repeats and fresh episodes on the hour. “ He just wrote that to bignote himself. In a time in History when the PRESENT (the live) wins out hands down over both the PAST and the FUTURE. of the “childishness of art for art’s sake” that. is currently leading to the standardisation of behaviour and. to create an event now means to provoke an accident. To create an event today is to revive a kind of thinking that is resistent to the cyber-mentality of a reﬂex conditioned to this SYNCHRONISATION of emotions of the information age that has come to ﬁnish off the job of the STANDARDISATION of behaviours of the industrial age. Today. As Hugo went on to say: “The wisecracks that a misdemeanor gives rise to are much more alarming than the act itself. .9 thereby deﬁning the metamorphosis of a conﬂict in which weapons of obstruction (Saddam’s bunkers) and weapons of destruction (missiles) yield their strategic primacy to these weapons of mass communication designed to strike people’s minds . It is guilty. clinging desperately to the intact facade of the Bank of America. Nothing is more abhorrent than a crime that can’t keep a straight face. the most signiﬁcant form of pollution we are faced with. together with the rampant infantalism of advertising. television was transforming the war into a dreadful soap opera. where exemplariness struck once again and so much so that the press shot of the Cessna’s tiny cabin. to the synchronisation of emotion. “to create an event” means above all breaking with mimetism.”7 Miserable miracle of Tampa. it is primarily a mark of childhood. the kind of propaganda that will shortly go cybernetic and which is. representing a shift from the EXOCOLONISATION of erstwhile empires to the ENDOCOLONISATION of the terminal empire. Let’s not forget that.” Pitiful pyromania! The suicide of a young kid puts in its place the “martyrdom” of the kamikaze pilots of New York and Washington.” according to Emerson. guilty of either deviationism or revisionism vis-a-vis the singleminded thinking of the era of global modelling. is. the perfect companion piece to the spectacular collapse of the Twin Towers. And it is a form of pollution that is no longer ecological but ETHOLOGICAL. if mimetism is characteristic of the conditioning power of the mass media. an event is no longer “innocent”. what is worse. without a doubt. you have to admit. To create an event is thus to reject whatever is now nothing more than “a thirdworlding of human societies”.
and then the energy of the motors of armoured engines and planes and ﬁnally. a war entailing full-scale annihilation of the sense of reality in which the weapon of mass communication is strategically superior to the weapon of mass destruction. things were exactly the reverse. just like matter. One proof among others of the disintegration of classic warfare is provided by the reversal of the number of victims.DEMOCRACY OF EMOTION Or. energy and information. after “war tactics” like camouﬂage and various lures capable of hoodwinking the enemy. Then came energy. the Prime Minister of France. to put it still more precisely. remarked on the threat of the SARS epidemic: “ Psychosis is no way to govern”. chemical or bacteriological . it is the third – and in particular a fourth – dimension that carries the day with information and its instantaneous communication speed. whether atomic. in other words. offered up to chaos in a holocaust. every war remotely worthy of the name is ﬁrstly a WAR ON CIVILIANS! Whence the possibility that the coming “total war” will be nothing less than a WORLD CIVIL WAR rather than a local war and this metastasis will no longer affect nations and government institutions. the main strategem suddenly becomes the speeding up of reality creating a panic-induced movement that destroys our sense of orientation. for in recent conﬂicts. whereas in the traditional war. of precision-guided explosive missiles. the material impact. We should point out at this juncture that. with its armies in an advanced state of disintegration since the blossoming of a kind of hyperterrorism that no longer even requires the mass of armoured divisions since its weapons system is mainly constituted by the array of mass communication tools turned back on the enemy. war has three dimensions: mass. Whence the sudden permutation in which the INFOWAR appears not only as a “war of weaponry” but especially as a WAR ON THE REAL. Jean-Pierre Raffarin. bows and arrows and other siege machinery as a prelude to gunpowder and artillery. It won’t be too far down the track before a MINISTRY OF FEAR emerges that will. losses are 80% civilian. from the height of its satellites and satellite dishes. . Today. override the extremely outmoded MINISTRY OF WAR. of the bomb and intercontinental missiles. . the weapon of mass destruction is subject to the weapon of a form of mass communication that overrides it in every way – the audiovisual impact (in real time) outstripping by a long shot. 345 CULTURAL POLITICS . vectors of delivery of the atomic weapon. through its globe-spanning propagation velocity. Mass came ﬁrst. the neuro-ballistic energy of catapults. Every epoch of History has privileged one of these dimensions. as well as the mass of the legions and divisions of armies on campaign. our view of the world. Once. precisely targeted. with the mass of ramparts and armour. But now. an international war was clearly distinct from a civil war – the war of each against all. And so. but their populations. On his return from Beijing on April 26 2003.
Thomas Foley. If you need convincing. just listen to this recent statement by the Israeli Transport Minister. it is totally devoid of meaning in wartime and especially in a terrorist and anti-terrorist war. Thomas Foley must have had even more serious 346 CULTURAL POLITICS . poor people or people from the middle classes. No place is safe any more.”11 What Ahmed is talking about here is a war without war aims! And indeed. there are no taboos. As Gazi Ahmed once again points out: “When the Intifada started. not innocent civilians. fathers with children. you could go so far as to say that pyschosis is a terrorist way of governing which we have abused since the beginning of the twentieth century. designed to stigmatise said rogue states or the opponents of the preventive war in Iraq. Hamas had trouble recruiting a simple celibate to get themselves blown up in Israel. But now. Yossef Paritsky: “We should not forget that we are ﬁghting terrorists.”10 If such reminders are necessary these days. more especially. In fact. overstepped the boundaries of reasonable alliance norms and relations between nations. the strategic structure of political conﬂict is collapsing. students. which is ofﬁcial in nature. has actual war aims. To continue the debate regarding the French Prime Minister’s declaration.” . North American Chairman in the America of the famous Trilateral Commission. beyond. With the levy en masse of suicide bombers and the accelerated psychological processing of legions of contingents of those called to commit suicide. actually went so far as to spell out that the term ROGUE STATE was scarcely a political concept. we are not at war with the Palestinian people but with terrorist organisations. let me quote Gazi Ahmed. . signalling in doing so that the notions of AXIS OF EVIL and AXIS OF PEACE. this is undoubtedly because there is a sickening risk that any war will lead to widespread civil war – not only in Israel and Palestine but in the whole of the Near and Middle East and. candidates are lining up in droves to get in. . further. we kill their children. the disastrous consequences of the war in Iraq. To dispel any doubts about this. If you need convincing. a former Speaker of the House of Representatives in America. no civilians. no individuals are now spared. perhaps. the individualist nature of mass terrorism undermines the political form of war. To say nothing of women. a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist intellectual: “They kill our children. It is open warfare – there are no limits. has limits and. all you have to do is look at the results on the ground of the last two such conﬂicts: “Operation Peace in Galilee” unleashed by Tsahal in 1982 with the invasion of Southern Lebanon and the siege of Beirut or. During this same tragic spring of the year 2003. the “preventive war” is a war lost in advance. with mass terrorism.PAUL VIRILIO If such an assertion might be correct in peacetime.
whether of the markets or of some tyrant. with the “trans-Atlantic crisis” centering on the difference of opinion over Iraq between Europe and the United States. of an hysterical commutation whose secret the sectarian gurus have mastered. it is all too easy to imagine what damage this “democracy of public emotion” could do. . often enough. By continuing in this way. After the familiar havoc wreaked by the democracy of opinion and the delirious convulsions of politics-as-spectacle. public opinion suddenly morphing into a kind of transpolitical emotion on the scale of this self-styled “global civilisation”. as though by acid. What we are faced with today is no longer the threat of a democracy of opinion that would replace the representative democracy of political parties. the model for which could well be some kind of postpolitical tele-evangelism. for example. turning into a kind of DIRECT DEMOCRACY that is TRANSNATIONAL and. one of the latest avatars of which is the election of Arnold Scwarzenegger to the post of Governor of California. INTERNATIONALISATION-MODELLING will lead fatally to the kind of political transe once staged by the scenographers of Nazism – at the Nuremburg stadium or the Berlin sports arena in 1943 . at once synchronised and globalised. We are actually faced with the outrageous threat of a true DEMOCRACY OF EMOTION. for during a session of that august body in Seoul.”12 The word “danger” is not saying much when the issue here is one of the major hazards of the dawning twenty-ﬁrst century and when the globalisation of public opinion has recently taken an unexpected form. and. And this means collective emotion. promoting pure and simple PRESENTATION.13 the time (real time) of ecstatic communication will be upon us. denounced by Noami Klein in her book No Logo.DEMOCRACY OF EMOTION misgivings about the purely emotional turn that was being taken. This is to say nothing of the stadium shenanigans of the East – as far as Asia. since it risks dissolving public opinion. since political RE-PRESENTATION disappears in the instantaneity of communication. there is an obvious danger of things getting completely out of hand. as well. After the long history of the standardisation of public opinion in the age of the Industrial Revolution and its systems of identical 347 CULTURAL POLITICS . After the ecstatic communication of brandname goods. TRANSPOLITICAL – just as fearsome for nation states as any dictatorship. promoting instead a kind of instantaneous collectivist emotion that populist preachers have been busily abusing every bit as much as sports commentators or rave party disc jockeys. more to the point. . we are here faced with the extreme limit of political intelligence. is it possible to wage war against people’s opinion for any length of time? The answer is no. If interactivity is to information what radioactivity is to energy. he declared: “When divergences between governments begin to be embraced by public opinion. In the era of the all-out information war.
with the audiovisual communications revolution. but only the right of might. You thereby offer yourself the illusion of being a coproducer. Actually. but especially of our mental images and so in that view of the “objective world” that largely conditioned our various choices as well as the democratic representation of our parliaments.” David Nataf wrote in an essay with the revealing title. in the way the landscape traversed ﬂashed past at great speed. ex abrupto. on the contrary. in which you treat yourself to an opinion the same way you select a detergent. we are talking about the right of a takeover by force. Populism or tele-evangelism. I have proposed to call this STEREO-REALITY. in the immediate term. This utopia is all of a piece with the one that subtends democratic systems as a whole. You choose what suits you. and of media-generated reality on the other. Whence the new “dictatorship of the short-term”. the practices of audiovisual mind control seduce. the anxious televiewer of the democratic deﬁcit. what others currently term TELE-REALITY in no way fabricates the event as claimed. the TYRANNY OF REAL TIME. there is no right of soil or right of blood. one by one. Bush declared. But it does contribute to multiplying it indeﬁnitely – to the point of industrialising the exemplariness of what crops up. that is subject to mass media conditioning in the very same instant. that is terrorising the sole ﬁnancial market as well as international political bodies. we are entering the age of the synchronisation of collective emotion. on April 13 2003: “Through 348 CULTURAL POLITICS . Now. and this speed is the speed of the light of electromagnetic waves without which the globalisation of power would evaporate like a mirage. George W. “When it comes to technologies.”15 With the revolution in the private automobile. with the Information Revolution no longer promoting the old bureaucratic collectivism of totalitarian regimes. As J. in which speed outclasses brute force. it’s every man for himself. You forget about the common good. but what we might paradoxically call mass individualism. material force. we were already familiar with the effects of DROMOSCOPIC distortion created by acceleration of the vehicle’s course. it would seem.-P Dubois explains: “We are seeing a consumerist drift .PAUL VIRILIO reproduction.14 I would add a qualiﬁcation: we are not talking here about the law at work in regulating the “law of the jungle”. the media putsch. La Guerre Informatique (The Data-Processing War). This is a mirror effect in which the audiotelevisual image becomes the privileged tool of the INTEROPERABILITY of physical reality. we are seeing (live) disturbances in stroboscopic perception of information. The term is apt since it is each and every one of us. Whence the confusion not only of our ocular images. Drawing on intelligence reports on the conﬂicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. on the one hand.
The list of names is crying out to be expanded. This is the perspective of a sudden acceleration of reality in which our scientiﬁc discoveries are turning against us and where certain troubled souls are trying to provoke an accident in the real at any cost – meaning. 2001. we have entered into the tunnel of a form of militarisation of information for the INFOWAR has taken to absurd lengths the “logistics of perception” that once favoured victory over the enemy through the acquisition of military objectives. in other words. . .” truly strikes us as a blast from the past: irrelevant. “the lie is the ﬁrst rampart of truth. for the collapse of the World Trade Center. whether allies or adversaries. It is a weapon of mass destruction of the reality of the facts – something the aftermath of the war in Iraq amply demonstrates. Since September 11. On this level of polemical analysis. . the real and the virtual. it is also the ideal opportunity for an incommensurable lie. is at the same time truth and reality. In 1947. to lose our perception of the true and the false.DEMOCRACY OF EMOTION a combination of imaginative strategies and the new powers of technology. Jean-Paul II felt compelled to denounce the militarisation of science. ambition knows no bounds since it is now a matter of smashing the mirror of the real and thereby causing each and every one of us. we are redeﬁning war on our terms. a lie that will soon constitute a major accident in the history of knowledge. Daniel Halévy purposely placed us within the perspective of an acceleration of history. we ﬁnd ourselves within a dromological perspective. Today. By comparison. the complete arsenal of THE LOSS OF THE SENSE OF REALITY will be implemented. since it aims to annihilate the truth of a shared world. what Winston Churchill had to say when he was reminding us that in war.” Those few words. this time. 349 CULTURAL POLITICS . In 1980. the “negationism” of the recent past will turn out to have been a mere antiquated hint of what was to come. Nearly sixty years on. have the merit of hammering home for us the nature of the new American war: it is an INFOWAR that now aims to damage the truth of the facts and the reality of a world now apparently globalised. director of military communications or spin doctor . In a certain sense. after Hiroshima. this telescoping process that will make reality and fabricated truth indistinguishable. for America. of the just and the unjust. In other words. . before an openair gathering of savants. Yet note that if information. that third dimension of armed combat. the militarisation of knowledge . in a fatal jumble of language as of images that leads to the throwing up of this very last TOWER OF BABEL – which is supposed to achieve revenge. pronounced in the euphoria of victory. The lie that is no longer tactical but strategic is no longer a weapon of obstruction able to protect the true. Secret agent or agent of inﬂuence. the “information war” now appears for what it really is: no longer simply “tragic” but “satanic”.
2. . 11. cit. by very young pyromaniacs. in Le Nouvel Observateur. 2002. the eternal present of the ubiquity and instantaneity of the real time of telecommunications. Le Retour du tragique (Editions du Seuil: Paris. as formerly with “the radiant future of totalitarianism”. Judith Resni. Luigi Fasulo deliberately torpedoed the Piselli tower in Milan with his Commander-style plane. Hugo. 8.16 And so. 5. but the present. The fog of war. look at what the INFOWAR. “Voyage au cœur du Hamas”. 1973). op. Jean-Paul Mari. A preventive war. in Libération. a motorised glider was diverted from its ﬂight over Frankfurt by a Phantom 4 plane piloted by a psychology student who wanted to pay homage to the cosmonaut. “Fog leaves time as it ﬁnds it. 2002) p. NOTES 1. Quoted by Jean-Luc Allouche. 135. Challenger. For instance. who disappeared in the explosion of the space shuttle. this “information war” revealed itself for what it was: a war against History.” the saying goes . that particular fog. criminally. I’m talking about the ransacking of the archeology museum – the National Museum of Iraq – and the library of Baghdad. 9. or not fast enough for those who pretend to rule not the future. a disaster that recalls the sack of the Summer Palace in China which was perpetrated by the Europeans and against which Victor Hugo himself rose up. no longer even leaves us time. 6. software programmers sworn to secrecy by contract and often protected by bodyguards. “Une enquête littéraire sur la guerre en Irak”. L’Oeuvre au noir (Gallimard: Paris. 4. 1968). . in 1986. after the sacking of Mesopotamian memory and the pillaging of the treasures of Sumer. 350 CULTURAL POLITICS . 10. Choses vues (Gallimard: Paris. more than half were thought to have been started. October 23. This article is extracted from Paul Virilio’s City of Panic. When huge ﬁres raged around Sydney in 2002. On April 18. whose victims we have been.PAUL VIRILIO If we need conﬁrmation of such iconoclastic delirium. October 23. 3. 2003. Victor Hugo. “Raids israéliens sur Gaza: Tsahal au pied du mur”. led the US Army to allow. not so much against this or that tyrant as against this “immemorial” memory that just won’t go away. translated by Julie Rose and published in English in 2005 by Berg Publishers and originally published in French in 2004 as Ville Panique by Galilée. See Jean-Marie Domenach. 7. without their putting up any kind of a defense and while the world stood and watched. Marguerite Yourcenar. an attempt to destroy our origins. At the end of that same year. Jérôme Charyn. 2003.
Yuanming Yuan. “Japon et Corée redoutent l’imprévisibilité américaine”. London. 16. April 27. 15. 351 CULTURAL POLITICS . No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (Picador: New York. 2003). David Nataf. La Guerre informatique (Presses de la Renaissance: Paris. Naomi Klein. 14.DEMOCRACY OF EMOTION 12. in Le Monde. Apropos. Le jardin de la clarté parfaite. de l’Imprimeur: Paris. 2000). Le Nouvel Observateur. 2000). all about the Summer Palace (Ed. 2003. Quoted by Philippe Pons. March 2. Berthier. 13. 2000. see the beautiful book by Che Bing Chiu and G.