This piece on the attacks of September 11th and their aftermath was a link offered in this equally interesting (if slightly wanky) discussion at Metafilter, and although the two only seemed tangentially related at first glance, the more I think about them the more they seem to be rooted in the same piece of fertile ground.
A mimetic war is a battle of imitation and representation, in which the relationship of who we are and who they are is played out along a wide spectrum of familiarity and friendliness, indifference and tolerance, estrangement and hostility. It can result in appreciation or denigration, accommodation or separation, assimilation or extermination. It draws physical boundaries between peoples, as well as metaphysical boundaries between life and the most radical other of life, death. It separates human from god. It builds the fence that makes good neighbors; it builds the wall that confines a whole people. And it sanctions just about every kind of violence.
More than a rational calculation of interests takes us to war. People go to war because of how they see, perceive, picture, imagine, and speak of others: that is, how they construct the difference of others as well as the sameness of themselves through representations. From Greek tragedy and Roman gladiatorial spectacles to futurist art and fascist rallies, the mimetic mix of image and violence has proven to be more powerful than the most rational discourse. Indeed, the medical definition of mimesis is ‘the appearance, often caused by hysteria, of symptoms of a disease not actually present.’ Before one can diagnose a cure, one must study the symptoms – or, as it was once known in medical science, practice semiology.
My next stop was Baudrillardville . All aboard who’s getting aboard :
Simulation is precisely this irresistible unfolding, this linkage of things as if they had a meaning, so that they are no longer controlled or regulated except by artificial montage and non-sense. It is the putting up for auction of the event through radical disinformation, the price-tagging of the event instead of gambling with it, instead of investing in the stakes of history. If, on the other hand, should there be a stake in this, it remains occult, enigmatic, and resolved in events that have never really taken place. And I am not talking about ordinary events, but of the events of the East [Eastern Europe], of the Gulf War, etc. What the Agency otherwise specifically aimed at was to oppose this simulation with a radical dissimulation, to lift the veil from this non-happening of events
. It has also occultized and enigmatized itself in their image in order to open up and clear to the way to a particular void, to a certain non-sense – unlike the media which remains relentlessly bent on filling up all interstices. Its aim was to manoeuvre itself in the void of events like Chuang-Tzu’s butcher proceeds in the interstitial void of the body. This surreptitious, sly intervention in the meaning of the void against grotesque infatuation with information and the political scene, evidently could not amount to more than a dream and because of its assumed occult and enigmatic nature, it ended up not taking place like the events themselves. It fell into the same black hole, into the same virtual space as the non-events which it should have addressed (secretly however, and without anyone knowing, it remained operational in the image of these new events which were either mediatized or not). An apparently insolvable paradox. The idea, though, is not dead.
Make of that what you will, friends.