THE WAR OF THE IMAGE, THE WAR AGAINST THE IMAGE*
ICOLS Insurance Investigator
The only insurance/ensurance/assurance is that there is no insurance/ensurance/assurance.
The War of the Image
Sadaam does have WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction). Or rather a WMD. It is the very absence of his WMDs. It is that absence that launches a withering counterattack against his enemy, inciting confusion and dissension there. And that absence, invisibility, and stealth is doubled by that other absent¹, invisible¹, stealthy WMDthe Weapon of Massmedia Destruction (and Distraction)whose armament of electronic analogues to biological epidemics of virulently vital viruses of the virtual, chemical spills and overdoses of mental and physical pollutants, contaminants and poisons, and nuclear chain reactions of irradiating hyperreality, hyperfacticity and hypermetastasis conspire, by means of hyperproliferation, hypersaturation, information overload, contiguity, contamination, contagion, confusion, dispersal, extenuation, total substitutability, stasis, transparency and digitality, to annihilate the networks of communication and control, shortcircuiting message and meaning, the message and meaning imploding in the mass and the media. TV (and the computer as medium): obese, obscene, terrorist, the veritable final solution to the historicity of every event¹,1 to meaning, truth, reality, to fact, to the literal, the denotative, the specific, to representation, to belief in the candour and good faith of the image. Force multipliers, the media spread the epidemic, the contagion, of terror, fear, confusion, panicof radical uncertainty, of radical lack of insurance and assuranceto the hostage populace as to the hostage warrior politicians.
The War Against the Image
American hyperpragmatism is so extreme today that the microanalyses of and splitting hairs over the facts contained in the August 6, 2001 PDB (President¹s Daily Briefing) themselves double Condie Rice¹s own hyperfetishism of the fact, the literal, the denotative, the specific (they don¹t tell us when, they don¹t tell us where, they don¹t tell us who, and they don¹t tell us how¹) in her testimony before the 9/11 Commission. Something profound is missing and missed in all this: the macrocosm, the analogue and the imagination. When she said just after 9/11¹ that the event was unimaginable¹, and recently that she meant by that that she couldn¹t imagine it, she said something extraordinary. And it is extraordinary that nothing (at least to my knowledge) has been made of it. In her ensuring and assuring role as National Security Advisor, shouldn¹t she be more than a technocrat, a SWOT accountant of specific actionable threats¹, a borg/computer with a digital screen for a mind, one combining and synthesizing numerical data into a virtual reality that would terroristically take the image hostage? Shouldn¹t she have to be a powerful, ingenious imaginer, speculator, theorist, astute, inventive envisioner of the greatest range of possible threat scenarios and clever discriminator among them (at the same time acknowledging that no amount of necessary calculating, calibrating, number crunching, no amount of anything, can secure, ensure, assure what is at the same time impossible: (total) security, insurance/assurancethe mythic silver bullet¹)? Shouldn¹t she have to be possessed of what is described, but in terms rather of her object, as actionable intelligence¹?! Shouldn¹t she have to be specially gifted in being able to, to recall an old but not defunct phrase, imagine the unimaginable¹? To say scenarios also raises a correlative matter. Such scenarios were imag(in)ed in movies and books, anticipating 9/11¹; yet it would appear Rice had no conversation with them. Is she such a factoid that she dismisses movies and books as unreal, rather than seeing their anticipation of reality¹? One thing is certain: in the wake of 9/11¹, reports came out that the Bush administration had approached Hollywood film and TV producers, writers, etc., to imagine such scenarios for the planning of the defense of the United States. What does that say about Rice, including in terms of the bigger picturethe Age of the World as Moving Picture?
*This text was inspired by Jean Baudrillard¹s The Violence of the Image and the Violence Done to the Image¹, in Baudrillard: West of the Dateline, eds. Victoria Grace, Heather Worth and Laurence Simmons (Palmerston North, New Zealand: Dunmore Press, 2003).
1 Jean Baudrillard, The Evil Demon of Images (Sydney: Power Institute Publications, 1987), p. 23.
© Alan Cholodenko 2004