Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The conflagration will be televised

Among macaques, humans and some other species, acts of violence are often a way of demonstrating a hierarchy of power amongst individuals (and, at least in the human case, groups), or challenging that hierarchy.

Such acts are a kind of performance. War is, or can be, theatre (although it is never only that).

Extreme acts of violence can be among the biggest 'plays' (spectacles) of all. Karlheinz Stockhausen's controversial observation that 9/11 was Lucifer's greatest work of art does have something to it.

One possible future 'drama' is the detonation of a nuclear weapon in a major city. [1] This possibility, real or imagined, lurks like a sleeper shark down in the water column.

Image from 132 ways to bring a bomb into America by Lawrence M Wein.

[1] As Frank Rich has noted :
In his 2006 book on the American intelligence matrix, “The One Percent Doctrine,” [Ron] Suskind wrote about a fully operational and potentially catastrophic post-9/11 Qaeda assault on America that actually was aborted in the Bush years: a hydrogen cyanide attack planned for the New York City subways. It was halted 45 days before zero hour — but not because we stopped it. Al-Zawahri had called it off.

When Bush and Cheney learned of the cancellation later on from conventional intelligence, they were baffled as to why. The answer: Al-Zawahri had decided that a rush-hour New York subway attack was not enough of an encore to top 9/11. Al Qaeda’s “special event” strategy, Suskind wrote, requires the creation of “an upward arc of rising and terrible expectation” that is “multiplied by time passing.” The event that fits that bill after 9/11 must involve some kind of nuclear weapon.
Obama, Cheney and others struggle to control the narratives around such a possible event.

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