Lacanian Press Agency
Paris, Monday, September 24 2001, 15:00

ÉRIC LAURENT (École de la Cause Freudienne, Paris)
ABEL FAINSTEIN (Asociacion Psicoanalitica Argentina, Buenos Aires)
JACQUES-ALAIN MILLER (World Association of Psychoanalysis, Paris)

The towers were not hit as symbols
Paris, Sept. 21 (LPA) –Eric Laurent, psychoanalyst at Saint-Roch St. in Paris, President of the Ecole de la Cause Freudienne (AMP), sent to the Agency the following comment: "Before crumbling down and therefore, before remaining in existence forever as one of the names of horror, it was a commonplace to say that the Towers were « symbols ». The Twin Towers, named so after the two Rockefeller brothers, David and Nelson, who led the project to completion, had come to symbolise the city. But which city? According to critics, all significations found there a meeting point : power, wealth, pride, war, but also peace, banality, incoherence. A symbol does not represent one single signification, it rather embodies, as Levi-Strauss says of manna, something inherent in the power of signification itself.

Architectural functionalism profoundly dislikes symbolism. It ignores signification altogether and adheres to function. A house is a "dwelling machine" (an expression minted by Le Corbusier). This semantic excision entails paradoxical results: it does not function. At the Mies Van Der Rohe exhibition I visited this past summer at the New York MOMA, it is possible to follow the meanders of the river-process which opposed the sponsor of a paradigmatic estate from the architect: the house was superlative yet inhabitable. Likewise, the Twin Towers, considered as « office machines for people in the finances » remained vacant for a long time.

It was not until the expansion of the so-called New Economy that they came on a par with their function. They became thereby the symbol of the way of life of the "upright city". They were therefore both function and symbol. But before anything else they existed as object. The object dealt with here is the surplus jouissance (or the "plus-de -jouir") extracted by Wall Street from market globalization.

If the terrorists had targeted the symbol or the function, it would have sufficed to strike at night when the Towers were empty. Their will, on the contrary, was to reach for the object of jouissance and to kill people, to achieve mass assassination, as widely as possible. Suicidal-killers wish for death. They enjoy the other's dismay. Their transfiguration is widely echoed by the media. Their ambition is to produce what would be the pure sign of hate, that one which causes absolute hypnosis, nullifies all signification, and bears witness to a will as massive as that of the God of Angelus Silesius. In short, the cursed offspring is now born : the new swastika of the XXI Century.

The crumbling down of symbolic references
Paris, Sept. 22 (LPA) – J.A. Miller sent us his abridged translation of the article published today in Clarin newspaper in Buenos Aires, reproducing the words of Abel Fainstein, President of APA (Argentine Psychoanalytic Association, IPA).

He reminds us of the bombing of the AMIA (Argentine Jewish Alliance) building in Buenos Aires in July 1994, in which 85 persons died, and the participation of APA psychoanalysts in treatments provided at the City Hospital (UBA) as well as in preventive work at schools in the attacked area. APA also created a clinical research group on « Effects of social reality on the psyche », which is still at work.

The barbaric nature of the deed of September 11, 2001, explains Mr Fainstein, exceeds any psychological possibility of comprehension. "The anguish in the face of what had happened, the stupor regarding what might happen (a war of unforeseen duration and without a precise aim) are such that cause traumatism. The attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon is of high symbolic value, because these buildings are symbols of the power of the strongest country on the planet, for many the reference of liberty and progress in the West. The crisis of symbolic reference points thus leaves us defenceless against the requirements of everyday life. Everything that happens in reality, and that which comes to us, we are used to understanding (it) as a function of those points of reference. Their destruction leaves us perplexed : we no longer know where we are placed."

The practitioner explains how psychoanalysis addresses the problem on the basis of the theory of trauma : « Initially you must not try to ascribe too much meaning to what has happened, but rather to reconstruct the situation as objectively as possible on the basis of the perceptual data. Later on, according to the nature of each case, you will indicate or discard a psychological approach. Depression might ensue."

Abel Fainstein deals with the psychological effects of the attack on the Argentine population, most of whom live now in extremely difficult economic conditions, before giving a sign of optimism in which he trusts the social link as capable of "making a barrier to the feeling of distress and to threats of violence."

The collective delusion of those raving mad with death
Paris, Sept. 23 (LPA) – J.A. Miller declared: "I received the Clarin article by e-mail from my friend Mario Goldenberg, psychoanalyst in Buenos Aires, joint Director of the EOL (AMP). It is not surprising that the most widely distributed Argentinian newspaper was willing to publish a psychoanalyst's comments on the events of September 11, given the penetration of Freudism in all layers of the population. It is usual that the newspaper should address itself to the President of the most important, the most ancient and numerous, Argentinian Association of Psychoanalysis, which is present and active in the intellectual and social life of the country. In this regard, the APA is an example for psychoanalysts worldwide.

Who do you agree with, Fainstein or Laurent ?

Both! Their approaches are complementary. I will first emphasise that both analysts, independently of each other, wished to comment on the event. One of them does it on the LPA bulletin distributed by e-mail to the 3000 subscribers of the AMP-UQBAR list (in five languages: French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, English) and in a paper edition to 500 personalities of the French culture, the press, and psychoanalysis. The other one does so in a national daily newspaper of over a million copies. We still have to go a long way before we reach the Argentinian level.

Abel Fainstein and Eric Laurent know and appreciate each other, Laurent recently lectured at the APA, Fainstein was interviewed by El Caldero, the monthly journal of the EOL, the Argentine School of the Freudian Field. Abel Fainstein is not Lacanian, but he admits to lacanian influence; in my opinion, he would agree that his idea of symbolic reference points as essential to the comprehension of "what happens" reveals Lacanian influence.

Yet they both say opposite things: Laurent thinks that it is not a matter of symbols, Fainstein emphasises the symbolic.

No, it is more subtle than that. Laurent certainly centers on the "object" aspect, yet admits that the Towers are also symbols. Fainstein centers on the symbol, yet he deals also with the effects of the attack on the psyche of living beings. In fact, each one of them illustrates the two angles of present psychoanalytic thought: the aspect of the signifier, of the symbolic frame, and the aspect of the object, of jouissance. These two moments are not to be opposed but rather to be dialectically confronted.

What is your opinion?

I don't know yet! I am slower. I am also handicapped by the fact that I don't watch TV, and lately I don't have the time to read the press. I know only what I am told, particularly by my patients. There I notice a positive therapeutic reaction, obviously short-lived: "What are my little miseries compared to … ,etc." This effect was already noticed by Freud: at times of war or catastrophe, neurotics improve. Conversely, these same events are likely to cause delusions, even to trigger psychoses, but only in subjects affected by this clinical structure: "wanting to be crazy is not enough", used to say Lacan. As to perverts, the event is likely to satisfy sadism of the strictest observance. There is, if I may say so, blood, voluptuousness, and death (a title of Maurice Barres that Montherlant laughed at). But at the level of the drive, we are all sadists. The great statements about horror usually volunteered at times of catastrophe are a rite made to hide the unconscious, illicit, morally inadmissible, satisfaction that the event elicits in the subject. Furthermore, we are all survivors, so we are all happy.

You will be blamed for that sentence!

What is the need for psychoanalysts, as Heidegger and Jean-Francois Revel almost say, at these times of distress, if they say what everybody says so well? The unconscious, the fact that there is the unconscious, means that everybody lies. Psychoanalysts should do that a bit less. "We are happy", unconsciously, no doubt, means also, as Abel Fainstein pointed, that even thousands of kilometres away, we are all victims of the New York and Washington attacks. The media, by spreading them, spread terror. They make it fleetingly eternal in a suspended time, that of the phantasm. This what Lacan called "between-two-deaths": physical death has taken place, but before memory fades away and the event becomes reabsorbed in the immutable order of nature where nothing ever happened, in that interval we extract from the event which we consciously condemn, its unconscious surplus jouissance.

September 11 made the Universal definitely present, effective, wirklich. The whole world (almost, because TV does not reach everywhere, the depths of Africa or my home, for example) spoke of the same thing at the same time. There it is, the Global Show Society, brilliantly anticipated in the sixties by Guy Debord following the thought of his teacher Henri Lefebvre, an original kind of marxist. This is the planetary Puppet Theatre, echoed by the compelling wailing of the tragic chorus : Horror ! Desolation ! Dismay ! Television, in particular, installs hypnosis in homes, as Eric Laurent notes.

After having summoned a crusade of good against evil which indicated an identification with the aggressor, the President of the grand nation mourning made a fortunate appearance at a mosque. Bravo! In the U.S. there is a powerful movement of enlightened opinion opposing obscure, war mongering sectors. Their obscene sadism often finds open expression : they discuss the vitrifaction of Afghanistan. This will remind members of my generation of General Curtis Le May vowing "to bomb Vietnam back to the Stone Age". We know the end of the story. We also know, from his Memories, the subjective drama of Robert Mc Namara, maddened by the body-count.

The ways of reason must be explored beyond hate, horror and dismay. The sons of Freud will not be intimidated by the good consciences of all observations proclaiming their abjectness. The nervous system of the masses, as Nietzsche put it, is today disintegrated by what he called "the collective delusion of those raving mad with death", whose atrocious call "Evviva la morte" he stigmatised, and in whom he saw the result of "training in penitence and redemption" (Genealogy of Morals, III, 21, p. 331 of the NRF edition, 1971). Public welfare, I weigh my words, requires today the revolt of intellectuals. I call "intellectuals" those who make an effort "to think by themselves" (Kant), and will not allow themselves to be manipulated by opposing cliques of "ascetic priests" working hard to assemble the masses and lead them to carnage in order to satisfy by their sacrifice the jouissance of some obscure Moloch. Remember the Iran-Irak war. Basic "anti-death" Committees are needed.

And you, what will you do ?

At the beginning, little, because I am starting from nil. I am thinking of a monthly journal, which would be one of the organs of this necessary revolt I am talking about, the clarifier of the New Enlightenment. I shall proceed further on if this initiative should find an echo in the enlightened opinion to which I address myself in priority. I will mobilise my friends, and also those who are not. I count on the aid of the editorial house editing Lacan since 1966, Editions du Seuil. Lacan is not being edited so faithfully for such a long time without a feeling of emergency. American intellectuals are manifesting. We read in Le Monde Susan Sontag, the great Barthes scholar beyond the Atlantic. That is good. Long live America!

Translated by Liliana Mauas-Singer

Edited by Susana Tillet

******************************************* - exclusive for the US