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go to Peter Murphy's article

The ultimate American paranoiac fantasy is that of an individual living in a small idyllic Californian city, a consumerist paradise, who suddenly starts to suspect that the world he lives in is a fake, a spectacle staged to convince him that he lives in a real world, while all people around him are effectively actors and extras in a gigantic show. The most recent example of this is Peter Weir's The Truman Show (1998), with Jim Carrey playing the small town clerk who gradually discovers the truth that he is the hero of a 24-hours permanent TV show: his hometown is constructed on a gigantic studio set, with cameras following him permanently. Among its predecessors, it is worth mentioning Philip Dick's Time Out of Joint (1959), in which a hero living a modest daily life in a small idyllic Californian city of the late 50s, gradually discovers that the whole town is a fake staged to keep him satisfied... The underlying experience of Time Out of Joint and of The Truman Show is that the late capitalist consumerist Californian paradise is, in its very hyper-reality,

...(Peter Murphy) actually it was Europeans (Einstein, Minkowski, Doesburg, Rodchenko) who first developed the art and science of hyperspace, not the Americans. So why does this European complain so much? Is it because Americans (Californians) "stole" (what?) the cinema... whose fault was that? The Europeans who handed their cinema over to governments who used it during WW1 for propaganda purposes... ?

(Slavoj Zizek) What a confused line of thought! What have the listed European big names to do with the paranoiac idea that the reality around me is a spectacle staged for me? And as if it matters who invented an idea? Is it not incomparably more important, for an analysis of ideological trends, where did this idea take roots and acquire a strong presence? All cases known to me, from a couple of sci-fi classic novels (Brian Aldiss' Starship, Robert Heinlein's The Strange Profession of Jonathan Hoag) to George Seaton's 36 Hours, a movie film from the early 60s, are American.

in a way IRREAL, substanceless, deprived of the material inertia. So it is not only that Hollywood stages a semblance of real life deprived of the weight and inertia of materiality - in the late capitalist consumerist society, "real social life" itself somehow acquires the features of a staged fake, with our neighbors behaving in "real" life as stage actors and extras.

...(PM) so why then are people so surprised when a "real life" attack looks so much like the movies? Is it only contemporary intellectuals who have difficulty distinguishing between movie fantasy and life outside the movies? Children at around 6 years old began to make a firm distinction between the two.

(SZ) Maybe this point is difficult to grasp for my esteemed critic, but therein resides the most elementary paradox of the psychoanalytic notion of fantasy: the greatest shock is when that which we were fantasizing about effectively takes place. The thing has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with "distinguishing between movie fantasy and life outside the movies," quite the contrary: it is PRECISELY BECAUSE we are well aware how "it's only our fantasy" that its actualization is such a traumatic shock. A similar phenomenon is known to every psychologist: when I secretly fantasize about some intense intimate experience, the most terrifying thing that can happen to me is when this experience is brutally imposed on me from the outside.

Again, the ultimate truth of the capitalist utilitarian de-spiritualized universe is the de-materialization of the "real life" itself, its reversal into a spectral show. Among others, Christopher Isherwood gave statement to this unreality of the American daily life, exemplified in the motel room: "American motels are unreal! /.../ they are deliberately designed to be unreal. /.../ The Europeans hate us because we've retired to live inside our advertisements, like hermits going into caves to contemplate."

...(PM) American motels are ugly, but is that "unreal"? I thought that was a case of endemic bad taste.

(SZ) The artificial "unreal" character of the American environment is a standard sociological thesis - where are arguments against it?

Peter Sloterdijk's notion of the "sphere" is here literally realized, as the gigantic metal sphere that envelopes and isolates the entire city. Years ago, a series of science-fiction films like Zardoz or Logan's Run forecasted today's postmodern predicament by extending this fantasy to the community itself: the isolated group living an aseptic life in a secluded area longs for the experience of the real world of material decay. The Wachowski brothers' hit Matrix (1999) brought this logic to its climax: the material reality we all experience and see around us is a virtual one, generated and coordinated by a gigantic mega-computer to which we are all attached; when the hero (played by Keanu Reeves) awakens into the "real reality," he sees a desolate landscape littered with burned ruins - what remained of Chicago after a global war. The resistance leader Morpheus utters the ironic greeting: "Welcome to the desert of the real." Was it not something of the similar order that took place in New York on September 11? Its citizens were introduced to the "desert of the real" - to us, corrupted by Hollywood, the landscape and the shots we saw of the collapsing towers could not but remind us of the most breathtaking scenes in the catastrophe big productions. When we hear how the bombings were a totally unexpected shock, how the unimaginable Impossible happened, one should recall the other defining catastrophe from the beginning of the XXth century, that of Titanic: it was also a shock, but the space for it was already prepared in ideological fantasizing, since Titanic was the symbol of the might of the XIXth century industrial civilization. Does the same not hold also for these bombings?

...(PM) yes but precisely because the terrorist chose them for their symbolic value -- that is the art of terrorist war -- it is a communicative war, war waged by a small handful who destroy things and people of affective and representative value in order to generate panic, fear, and demoralization, etc.

(SZ) The point is missed again: it is not that the attack was part of a "communicative war," but that it actualized something American media were for years fantasizing about!

Not only were the media bombarding us all the time with the talk about the terrorist threat; this threat was also obviously libidinally invested - just recall the series of movies from Escape From New York to Independence Day. The unthinkable which happened was thus the object of fantasy: in a way, America got what it fantasized about, and this was the greatest surprise.

...(PM) there is some truth in this, but what does this say -- that the modern imagination is projective, it speculates about contingencies, it anticipates the worst, etc. It has been for centuries now, and Europeans are past masters of projective doom-saying. Arguably the intellectuals preference for the eternal present is more "virtual reality" than that of Pentagon planners and Hollywood producers.

(SZ) Again, what a lackluster line of argumentation! My point is not to play a pseudo-postmodern game of reducing the WTC collapse to just another media spectacle, reading it as a catastrophy version of the snuff porno movies; the question we should have asked ourselves when we stared at the TV screens on September 11 is simply: WHERE DID WE ALREADY SEE THE SAME THING OVER AND OVER AGAIN? Does the fact that what we saw for the real on September 11 already had happened again and again in our popular culture not tell us something about our ideological constellation?

It is precisely now, when we are dealing with the raw Real of a catastrophe, that we should bear in mind the ideological and fantasmatic coordinates which determine its perception. If there is any symbolism in the collapse of the WTC towers, it is not so much the old-fashioned notion of the "center of financial capitalism," but, rather, the notion that the two WTC towers stood for the center of the VIRTUAL capitalism, of financial speculations disconnected from the sphere of material production.

...(PM) well actually, it was in effect an attack on multinational (American, British, French, German, Indian, Japanese, Australian, NZ, etc.) -- does this man understand at all who was killed in this attack, and even what kind of institutions are concentrated in the WTC? Are we saying that multi-lateral financial and trade services have never existed before the current era? In the 18th century something like 25% of New Yorkers were doing that type of mercantile logistical business!

(SZ) Is it really so difficult to understand my point? I am well aware that the large majority of the killed were not "capitalists" - my point is simply what the WTC towers stood for in the public symbolic universe, and my claim is simply that they did not stand simply for the traditional "financial capitalism," but, more specifically, for today's "virtual capitalism."

The shattering impact of the bombings can only be accounted for only against the background of the borderline which today separates the digitalized First World from the Third World "desert of the Real."

...(PM) can I remind our intellectual that these are terrorists who use encrypted messaging, virtual simulators, CD-Roms for promotional videos, etc.

(SZ) Wow! And I thought that the Arab terrorists transport their secret messages on camels' back accross the continents! Seriously, is the fact that the Muslim fundamentalists use virtual simulators, etc., not similar to the fact that the US "televangelists," who disseminate their traditional fundamentalist message relying on the latest digital means of communication? Not to mention the anti-Darwinian creationists who often use computerized models... The paradox of the old ideology relying on new technologies is a sociological commonplace!

It is the awareness that we live in an insulated artificial universe which generates the notion that some ominous agent is threatening us all the time with total destruction.

....(PM) this is rubbish -- Who could outdo Spengler, or German expressionism, for an ominous vision of coming total destruction. But I suppose if you live in the world of the eternal present you might just think that cultural pessimism was a new thing.

(SZ) I cannot believe my eyes in reading this! Does the popularity of the blockbuster movies which display an "ominous vision of coming total destruction" - from Armaggaedon to Deep Impact and Independence Day - not bear witness to the fact that a weird fascination with total catastrophy is part of our ideology? It is another question, of course, which is the concrete content of such fantasies; one can claim that the true message of the novels or movies about a global catastrophy resides in the sudden reassertion of social solidarity and the spirit of collaboration among the survivors - it is as if, in our society, global catastrophe is the price one has to pay for gaining access to solidary collaboration.

Is, consequently, Osama Bin Laden, the suspected mastermind behind the bombings, not the rel-life counterpart of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the master-criminal in most of the James Bond films, involved in the acts of global destruction.

....(PM) and this is different from dumb people who blamed "anarchists" at the turn of the 20th century for "masterminding" bombings? The only difference I can see between turn-of-the-century stupidity and the stupidity of our era is now our intellectuals along with the rest of the credulous spend their heads buried in pulp fiction.

(SZ) Again, is my point so difficult to grasp? I am well aware that terrorists are a real threat; what one should add is the (rather obvious, to me) fact that the way the terrorist threat is depicted in our media is not simply a reflection of their reality, but also of our ideological (mis)conceptions. Yes, there IS a similarity between the way Bin Laden is depicted in the media and the "dumb people who blamed 'anarchists' at the turn of the 20th century for 'masterminding' bombings"! Horrible as it may sound, I do NOT believe the big media to report adequately on the background of the tragic events of September 11. And, again, with full knowledge that my critic will take this as another example of my endorsement of the murderous Taliban regime, I see one of the greatest ironies of the situation in the fact that when, on September 25, the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar appealed to Americans to use their own judgement in responding to the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon rather than blindly following their government's policy to attack his country ("You accept everything your government says, whether it is true or false. /.../ Don't you have your own thinking? /.../ So it will be better for you to use your sense and understanding."), he was saying something which was literally true, although, of course, this abstract truth was put into the service of a horrible lie.

What one should recall here is that the only place in Hollywood films where we see the production process in all its intensity is when James Bond penetrates the master-criminal's secret domain and locates there the site of intense labor (distilling and packaging the drugs, constructing a rocket that will destroy New York...). When the master-criminal, after capturing Bond, usually takes him on a tour of his illegal factory, is this not the closest Hollywood comes to the socialist-realist proud presentation of the production in a factory? And the function of Bond's intervention, of course, is to explode in firecraks this site of production, allowing us to return to the daily semblance of our existence in a world with the "disappearing working class." Is it not that, in the exploding WTC towers, this violence directed at the threatening Outside turned back at us? The safe Sphere in which Americans live is experienced as under threat from the Outside of terrorist attackers who are ruthlessly self-sacrificing AND cowards, cunningly intelligent AND primitive barbarians. Whenever we encounter such a purely evil Outside, we should gather the courage to endorse the Hegelian lesson: in this pure Outside, we should recognize the distilled version of our own essence.

...(PM) agreed that evil as category (pure or not -- is there impure evil?) is not helpful in understanding what has transpired, and one should resist cardboard cut-outs of bad guys. But the combination of barbarism and intelligence? Of course it exists -- Pol Pot and co for instance. Stalin. Do I need to go on?

(SZ) No, you should not even started! First, an elementary lesson in philosophy: the category of "pure Evil" is well established at least from Immanuel Kant onwards - it designates Evil accomplished "just for the sake of it," not on account of any profit we get from it (pleasures, wealth, fame). Of course the combination of barbarism and intelligence - but not in the same way this combination is attributed by the mass media to Bin Laden & company! When they are caricatured by the mass media as sneering cunning evil demons, the true problem is avoided: they are planning and doing horrifying crimes - and, at the same time, they in all probability sincerely perceive themselves (and are perceived by a good part of the Arab crowds) as fighters for the cause of the Muslim people! THIS is the true problem in thinking Evil: how people who are sincere fighters for their Cause, (probably) good fathers and husbands, etc., can do such heinous acts!

For the last five centuries, the (relative) prosperity and peace of the "civilized" West was bought by the export of ruthless violence and destruction into the "barbarian" Outside: the long story from the conquest of America to the slaughter in Congo.

...(PM) and West Africa was not a sink-hole of predatory states before the West arrived, and the Incas et. al. were compassionate peace-loving souls before the appearance of the Iberians? And Islamic states were not the major market for African slaves long before the Europeans turned up? The story of the West = original sin is simply the theology of the adolescent cultural pessimist.

(SZ) Do your homework! That Islamic states were the major market for African slaves is a well-known fact (in Sudan, one of the first measures after the Mahdi uprising defeated General Gordon at the end of the XIXth century was to legalize again slave trading, etc.). In my past writings, I repeatedly warned against grounding the analysis of our (white imperialist) historical crimes against other races in any notion of their "nobility" and superiority with regard to us, in exactly the same way that I reject feminism which refers to some alleged spiritual "superiority" of women (they are more holistic, less inclined towards domination...). Any such reasoning is inherently anti-democratic, since it legitimizes the right of some group of people in their specific qualities.
            So, again, a non sequitur: in exactly the same way the past wrongs done by Americans to Third World people in no way justify the September 11 attacks, the past wrongs of Third World people in no way justifies the First World crimes against them. Even if the Inca empire where a cruel despotic state (and it undoubtedly WAS that), this IN NO WAY diminishes or relativizes the horor of what Spaniards did to them in the 16th century - elementary ethics.

Cruel and indifferent as it may sound, we should also, now more than ever, bear in mind that the actual effect of these bombings is much more symbolic than real.

...(PM) but that is the nature of successful terrorism. Terror is a symbolic way of conducting political/religious struggle. The terrorist group does not possess armies (conventional war) or mobilized civil populations (as in a civil war). Their most potent weapons are symbolic-affective - violence that destroys people in places invested with symbolic value. It is ironic that we have a cinema-obsessive implying that the symbolic does not matter, or that symbols are not "real"... as a cartography of emotional life, I'd say that they are very real.

(SZ) What a stupid line of thought! Of course I am well aware that the symbolic matters, that it has real effects (I've written a dozen or so books about this!) - my point is that, precisely when we are dealing with such "symbolic" terror, one should nonetheless not forget that thousands are daily dying a horrible death, whose death is not noted because it is not invested with enough "symbolic value"!
            To avoid any misunderstanding here, let me make my position very clear. The American patriotic narrative - the innocence under siege, the surge of patriotic pride - is, of course, vain; however, is the Leftist narrative (with its Schadenfreude: the US got what they deserved, what they were for decades doing to others) really any better? The predominant reaction of European, but also American, Leftists was nothing less than scandalous: all imaginable stupidities were said and written, up to the "feminist" point that the WTC towers were two phallic symbols, waiting to be destroyed ("castrated"). And what about the fact that CIA (co)created Taliban and Bin Laden, financing and helping them to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan? Why was this fact quoted as an argument AGAINST attacking them? Would it not be much more logical to claim that it is precisely their duty to get us rid of the monster they created? The moment one thinks in the terms of "yes, the WTC collapse was a tragedy, but one should not fully solidarize with the victims, since this would mean supporting US imperialism," the ethical catastrophy is already here: the only appropriate stance is the unconditional solidarity will ALL victims. Let me make a simple mental experiment: if you detect in yourself any restraint to fully empathize with the victims of the WTC collapse, if you feel the urge to qualify your empathy with "yes, but what about the millions who suffer in Africa...", you are not demonstrating your Third World sympathize, but merely the mauvaise foi which bears witness to your implicit patronizing racist attitude towards the Third World victims.

The US just got the taste of what goes on around the world on a daily basis, from Sarajevo to Grozny, from Rwanda and Congo to Sierra Leone.

...(PM) so barbarism should be universalised now? Is this the last universal left to intellectuals after postmodernism? "Here's a taste of predatory violence, learn to embrace it?" And why should we suppose that these examples strung together are comparable in any case? This smacks of the peace-envy of the Balkans intellectual. "Gee we have had it hard, now it is your turn to experience suffering."

(SZ) A weird non-sequitur! All I claim is that got the taste of horrors going on around the world on a regular base - a point which, I think, has to be made to avoid elevating the WTC towers collapse into the new version of Absolute Crime. To conclude from this simple statement that terrorist barbarism SHOULD be universalized, that there is some kind of "justice" in the fact that the US also got the taste of it ("now it is your turn..."), is precisely the logic of moral bargaining to be unconditionally avoided.

If one adds to the situation in New York snipers and gang rapes, one gets an idea about what Sarajevo was a decade ago.

...(PM) oh come on. Now we are equating US urban blight and racial problems with Balkans politics. This is absurd.

(SZ) It is my critic's conclusion which is absurd! First, as it should be obvious to a minimally attentive reader, I am NOT referring to the New York "urban blight and racial problems" before the bombing, but to New York ruins AFTER the bombing; the idea is simply to draw attention to the fact that the situation in Sarajevo in the early 90s, when not only thousands died, but the city was the target of artillery shells and shipers FOR YEARS, was much worse than today in New York. Is it possible for a New Yorker to imagine what does it mean to go to one's job and, day after day, to risk the threat of being killed by a sniper? To dismiss this as "Balkan politics" is, of course, just another American liberal racist outburst.

It is when we watched on TV screen the two WTC towers collapsing, that it became possible to experience the falsity of the "reality TV shows":

...(PM) wow, so that's what we learn from this episode! Is this not the reductio ad absurdum of cultural studies?

(SZ) What became obvious in watching the WTC towers collapse is why "reality soaps" are a fake: in them, participants PLAY themselves (a certain role with which they identify) for the cameras. The only absurd thing here is the mind of a person who cannot get this point!

even if this shows are "for real," people still act in them - they simply play themselves. The standard disclaimer in a novel ("characters in this text are a fiction, every resemblance with the real life characters is purely contingent") holds also for the participants of the reality soaps: what we see there are fictional characters, even if they play themselves for the real. Of course, the "return to the Real" can be given different twists: Rightist commentators like George Will also immediately proclaimed the end of the American "holiday from history" - the impact of reality shattering the isolated tower of the liberal tolerant attitude and the Cultural Studies focus on textuality. Now, we are forced to strike back, to deal with real enemies in the real world... However, WHOM to strike? Whatever the response, it will never hit the RIGHT target, bringing us full satisfaction.

...(PM) true. On the two levels, reciprocity for injustice/harm is not (ever) fully satisfying -- ask someone who is compensated for injury caused by a hit-and-run driver. America cannot respond by attacking symbols (of Islam, nationhood, etc.). There is, and will remain, an affective dimension (hole) that cannot be filled. Or at least can only be partly refilled by the rebuilding of buildings and the memorialization of the dead.

The ridicule of America attacking Afghanistan cannot but strike the eye: if the greatest power in the world will destroy one of the poorest countries in which peasant barely survive on barren hills,

...(PM) which has one of the worst regimes in the world which is in no small measure responsible (along with historical events) for the poverty of the country. Our sophisticated intellectual would have long ago been disposed of by the Taliban had he been an Afghan. Exactly the same could have been said of Cambodia under Pol Pot -- it is a poor country with peasants who barely survive... what outrageous apologetics for murderous and barbaric regimes...

(SZ) Well, before the Taliban took over, Afghanistan was not exactly the Switzerland of South-Western Asia! There is also no small measure of responsibility of the two Cold War great powers! Was it not the Cold War conflict which created the conditions for the Taliban to take power? Is it not significant that the bulk of the Taliban arms consists of the old Russian tanks plus - their most feared weapon today - the Stinger given to them 15 years ago by the USA!
            Of course today's Afghanistan is "a poor country with peasants who barely survive" - but this is precisely my argument: an all-out bombing campaign would hurt them, the victims, not the Taliban nomenklatura! Even the recent US official politics is acknowledging this point, which is why, very wisely, they are proceeding slowly, avoiding hysterical actings out! Where is here any "outrageous apologetics for murderous and barbaric regimes," this is known only to my esteemed critic!

will this not be the ultimate case of the impotent acting out?

...(PM) possibly. Power can be impotent. The Americans learnt that in Vietnam. How do you fight a symbolic war, which also makes it a civilizational war? Nobody knows the answer to this question because we have entered a new era with an uncertain terrain -- this is the post-Cold War era where battle by affective-proxy and by symbol have become that much more important.

(SZ) Agree - UP TO A POINT. First, I thoroughly reject as misleading the talk about "civilizational war." Secondly, it is all too cynical to claim that we will be fighting merely a "symbolic war": maybe for the great Western powers, definitely not for the Third World countries for which the effect will be very real!

There is a partial truth in the notion of the "clash of civilizations" attested here - witness the surprise of the average American: "How is it possible that these people have such a disregard for their own lives?" Is not the obverse of this surprise the rather sad fact that we, in the First World countries, find it more and more difficult even to imagine a public or universal Cause for which one would be ready to sacrifice one's life?

...(PM) is this man saying the emergency workers who have died in the New York wreckage or the aid workers imprisoned in Afghanistan, or... [I could go on endlessly...] are not prepared to sacrifice their life for a public cause -- or is it only religious mania that counts as a Cause? Even on those grounds, Waco should have demonstrated to this idiot-savant that Americans are not short even of lunatic causes!

(SZ) No, "this man" is not saying that! Is it so difficult to get my point: that in the developed First World countries, the emerging type of subjectivity (the narcissistic individual whose goal is the realization of the potentials oif his Self) finds it more and more difficult to sacrifice his/her life for some larger abstract Cause - again, a sociological commonplace? Of course I admire not only the fireworkers, but also the passengers who, when they knew they were doomed, nonetheless decided to attack the cockpit to save other people's lives (as I said in my text). But this, precisely, are exceptions to the predominant ideology.

When, after the bombings, even the Taliban foreign minister said that he can "feel the pain" of the American children, did he not thereby confirm the hegemonic ideological role of this Bill Clinton's trademark phrase?

...(PM) actually the most interesting response of all in the initial round of responses was Yasser Arafat's response -- he actually displayed greater visible revulsion and sorrow than George W. Bush initially did. Are idiot-savants now specialists in "rising above" human sympathy? Is this the end result of ideology-critique, that intellectuals can no longer recognize horrible acts and can only see the world as a chessboard of strategic interactions by power-players?

(SZ) Again, is it so difficult to get my point? Are we seriously asked to take Clinton's mantra "I can feel your pain" as the expression of sincere human sympathy and not as the part of a well-orchestrated PR strategy)? This is what, with all their differences, Clinton and Taliban foreign minister share: the cynical manipulation with others' suffering.

Furthermore, the notion of America as a safe haven, of course, also is a fantasy: when a New Yorker commented on how, after the bombings, one can no longer walk safely on the city's streets, the irony of it was that, well before the bombings, the streets of New York were well-known for the dangers of being attacked or, at least, mugged -

...(PM) what argument is being made here? that a terrorist attack is like being mugged?? This is ridiculous.

(SZ) It is the misreading of my argument which is ridiculous! All I am claiming is that, before the bombing, it was much more difficult to "walk safely on the city's streets" than after the bombing!

If anything, the bombings gave rise to a new sense of solidarity, with the scenes of young African-Americans helping an old Jewish gentlemen to cross the street, scenes unimaginable a couple of days ago.

...(PM) as one would hope in a civil society

(SZ) A simple fallacy! According to historical records, in practically ALL societies, from Leningrad in 1942 to Berlin Germany in 1944, the shock of bombing gave rise to scenes of solidarity unthinkable before the event, and USSR or Germany in the early 40s were definitely NOT "a civil society"!

Now, in the days immediately following the bombings, it is as if we dwell in the unique time between a traumatic event and its symbolic impact, like in those brief moment after we are deeply cut, and before the full extent of the pain strikes us - it is open how the events will be symbolized, what their symbolic efficiency will be, what acts they will be evoked to justify. Even here, in these moments of utmost tension, this link is not automatic but contingent. There are already the first bad omens; the day after the bombing, I got a message from a journal which was just about to publish a longer text of mine on Lenin, telling me that they decided to postpone its publication - they considered inopportune to publish a text on Lenin immediately after the bombing. Does this not point towards the ominous ideological rearticulations which will follow?

...(PM) well I would have thought that the concern of the Russian and Chinese governments about Islamic extreme terrorist groups would have made the publication of a text on Lenin rather appropriate. Doubtless there will be, and should be, a repositioning along the ideological terrain after this event, but it may contain many surprises -- some unpleasant perhaps, but some also perhaps welcome... but perhaps our intellectual of the perpetual present just doesn't like the thought of contingency...

(SZ) Yes, there will be some "repositioning along the ideological terrain after this event" - although, what kind, it remains to be seen! If the critic did not get my point that the direction and outcome of this "repositioning" here is thoroughly contingent, then...

We don't yet know what consequences in economy, ideology, politics, war, this event will have, but one thing is sure: the US, which, till now, perceived itself as an island exempted from this kind of violence, witnessing this kind of things only from the safe distance of the TV screen, is now directly involved.

...(PM) agreed

So the alternative is: will Americans decide to fortify further their "sphere," or to risk stepping out of it?

...(PM) agreed. This is crucial -- it is easy to imagine the US becoming an isolationist-security state, and at the same time the lack of American worldliness makes it not a great candidate for stepping out...

Either America will persist in, strengthen even, the attitude of "Why should this happen to us? Things like this don't happen HERE!", leading to more aggressivity towards the threatening Outside, in short: to a paranoiac acting out.

...(PM) yes there is that streak in the American character

Or America will finally risk stepping through the fantasmatic screen separating it from the Outside World, accepting its arrival into the Real world, making the long-overdued move from "A thing like this should not happen HERE!" to "A thing like this should not happen ANYWHERE!".

...(PM) and has not American intervention in various post-cold war theatres been (in part) motivated by such feelings? even if this came to pass, it is doubtful that our idiot-savants could ever give credit where credit is due.

(SZ) Before my critic makes such statements, he should have done his homework! To the horror of many of my "Leftist" friends, I DID conditionally support the NATO bombing of ex-Yugoslavia!

America's "holiday from history" was a fake: America's peace was bought by the catastrophes going on elsewhere.

...(PM) more peace-envy from the Balkan intellectual.

(SZ) Sorry to disappoint my critic: I am a citizen of Slovenia, where - apart from a brief skirmish in the Summer of 1991 - there was no war and no destruction, so I have no grounds for "peace-envy" (not to mention the fact, way beyind the grasp of an ordinary racist American, that Slovenia is geographically not part of the Balkan!). And, again, nothing better than a nice racist snip: "the Balkan intellectual" - haha, contradiction in terms...

Therein resides the true lesson of the bombings: the only way to ensure that it will not happen HERE again is to prevent it going on ANYWHERE ELSE.

...(PM) so the final destiny of America is to be universal police-man... which neatly leaves off the hook the responsibilities of Europe, Russia, China, India, Japan etc., etc. America becomes both universal demon and universal saviour. Nice one Mr Zizek!

A non-sequitur, if there ever was one! What I said is that one should work to "prevent it /the terrorist attacks/ going on ANYWHERE ELSE" - where did I imply that this is to be the sole responsibility of the USA? On the contrary, I think that the wide international cooperation, within which US will also acknowledge the full legal superiority of some international body, is crucial to the success of the (SZ) A non-sequitur, if there ever was one! What I said is that one effort.

--- Is then any way to avoid the sad conclusion: if I am an idiot-savant, my esteemed critic is an idiot TOUT COURT.