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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." Oscar Wilde

Date of the attack: 9/11 = 9 + 1 + 1 = 11.

To begin with I didn't realise the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre hadn't just been hit by hijacked airliners, they'd been engulfed in a data storm. The first frantic phone call I received came through around three in the afternoon British Summer Time. I was busy writing a talk I was scheduled to give the following week, and people were belling me because they thought this might be the last chance we'd have to speak before being blown to bits. I wanted to get on with my writing, I remained steadfastly unconvinced by predictions of an imminent apocalypse that would consume us all. Six thousand people dying that day on the east coast of America as a result of terrorist attacks was a tragedy - but considered in the light of world history, it was neither the end of the world, nor, unfortunately, unprecedented. As it turned out, events unfolded in their usual cruel way as the Holy Alliance Against Terrorism prepared to carpet bomb famine ravaged people. A Russian writer who shall remain nameless e-mailed me the following observation from Moscow on 3 October: "Well, the USA is now the World Gendarme. When buildings were bombed in Moscow and there were hundreds of victims, no one in the West was speaking about the danger of world terrorism - & no football matches were postponed. But when something similar happens in New York and Washington, the whole world is expected to cry out against the dangers of terrorism." Russia, of course, has not really counted for much in "the West" since the Great Schism of 1054 when Pope Leo IV and Michael Cerularius patriarch of Constantinople, split the Christian church.

September 11th is the 254th day of the year: 2 + 5 + 4 = 11.

The critic and novelist Ken Hollings e-mailed me this off-the-cuff comment on 25 September: "BTW: Has anyone else noticed the heavy Opus Dei angle to the attack on NY/Washington? It's not Jihad we have to worry about but a Just War sanctioned by the Vatican. The Tenth Crusade awaits..." Bush Junior has described the activities of his Holy Alliance as a crusade against terrorism, and the Islamophobic nature of his pronouncements will be evident to anyone who knows the first thing about the history. Meanwhile, Tony Blair might do better than ventriloquising Goethe's observations about the original Holy Alliance, viz that "nothing greater or more useful for mankind had been invented", and instead recall the words of Lord Castlereagh who dismissed this phantom as "a piece of sublime mysticism and nonsense".

Likewise, it is unfortunately necessary to remind Junior of the fate of The Templars, a monastic military order who took part in that earlier onslaught against the Islamic world, since these rich and powerful crusaders were eventually liquidated as heretics in a plot cooked up by a jealous church and a debt-ridden French monarchy. The real "fruit" of these earlier crusades was Protestantism, a Christianised version of Islam that emerged in "the West" as a direct result of those returning from the "Holy Lands" bringing Arabic learning and Muslim trade practices into the backward region that later became "Europe".

After September 11th there are 111 days left to the end of the year.

A Saudi Arabian "millionaire" called Osama bin Laden has been blamed for the attacks on both Moscow and New York. Bin Laden is one of a number of militant Islamic "leaders" who received encouragement from the US government and its allies to wage war on the Soviet army when Moscow occupied Afghanistan. Some of the religious fundamentalists performing this task were directly armed and financed by the United States - it is unclear whether bin Laden numbered among this select client group. These "rebels" did not, however, cease fighting when they drove the Russian army from Afghanistan, since among other things they linked up with Muslim forces in the Balkans fighting on the Bosnian side. They also fought the Russian military in Chechnya, and are suspected of being behind the terrorist attacks that killed hundreds in Moscow. In 1990 when the US military established permanent bases in Saudi Arabia, bin Laden and other Islamic militia leaders turned against their former sponsor because they viewed America as having occupied Mecca and Medina. Like many other Muslims, they were also opposed to US foreign policy in Palestine. It is also worth recalling here that American neo-Nazis see New York through their ideological blinkers as an extension of Israel (the jubilant description of the bombing of New York in the fascist novel "The Turner Diaries" provides just one example of this), and it is not inconceivable that anti-Semites across the world suffer from similar misconceptions.

Twin Towers - standing side by side, look like the number 11

My Russian correspondent writes: "There is a theory that the Russian secret service planted the bombs in Moscow to provide justification for starting a war in Chechnya. Similarly, the CIA may have orchestrated the recent terrorist outrages in the USA as a way of garnering support for a war they wish to wage." This idea is something that anyone familiar with the feral nature of conspiracy theory could have predicted. However, rumours of this type are an irrelevance, since most of those caught in the fall-out from the data storm that engulfed the Twin Towers fervently believe that the national territory of the United States government has been under attack. What matters is not what happened, or even what vast numbers of people believe happened, but the combined effects of these two factors. Let me repeat myself here, the Twin Towers were not simply destroyed by terrorists. Granted, there were deaths on an industrial scale, and this was horrific enough, but the actual terror emerged from the disaster being endlessly played back and looped on television. This was fed into the public psyche twenty-four hours a day, and nothing but terror could emerge from this implosion of meaning in the media. This technique is known as psychic driving, and the effects are particularly deadly among those who willingly expose themselves to "real" time footage of unfolding media events and endless replays of disasters. In the US, after the Twin Towers were engulfed by a data storm, there were rumours that harbours had been closed and fuel was running out. As a result of these panics, petrol stations in some parts of America hiked their prices as Hurricane Fear drove queues of gullible motorists helplessly into the clutches of profiteers. As has happened elsewhere and before, rumours of a fuel shortage created a fuel shortage.

The first plane to hit the towers was Flight 11.

One can only speculate about the aims of the various parties implicated in this mediatised conflict between the Holy Alliance Against Terrorism and the al-Qaida network, but the effects are clear enough, and by manufacturing fear and polarisation the "opposing" sides have unwittingly united and become indistinguishable. Bush Junior announces: "Every nation has a choice to make. In this conflict there is no neutral ground." The rejoinder from bin Laden consciously echoes this: "These events have divided the world into two camps, the camp of the faithful and the camp of the infidel." According to "Western" media reports, Junior scuttled to the safely of a nuclear bunker and hid there for two hours after the 11 September attacks; when The Holy Alliance launched air strikes against Afghanistan, bin Laden was allegedly hiding in a cave. "Western" media representations of these two men flatten out any differences that may exist between them, transforming these "warring" "leaders" into monstrous twins. Indeed, it would be a mistake to imagine that Junior and bin Laden exist as anything other than digitised phantoms. They are neither good conductors of the social, nor good conductors of the political, nor good conductors of meaning in general. Everything magnetises them, everything flows through them, then diffuses throughout them without leaving a trace. Junior as much as bin Laden can only represent the void, an absence of representation, he has no political mandate - as the US non-elections earlier this year might illustrate to those who haven't yet "joined" the abstentionist camp. However, perhaps the most extraordinary misconception carried in the wake of the Twin Towers data cloud is the notion that Osama bin Laden is a powerful man, and indeed that he - or anyone else - can actually control the al-Qaida network. "Terrorist organisations" can be distinguished from regular armies by their cell structures, which is why they are difficult to destroy and impossible to control. There is no clear line of command. Orders may arrive, but those receiving them are rarely certain of where they originated, and thus whether it would be best to obey or disregard them. Likewise, cells carry out actions in the name of the "organisation" of which they are a part, but often these are done on their own initiative and may or may not be approved of by others in the network that constitutes their immaterial "body". Bin Laden does not control al-Qaida, nor does his "military chief" Mohammed Atef AKA Abu Hafez. No one controls al-Qaida. The same, of course, is true of the United States. Junior might have a clear chain of command with himself at its head, but he is subject to all sorts of pressures ranging from union struggles to his personal interests in the oil business. Indeed, there is even a rumour circulating that the Bush family screwed the bin Laden family in a business deal, and that the attacks on New York and Washington were revenge for this. This horse chestnut is only slightly more believable than the paranoid claim that CNN was recycling 1991 footage when it showed Palestinians celebrating the attack on the World Trade Centre. Television companies don't need to fake footage, but they do carefully select what is shown and then endlessly repeat stock scenes.

State of New York - The 11th State added to the Union.

Bin Laden and al-Qaida are no more of a military threat to the US government than the average serial killer. The attacks on New York and Washington probably cost less that twenty thousand dollars to stage - and most of this money would have been spent on flying lessons. The hijacks might have been carried out by almost any small group with the necessary fanaticism. Like bin Laden, those responsible for the attack are no more - and probably even less - of a military threat to the US than the Taliban. The atrocities weren't part of a mass struggle, they were carried out by isolated ideologues. Like those attracted to the "revolutionary" cells on the fringes of the Russian populist movement in the 1860s, the suicide killers seem to have come from middle-class and applied science backgrounds. And like the nineteenth-century Russian nihilists, they have embraced the old idealist fallacy of Holy Spirit descending into unconscious matter, of 'consciousness being brought in from outside'. It should be stressed that the hijackers were not necessarily members of the al-Qaida network. Holy Alliance propaganda on this matter can be discounted, there is no "evidence" in the "public domain" that proves this group was responsible. That said, bin Laden has amply demonstrated the limits of his own understanding by claiming the data storm that temporarily closed down America was "the will of God". Standing in this twilight of superstition is the decrepit figure of the 'separate intellectual' who 'goes toward the people', and at the same time these fantasists imagine they are crawling 'towards paradise'. All of anarchism is to be found in the zealous idealism of the al-Qaida network, and if the activities of the Holy Alliance aren't anarchism, then I don't know what is. It should go without saying that it would not have been difficult for the suicide hijackers to raise the money they needed to carry out their attack. The sum is statistically insignificant in comparison to the cost of a single cruise missile, and fifty cruise missiles are reported to have been fired on the first night of the hostilities the Holy Alliance are currently directing against Afghanistan. The question we must ask ourselves, then, is why does the Holy Alliance want to attack the Taliban? Why has the Holy Alliance launched an assault on the weakest regime in the world? To attempt to answer this riddle is to enter the realm of pure speculation.

New York City - 11 Letters.

One of the simpler explanations for the attack on Afghanistan is that it was designed to appease "public opinion". War, of course, is good for the economy - and it is especially good for the economies of major arms exporters such as Britain and the United States - so there are those who hope it will pull "us" out of an ongoing recession (particularly as the Twin Towers data storm has provided opportunities for relaxing fiscal controls). However, there is no one reason with which it is possible to account for the attacks on Afghanistan. The prospect of squeezing yet more resources out of the wretched of the earth to prop up the ailing economies of "the West" is enough to make war an attractive proposition to some politicians, while others will be motivated by geopolitical aims. The war against Afghanistan has the potential to destabilise not just the entire Middle East, but also the rising economic powers of India and China (the "logic" here being, first destabilise Pakistan by attacking Afghanistan, then wait for India followed by China to jump in). None of which is intended to suggest that there is any kind of conspiracy going on. Bin Laden is flattered to be perceived as Bush's rival, and since it believes "might is right", the Holy Alliance thinks it can provide political direction for the media in its "home" territories without literally dictating the content of news reports. However, despite exercising enormous control over what information the world press is able to process, the Holy Alliance seems to be losing the propaganda war - and not just abroad, but on the home front as well. Regardless of what those engaged in it imagine they are doing, terrorism does not unmask the repressive character of the state, instead it precipitates non-representation. No one has claimed responsibility for the 11 September attacks, they bear no signature. It is quite impossible to win a war against an opponent you cannot see and that no longer exists. These were, after all, suicide attacks. Today, however, the dead will speak, since it has been reported that for the first time the Taliban are allowing "Western" television crews into Afghanistan to cover atrocities there.

The Pentagon - 11 Letters.

On 10 October I received the following e-mail from an American academic based on the West Coast, who would probably rather remain unidentified "I am obsessed with bin Laden's accoutrements. He is such an amazingly elegant man. He is always incredibly beautiful to look at. I think this is somehow the source of his appeal. He comes across as a dandy, very aesthetically thin, and he always looks so much better than the ragged chunky thugs who surround him... Laden is lit up with idealism, and freaky aesthetic ideas. I find this very curious: somehow he sees all this as art - even the wonderful staging of the planes was sublime ...somehow I think the key to his personality is his remarkable and utterly obvious interest in presenting himself as delicate and beautiful... He clearly wants to be seen as a person of taste and breeding. Even in combat fatigues he always looks just great..." On a less ethereal note, Darius James e-mailed me on 16 September saying: "I've been reading your critical essays in preparation for a piece I'm writing about Chicks On Speed. I hadn't read them before. The piece will go in NY Press. They are interesting in light of current events. Your strategies seem most suited to Bush's war against his invisible enemies. Osama bin Laden could be the new Luther Blissett."As I have made clear, terrorism is vanguardist and tends to derail progressive political struggles, but what James says is interesting, since if an anonymous network of magico-Marxists in "the West" adopted Osama bin Laden as a signature for divers prank activities, it might do something to undermine the symmetrically "opposed" positions of both the Holy Alliance and al-Qaida in their singularly monolithic struggle against "evil". Having become a global celebrity, bin Laden is all things to all people, and so it would be easy enough to "hijack" this digital phantom and dress "her" in the clothes of transsexual anti-matter that bends light. A Groucho-Marxist pantomime might impel people to stare into the black pit of this implosion of meaning.

Afghanistan - 11 Letters.

E-mail commentary blown my way by the Twin Towers data storm came in eddies and gusts. Although Darius James had relocated from New York to Berlin three years before the attacks, Lynne Tillman was still living a short walk from the epicentre of this implosion when she e-mailed on 23 September to say: "Im hanging in, just - feeling very very sad - and Friday received several alarmist emails which pushed me over the edge for a day - am calmer this morning but still very sad, anxious -- this gov't. won't do the right things, I feel sure of that; but I also don't know that right things, if there were any, would do it right now - so many wrong things done already, there's a kind of inevitability (yes, as in tragedy) - and revenge scenarios being hammered out on both sides - etc...- and only escalation - then hopefully something else might come - but much time will pass... and all of this is awful - Ive decided that one of my next novels Im going to title: The Pawn of History." By 11 October, Lynne was writing: "that was such a great thing to say about writing the pawn of history as a way not to be - you see, you fully believe in art - and that's what's so wonderful about you - few people care as much as you do, really. I suddenly felt less afraid the other day, feeling fatalistic, etc - but today David's flying to France for a gig with Elliot Sharp (Terraplane's the band - fabulous group) - just one gig in Nancy, and home on Sunday, but this makes me very anxious, full of dread, his getting onto a plane - Im not happy about flying anyway..."

Ramzi Yousef - 11 Letters (convicted or orchestrating the attack on the WTC in 1993).

In recent weeks I've been bombarded with e-mail containing material pertaining to this silence mesmerised by information, including a missive from Asim Butt that collected together a slice of the Twin Towers data storm from a net discussion group - and which included a joke about "dead Americans", alongside much angry commentary. This message was e-mailed from a work computer, and while I responded by saying I found much of what was not written by the sender offensive, I was equally dismayed to discover Butt was sacked from his job at 1st Place, and the Anti-Terrorist Squad at New Scotland Yard had been contacted by his boss, partly as a result of what had arrived at my inbox. Nigel Ayers of the band Nocturnal Emissions sent me several things including a jpeg of the withdrawn album cover by the rappers Coup that showed them blowing up the World Trade Centre with a remote control device. Other materials I received included some Nostradamus quatrains that allegedly predicted the data storm I was weathering, inevitably these were faked and they lacked the attention to detail of the Nostradamus pseudopigraphy issued as black propaganda against the Nazis by British Intelligence. Alongside press and television coverage, e-mail has proved a potent medium around which Twin Towers data clouds could cluster. Going back through my inbox, I'm amazed by just how strongly the gale blew, and - indeed - is still blowing. The bogie of biological attacks has resulted in this storm once again attaining the status of a hurricane - so before anyone sends me a commentary on the lyrics "love will get you like a case of anthrax", let me state unequivocally that I always thought The Gang Of Four sucked. Everything is true, nothing is permitted. The Pentagon conveniently disappears as images of the World Trade Centre are pushed forward as more powerful icons - or the symbolic meets the real, and neither survives. We have split the meme, and our task must be to work our way out of this double helix, so that we can build real human community.

Flight 11 - 92 on board - 9 + 2 = 11.

Where does this leave us? Probably with much to do, like going back to the seventies and examining why the Japanese Red Army staging an airline hijack with Samurai swords fed into Hollywood-style Orientalism in the form of films like "The Octagon": "Scott James (Chuck Norris)... discovers The Octagon, a sinister training centre for terrorism funded by international extremists, who are covertly sending out ninja killers to cause world-wide mayhem..." Indeed, the influence of the ninja film genre on many people's failure to understand the implosion of meaning around the Twin Towers also requires unpacking, as does the cancellation of the many Hollywood movies with terrorist plot lines that were in production prior to 11 September. Then, of course, there is the "counter-cultural" obsession with Hassan i Sabbah - see, for example, the books of William Burroughs. This eleventh-century Grandmaster of the Assassins (a Muslim military order) was known as The Old Man Of The Mountains, and his very name is synonymous with political murder and intrigue. Likewise, the inescapable fact that the black Muslim faith is a force in American life should be both stressed and examined. Contrary to the proclamations of Junior and bin Laden, America is not a monolith. Neither, of course, is Islam. A thorough understanding of colonialism is also required, since imperialist powers encouraged ethnic strife as a means of retrenching their own (mis)rule, and we are still living out the legacy of these consciously racist policies. And again, there is the relationship between the Holy Alliance's crusade against terrorismn and its war on drugs to be worked through. Indeed, this matter might even give us pause for hope, since the ways in which arms and drugs underpin the global economy, mean that it is unlikely that the Holy Alliance will take up the classically fascist doctrine of "total victory". That said, the Holy Alliance should not be presented as anything other than what it so clearly is, a bloodthirsty gang of freebooters.

Jacques de Molay, 13 October 2001.

PS Last but not the least, GEORGE W BUSH - 11 letters.

More on 9/11 (next): Data Panics

More on 9/11 (final piece): Data Quakes

Fiction attributed to Osama bin Laden

No War But The Class War!

Canary Wharf Tower in east London

Canary Wharf Tower on the Isle of Dogs in east London, still standing despite a 1990s bomb plot against it.