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<nettime> from the archives: 9/11 ten years after
t byfield on Sun, 11 Sep 2011 19:09:05 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> from the archives: 9/11 ten years after

< http://www.nettime.org/Lists-Archives/nettime-l-0109/msg00125.html >

     to: Nettime <nettime-l {AT} bbs.thing.net>
     subject: Re: <nettime> Personal accounts of the bombings [4x]
     from: t byfield <tbyfield {AT} panix.com>
     date: Sat, 15 Sep 2001 02:40:48 -0400


> As a New Yorker, it's so utterly weird to sense, in some distant fashion,
> that for the first time the whole rest of America actually loves us.  
> They do.  I can sense the love from the emails I am getting, from the
> calls, from the way people in other states are responding to what has
> happened here.  One gift from this horror might, in fact, be a feeling of
> connectedness between us like never before.

sucker. sorry, but...


     "The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this
     because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40
     million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really
     believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the
     feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively
     trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU,
     People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to
     secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and
     say, 'You helped this happen.' "

it's been interesting to watch how coverage of this has developed.
initially it focused on new yorkers, who were very sanguine about
it all--none of the usual venom about revenge etc. increasingly, 
though, the networks have been fomenting a familiar litany: flag-
waving, praying, us/them rhetoric. that's why my view of the 'con-
nectedness' you extol is much, much darker. there were the initial
waves of americans who had direct connections to the city and its
inhabitants: their interests were pretty practical--'are you ok?'
but then comes wave after wave of people who DON'T have any direct 
interest. and what do you know? suddenly we're inundated with spec-
tacles of public piety, endless flag-waving, schmaltzy soft-focus
slow-mo tears by candlelight, &c. 

this kind of bumpf was quite absent in the city in the wake of the
events. the only sign of it i saw was one of those ultra-aggressive
indy towtrucks with "REVENGE" written on its windshield in soap--
and each time i saw it cruise by on tuesday (three times), it was 
met with a nice mix of censure and hilarity. but yesterday, after 
a few days of--i'm sorry, the best categories i know to describe 
this are from dolce^Wdeleuze and guattari: order-words, major lan-
guage, molar blabla--i started seeing flags, lots of flags. quite 
different from the meditative disorientation that i felt all around
manhattan on tuesday, which was remarkable for its quiet sympathy
and--to be quite frank--dissociation. new yorkers' neighborhoody
provincialism served them very well; and the physical fabric of 
the city, which made the aftermath literally invisible except via
the prosthetics of the media, supported (or, if you prefer, *en-
forced*) that dissociation. mostly what we had was a BIG cloud on
the skyline and more or less vague mental maps and addressbooks of 
who worked and traveled where. but it's very hard to orient one-
self when the preeminent beacon vanishes: my topographical map just
became the diagram of an archaeological dig.

poised in the middle of it all--halfway between a nation that has
one way of trying to cathect with its love-hated sodom, OT1H, and
a pretty solid grasp of how certain other parts of the world try
to cathect with *their* understanding of the gomorrah they love to 
hate, OT0H--i'm at a bit of a loss as to what to think or, even,
how to think about it. every language has its kernel of legitimacy.
the premasticated outpourings of a country whose main failure is 
the piss-poor job it does of translating its native genius (which
certainly includes boundless generosity and kindness) into a gov-
ernment of equivocating bullies and braggarts: their public piety
isn't my cup of tea, but, well, i'm an american, so i 'can take it
in stride.' the contorted mix of drives and desires (also detourned
by pedagogs and weenies into spectacularly fucked-up governance) 
that makes up northern africa, the mid-east, central asia, and a
numbing matrix of diasporas and migrations: they've got some very
good points, too. personally, after almost 18 years of living here
--just months shy of half my life--i've grown pretty fond of new 
york's 'deliriousness.' and, certainly, these events have given me
a new appreciation for what's irritated me no end here, the micro-
parochialism of neighborhood 'identities.' in a flash, or in four
flashes, those nanodistinctions gave the city's residents a bit 
of wiggle room, as it were, to NOT 'identify' in straitjacketed 
ways with the poor shlemiehls who--my theological undies are show-
ing--were returned to dust unexpectedly. naif that i am, i hoped
that this absence of kneejerk responses might actually shape the
ensuing media frenzy.

but it didn't. instead, these multitudes of atomized identities 
made it impossible for new yorkers to produce a coherent collec-
tive discourse--except, of course, for the ones 'we' SELL to 'our'
customers and clients, i.e., the rest of the country and world in 
the form of 'our' media.

this was a (i hope) RARE opportunity for new york to export some of 
its worldliness in a way that might have made it much more diffi-
cult for america to indulge itself in ritualistic drum-beating and
blood lust. but no. once the dust settled, the battalions of media
drones went back to work: the graphics whizzes concocted 'ATTACK ON 
AMERICA' banners, the copy-writers banged out manipulative litur-
gies, the camera ops did their little lanzmannesque lingering shots
on tearful people who lost people, the reporters fell right into 
line by dwelling on the WTC instead of the pentagon and playing 
along with the bin laden routine, the producers churned out their 
boilerplate scripts, and so on. the customer is always right. and 
america loves us for it.

there's lots more to say, but words fail me. maybe i'll try again
later, but probably notr. the cadence of these events, the crashes
and collapses, made this a very democratic spectacle: everyone has
their own authentic real-time, if not firsthand, experience of it--
and 'experience,' as we know, is the foundation of philosophy, am-
erican-style. the collapsing building blossom on a thousand videos:
goodbye zapruder, hello ESPN.


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