"Smoke Screens"

Who benefits?

"This democracy has perfected for itself a fabrication of its inconceivable enemy: terrorism. In effect, this democracy wants to be judged more by its enemies than by its results. The history of terrorism is written by the State, and is therefore very educational. The masses of spectators can never be allowed to know everything about terrorism, but they must nevertheless be told enough so that they are persuaded that -- compared to terrorism -- everything else appears to be more acceptable and in every case more rational and more democratic [...] The secret dominates this world, and primarily as the secret of domination." -- Guy Debord, Commentaries on the Society of the Spectacle, 1988.

"It remains to be said that people are naturally changeable and it is easy to persuade them of something, but it is difficult to strengthen their degree of persuasion; it is necessary that things be so arranged that, if there are those who do not believe, one can persuade them by the use of force." Machiavelli, The Prince.

In this society that is in an advanced state of decomposition, terrorism has proved itself to be a means by which power strengthens itself or simply maintains its existence.

The practice of terrorism is both modern and archaic. It responds to precise requirements when public order is menaced by social forces that appear to be incontrollable. Without going as far back as Nero -- who, in 64 A.D., burned all of Rome so as to persecute the Christians who, claiming equality for all before God, menaced the foundations of Roman civilization (i.e., slavery) -- we can recall that terrorist strikes planned in high places have marked the entire history of the 20th century. And these strikes haven't lacked originality as far as form is concerned, for they always have the same purpose. From the direct manipulation of Russian terrorists by the Okhrana, the Czar's secret police, at the beginning of the 20th century, to the kidnapping and assassination of Aldo Moro in 1978 by the teleguided Red Brigades; from the burning of the Reichstag (staged by Goebbels in 1933) to the police bombs in the Piazza Fontana in Milan in 1969 -- all the acts of spectacular terrorism have as their common objectives the silencing of the opposition, the justification of the imprisonment or killing of dissidents, the rallying of frightened populations to existing power, and the consolidation of generalized oppression.

All of these operations spread fear, feed unverifiable rumors, sustain the use of paid informants, train their abused spectators in the most servile behaviors, and extend the special powers devoted to the services of control and surveillance. In each of the cases cited above, the "guilty parties" were evidently those who were the easiest to give up to the furious public, whose responses had already been conditioned. The "mysteries" that nevertheless enveloped each of these acts of war were also and simultaneously presented as impenetrable, that is, until changes in the administration of affairs made it possible to reveal the plausible nature of the truly guilty parties to the mystified public, but, as one says, after it was too late.

The strategic act of terror of 11 September 2001, to which the enslaved media pompously refer as "the events" so as to thicken the plot, is also a "mystery" [full of] contradictory official declarations, aberrant proofs of guilt, pre-selected media rumors, repeated lies, untestable hypotheses, furies who avenge but are unknown, suspects who are not responsible, [1] mass arrests (public and secret), varieties of military mobilizations, increases in the illegal use of surveillance, [and] fraudulent stock market transactions. But the reviled act encapsulates the direction of the irresistible march of domination, which is present in all of the parties of the world of the commodity.

The owners of this world, speaking with the unanimous voice of all of their political representatives, miraculously find within these attacks the justification that guarantees the replication of all of their currently existing enterprises, which don't fail to take in all the domains that concern them: from genetic manipulation to industrial war, from the mastery of resources (notably energy) to the falsification of food, [and] from the re-development of land to the management of the living. Already, as the result of this surprising gift from the skies, fear -- that ancient leaven in the bread of servitude (commodity servitude, too, for fear sells) -- has taken over. For the owners of this world, it is now a question not only of violently dispersing a contestatory movement that seems to break out everywhere (Cincinnati, Gotenborg, Genoa, Addis-Adeba, Kabul), but also, and even more profoundly, of assuring the total voluntary submission of all citizens by increasing consumption ("a patriotic act") and by reinforcing at the global level illegal police tactics that accompany these urgent measures. The war against Afghanistan is part of this larger action; it prolongs it.

With all our international friends, we call for complete opposition to this war. Because it is also against us that this war is being fought. Its true aim is "the crushing of all opposition, even the mildest one, to the total colonisation of all aspects of life all over the planet." It is necessary to expect that "wherever any sign of dissent is found a terrorist is sure to found behind it."

"If this world that silently kills hundreds of thousands of Africans every year and confines its youth to camp-like suburbs where life is an endless and lethal bore chooses to bomb Afghanis on prime time TV to postpone its latest crisis and to hunt down its opponents, we cannot let it have its way. We have to show this world by all means available, through demonstrations, writings, posters, radio raids and street speeches, that it cannot slaughter its own population, and get away with it."

"This world was indeed at the mercy of an indiscretion, and 'they' have just provided it to us. We have only to grab it." [2]



Note: Translated from the French by NOT BORED! and posted to this web site on 20 October 2001. Translation of quotations from text by The Institute for Contemporary Prehistory (see below) conformed with English original on 13 August 2004.

Authors' footnotes:

[1] The principal [suspect], bin Laden, who was quickly declared guilty, is, like Noriega or Saddam Hussein, an old ally of the special services of the State that was attacked. It isn't always a good thing to be a chief collaborator with the USA.

[2] The Institute for Contemporary Prehistory (redivivus), The Reichstag is burning again, 25 September 2001. Translator's note: "Smoke Screens" isn't so much a translation of "The Reichstag is burning again" into French, but an attempt to both render it into French and improve and comment upon it.

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