THE DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD
“The tactic of the terrorist model is to provoke a surplus of reality and to make the whole system collapse under it.” Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism (2002).
Jesse Hughes: I knew right then and there it was gonna be bad, and I knew that these kids had no idea what was coming – none – they’d never heard a gunshot in real life and it hit them so hard I saw fear like a blanket fall on the whole crowd and they fell like wheat in the wind…
They looked at me, and then all of a sudden they only realized in the most primitive way
– mortal –
– danger –
and fell to their faces in terror the way you would fall before a god and that infuriated me because I knew what gunfire was, I was able to think through it … I had some practical upbringing growing up in the desert too where you’ve got to get yourself out of your own problems you know?
So I had my eyes open, I kept my head up, I was thinking about my friends, able to get through my fear of myself and be like fuck like some of us – OK, because – Davey was in the middle of that stage, and when the lights went on you know – he saw shit he’d never seen before in his life and I mean – awful stuff dude it has no parallel on anything that I’ve ever experienced and – because it’s not just death it’s – the most – unsuspecting innocent victim you can imagine and –
people who are gripped in terror and can’t move as a result of it – it’s not fair, and when you’re watching it in real time and when you’re thinking about it – it’s not fair and there was nothing we could do about it
and I watched about seven people die and – a couple of them – they were I mean they were literally three feet from the barrier, they could have fallen backwards and been alive – and they were too scared to even turn around and even think about it and just standing with their hands up like this until the dude finally saw her and all she did was go
no no no no –
she surrendered to death in front of my very eyes and I was yelling at her I remember I was going hey! what the fuck! and she wouldn’t – I don’t think she could hear me I think she was so terrified I think she’d already given it up, and that to me is not fuckin’ fair…
When you tell people that they can’t help themselves and that they’re basically children and to take guns out of their eyes and and – you weaken them to the point where 3 feet away is life, and you can’t even see it because you’re so scared…
[From an interview with Jesse Hughes by Jesse Keeler, leader of the band Eagles of Death Metal, published by Rebel Media May 12 2016 ]
“A surplus of reality…”
The phrase has a grim ring of truth to it. The terrorists, in Baudrillard’s model, have a monopoly not just on guns but on ‘reality’ – the reality of living under the terrors of air bombardment or civil war, for example – terrors which they replicate in the soft capitals of the West, thus returning some of that reality, characterized by arbitrary sudden death, to the timid, deluded inhabitants of the Western wonderland. They are correcting a reality-deficiency within their victims, who, like the Eloi of H G Wells, are so innocent they cannot even recognize danger when it appears.
As at the Bataclan Theatre, where Jesse Hughes watched a girl frozen in terror surrender her life. As much as the collapsing towers, she embodies Baudrillard’s idea of the suicide of the West, too much wrapped up in its layers of unreality to see what is being done in its name and where it leads. This reality-deficit is present to a degree of absurdity in survivor accounts of an earlier theatrical massacre, this time in a cinema in Aurora, Colorado, at the premiere of the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises, 20th July 2012. There is a running theme of theatricality, cosplay, and special effects in their strangely bloodless narratives.
Wikipedia: Holmes … reentered the theater through the exit door. He was dressed in black and wore a gas mask, a load-bearing vest…, a ballistic helmet, bullet-resistant leggings, a bullet-resistant throat protector, a groin protector, and tactical gloves. … Initially, few in the audience considered Holmes to be a threat. According to witnesses, he appeared to be wearing a costume, like other audience members who had dressed up for the screening. Some believed he was playing a prank, while others thought he was part of a special effects installation setup for the film’s premiere or a publicity stunt by the studio or theater management.
In the words of one young woman at the premiere:
I thought that he was just a part of like a prop or something that he was just being theatrical that it was part of the show you know since it was the midnight premiere I didn’t know that he was like seriously like a bad guy you know what I mean he came in and he was in full gear cos they have things in the movie like that you know where they’re dressed up kind of like that and I didn’t know and then he threw the grenade or whatever it was of gas and it exploded and there was all this gas and I thought well that was a special effect and nobody knew what to think of it and then he shot the ceiling just straight up in the ceiling and then everybody knew it was real at that point…
And then, among all this talk of theatricality and the sudden inruption of reality, a perplexing coincidence: the mass casualty exercise taking place that day, Friday 19th, at the Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine in nearby Parker. From the Denver Post:
Along with response to natural disasters like hurricanes and floods and terrorist attacks, one of the scenarios being used to train the students is how to respond if a shooter fires at people in a movie theater and also uses a bomb in the attack.
“The irony is amazing, just amazing,” said Rocky Vista Dean Dr. Bruce Dubin. (Denver Post, 20th July 2012).
Baudrillard would have been fascinated to learn, if he’d lived long enough, that in the 21st century such amazing ironies would become commonplace. But not surprised: after all, his definition of ‘reality’ consists of just five words: “that which can be simulated.” (Simulacra and Simulation,1981).
Parallel drills mirroring real events have taken place simultaneously or immediately before a number of high profile terrorist attacks and mass-shootings in Europe and the USA; in fact it would appear to be the norm. Such simulations would serve several purposes; in covering preparations for the event; in paralyzing legitimate security responses to the unfolding event; and in the dissimulation of agency, and the transfer of blame to an appropriate scapegoat entity, whether a terrorist group or a foreign government.
In London too, on 7th July 2005, a table top exercise was taking place, as revealed by Peter Power of Visor Consultants in a Radio 4 interview that same day, which simulated attacks at exactly the same three underground stations hit by explosions, killing 52 people and injuring hundreds. Not only that, but people emerging from the hell of the Underground train system or staggering from the bombed bus reported finding people in bandages already waiting on the sidewalk. It seems that even in real events – where people really are torn apart by bullets or bombs – the actors are there, ready for the cameras. Their job is to seed the narrative; real survivors with real impressions of the event are excluded, in case they’ve seen something they were not supposed to see. In England, one such (severely injured) survivor was eventually able to give his story to a local newspaper – less closely controlled than the mainstream press – saying that around the blast-holes in the floor of the underground carriage he saw metal shards bent upwards, into the carriage — in which case the explosions must have originated underneath the train, not from back-packs worn by the patsies, four young Moslems from the north of England, who in any case had not made it onto the trains.
In the twenty-first century we have seen an evolution of the tactic, from mass casualty events with simulated agency, the GLADIO false-flag terror model of the twentieth century, to purely theatrical events with fictional casualties as well as fictional perpetrators: an illusionist approach to terror, a more humanitarian style of false-flag attack, if you like: mock-terror incidents, where the drill does not provide cover for a real event but is presented as one by complicit corporate media.
The May 2012 amendment of the Smith-Mundt Act (1948), which had insulated the American public from the kinds of misinformation which could legally be disseminated to foreign audiences, removed these prohibitions against the domestic use of propaganda, meaning that deceptions and simulations could now for the first time be legally be practiced on the population of the United States.
There is convincing evidence to suggest that the Sandy Hook massacre (2012) falls into this category, as documented in James Fetzer’s book ‘Nobody Died at Sandy Hook‘ and that there were no victims, only fictitious children created from younger images of their ‘siblings’ and photoshopped into family photographs, for the equally fictitious killer Adam Lanza to shoot to death in a school which had been closed since 2008. The controversy surrounding the event escalated to the point of highly publicised defamation lawsuits against the broadcaster Alex Jones and a retired schools inspector, Wolfgang Halbig. The same plaintiff is also pursuing a defamation suit against Fetzer and his collaborator Mike Palacek.
At the Boston Marathon bombing (2013), crisis actors, including the double amputee Nick Vogt, got into position as police loudspeakers announced ‘This is a drill!’ and the police department tweeted out the announcement online; then the smoke-bombs went off. The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, like Sandy Hook Elementary School, was not in operation at the time of the alleged incident (2016), its registration having expired in 2013, and by this time an educated part of the audience, far from being terrified, was growing weary of the game. It was too easy: after Boston the crowd-sourcing of thousands of photographs online proved the deception within twenty-four hours. In Orlando some role-players were particularly inept, allowing themselves to be caught out of role on camera. Identities were quickly traced; a number of role-players turned out to be bit-part actors with bios on IMDB. Some seem to have appeared on camera at more than one event: one unfortunate woman has somehow found herself at the scene of no less than four mass-shootings or terrorist attacks – including Friday 13th in Paris. Meanwhile, the corporate media, apparently unable to muster a single competent investigative journalist, continues to churn out acres of product, covering funerals, anniversaries, tributes and memorials to the fictitious dead, interviews with grieving relatives appealing for gun control, follow-up documentaries fleshing out the official narrative, and ultimately, of course, blockbuster Hollywood movies. While the public dutifully believes the accumulating fictions, governments continue to slice away legal protections and natural rights.
In the aftermath of a succession of such ludicrous frauds, a section of the research community has taken to dismissing each new event as pure theatre, soaked in stage blood only. Suddenly, everything is a hoax. Nothing is real; only simulation exists. I would imagine that this wave of hyper-skepticism is itself boosted as part of the psychological operation.
It was in the light of all this that I went back to review the details of the November 2015 attacks in Paris. When it happened I didn’t have the stomach to look at images or read anything beyond the headlines. A post on Facebook – Je Suis Sick of This Shit – summed up how I felt. Terrorism had become, as they say, the new normal, a constant background of arbitrary death, as in Terry Gilliam’s dystopian film Brazil. I was aware that some were saying it was just more mock-terror; insinuations were made about the role of Jesse Hughes and his band; a well-known crisis actress had once again been spotted. To me it was all Schrödinger’s Cat – simultaneously real and unreal – but sickening either way. I was almost ready to give in to Baudrillard and resign myself to a state of hyperreality, where the distinction between reality and simulation no longer exists, and the simulacrum is true.
However, it would be a gross error to assume that just because a new tactic has been detected in the process of global theatre, it is now the only play in the book. The Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015 seem to have had elements both of simulation – the highly unconvincing ‘execution’ of the prone police officer, for example – and false-flag attack: when the ‘hostage-taker’ Amedi Coulibaly rushed out of the Jewish Delicatessen into a hail of police fire, his hands appear to be cuffed or tied together; he was not the hostage-taker, in this instance, but a hostage himself.
I would not put it past the architects of these events to be mocking and feeding the skeptics in the way they design their terror events, hybridising their models to further fragment the research community, creating confusion, contradiction and double-bind. One of the implications of mass data-mining is that public responses can continually be fed back into evolving tactics.
So I listened to all the accounts I could find by survivors of the Bataclan horror. I found no inconsistencies in their narratives, or between the accounts given by different band members, or by the same band members at different times. For all the different ways people have of coping with such trauma, and the different experiences they had within that event, I’ve seen nothing but reality – a surplus of it – in their eyes. Nothing I could legitimately doubt.
However, there are a number of strange elements in the events of that Friday 13th, including the predictable ‘amazing irony’ of a large-scale, multi-site exercise that same day, foreshadowing the events of the evening: a mass-shooting drill, involving SAMU emergency medical technicians, emergency-room doctors, ambulance dispatchers, hospital administrators and victim role-players. Then there are the Syrian and Egyptian passports all too conveniently found near the remains of suicide-bombers, reminiscent of the highly unconvincing discovery of passports and ID cards in Manhattan on September 2001, London in July 2005, and indeed Paris, earlier in 2015.
There are also eye-witness reports of one of the teams of terrorists attacking bars and restaurants consisting of two heavily muscled white men.
“The gunman calmly reloaded his weapon several times. He then shot up at the windows in the street to make sure nobody was filming anything or taking photographs. It lasted over six minutes.
He fired lots of bullets. He was white, clean shaven and had dark hair neatly trimmed. He was dressed all in black accept for a red scarf.
They looked like soldiers or mercenaries and carried the whole thing out like a military operation.” (The Mirror)
“Everything he was wearing was tight, either boots or shoes and the trousers were tight, the jumper he was wearing was tight, no zippers or collars. Everything was toned black.
If you think of what a combat soldier looks like, that is it – just without the webbing. Just a man in military uniform, black jumper, black trousers, black shoes or boots and a machine gun. Maybe a woolly hat.” (The Guardian)
The implication of these reports is that special forces were involved in the restaurant attacks, as was the case in the brutal and bizarre massacres in the Brabant, Belgium, in the 1980s. Even if the terrorists at the Bataclan were indeed jihadis who thought they were avenging Syria and Iraq, that doesn’t mean that French security forces didn’t procure and engineer the attack and then lay further rings of slaughter around the main event to amplify its scale and horror. Singer Jesse Hughes revealed in an interview that when he arrived at the theatre before the gig, he found a backstage security guard behaving so strangely that he asked the promoter of the event to have the man removed. He was subsequently informed that six security guards had failed to show up for work that evening, and in the aftermath of the massacre drew the obvious conclusion that they had been warned to stay away. Survivors of the massacre also alleged that the terrorists, once they had stopped executing people and instead gathered hostages on the upper balcony while the security forces prepared to storm the building, showed their prisoners thick wads of bank-notes which they then set fire to, saying they wouldn’t be needing money any more. The implication is that they had been promised safe passage once the operation was complete, but had realised at this point that this would not come to pass.
Then there is the coincidence of Prime Minister Manuel Valls issuing an inter-ministerial instruction on the eve of the attacks, 12th November, regarding the care of victims of terrorist acts. The instruction created a new organisation — “Cellule interministérielle d’aide aux victimes” (CIAV) — which would assume responsibility for the identification, assistance and registration of the dead and injured from 13th November onwards. In the light of this congruence of coincidences it becomes impossible to deny the involvement of the French government in the organisation of this attack.
It has also been claimed that video footage from the drills was inserted into news coverage along with authentic images of the aftermath of the attacks. But to leap to the conclusion that there were no victims, on the model of Newtown, Boston and Orlando, is at best illogical and naive, at worst a deliberate COINTELPRO-style tactic of confusion. The photographic and video evidence from the Bataclan itself, as well as the eye witness and survivor accounts, makes it impossible to maintain the notion that it was all fiction.
The slaughter inside the theatre was not theatre: it was real. The presence of recognisable crisis actors in Paris then becomes an inside joke, a mocking jibe at the section of the audience that understands it. Perhaps the reason certain actresses are used repeatedly is because they’ve been spotted.
There is the real. There is the simulation, appearing real. And then there’s the ultimate tour de force: the real event presented as simulation; the fake fake.
Real, unreal or hyperreal, the effects are the same – militarisation of the police; further loss of individual rights; destabilisation of the the political order; strengthening of the institutions of power.
Jesse Hughes isn’t acting in these interviews. In fact I saw something which I recognize from my own experience – the way closeness to death brings out the substance of a person, makes them more real, for a while, than they’re allowed to be usually. We’re all just playing parts, most of the time. Jesse Hughes, if you watch him in earlier interviews, is quite an engaging personality, playing the irreverent hedonist, the lovable rogue. What comes out of him in the Paris interviews is something deeper. He becomes real.
So this is how we live, under the double-edged sword.
Even a magician like Baudrillard can’t make reality disappear. It’s still there, underneath the accumulated strata of deception. Reality and simulation are not opposites; the first contains the second as it does everything else. ‘The simulacrum is true’, Baudrillard tells us, but it’s a sleight of language: the simulacrum is real, an all-important difference; it is what it is, deceit, maleficence, sorcery. Reality has not been murdered’ by its own image; only by the meaning of words, in our treacherous post-truth academy.
For fifty years now, the same covert military structure, using different front groups, has been killing its own people, mirroring the brutal suffering its other face inflicts on Iraq, or Libya, or Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ukraine. The violence is counterbalanced, the sword double-edged; reality, like water, finding its level.
They wear the Islamist mask as once they wore the Communist mask, and once in a while, just to lighten the tone, any mask that comes to hand. Disney characters, Carnivale masks, whatever. You can’t be serious all the time. It’s thirty-five years since they pulled on the clown mask, to show us that, after all, they do have an endearing sense of play.
So this is how we live, tricked and deluded, gamed and divided, mocked and derided, helpless and ashamed of our helplessness. This is how we live, cut to ribbons by fear and conflict, double-bound by contradictory illusions, under the dialectical sword. This is the system we live under, as brutal and bizarre as anything in the long history of brutal and bizarre human cultures to which this planet has been host.
Outside La Belle Équipe restaurant in the 11th Arrondissement, a girl stood smoking a cigarette with a friend. Just as she went back inside, a black car drew up in the street, and moments later the machine-gun fire started. Like everybody else, she hit the floor; unlike many others, she got up after the shooting stopped.
Outside, everybody looked dead. In the spot where she had stood smoking, a girl of similar age lay motionless on the ground. Her mobile phone was ringing and ringing. And she thought – is that my phone? Is that me lying there, or me standing here? Did I really survive?
Inside the Bataclan, the copper taste of blood was in the air. The wounded pulled dead bodies, still warm, on top of themselves. Desperate to live, tributes belly-crawled through lakes of blood. Backstage, hallways, staircases and corridors turned into a terrifying labyrinth, a monster with an AK47 around every corner.