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“In the American soul there is a lonely individual standing in a vast landscape. He is either on a horse or driving a car, depending, and either way he’s carrying a gun. This is one of the essential images in American mythology” (”Writing as a Deeper Form of Concentration,” 97).

Maybe this is one way we can begin to work through what makes David Bell (in Americana) tick. And also, what’s this relation between “essential images” and “American mythology”? Do novels have a different kind of relationship to American mythology? Why / Why not? I’m thinking about these questions, in part, because DeLillo in the interview seems to draw a line between the images of film, and the images of television and mass-consumption (which make up Bell’s world, at least at the start of Americana).

I thought this was pretty nifty. A couple of unsorted thoughts / observations / questions:

*the television in the latter half that shows, we learn in the credits, Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man. Why this particular film? (and not say, more obviously, some kind of sitcom, advertisement blitz, or disaster news program that all in the Gladney household addictively watch)…. that really struck me; especially as this Herzog film has come up already in class conversations (in context of wild-west icons and the american west)

*the heavy, brooding strings of the Kronos Quartet in the background, plus the sped-up shots of people scurrying around in the parking lots: that seems to owe a lot (if not a direct tribute) to Godfrey Reggio. Has anyone else seen anything by Reggio, like something from the Koyaanisqatzi trilogy?

*I don’t want to push the Reggio / DeLillo connection too far, as I think DeLillo’s approach to television and visual media is much more ambiguous and complicated than Reggio’s stance. Nonetheless, in context of the White Noise film above, I’ll put a link below to one of Reggio’s short art films that is explicitly about T.V. — it is called Evidence, and you can read more about it here. Maybe we can imaginatively / theoretically situate Wilder from White Noise with the children in the film.

OK, so it looks like it doesn’t work to integrate youtube films into post comments. Darn. Here’s the external link to youtube again:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuI_nCADnW0

If you have an allergy to youtube, you can find it alternatively here at Adbusters:

http://www.adbusters.org/abtv/player.php?id=359

muellech, thanks for getting a thread started and being the first brave poster for White Noise.

This is useful background context to note — indeed, as muellech puts it, “why this strange title?” Seeing as how there’s no tremendous engagement in the text with the science of architectural acoustics, per se… where is then the white noise of White Noise? I mean that in not some overly abstruse or theoretical way, but quite practically: what are moments in the novel that seem to display aspects of what muellech outlines above? How did you read this thematic that the title suggests?

White noise is used in the novel as a metaphor for death. Not by the narrator, but by the characters themselves. There is a paragraph, ‘uniform, white sound’ is used in such a way. The actual term ‘white noise’ is avoided though, but the metaphor – and from my point of view, the novel’s title therefore as well – is quite obvious.

“What if death is nothing but sound?”
Electrical noise.”
“You hear it forever. Sound all around. How awful.”
“Uniform, white.”
“Sometimes it sweeps over me [...] Sometimes it insinuates itself into my mind, little by little. I try to talk to it. ‘Not now, Death’.”
(White Noise, p. 198 f.)

Remarkable about this part is that its not ‘death’, but ‘Death’, capitalized, personalized Death.

There is at least one other passage where the term ‘white noise’ or an almost identical term is used (as above), but I can’t find it right now.

Devin,
I can’t resist adding some notes to this wonderful post.

First of all, MTV opened its program with a rather programmatic video – you guessed it – the famous Buggles song ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’. Trevor Horn, who was the leading guy behind The Buggles, allegedly took his inspiration for the video and the song from a short story by J.G. Ballard, a novelist who shares some more than superficial similarities with DeLillo.

Going back to Dylan, the ‘video’ of “Subterrean Homesick Blues” is actually no video, but the opening sequence of a 1967 documentary by Donn Alan ‘D.A.’ Pennebaker with the title Don’t Look Back – featuring Dylan, Joan Baez, and appearances by Donovan and Marianne Faithful among others. The song had been released already in 1965, without any visual promotion (in the sense of video).

Pennebaker specialized in rock and pop ‘documentaries’ which were most of the time nothing more than visualized ‘road trips’ in the Kerouac and Ginsberg tradition: Just a bunch of hippies traveling across America (or England in this case, which makes it ‘a bit off’), doing ‘their thing’ – that is, drugs, sex and rock’n'roll.

DeLillo’s third novel Great Jones Street makes full use of the Dylan myth which had ‘accrued’ around the enigmatic artist after his motorcycle accident and temporary retreat from the music scene. Working in secret with The Band on what would become the famous ‘basement tapes’, Dylan acchieved that kind of public fame by seclusion and retreat from the public which DeLillo found increasingly intriguing – and which would become the major theme of Mao II.

In Great Jones Street, DeLillo presents Bucky Wunderlick (what a great handle!) as the enigmatic and caustic rock star who wants to withdraw from his fame and the public, yet falls prey to drugs which work on his linguistic capacities (alluding to the somewhat illogic nature of Dylans lyrics during this time, especially “Subterrean Homesick Blues”). Moreover, Wunderlick also becomes the target of a terrorist group, foreshadowing a major theme which would occupy DeLillo in the novels to come.

So certainly, Dylan is looming large in DeLilo, yet it’s less the person or the music itself DeLillo seems to be interested in, and much more the cultural impact and status which Dylan as a phenomenon had achieved, and which actually had already acquired a life of its own – completely detached from the original person and his artistic productions.

However, this is not just an acknowledgment of the hypocrisy and the persuasive power of the media which certainly play a decisive role here. One has to also keep in mind that Dylan was not just a musical artist and star – he was not Elvis – but that his particular fame rested on the politics of his songs, which had by this time become some sort of advertisement jingles for specific attitudes or positions.

And a final, somewhat lighter note: One of the numerous videos which Pennemaker’s sequence influenced was by Weird Al Jankovic (who deserves a seminar of his own…) – I included it in this comment. What I find extremely smart about Jankovich’s response to the Dylan performance is his understanding of the function of words in the image and for the music.

In a move which resembles DeLillo’s, Jancovic drives Dylan’s self-mystifying use of word patterns and associative combinations to the extreme, forcing the viewers to succumb to the sheer power of linguistic mechanisms and their magic. The ordering figure of Jankovich’s revision of Dylan’s song is the palindrome – meaning a sequence of letters or words which can be read forward or backwards.

At the very center of Jankovich’s both hectic and hysterical, palindromatic linguistic slide show video there comes the message “a toyota’s a toyota” – which certainly must ring a bell for all of us reading White Noise.

and now, take it to the bridge

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nej4xJe4Tdg

White noise is also used to tape voices of ghosts. Mostly the ghosts of deceased people. It is called Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP). When you tape the static of a radio sound patterns develope on the tape which can be interpreted as voices. The interpretation of this is of course controversial. But the link between white noise, ghosts, death and White Noise is evident.

I totally agree with Till. This is really a personalized Death. DeLillo tries to show this personalized Death in several ways. With Jack – who is a professor of Hitler studies at university – he tries to show the reader one way of death. Hitler stands for death itself! The other way is that all this catastrophes occure where death is an important point, too.

I read an article where it was said that DeLillo tries to defense death with consumerism in his novel “White Noise”. What do you think of that?

I think connecting a technical sense of white noise to death is apt, and Ben’s terse but intriguing post on ghosts, is really fascinating — something that I am sure we will take up in the class discussion on the 29th (tomorrow).

Karen, in terms of consumerism as a means of defending against (the fear of) death, that reminded me of a key passage on death on page 100, when Jack is thinking about Babette and her terror at dying. I think it exemplifies, subtly but perfectly, what you are saying:

… She sounds almost eager. She is afraid I will die unexpectedly, sneakily, slipping away into the night. It isn’t that she doesn’t cherish life; it’s being left alone that frightens her. The emptiness, the sense of cosmic darkness.

Mastercard, Visa, American Express.

I tell her I want to die first. I’ve gotten so used to her that I would feel miserably incomplete…

In the middle of this incredible, serious passage come these credit cards, names that float into the text seemingly from nowhere — the very vehicles of consumption. Maybe we can begin to also play around with such moments–when the text is irrupted by these strange lists of products and brand-names–as a kind of textual white noise, interfering with the discourse of the novel itself.

I had the impression that consumerism acts as a replacement religion for the novel’s characters.
Religion is a bonding element of any collective, but Jack (especially Jack) has no faith (which he describes while feeling awkward and lisening to the jehova’s wittness; p. 135ff) and surrogastes this with brand names. The common product identification in these brand names gives back this collective to the consumers; buy shopping in the same supermarket, by eating, drinking etc. the same products, a sense of community is reinstalled.
From this point of view, Muray’s decision to buy brandless, “white” products, is fairly radical- if consumeris is in fact a surgate religion, he is an aheist.
On the other hand, he defines himself in terms of religion, as “the Jew” (p.10).

Similarly, this would in a way explain the wish of Jack and Babette that Wilder does not change: his pure and unobstacled consumerism – which is almost always shown when he appears in the supermarket scenes, shuffling loads of cereals in the shopping cart – is on a higher level than theirs.

Stephanie Wathall

well, i looked for a passage concerning Wilder and after hours of searching i finally made it. so here it is:

Babette: “I think it’s being with Wilder that picks me up.”
Jack: “I know what you mean. I always feel good when I’m with Wilder. Is it because pleasures don’t cling to him?He is selfish without being grasping, selfish in a totally unbounded and natural way.There’s something wonderful about the way he drops one thing, grabs for another. I get annoyed when the other kids don’t fully appreciate special moments or occasions. They let things slide away that should be kept and savored.But when Wilder does it, I see the spririt of a genius at work.”

i think this perfectly fits to Tills description of Wilder’s “pure and unobstacled consumerism”. but i still wonder, in the passage i quoted, why Wilder is a genius for Jack but the other kids annoy him.is it only because it is his own child or do the “other kids” include his other kids as well? i mean, if denise would behave like Wilder, would Jack see an genius in her as well? perhaps wilder is an genius to him because the child is too little to think about all this consumerism-stuff but although he does not know about it he does everthing right in jack’s eyes. furthermore i think jack perhaps complains or is sad that he can’t behave like wilder. then he would be perfectly happy about the situations as they come and go. he would live for the very moment and then skip to the next one, just like wilder grabs things and throws them away again. this means he would not have to worry about death and the fear that comes along with it.

ok, i’ve written more as i planned to. i wanted to post some other things and quotes about the religion issue but i can’t find the passages in my book. so perhaps i’ll put it some other day.

Stephanie Wathall

oh,i forgot to mention. the quote is from page 209.

Ben, this is really a phenomenal post. It could take us in any number of directions, and I hope our last session on White Noise might cover some of the ground you have raised. I think there is equally ample room to merge certain issues here with Mao II.

I find your questions about representations of catastrophes especially poignant today, when the news brings horrific images of yet another American murder spree, this time at a shopping mall in the middle of the so-called heartland. Without making blase comparisons that disrespect the shock of this particular event, it feels almost necessary to note this in context of our class, our interest in what we might call an “ethics of representation.” Besides DeLillo’s fusion of aesthetic preoccupations with terrorism (and here comes Mao II, next week), DeLillo has long been keenly attuned to something violent in the American cultural landscape, something about a potent mixture of media-representation, desires to be “famous,” and perhaps the related unravelling of a “mode of judgement,” to quote Ben.

The recent gunman in Nebraska, Robert Hawkins, is described by the BBC as 19, “big and tall, real tall, he just stood there with his arms like this and shot at us.” With his suicide after shooting — an act that is a spectacle in its most grisly and real sense — and the killing of eight people, Hawkins joins the ranks of Cho Siung (Virginia Tech), Eric Harris (Columbine), to name but two more recent such shootings. Hawkins had apparently recently lost his job at McDonald’s, and he wrote in his suicide note “that he wanted to be famous.”

What does all this mean or add up to, keeping in mind the media that frames this event as we read about it from thousands of miles away in Europe? Do we feel “safer,” if we follow what Ben has to say about media and mediation, by route of Günther Anders?

At any rate, we might want to return to White Noise, and be thinking about certain character frames that occur there. Our first impression of Heinrich in the text, dressed in all black, comes from Babette:

“Babette is afraid Heinrich will end up in a barricaded room, spraying hundreds of rounds of automatic fire across an empty mall before the SWAT teams come for him with their heavy-barreled weapons, their bullhorns and body armor.” (22)

Chilling to read on this particular day, but I think the point to emphasize is not DeLillo’s “prescience” or anticipation of something like Columbine or Nebraska, but to note something almost banal (if I can even write that word without sounding seeming callous): the commonplace existence of certain expectations of shock, or a performance of spectacle and violence, in a media-saturated culture. If we were to read Omaha via Jean Baudrillard and his ideas of simulacra, Hawkins’ mall-shoot-out *had already happened* before he began firing the gun. Writes Baudrillard, “all hold ups, hijacks and the like are now as it were simulation hold-ups, in the sense that they are inscribed in advance in the decoding and orchestration rituals of the media, anticipated in their mode of presentation and possible consequence” (”Simulacra and Simulations,” 182).

The other recent post from Till about Orest and the snakes also made think about these problems. Heinrich seems almost a type, even a parody, of “the disenchanted, suburban American adolescent male.” If Babette’s imagination of Heinrich as a future mall shooter seems too extreme, well, how are we to read his correspondence and chess games with a convicted serial killer, the rooftop sniper? We might laugh at this kind of absurdity, but it is wincing and painful –and all the more uncomfortable to remember how we might have laughed as we once read, on a day like today. Heinrich’s sniper pen pal heard a voice on TV, “telling him to go down in history” (and indeed, just what does this phrase mean, “to go down in history?”) If we juxtapose the terrible, real events in Omaha–someone who murders, in part, to be famous—against this fictional moment in White Noise, it seems all the more urgent to recall how the rooftop sniper of White Noise ends up frustrated in a circle of media and (mis)representation. Heinrich tells Jack:

“There is no media in Iron City. (The sniper) didn’t think of that till it was too late. He says if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn’t do it as an ordinary murder, he would do it as an assassination.” (45)

As Till brought out in an earlier post, there is a similar dynamic operating behind Heinrich’s friend Orest — he desires a certain kind of (mediated) fame with the snakes — “to go down in history” — and when these expectations are not met, the character virtually, literally disappears from the text, and becomes simply a “jerk.”

These are by no means themes or preoccupations exclusive to DeLillo — from Bonnie and Clyde to Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, one might say these topics are almost perennial American cultural productions (and maybe even not so American — we might remember Dumblane, Scotland’s school massacre, or closer to home, Erfurt, and their respective representations). One question for us, then, seems to be one of form: what are the peculiar qualities, and ethical concerns, in having all this bound up in the space of a novel? Even more so, in our digitized age of “the image” when the novel does not carry the cultural clout and force that it once embodied?

I am sorry for the not existing paragraphes. I saved it and it looked how it should have been, but when I posted it looked like that, I tried to change that, but the [/br] did not work…

Sarah,

I changed the format of your Wikipedia quote since the sheer number of links in it appeared rather confusing. It may be better practice to just include a link to the article; in any case, quoting from Wikipedia is not without risk. Thus I would suggest that linking is better so people can go there and see for themselves.

I would like to add, while I am at it, that Heinrich’s response appears even more disturbing because he is not a distaster tourist. For him, the event is a sudden ‘drama’ which he has to spin out in all detail. There is nothing in the passage that suggests his desire to go back and have a closer look, in fact, he is acting like an average kid whose reaction is not guided by empathy but by a certain affective exhilaration – he seems to lack the ability to respond ‘properly.’ Just a thought…

Thank you for your thought Mr. Schneck – but in my opinion his desire to watch the crash (and the way he watches it!) is showing that he wants to see more. It’s like people watching an accident and then being disappointed when it’s over and excited because they saw something they will be able to talk about with their friends.
In my opinion in that scene he is just like many other people worldwide – a kind of stereotype picture of someone who cannot stop watching.

I think it is a fact, if something bad happens you are forced to look at it and you cannot break away. You can see it everywhere and everytime with accidents, therefore there are traffic jams on the motorway, because everybody is looking at the accident. Perhaps sometimes one does not wanted to gape, but maybe it is a genetic thing…I don`t know.

I guess to call Heinrich’s behaviour “disaster tourism” his monitoring must have been planned. Or is there anyone flying to a vulcano without planning it? I’d rather say no! Even though DeLillo intended to write about an accident Heinrich is watching, a car crash as an event can’t be planned (under normal circumstances of course)…

See you
Kai

Stephanie Wathall

even if heinrich is not a desaster tourist he still does not behave in a normal way. well, of course normal is a very vague term and i agree with daschill (who ever this is) that everybody seems to be forced to watch at a car accident for example on the motorway. but what heinrich does in this moment in the book is not only looking at the accident. he is examinig it. nobody would take a binocular to count how many people lie bleeding in on the ground and feels kind of “beflügelt” (sorry, I don’t have a dictionary ready to hand and dict.leo.org has no satisfactory solution). so he is not a desaster tourist, as kai says quite right, because heinrich did not plan to watch the accident. I’m looking for a better term but everything that comes to my mind isn’t exactly what I’m looking for. he is more like someone who takes a photo of something that at a special moment is a perfect image for this person. this also happens unintended because the photographer does not search for his perfect image.
hope you know what I’m trying to say.

stephanie

Just this weekend I saw a crowd of people standing on the side-strip of the freeway watching a car accident. Of course some of these people were there in order to help the injured persons, but the biggest part of them was just standing there and watching. Watching and whispering. I did also notice that the cars, which passed the accident, suddenly slowed down next to the scene of the accident. I was really shocked about this observation. Do people really like to watch other people suffering? I do of course agree with “daschill” that humans are in some way forced to look at the accident but I never experienced that this behaviour becomes so obviously.
I did almost miss the binoculars with which this crowd could examine the accident in a more precise way…and that really terrifies me.

(ckreuzka)

Peter-Lars Wenzel

alright, in order to get some kind of discussion going here, I am just going to say that I think you are wrong when claiming that Delillo chose Warhol. Ok, now I have to say why. I believe he chose Mao and not Warhol. The painting of Mao is THE best known picture of Mao. I think you already pointed out some good points why Mao is on the front of the cover. He definitely was a masses mobilizer (e.g. cultural revolution) and masses manipulator (e.g. also cultural revolution [he just used the masses to stay in power, but told them that they still had to chop off the old pigtails [which meant the heads of his enemies]]). He actually even was a novelist and at his times they said that he was the best Chinese author of all times (well, I guess that was just propaganda). So he was a terrorist (I totally agree with you on that) and also an author. In the book Bill says on page 41 “a curious knot that binds novelists and terrorists”. Could it be that Mao is the knot? Is he the linking piece, since he embodies both?

Furthermore, I think that this painting of Mao symbolizes mass production (there we go again with the “masses”. We should have another article on that. Anyone interested?). Warhol took Mao’s picture and just changed the colors. However, it is still the identical face. So everyone can get a Mao for himself. It’s like all these people you see on the street with a “Ché” t-shirt.

You said that he looks harmless on the cover. Well, on my cover he looks quite scary. It’s the photographic negative and he got something from a blue devil. I don’t think that this has much to do with the book, so I’ll just stop here.

I don’t know, Stephanie, I think that’s a pretty peripheral connection. If anything, it makes me think of how David Bell’s New York in Americana is a fairly incisive critique of the yuppified Manhattan that typifies Sex and the City: they both share the same white collar ennui, everyone sleeping with everybody, the casual jet-setting, and a kvetching kind of complaint that is elevated to a fine art. Only, Sex and the City is completely without the irony and deconstruction of the self that Americana exhibits. Moreoever, I see White Noise as specifically preoccupied with suburban spacializations, and less about an urban area like New York.

That being said, I think this observation does open a useful question/problem over DeLillo’s place in American popular culture. He’s been negatively criticized by mainstream book critics as being far too “academic”, the so-called darling of “left-leaning professors,” and that his fiction is “far out of touch” with the real America (whatever that is). The Perival website has a great compilation of excerpts from such detractors, which include prominent voices like Jonathan Yardley (Washington Post) and conservative super-nerd George Will (New York Times).

But, if Stephanie is correct in that Sex and the City might have some kind of oblique connection to White Noise, it belies this criticism that paints DeLillo as divorced from the popular, “real” space of American culture (maybe we can imagine Carrie as a DeLillo reader, snoozing over the pages of White Noise on her transatlantic flight to Paris, after her second glass of white Chardonnay. Or maybe not).

I agree, I think it would indeed be useful to chart places where DeLillo intersects with the mainstream; this further raises questions about the ways DeLillo articulates the role and responsibility of the novelist to the society around him/her. We are reading _Mao II_ at the moment, which is centered an the figure of the writer obsessively paranoid about the way his representation enters the public sphere; I think there are elements of self-parody in Bill Gray on DeLillo’s part (or an ironic play with his self-myth of recluse), but in context of Stephanie’s post, it makes me reflect more generally on locating DeLillo’s texts in a broader framework. Who is reading DeLillo today, and why? And where?

We should take particular care with the term “white noise,” as this is a general technical phrase, long in usage before DeLillo wrote the novel of the same name. But, that’s not to say the novel is not out there: we’ve had some interesting posts on rock and roll music, so it doesn’t hurt to point out that the text is being specifically evoked by a current post-punk band based in Los Angeles. They call themselves “The Airborne Toxic Event,” and if you listen to their lyrics (”wishing well” is particularly worth hearing), they are pervaded by a creepy unease, a sense that fear and terror are about to explode into something menacing… ur-DeLillo themes, we might say, and I don’t know if this American band would have had the same impetus to go to DeLillo for their name if they were pre-9/11. I am sure this is just scratching the surface, however, that there are other kinds of more serious aesthetic engagements with DeLillo’s fiction for us to consider.

Lars,

thanks for your comment. I totally agree with most of your achievements. As you can see in my post I did not simply concentrate on Warhol but on Mao Zedong as well. So – I think your statement is not a critique but a deeper approach of explaining DeLillo having chosen Mao.

According to this there must be a reason of utmost importance for DeLillo to choose Warhol, otherwise he would not have mentioned the paintings of Monroe and “Gorbi” later I guess. Let’s find a solution there the next days and weeks.

Besides – I think you should not concentrate on the cover too much since it is neither the original photography nor the painting by Warhol. Googl(e)ing it would offer a better opportunity for evaluating.

Take care.
Kai

Stephanie Wathall

i asked myself if the fear of death is a real one as shown in this book. here death is presented as a media event as it is normal to the gladney’s before they themselves get involved in death-cursing catastrophes.

if we see death as a media event we have to examine our view of the world around us. in my opinion we created a society which is so intent to mask and hide death but at the same time it is present all the time throught the media. this makes death itself a simulation. we know death is there all the time but we think it can’t happen to us. so i think there isn’t presented the fear of death in the passage chosen hy karen. but what is presented is the irreality of death to all of us. there a terrible things happening out there and jack worries about two closet doors that open by themselves…

Media is one of the most important themes the novel deals with. It shows how we are influenced by the news we watch on TV, hear on the radio or read in the newspaper. We receive a lot of information every day and I would even say that these news in some way prescribe our way of life. Concerning this topic I found a video on youtube which shows the ways in which our lives are influenced by “white noise”.

So watch and enjoy :-)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3qc_FtEwrw

That’s a very good video! I liked the connection between the pictures and the music.

The following song is my favourite, because it shows many aspects of what people get from the media – their dreams (what leads to the question in how far the media influences what we want to be and how we would be without its influence – or just with less influence of it).

Jamie Cullum – I Want to Be a Popstar
Listen to:
http://lastfm.spiegel.de/music/Jamie+Cullum/_/I+Want+To+Be+A+Popstar

Peter-Lars Wenzel

I’m not quite sure if the media is actually telling us what our dreams are supposed to be. Isn’t it rather the TV that reflects our dreams?! Also nobody or anything can force you to do something. In the end it is always you who makes the decision. I believe the only influence TV has on our life is that it takes away our time.

Peter-Lars Wenzel

Though crowds play a major role in this book, it’s telling the story of individuals and how they evolve. It’s also about how some of these people were part of a crowd and became individuals again through a progression. Karen was part of such a crowd when she was a member of the Moon Movement, but at the end of the book she is an individual who makes her own decisions and follows her own ideas. Bill also becomes an individual again when Brita takes a picture of him. He gets a face and is taken away from the mythical position he had before, because of his hiding. It’s just like the boy of Abu Rashid who had no face, but when the hood is taken off he becomes an individual again and is not just a copy and empty vessel for Abu Rashid anymore.

Furthermore, I think that the future does not belong to crowds. The 20th century was full of mass movements and they failed (Mao’s Culture Revolution, October Revolution et cetera). Today the individual has much more influence than masses. Why else would the state be so afraid of the individual and pass laws to spy on the individual (“Der große Lauschangriff”, “Vorratsdatenspeicherung von Telefon, Internet etc.”). In the book it’s more than once said that authors are a danger to the state and that’s why they are either put away under house arrest (p.25) or shot right away (like in South America) (or as in Salman Rushdie’s case they proclaim a fatwa). One individual can have a great influence on us e.g. by picking up his gun, running around in his school and killing people. This has a great effect on society and how people feel and think. In history it has often been one man/ woman who changed history in particular.

I actually do think, that the media influences our lives directly. Of course I do also agree with “Peter-Lars Wenzel” with his statement “In the end it is always you who makes the decision.”
But let us for example look at the masses of advertisement that run on TV every day. Why is there so much advertisement?-Of course because many people are swayed by it. The “producers” of advertisements know, how they could touch the people and convince them to buy their products.
But the case of the advertisement is only a small part of how the media influences people’s lives.
Another case could be the media prescribing the “ideal of beauty”. In my opinion the women who suffer anorexia and adephagia can also be called “victims of the media”.

Peter-Lars Wenzel

Yes, but if it was true that advertisements have a real influence on us, we would be running right away into the next store and would buy exactly the product we just saw on TV. Of course you don’t do that, so you are still making the decision yourself if you want to buy that product.

I would love to agree with you on media being the reason for anorexia, but I think we would take the easy way out like that. Why is it that not everyone gets anorexia and bulimia, though we are (almost) all watching TV?

Catchword anorexia: As you might have heard there was a discussion wether fashion models are too slim or not. In my opinion the fashion industry (with the help of commercials) produces some kind of utopistic image of a woman or man, mostly young beings try to tune into unfortunately.

Sadly, not every being is able to challenge the images and commercials as it dreams of a better future.

Just a thought.

Take care.
Kai

I didn’t say that all people are swayed by the media. There are some people who are more susceptible to media and its consequences than others.
The “ideal of beauty” built up on TV of course isn’t the only reason for which women suffer anorexia and bulumia, but I think it plays a very important or even the main role.
The advertisements on TV don’t influence us directly in that way, that we run to the stores and buy exactly that product we saw on TV. This statement would be exaggerated.;-)
In my opinion, the people who watch TV and see the advertisement of a product, keep this in mind (producers achieve this through for example slogans) and when they visit a store, they may remember what was said about the product on TV and would rather buy that product instead of another “unnamed” one.

I do agree with “ckreuzka”. Concerning anorexia, I would totally agree that media plays a very important role.
I want to give an example:
The TV builds up some kind of a perfect woman. It shows actors, stars, singers, idols who wear the new invented jeans-size which is called “zero”.
And the girls or women see that on TV and want also to have a “zero” .
Yes, they even want to be a “zero”. They perfectly identify themselves with this size. (I want to add that this size is a size for girls who are at the age of about 10 or 12). Of course, not all girls or women are fascinated by these jeans but there are a lot. These jeans are a kind of “moneyspinner”.
And in my opinion, these people are “victims of the media”.

Peter-Lars Wenzel

This is discussion on whether TV has an influence on us or not, reminds me of the discussion whether violent video games and TV shows have a bad influence on our children (“Killerspiele”). Most people would probably say right away: yes, they do. But there has been a study by Eron, Huesmann, Lefowitz and Walder (1972) on that and they found out that there is no direct connection. There might be other reasons why a child that likes watching violent TV shows is aggressive. It is easy to argue that one thing is the cause of another thing, but we should not forget that there might be other reasons as well.

@ Lars
Are you sure, the study is from 1972? On computer games?

The question whether we are what we look, or rather look what we are is, of course, an evergreen in media studies. If you want to check, you may want to look for George Gerbner, who first started out to study the effects of mass communication, expecially regarging the influence on children, in the early 60s. He came up with some findings which he then generalized in his so-called ‘cultivation theory’. You may want to read more at this site at Colorado State University (maintained by the communication science department):
http://www.colostate.edu/Depts/Speech/rccs/theory06.htm

@ all (especially those from the Mao II group ;-) )

Why not take this discussion on the influence of the media over from White Noise to Mao II?
Obviously, the media play a great role there as well, and you will find numerous mysterious sentences like: “we don’t need the novel … we have the news…” or “news of disaster is all the people need”. It is less the question of imitation which should govern our concern for the media but an essential need for narratives which affect us deeply – and again you will find an endless trail of discussions whether exposure to televised human drama and catastrophe increases or in fact diminishes our ability to empathize with others…
But what exactly does it mean to argue that the novel used to do for us what the news is doing for us now? It may get even more intriguing once you consider that ‘novel’ actually derives from ‘news’…
(I am leaving this as a post on the Mao II section as well, so you can comment there, if you wish).

Good luck, and keep on writing, it all adds up in the end ;-) )

Peter-Lars Wenzel

yes, it is from 1972. But you are right, it is just on TV. Of course one could argue whether this study is also applicable to video games.

Nadine Winkler

In my opinion death isn´t particulary seen as a media event; but I need to agree, that this book is often about ignoring death although its existence is inescapable. On the other hand he deals with the imagination about living together and dying alone. With reference to that I would like to remind on the very first pages(14/15).

“She plans ski trips that we never take, her face bright with excitement. I walk up the hill to school, noting the whitewashed stones that line the driveways of newer homes.[...]
Who will die first?

This question comes up from time to time, like where are the car keys.[...]

The question of dying becomes a wise reminder. It cures us of our innocence of the future. Simple things are doomed, or is that a superstition?”

To sum up, I think there are intended alive elements in-between, for example the the kids that came running their way or the thirty girls in bright shorts as well as the newer homes.
He realizes without a doubt the existence of death but I´m not quite sure if its possible for him to handle it anyhow.

Just a little introduction to our topic “falling man”.
Take a look at it.

http://de.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlIJQvWQCQY&feature=related

Peter-Lars Wenzel

there are these pictures of crowds in the book which we already talked about in class. If you are interested in finding out more about the stadium picture (since most of you haven’t probably heard about it), watch this video clip (but be aware that it is quite shocking) –>

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQbW5ww1mCo

Denis Mathew Schimmelpfennig

And here, to illustrate the epilogue (In Beirut) some more, a slideshow of the Lebanon civil war 1975 – 1990:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMIfXHys51E&feature=related

Or, for the fans of moving pictures, some amateur video material of the civil war:
http://www.bloggingbeirut.com/categories/69-Civil-War-1975-1990

The contradiction between the mass – or crowd – and the single individual is inded a important one – it is, i way, the question if an elitist or an egalitarian approach is the more important one. I disagree with Peter-Lars that individuals form the course of history more than masses (e.g. societies) – this is ony the way that history is normally written down, because an important inividual is much easier accessible for both historian and reder tha he collective.
And, it makes it much easier to find the guilty one, if necessary. A collecie guilt is much less appaling and comprehensible than an individual manipulator or enticer.

Frederic Konkel

I don’t know if terrorists really have taken over the cultural imagination. But in Mao II it is pretty clear that terrorist have it much easier making statements than the novelist Bill Gray. His own futile attempts of helping the hostage by publicly reading poems are sabotaged by the terrorists – at first the building where the news conference is supposed to be held is evacuated and then the bomb explodes.
The helplessness of the novelist really becomes clear when his second attempt of helping the hostage (by surrendering himself to the terrorists, thus giving up on himself) also fails. He gets hit by a car in an accident that at first is more embarassing to him than anything else and later leads to his death as a nameless person (his ID gets stolen) on a ferry. So Bill Gray, in his attempt to make a statement, dies a meaningless death as an anonymous somebody while wars, bombings or hostage-takings still occupy people’s minds.

Stephanie Wathall

This morning I took my breakfast and sat down with it in front of my TV. It was about 7.45 am and I just wanted to see some mornings news or so. I switched on the TV and stopped zapping when I reached “Sat 1 Frühstücksfernsehen”. They were just showing the latest news. So I sat there, with my cereals, at 8 in the morning and looked at pictures of war (don’t remember exactly what it was) and of blood drops on the ground where a taxi-driver was attacked in night. I think I did not really watch TV, I mean I did not get all the things. But when I saw these blood drops on the ground it reminded me of White Noise (especially the secene with Heinrich that is discussed above) and suddenly I thougt: “What are you doing here? Having breakfast and watching how people get murdered?! That’s very macabre.”
To come back to our disaster tourist I would say that everybody can be a disaster tourist without leaving the house. We all do it every time we watch the news. And the bad thing about it is that we do not realize how cruel the things really are. Is it because we get confronted with this stuff all the time and through time got indifferent? Or is it perhaps the other way round? That the TV starts to show more and more cruelities because no one really looks at it and watches it intently. So the TV has to show more of it if they want somebody to notice what is happening in the world. No wonder that nobody gets touched by violence if he switches from the Simpsons to the Perfect Dinner to the news (”Oh, no these war things again…”) to Taff to the news (” I don’t like the Iraq anyway….”) and back to the Simpsons.

stephanie

Terrorism is warfare. It is not the tradtional form of warfare, but it is still an armed conflict between different interest groups. While the normal participants of traditional warfare are states, in a teroristic war, one or several actions are not – or not even military in a traditional way.

Now, according to Clausewitz, “War is merely a continuation of politics,” and “therefore an act of violence to coerce the enemy to fulfill our wishes” (boh quotes: Clausewitz: Vom Kriege. Translation by me.) and therefore terrorism is also a form of politics. Certainly a espacially violent one, but still a form of politics, to enforce the own agenda through force of arms.
(Clausewitz even describedhow guerillia warfare coud be the ideal for o warae in a libertion campaign. He took the war in Spain (1808 -1814) as an example, where the Spanish liberation movement used the tacics Clausewitz described as “small warfare”. The same bse tactics and strategies where used by the Chinese comminists under Mao during the ‘Long March’. )

The disuion between regular warfare and terrorism is, in many cases, artificial and little else than a description of different permutations of the same certainty.
In the public regard, terrorism -and therefore logically terrorists as well – is “evil”. It is interesting who are portraited as “freedom fighters” and who as terrorists in media reports. And how this can change when the political map changes and suddenly yesterday’s “freedom movement” suddenly becomes terrorists. Or vice versa.

Peter-Lars Wenzel

I understand what you’re aiming at, tfriker, but isn’t it always one person that sets sth. in motion e.g. Günter Schabowski (he was responsible for the Fall of the Berlin Wall), Gavrilo Princips (he was the one who shot the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, Franz Ferdinand, which started the World War I) and there are many others.

I fear I have to disagree again. Princip, for instance, didn’t cause the First World War.

The assasination in Sarajevo *initiated* the conflict, but it did not *caused* it.
The causes is not the death of the crownprince, but the growing diplomatic isolation of the Mittelmächte through the Entente Cordial, the growing concurrence between England and Germany caused by the maritime arms race, the common enthusiasm for war in the different European countries and esspecially in the German army command which feared to be attacked by France and Russia at the same time and decided that therefore a preventive first strike would be favorable.

According to some historians (namely Fritz Fischer), the assassination was therefore quite wellcomed by the General Staff, because it offered a Casus Bellum and Princip was a convenient strawman.

At the latest with the 2nd Marocco Crisis, war was felt to be inevitable by
all members of the Concert of Powers.

To make a long story short – breaking down historical – or political – events to single causes or single individuals is a simplification, and often a fallacy. I would not exclude the possibility of single individuals influencing the cause of history, but in most cases, the individuals do not *create* but *shape* the ongoing events. They are less the cause and more a focus for the events to come.

I think this video is a nice introduction to our topic and gives a precise overview of the “background”(the events of the 11th September). Especially the feature of the “Falling Man” , which is exactly the title of DeLillos novel, sticks out of the video.

I do agree with Stephanie that the people who watch TV and especially the news about war and crime regularly, may get more and more “resistent” to these news. I could imagine that they may not realize how cruel these things are in reality. Watching things like war, death, or sorrow on TV may become a usual part of their life so that they one day may loose the ability to notice what is really going on in the “real world”.

Stephanie Wathall

I think an individual can cause a conflict. Or what about World War II if there hasn’t been a person called Hitler?

Peter-Lars Wenzel

thank you for the support, Stephanie :-)

Tonight I got bored, so what I usually do is I just go on youtube and watch random video clips. By pure chance I stumbled across a video on flashmobs. I watched it and I was think to myself: Is this what Don Delillo means when he wrote “The future belongs to crowds”? Are flashmobs the future? Will the individual only count as something if he’s part of a crowd doing the same thing like everyone else around him at same moment?

Like the first world war, the second was a result of more than just one simple causes – the two ecological crises of the twenties, the revisionism movement against the treaty of Versailles, the radicalisation of the Communist movements after Stalin’s raise to power, the growing nationalist and fascist movements all over Europe – like Mussolini’s fascisti in Italy and the Franco in Spain… it is too simple to reduce this all on one person or one single cause. It is quite likely that there would have been a second World War without Hitler, because the correlation of causes are not dependant on his person. Without Hitler, there would be still a reactionary movement in Germany, there would still be Mussolini’s ‘March on Rome’, and it is quite likely that there would be still a Spanish Civil War – and the whole conflict in the Pacific – including the Japanese occupation of China and later on the Attack on Pearl Harbor had nothing to do with the German nazis at all.
Again, Hitler did not *create* these events and causes. He shaped the results, that’s undeniable, and the extreme genocidal aspects of the Nationalsocialism are probably bound to him. But the war itself would have happened no matter what, in this or an other permutation.

Stephanie Wathall

ok, it is not only Hitler who is to be blamed for World War II. But he HAS caused the way it was like. there are many other facts concerning this topic, I know. So perhaps a better word that “cause” is “indicate”. That would mean that he did not only shape the results but is a major factor to it. he kind of made the whole thing that extreme.

Stephanie Wathall

I think, with Hitler and the rising conflict it was like a “schlüssel-schloss-komplex” (don’t know how to say it in English or is there something like key-lock-complex?!). they fitted together perfectly and the product was horrid.

Till, I quite agree with you, and it is useful to historicize our discussion of terrorism by bringing in a 19th century heavyweight like Clausewitz — if anything, I think it redoubles our attention the role the media plays in the framing of certain groups as terrorists, and others as “freedom fighters”, and how arbitrary these designations often are. I think, however, if we keep Waldmann’s work in mind that Peter’s question above points to–that terrorism is primarily a media strategy, a mode of communication in a network of signs–some key differences emerge between our moment and the codes of war in the 19th century that Clausewitz was addressing, perhaps namely around the presence and immediacy of the representation of terror, and the effect that this has on culture. The way that 9/11 unfolded as an event in “real time” on televisions around the globe, for example, created its own instantaneous cultural effects in a way that 19th century terrorism simply couldn’t: you’d have to wait for the newspaper the day or the week thereafter, or the transatlantic telegraph. If terrorism’s primary mode of communication is a language of fear–a desire to create a discourse whereby the terrorist act becomes an that event could happen anywhere, anytime, to anybody–this seems made acutely possible in our modern “hyperreality” (to bring in Baudrillard), where so much of the information we process to make sense of the world is already pre-embedded in these communication networks that are essential for terrorism’s success as a strategic discourse.

Does that make sense? I’m trying to account for Lar’s vague dread about airplanes that he posted on earlier, that “when I am in airplane I automatically start thinking about terror myself” — I think this might be much more common in the back of our minds, and perhaps thus in “the cultural imagination,” than we all might be willing to admit. Why? In the United States, the colorcoded “terror alerts” that began being issued by the Homeland Security Department in 2002 also underscore this prevalence — I’m not kidding when I say that the first few times the alert shifted from Code Yellow (”Significant Risk of Terror Attack”) to Code Orange (”High Risk of Terrorist Attack”), there were shopping panics in the suburbs in scenes that seemed lifted straight from the pages of White Noise: masses of concerned citizens buying all the canned goods and bottled water they could cram into their cars, and cartons of masking tape (to seal the windows against the radioactive fallout of a terrorist “dirty bomb”, as the Department of Homeland Security suggested)–I distinctly remember hearing news reports on National Public Radio about masking tape shortages in certain midwestern towns. In a sense, we could even say that if terrorism is a strategy of communication, what makes it come into existence is not the terrorist act itself, but the creation of a discourse by media networks that feeds and disseminates this message of fear, and furthers the sense that there’s an imminent threat that could happen, at any time.

But, back to DeLillo. I think we are missing out on a key component of this passage that sets up a confrontation between the terrorist and the novelist, and the role of the novel and news in between the two. Before and after those famous lines quoted by Peter above, there are other agents at play in Bill Gray’s conversation with Brita. To emphasize:

There’s a curious knot that binds novelists and terrorist. In the West we become famous effigies as our books loose the power to shape and influence. Do you ask your writers how they feel about this? Years ago I used to think it was possible (etcetera — see above)… They make raids on human consciousness. What writers used to do before we were all incorporated.

Rather than a simple dialectic of the novelist vs. the terrorist, these other terms about American authors becoming “famous” (and then transforming into impotent effigies), and being “incorporated”, equally suggest that the novelist loses his power to corporate book culture within the United States itself, and not to the “other” of terrorism — Charlie Everson in Mao II seems to represent precisely this incorporating, capitalistic industry, salivating for the $$ that Bill’s newest book would potentially bring. Just think of the very real multi-million dollar industry of Oprah’s Book Club, and some of the critiques as to how it has smothered certain authors and suppressed native creativity. It seems to me, at any rate, that DeLillo presents three related problems to work through here: the terrorist, the novelist, and corporate capitalism, and their respective relations to the media and the news. This makes it a much more rich and complex matter than simply reading Bill Gray as “losing” to his antitype, the terrorist Abu Rashid.

Veronika Dombaj

What are my impressions when I was reading Fallin Man
When I began reading “Falling Man” I felt like walking through the destroyed city. De Lillo describes the situation after the fall of the towers so vividly, that it is frightening on the one hand and very interesting to see all the chaos through the eyes of Keith on the other. Actually sometimes it was very hard and confusing to follow the story but at the end of the book everything started to fall in place. Also I wasn´t able to put the book aside even though it was hard to follow the plot at times.

De Lillo rather accurately reflects the effects of the terror on every single person or family. So while reading I get a feeling of almost “living” every little incidence in the book and thus coming closer and closer to the terror after the terror. Whenever little kids – for example – are searching the sky for plains, that could probably crash into a building.
It seems, that you get a new approach towards 9/11 when you are reading “Falling Man”, always the same pictures appearing in your mind’s eye, that you have seen a thousand times.

just a few days ago i started reading “falling man”.
i did not make it over the first few pages but yet i found myself in DeLillo’s universe.

reading the introduction-like first chapter was like being beamed into a chaotic scenery of desperation. again it is DeLillo’s most striking feature that involves me as a reader into what he describes:

the realistic, almost voyeuristic style of describing scenes, that even makes things seem surrealistic. this is what struck me most in all of DeLillo’s novels that i have read so far. he presents the world so full of all these tiny details that mark reality. maybe this is why one of the other students said

“i found it soo boring!! the book is full of pages not telling one thing!”

when talking about the first novel “americana”. maybe not telling one thing – but everything.

and this is how it works on the first pages of “falling man”. the beaming.

probably everybody has a set of images in his mind connected to 9/11. mostly it would be the images of the twin towers coming down or being attacked by the planes.

but there where also the scenes of dust-covered people running down the streets and hiding in stores, under cars and in garages to find shelter from the clouds of dust.

for me it were these scenes i could get a grip on, it were these people i could identify with. i could not imagine being in one of the towers when they were attacked – maybe something too terrible to imagine.
but being in the streets and running away from the catastrophe was so more realistic. it’s obviously more easy to imagine yourself being one of the survivors on the ground than to be a victim – a falling man.

I wrote a long and quite elegant response to Devin’s post. A long and elegant text. And than my browser refused to cooperate any longer and my pure bliss of a comment is now lost for ever.

Now, in shorter form:
I don’t think that ‘arbitrariness’ is an adequate term to describe the allocation of which group is described as terrorists and which group are merely a political movement or true freedom fighters. The term arbitrariness indicates a randomness of allocationand I do not believe in this; those terms are allocated with a cause and an agenda, dependant on how the group is described and which image of said group is tried to transmitted. The terrorist is always the enemy and with a switch of current affairs, and the resulting shift of alliances, yesterday’s terrorists become tomorow’s freedom fighters to become terrorist again next week…
This choice of terms is far from arbitrary but a very willing one – it is a form of propaganda (for a lack of a better word) to condemn or glorify a movement. I could even show you a quite well made propaganda video for the Sendero Luminoso which was shown on American TV in the early nineties…

Obviously the much easier accessible and wider spread media has changed how terrorism works, because the perception of terrorism changes. This is esspecially true for the terroristic attacks for the attacks in America in Europe, but the farther away these attacks are from these epicentres of Western culture, the less media attention it gets. There is not much documentation of, for example, the ongoing war between the Colummbian Government and the FARC or ELN. These groups are control large parts of the country. And, as they consist mostly of farmers from the indigenious population, they have no access to mass media. Are they therfore not important or doomed to fail as “propper terrorists” because we fail to recognize them?

And clearly, the collapsing towers of the WTC have become a common mental immage of the world today. On the one hand through the massive media attention – not only the live coverage of the attacks itself , but also through the media circus maximus afterwards. These pictures were powerful and they were endlessly or almost endlessly repeated. Grindinly. The effect of anchoring these images and scenes in the minds of the viewers has created this nimbus, the “Where were you when…” effect. – The question of “where were you when you heard of…?” For my parents, this was Tchernobyl and the opening of the checkpoints in Berlin. For us, it is more likely the collapsing twin towers. It is hard to find anybody who can’t remember where he or she was or what he or she did when one heard of the attack.

And about the incorporation and the financial success of novels – charly is the one who talks Bill into the whole adventure (again, I fail to find a better word) and since nothing lifts popularity as a recent and untimely death, Charlie is also the one who profits most (at least in a financial way) of Bill’s ceasing.

DeLillo uses white as death color as well in Mao II; there, the aura (again) of Warhol is described as “death-white”.

And not to forget: Almost half of the neonazi music mail order shops trade under names like “White Noise” or “White No!se”, but that is probably fairly coincidentual.

Denis Mathew Schimmelpfennig

I agree with Devin when he says that the novelist loses his power to shape and influence society’s consciousness when he or she gets “incorporated” by the corporate book culture.
Bill Gray says, on page 157:
“What terrorists gain, novelists lose. The degree to which they
influence mass consciousness is the extent of our decline as
shapers of sensibility and thought. The danger they represent
equals our own failure to be dangerous.”

But why is this so? Why are terrorists so powerful these days?
I think Bill’s discussion partner, George Haddad, gives the answer to this question:
“[...] Who do we take seriously? Only the lethal believer, the person
who kills and dies for faith. Everything else is absorbed. The artist is
absorbed, the madman in the street is absorbed and processed and
incorporated. Give him a dollar, put him in a TV commercial. Only the
terrorist stands outside. The culture hasn’t figured out how to
assimilate him.” (p.157)

The fact that the terrorist is not incorporated gives him power, makes him dangerous to the corporate society of consumers.
It seems that the novelist and the terrorist play a never-ending “zero-sum game” (p.156) and that is the point in history where Mao Zedong comes into play. It was during his reign in China that terrorism was the “incorporated” social phenomenon. He used it to keep his conception of the perfect state alive. The forming of bourgeois structures should be prevented by means of permanent revolution (terror) (cp. p.158). In Mao’s China, the role of the intellectuals and critics was that of the dangerous persons and efforts were undertaken to silence them. It is this situation that is mirrored in Western culture today, only the roles of novelist/artist and terrorist have been reversed.

Dajana Schiller

When I read De Lillo`s „Falling Man“ I had the impression of a written movie because it sounds like one. You can imagine certain cuts that are made in the book, I think. And within the different scenes De Lillo tells about the people who are right in the middle of the whole action. People, who are desperate and do not find a way to get out of this catastrophe because everything is covered with dust.

I could not imagine not to find a way out, to stand in darkness in broad daylight and to feel the harassment by dust. You are completely alone although you are surrounded by thousands of people.

For example there is Keith who escaped the attack or the breakdown of the Twin Towers barely. In my opinion he is exactly such a man who could be seen in many scenes on tv. He was covered with a layer of dust, tried to find a way out and searched for shelter. That is exactly what “calacer” said, too.

Furthermore De Lillo shows this man in different periods of time or in different emotional situations, I would say. So, there is the day of the attack, and then Keith is shown a little while later and after a few years passed off. I mean, there are different times of his life shown by De Lillo and you can see the change of his character. Moreover it is a whole change in or rather with his family. This is a change many people and the U.S. had needed to run through. There had to be a change in society to get away from the so called “trauma” which came upon the U.S.. So, nothing remained as it was before.

The attack and the reaction of the people to change their lives showed also the breakdown of the strong self-confidence of America. It means you can not get away from getting attacked by someone.

It was also impressive that the son of Keith searched for more plains and especially for “Bill Lawton”, the man everybody was talking about. In this case this behavior of the child mirrors the anxiety of all people who were scared to look to the sky.

After all there is just a big chaos and I think that is what it is all about….there is nothing but a chaos.

In my opinion, Falling Man is the most readable book of the four books we have discussed in class.

After reading Americana, I thought, “Oh my God, this book is so boring and uninteresting…”and I feared that all of the four books are so hard to read.
To be honest, I didn’t expect a lot of the story of the Falling Man.
But after having read just a few chapters or even a few pages, I was absolutely in the story.

When the two twin towers broke down in September 11th, I was nearly 16 years old. Of course, I sat the whole afternoon in front of the TV and watched these scenes but they were so far away.
I couldn’t imagine the effects of such a catastrophe; also wasn’t it possible for me to imagine that something terrible could have happened to me.

But Don DeLillo really succeeds in making these attacks much more realistic to me and I felt as if I was even in this story – I rather could smell the smoke, see the smoke and could fear with the people who tried to get out of the towers.

DeLillo describes this chaotic situation in such a lively way that I thought myself being one of them, being there in New York and experience the attacks on my own.

There was a scene where the woman who was in one of the towers, describes her panic of getting out.
DeLillo describes every little detail, every feeling of this person.
The effect was, when I read that, that I was also in such a hurry and panic; I even read faster and faster.

These were my first impressions of the Falling Man.

What do the others think about the story of the “Falling Man”?

The death of a prominent person is always combined with a raise of popularity. The life and times of the dead person are shown on TV, the successes are shown again, and since there is a tradition to not criticize the dead, the more negaative aspects are often not equally covered.
However, death is always a good publicity measure.
Shortly after President Reagan’s death, there was a poll in the US aboout “the most influential American” – and suddenly, this was Reagan whose recent demise granted him a decent popularity boost.

And: A dead person can’t do wrong. Or at least, can’t do wrong anymore. Their are no scandals, stupidities or embarassments to be expected from a dead person. Only the living behave like idiots. The deads are perfect.
A dead author do not write bad books, a sex symbol actor who had the decency to die young does not embarass his audience by getting old, a dead politician can’t get caught lying.
And, thanls to the human ability to glorify the past with an aura of nostalgia, the dead are also remembered more positively than they actually were.

There were several advertisments in the last three or so years using cultural icons – esspecially the representations of dictators. Advertisments for a newspaper using Stalin in Russia, Che Guevarra’s picture is used to advertise for low budget travels into the Carribean or a real estate salesman who uses pictures from Hitler as ads in Abu Dhabi – it may be tasteless, but it seems to get attention.

http://www.spiegel.de/fotostrecke/0,5538,PB64-SUQ9MjUzMjQmbnI9Mg_3_3,00.html

There is a reason for this, I think. These are more than just persons, they are cultural icons, objects of cults and worship. People know these faces. But, with enough temporal distance, the meaning changes, and the representation of said persons get lost. Everyone knows Hitler, but the representation of what Hitler stands for – or stood for – is lost. The picture remains, but the content does not. And the ads give them a newer meaning. They wouldn’t work with lesser known dictators – Pol Pot wouldn’t work in the same way, because nobody here knows much about him or how he looked.
Mao is probably the one exception, because the system that he represented is still in existence today (even though the modern Chinese government may revere the old Chairman without being very Maoist), but even in China, the picture has changed and an often found sentence is ” the best way to worship the memory of chairman Mao is to see him on as many 100 yuan notes as possible.”

I think the influence of terrorism today is often widely overestimated. Yes, terrorism and the fear thereof has become more dominant in the last six years. The impact of the 9/11 attack has changed the perception of terrorism and formed a cultural image, and the legal changes to fight terrorism brought various small pieces of 1984 with them, which is probably the worst result of the attacks.

But terrorism, especially the suicidal attemps are not a result of power but the lack thereof. Think about it – the typical terrorist movement is outnumbered, has little access to high technology or even weaponry – they have nothing but determination. The suicidal bomber tries to fill the gap in armament with personal motivation. This is no sign of strength but of desperation.

But, on the other hand, the role of the author how it is represented in Mao II is probably equally overestimated. It is not the rise of terrorism that absorbed the mind affecting power of literature – it ois more likely a result of shifting primary media. For the bigger part of the 20th century and all the way back to Gutenberg and the printing press, books were the primary source of information and discussion. Obviously, without a different medium of similar importance, books and therefore authors influenced how their readers thought and therefore the world. But in the last third of the twentieth century, the influence of books declined, as they were not the primary information medium any more. Books are replaced by television. Authors are replaced by TV hosts and boards of directors.

I do agree with “jgratze” that “Falling Man” is the best readable book of the four we have read. At first I had difficulties to get into the story, but the situation became more clear after having read a few pages further.
I like the way DeLillo describes how his protagonists experienced September 11th.
For example in this passage (on page 56):

“There were flames in the elevator shafts. There was a man talking about a giant earthquake. She forgot all about the plane and was ready to believe an earthquake even though she’d heard a plane. And someone else said, I been in earthquakes, a man in a suit and tie, this ain’t no earthquake, a distinguished man, an educated man, an executive, this ain’t no earthquake.”

I think this passage gives us a direct and traceable view of how these people may have felt. A man talks about “an earthquake”…this image of an earthquake is in my opinion a good comparison to the things that happened. The comparison gives the reader a chance to get a feeling of how it must have been for the people when the plane crashed into the tower.

What about my personal experience of September 11th…? Well, I met with some friends at “Desiderio”- our most favourite ice cream parlor. Suddenly the owner of “Desiderio” switched on the TV…then we saw and heard about the things that had happened. We stayed for about two hours and talked about it, but no one could find answers to the often repeated questions :”Why did it happened? Which human being could be so insane to commit crime like that?”
Actually I still didn’t find the answer…

@Till
As usual, I enjoyed reading your post for its determination and its pointed insights. I could not resist, however, to respond to the following passage:

But terrorism, especially the suicidal attemps are not a result of power but the lack thereof. Think about it – the typical terrorist movement is outnumbered, has little access to high technology or even weaponry – they have nothing but determination. The suicidal bomber tries to fill the gap in armament with personal motivation. This is no sign of strength but of desperation.

This one got me thinking: On the face of it, your point seemed to be well taken. If terrorists had real power, and would present a majority, they would soon turn take over – which, of course, would also end terrorism (at least in the sense we are talking about, since one could argue that if terrorism takes over power, terror becomes an instrument of government – think Taliban, for instance).

Yet, to argue that terrorists have nothing but determination appears to draw an almost tragic image of the desparate, lonesome suicide bomber – which, ironically, appears to be much more appropriate a description of Timothy McVeigh than of those nameless attackers in the middle east.

My point is, that behind these attacks are well-connected and organized groups – even if their mode of organization is more and more decentralized – and the aim of the terror they continously enact is not ‘war’ but political destabilization. This kind of terror can only be understood in conjunction with certain political interests, in the sense that there is a tacit cooperation between terrorist groups (or cells, or even individuals) and political fractions or a mixture of religious and political interests groups. So behind the apparent desparation of the terrorist there is – in most cases, if not in all – the determination of someone else. What makes the suicide bomber a tragic figure is not that he or she acts out of desparation but, rather, that they have become a function within a larger scheme.

“One side has the capital, the labor, the technology, the armies, the agencies, the cities, the laws, the police and the prisons. The other side has a few men willing to die.” (Falling Man, p. 46f.)

Without having to many sources at hand, this is an awful generalisation, but it seems to me indeed that a common element of terrorist movements is to follow a determined single-minded leader like Guzman, ( the founder and something like a personality cult leader of the Sendero Luminoso) bin Laden or Prabakharan (the leader of the Tamil Tigers whose followers call him ’sungod’). On the other hand, this can also be a result of the way how the movement is presented or documented – again, it is easier to find a single individuum and show him or her as responsible, even though in most cases this is extremely simplifying, because the motivbations of the terrorists are quite likely not as monocausal – to reduce the motivation of the suicidal bombers only on being puppets of a master schemer is very problematic, I think. On the one hand it belittles the responsibilty of the bombers themselves (because they are only ‘ensnared’ and ‘follow their orders’) and it neglects a multiple of other causes – there is more behind it than being manipulated, there are economical reasons, social reasons, the strive for “justice” – it is simplifying to reduce this on the cult leader.

And, just to prove Godwin’s law, I would refer to trhe discussion of Lars and me about Hitler and the causes of national socialism – there is always – or at least almost always more than one reason for anything to happen.

Truely interesting aspects of the term white noise!
I think we can conclude that white noise makes us think of something mystical, unexpected, whatever kind of phenomena, crossing the line between real and unreal.

I personally tend to return to the technical expression “white noise” and then see where it’ll lead me:

DeLillo’s White Noise was published in the 80’s. A decade away from digital TV and also a time when satellite supplied broadcasting was on the verge of success.
Until sat- or cable-based TV was established owners of TVs had huge antennas or wired constructs of metal pipes and other odd things installed beneath their roofes to improve receipt of TV.
I remember how often I assisted my father, standing on a chair or ladder and turning the antennas ’till the TV picture was as good as possible.
Due to the lack of receipt only a few channels had a clear, brilliant picture. But the major part of them had these tiny, white blinkin noise all over the picture. Technically called “Schnee” (=>”White Noise”).
Depending on the White Noise-level and the weather, which affected the White Noise level, a TV show was easy to watch or sometimes barely visible.
Interestingly the White Noise was less noticed the longer you watched a show – although it was still as intense as before.

There are obviously some parallels to DeLillo’s story and food for thoughts:

TV generally,

White Noise as distortion of a clear picture,

White Noise beeing ignored by perception although it is there. (Allows some great parallels to the knowledge of mortality…)

So say we all!

Bravo!
This 7:45-minute video catches the book’s mood and supports it well.
Musically, it is that mixture of strange, heavy and dynamically catching theme that I would have chosen (if had known the Kronos Quartet…).

I guess it is more a trailer than a summary, more interpretation than addaption.
Great idea to deal with a few aspects: shopping centre, credit card, scary TV scenes.
None of the characters seen directly – all identification is imaginative here.

Well, worth the time spent on this short film.
Hope to see more on this.

Ok I want to think about all this a while…
Nevertheless I need to notice that the bears were on Tv and the man was in between nature.

Futhermore I recognised the sounds as well and remembered why I felt so confident with them. “Requiem for a dream” was one of the best movies I ever enjoyed, without a doubt really not the most beautiful.
Anyboby else- I think it it fits with white noise.

I want you to get a short impresssion about Requiem for a dream.

http://de.youtube.com/watch?v=Go_GB_KbczQ

Well, the music reminds me of something…

http://adbusters.org/the_magazine/57/Terrorists_R_Us.html

Terrorists R Us

This essay is contemplating the roots and reasons for terrorism in general and in detail although the estimation has to be considered rather one-sided.

The author compares “their” (the terrorists) and “our” terrorism.

“Their” terrorism is a result of factual injustice in the daily life of millions of people all around the world. Conditions like the lack of decent housing, access to sewers, clean water and health care challenge intelligent young men (mostly), who incidentally profited in many ways from our freedom and way of life, to point out the appalling circumstances their people have to live under. However, the conclusions they draw are, that these conditions are only to be changed by showing the decadent Western world the face of terror, posting them into fear, grief and agony.

The aspects of political systems and religion in the “Third World” are not mentioned, respectively denied, as reasons for poverty.

“Our” terrorism, they argue, is planned policy and action to exploit and suppress the underprivileged for the sake of our own luxury – which is undoubtedly true to a huge extend. Subsidies are granted to Western capitalists to keep the poor off the markets.
Cultures, communities and resources are plundered and exterminated for no reason but profit. Wealth and peace are restricted to only a very little percentage of mankind.
The negative consequences of globalisation hit the poor far more than the Western societies.

Yet – alternating terrorism, subtly or horrifyingly direct, is no solution for the worlds problems. The terrorists need to change but we need to change even more. A task that will take decades and generations with terror being the most useless tool of all.

The same sountrack was used in Danny Boyle’s Sunshine.

Dajana Schiller

In my opinion, it is of course helpful to speak with somebody about your feelings you had in that situation. In this case, you have the chance to interchange your experiences with other people who had similar experiences and feelings. I mean, with such a shocking event it is hard to bottle everything up for years. Because that would be harrowing and it would makes you seriously ill. So, humans depend on social contacts and more than ever, in such a situation there has to be somebody to talk with. That, I think, would be one of my wishes, that there is somebody who understands my feelings and my thoughts and who perhaps can help me to cope with all these things. Otherwise, one can commit myself to an institution after a while. So, that would make me ill.

Of course it is helpful to speak with people about your feelings and experiences, especially after such an awful event.
In this case, it is Lianne who is keen on getting more and more information about September 11th. She wants to know what the others feel and think.
For me, it seems as if this situation is some kind of relief to Lianne. She is relieved that she is still alive.

There is another passage on page 106 which underlines my statement:

“She read the newspaper profiles of the dead, every one that was printed. Not to read them, every one, was an offense, a violation of responsibility and trust. But she also read them because she had to, out of some need she did not try to interpret.”

When I read this passage, I really thought that she only reads these profiles of the dead people in order to feel better and relieved- because she has survived.

I also know people who read the dead profiles in the newspapers before reading politics or something like that.
These people find it interesting or even exciting to read the profiles of the dead people.
Perhaps, they have to read it in order to feel superior, better and relieved that they are not dead but alive.

Dajana Schiller

At first, I share the opinion of j.gratzke, but I think that this passage or rather the attitude of the people j.gratzke is talking about can be also seen in an other way.

It is also possible that there are people who read the newspaper profiles of the dead to show them the respect due to them.

In the whole context of the 11th September all people, I guess, wanted to show that they take an interest in the pain and share it with all other people who lost their friends, relatives, children, husbands or wives. Just to signalize that they are not alone in such hard times.

And further on I think, if I had been one of those affected, it might have given me moral support that there are other people who regret or in other words who had a hard lot, too.

Dajana Schiller

I do absolutely agree with the text “Terrorists R Us”, I read too and which is a critique of contemporary civilization concerning the USA.

It is true that the industrialized states in the world make profit out of exploitation the “little man”. And that could be also a kind of terrorism, but as the texts states, it is “our” terrorism. Furthermore, we perpetuate this cultural terrorism, which is also mentioned in the text.

Because of the profit, the texts also states that the American people spend the money for many billion of dollars on cosmetic, pet food, and pornography, which is “more than the estimated total needed to provide clean water, safe sewers and basic health care to the world`s poor”.

In my opinion, it is horrifying to see such a comparison between an industrialized country and a poor country.

I partly agree with you, but I think for some people it is much more easier to speak with only one person instead of speaking in front of a group.
I take into account it might be another case with 9/11 because it is concerning so many people…

That “showing an interest”-thing is very difficult in my opinion.
It is nice to know, you’re not alone – but I can get on your nerves, too – especially if people who do not know you want to talk to you and you are sure, they do not know anything about the feelings you have – and because of that are not able to react in an acceptable way. That’s what I had to think of, when I read some passages in the book dealing with that question.

When I read the article the same question arose again and again: “What about hope?” I think many people didn’t want their relatives to jump out of those windows because of the hope for them to be brave and resist the smoke and fire – and making it home.
I think for many of them jumping means being a coward. I got the impression that to them being a coward is a very, very BAD thing…
What about the skydivers?
Are those people cowards too?
Weren’t all those people jumping out of the window just trying to get home in a way?
Maybe there was a small thought inside of them standing next to a window, telling them “If I would jump maybe I have a chance to be rescued? There are stories about people skydiving and their parachute not opening, but they still survive. Maybe I am lucky. Maybe I will get home. But if I stay, I will die.”
I do not understand why people do not want to see their relatives in one of those photos, if it is clear they are dead – for me, those people are heroes, because the fought their fear and jumped to get home. In my opinion they are not jumping because they lost hope. Staying would have meant no hope. Shooting themselves would have meant no hope. Jumping may have offered them the best chance of survival.

In my opinion almost everything can be shown, if the reader is of a certain age.
Everybody should have the right to see, what he wants to see – as long as it is information he should get. With this I do not mean that somebody else decides for them, but they decide for themselves.
There are worse pictures that those of people jumping out of windows. There are horror-films available for kids and teens. There is pornography available on the internet for everybody – so why should people not get the information about persons jumping out of buildings?
It IS shocking. And it IS something not happening every day. But it’s the same with murder, war and bombs. And you must not hide such things. That’s not right.

I just had to think about that “If you are not on our side you are on the side of the enemy.”-scentence. Where does “our side” end and where does “their side” begin?
My neighbours are from Turkey, I know they are Muslim – I really like them. Are they on “our side” or on “their side”? What about their children? Half of them are born in Germany and speaking accent free, wearing western style clothes. On which side are they?
In my opinion you cannot jugde somebody because of his religion, ethnic backround or skin colour. There is nor black and white – there are only many facettes of grey.

I just thought about Heigh Ledger, who died last week. I heard many specs on what he died – and I heard that the “Brokeback Mountain”-DVD-sells would have increased enormously and everybody would now say “He wanted to show us his soul by his outward appearance” and so on…
I think the most important thing about dead people is, you can speculate about them – and if you are wrong, who cares – at least it is a nice story.

Dajana Schiller

I have to say I do agree with sarah. I do also think that the people who jumped out of the windows even not did it because they lost hope.

I mean, how can the relatives of these “victims” give their opinions on what the “jumpers” have done? And probably, in the moment of the attack, the relatives would have not even known what they could do and would perhaps also jump….who knows. Therefore, I think, the relatives do not have any right to say that the victims have lost their hope, even if we can not imagine what they would have done in their shoes.

If there is fire behind you and air in front of you and the lifts are destroyed or broken, the stairs are also full of fire……the only hope might be to choose the air. So, what I want to say is that the death you would find in the fire is for sure, but the other choice might be hopeful. That means the “jumpers” perhaps had hope.

On the one hand, I do agree with “Sarah Bade” that people should have the right to see what is going on in the world. But on the other hand you can’t compare the image of the falling man with horror-films or pornography, because these things are just fiction- there is no reality behind it.
The image of the falling man however IS reality. The man did really jump out of the building. And there is no radio control with which you can rewind and the man is alive again.
I think Dajana chose an important topic to talk about and I do agree that it is difficult to find a solution concerning this. My opinion is that the people should of course have the right to see how cruel things can be. On the other hand the image of the falling man can almost be seen as macabre…

That is exactly what I thought when reading these passages…in my opinion it is more helpful to talk with people you do really know and trust-at least if you have personal problems.
The group led by Lianne in “Falling Man” seems to be a group of strangers but they talk about an event, in which they all did in some way participate-of course each one in another way. This event is what connects them.I think in this case it is helpful to talk with people who saw and experienced things differently. They exchange their feelings and that is what helps them to deal with such an event.

The biggest problem I had with the discussion about what the media is allowed to show or what is hot to be shown is the question of censorship. I don’t think that any form of censoring could ever be legitimated, because of the lack of parameters; it is not possible to clearly circumscribe where to draw the line – and since I strongly believe that it is preferable to have too little than too much censoring. As long as no one is hurt, everything that could be made public should be made public. Every form of censorship hurts more than the shown pictures are offending.

There are several, quite different point of views about the question what is allowed to be shown or what should be allowed. One point I like to represent of view is based on the question what legally should allowed to be shown – and in this point, I just can repeat, that under no circumstances, any form of censorship shhouild be tolerated. I konw it’s naive, but I still believe that the only people who can be convinced to favor censorship are those who gain something of disguising the truth and limiting the access to information.

Dajana wrote that the pictures of the picturesof the falling men served to satisfy a voyeuristic lust; this may be the case or not, but this is not point – esspecially when it hurts to see the pictures you know they are effective.

Kai describes the paradoxon of it – these pictures are based on rewal events. This happened. It is no fiction, and those who jumped are really dead. A piece of fiction can be edited, but you can’t edit reality just to make it more convenient. Not the pictures, but the real event behind them is the truly scarry part, and those can’t edited away.
The world is not a nice place and gruesome events are common; they will just not disappear or be improved by camouflaging the documentation of the event.

Peter-Lars Wenzel

I ask myself: Why do we want to know who this man is? In what way does it help us? Why can’t the picture just stand as a monument for all those who jumped on that day like the grave of the Unknown Soldier stands for all the soldiers who died on the battlefields? Doesn’t it just create grief and pain as you can see from the Hernandez family?

9/11 is still a hot topic, one which you should watch out not to burn your fingers on. The photo of the falling man is one of the hottest spots. Writing a book on 9/11 is still a delicate thing to do. So using “Falling Man” as the title emphasizes this.

The falling man performer does quite a good performance. He’s so good that he arouses in his unwilling audience the same feelings the bystanders had on 9/11. They don’t want to look at it, but still feel attracted by it. They don’t want it to happen (like the mother who told her child that maybe they are just birds), but can’t stop him. In the end he gives his final appearance, he dies a lonely death in a motel just like the jumpers. Just like them he has never given any explanation as to why he did these performances.

Another thing the title hints at is Keith Neudecker himself. He is disorientated through the whole book and finds himself at the end of the book in Las Vegas. He just doesn’t seem to get his life under control again. The attack has thrown him out of his everyday routine and now he is “falling” through his life.

One death is a tragedy; a million are a statistic.

-Joseph Stalin

I don’t know if the quote above is a god way to start this comment, but it was among the first sentences that sprung my mind when I read Junod’s article -the one man who falls from the tower as a tragedy that can be mentally dealt with while the sheer mass of the total sum of the victim disappear in the anonymity of the masses.

Refering to the initial question – what it makes it so difficult to represent or show the 9/11 attacks – is not easy to answer. I think that this difficulty actually derrives from the enormous amount of actual representation – the often quoted most photographed and filmed day in history – because even though, or perhaps esspecially because of, the almost omnipresent picture of the planes crashing in the facades of the towers and the collective memory of the event create a presumption of it, a personal experience that may or may not coorespond to the actual events. Everyone has an own memory of this day, including disbelief, shock, fear and hate. The sheer subjectiveness that grows out of this emotional overkill of the event makes it impossible to deal with it objectively, as shown by the discussion Devin linked.

The most annoying element of Junod’s article was for me the expressed wish for ‘censurship’ – I will never understand why people could favor an organized, controled censoring of information. I can understand why people do not want to be confronted with the grisly details of the scenery – but I refuse to accept this as a reason for censorship. Censoring the images will not change what happened; it will only blur the perception of it.

And do I am only one who felt more than a little unconfortable after reading the comments of the posters Devin linked?

“Hope is lost in the twinges of fire but hope itself is the flame that keeps you alive.” I challenge the motto you try to describe the falling man’s choice with, Sarah, claim that he certainly was aware of his destiny and simply chose the most painless way of dying or being killed respectively. I tried to put myself in his shoes (which is quite unimaginable as the situation is unimaginable to be honest) and found out that being burned must be the most painful torture one can suffer. So he jumped out of the window (and that is true) to breathe clear, fresh air for the last time.

The initial question is not to be answered easily as representing such a disastrous event like 9/11 requires a high level of reserve / compassion / sensibility (respect fo persons concerned and ancestors). Every man and woman experienced 9/11 in a different way, links his or her own feelings and perception with the term. So any representation bears the consequences of this unforgettable terror act.

I wonder why nobody is interested in the link above. In my opinion shows the film a critical attitude such as white noise does. Here my last try to give you an understandiing of reference to the television.

http://de.youtube.com/watch?v=yHCVHqty5QE&feature=related

The first two minutes are perfectly enough. Maybe someone agrees with me. Hope you didn´t get the wrong impression about me, because of the first strange link.

When I first saw the image of the man falling or jumping out of the window of the world trade center, I really got worried and sad.
I asked myself, how helpless these people might have been when the only solution to them was jumping out of the window.

But, nevertheless, this is or was the reality and the reality can’t be hidden.
And I think that the image of the falling man demonstrates this cruel event and made people perhaps think about it more precisely.
Unfortunately, this event is reality, the man falling down the world trade center is reality but reality has to been shown.
The people have the right to know and to see what has happened with these innocent people or with this “falling man” although when it is hard to see the pictures.

Probably because I know Requim for a Dream, I have a hard time to associate it with White Noise. First and foremost, I associate it with Reqium for a Dream. Yes there are familiarities – the TV dependancy and abuse of pills of the mother – other things I found quite important about White Noise are completely different. Like a lot of heroin.

I apologize but my entry above was somewhat lacking. See when I posted it and you will see that I was far away from peak performance by then.

Here you fnd the “Shameful Art Attack” article mentioned in Junod’s article about Fischl’s Tumbling Woman by Andrea Peyser. It represents quite well the rejection Fischl’s sculpture released. It also is a prime example how an argumentation is circumvented by using emotionally loaded words and the obviously emotionally loaded opinion of those who lost acquintances or loved ones in the attacks – Peyser doesn’t argue, she polarizes and polemizes.

Denis Mathew Schimmelpfennig

I think Junod’s answer to the question “Why do we want to know who the falling man is?” is that clarification would bring redemption. Redemption not only to the relatives because at last they would know how their father, brother, uncle, son etc. died and that he alone decided and made a choice of his own in what way he would die and not the terrorists, but also redemption to all who percieved the attacks on the WTC as the horror that they were. Clarification of all the circumstances and events around this one dreadful event would lead to an understanding, to acceptance of reality. We must not mystify the “Falling Man”. He had a life, a family, and we have to cope with him as being real, not simply a monument for all the “jumpers” because these were no mass, but individuals. If he had a name, we would be reminded of that and the horrors he and all the other victims went through.
Mystifying the photograph, and ultimately the whole event, hides the danger of denying responsibility. But we are all responsible to clarify the event, find its causes, and prevent it from happening again.
But has this photograph to be kept from the public? I say no. Think of World War II photo and film material. We have all seen footage of the German “death camps” with dying people in it. It represents evidence of the horror of the Third Reich. In order to understand it, to inform the people and to prevent such things from happening again, we need to look at it.

Much of it defining us and them is clouded by the perspective, or the lack of it. I believe the borderline is reflecting the actual borders, and the roles of us and them fluctuate accordingly. Look at the Underworld’s South Bronx – the Wall and the tourists.

Veronika Dombaj

I have a different view about the people who jumped out of the windows of the World Trade center on 9/11. I don´t think that they had something like hope when they jumped. The only hope they had was to breathe air, and to escape the death warrant by burning anyway. The people looked into the eyes of death; the only way to handle this situation was to jump out of the window. But I don´t think that they realized what they did. They know that they could not survive the jump out of the window.

Thinking about the people who were standing in the windows with the fire behind them, no more air to breath, the sound of the bursting steel, knowing that they had to die, the only thing that they could do in their last seconds of life was self- determination through suicide.

Veronika Dombaj

I was thinking about the question, why do people react so strongly to a sculpture.
The sculpture is defently a provocation to which people react emotionally in different ways. Like all works of art when you look at it you should ask yourself what did the artist want to tell us. As the artist is not always present to defend his ideas, people left alone with their own interpretations and emotions. People who were directly involved in the 9/11 event would certainly react differently to those who were not involved. It was an event which shocked the world. If the artist used this to promote himself I would consider his actions immoral.
If the sculpture was made to express the artists personal shock and dismay about what happened I would consider his work more understandable. An intelligent view of this type of art cannot be made impartially; therefore I find it difficult to comment on the sculpture without hurting somebody’s feelings.
Comparisons with holocaust memorials for example are also very emotional for me. After all he, who provokes must live with the critics.

If we take this conversation thread further (or, for that matter, with any of the commentary elsewhere on this blog), it would behoove all of us to ground the conversation in DeLillo’s novels and essays themselves. Otherwise, we end up in a very fuzzy place of vague speculation — were the people who jumped from the towers really “brave”? Did they just want “to go home”? (whatever that means) — conjectures which shed very little light on thinking about DeLillo and these problems of representation. If you think about it, there is extremely little in Falling Man that takes up any kind of psychological approach to the individuals who fell from the towers. Why? Why is “Falling Man” a semi-anonymous performance artist, and not at all, in anyway, a consideration of the people themselves in the manner that the opening comments above are invested in? Think about it, these frames of representation in the novel are even twice (or thrice) removed: we learn most about the Falling Man in DeLillo’s novel only at the end through Lianne’s semi-random clicking through internet pages about Janiak’s death. Read pages 219-224 (again), they’re remarkable on so many levels, and they render at the least the reader’s connection to “real” figures jumping from the towers extremely oblique–we are reading a fictional character’s impressions of pictures and text on a computer screen of an obscure performance artist, now dead and equally made up as Lianne herself, who once jumped enigmatically from buildings in shadowy representations of the actual falling bodies from 9/11 — that’s an incredible number of representational screens to pierce through before we arrive at any kind of “reality” in connection with 9/11.

It is too easy to say this is simply DeLillo being evasive, or trying to escape the sticky political aesthetics that snagged Fischl and his Tumbling Woman. There’s a very similar kind of displacement going on in Mao II, and how indirect the lines to Andy Warhol’s silk-screen and drawing series are, that nonetheless give their name to the novel’s title.

Veronika, these are fine conjectures to place on Eric Fischl’s sculpture. But, why not take these exact questions to the figure of the performance artist that we’ve all purportedly read about in Falling Man? Is David Janiak jumping “to promote himself?”, in your words? If he isn’t, then why is he doing it, and what kind of function does this representation serve in the novel? Given that the Fischl sculpture controversy coincides with DeLillo’s writing of Falling Man and creates at the least an implicit connection of some sort, why do you think DeLillo chooses to make Janiak a performance artist, and not a painter, or a sculptor, or a photographer?

Denis Mathew Schimmelpfennig

I think DeLillo gives advice in “Falling Man” about how to cope with 9/11 and representations of it. On page 42, Lianne says that people read poems to ease the shock and the pain, but she reads the newspaper and gets angry and crazy. Martin (or Ernst) offers her another approach:
“There’s another approach, which is to study the matter. Stand apart and think about the elements,” he said. “Coldly, clearly if you’re able to. Do not let it tear you down. See it, measure it.” [..] “There’s the event, there’s the individual. Measure it. Let it teach you something. See it. Make yourself equal to it.”
In the Martin/Lianne context there often come into play the still lives of the painter Giorgio Morandi. Martin and Lianne see the twin towers in one of them (a version of it can be looked at here: http://www.poster.net/morandi-giorgio/morandi-giorgio-natura-morta-ii-2801772.jpg), although they depict kitchen utensils. Later in the story, her mother now dead, Lianne sees Nina and Martin in the pictures at a Morandi exposition.
Does that mean that works of art always mean different things to us in the immediate personal context that is permanently subject to change? Is the controversy around the Tumbling Woman by Fischl and other representations all about this? Do we need to “stand apart and think about the elements” which is suggesting that we leave our emotions aside and analyse the event and representations of it “coldly”?
Morandi himself, at all events, thought that the educational task for the figurative arts is to communicate the images and feelings that the visible world arouses in us (to be read here: http://www.museomorandi.it/index_exp.htm).

The question of course is: Are we aware of the fact that our actions (”our terrorism”) ,like spending money on luxury do have such negative effects on poor countries?
In my opinion you don’t really think about that when you go shopping or spending your money in your free time. Of course I do agree with Dajana that it is horrifying to see the comparison between a poor and an industrialized country, but I think that we can not be called “terrorists”. My opinion is that behind terrorism, there is a purpose. The terrorists know what effects they cause when for example crashing into a tower with a plane. The terrorists follow an aim and act in order to reach this aim. Mostly this aim is connected with the death of people in industrialized nations.
But the people who spend their money for example on luxury, holidays and so on do not follow the aim to harm or hurt poor people in developing countries.
That is why I believe it is improper to call the people (”us”) terrorists…

I do also think, that terrorism has something to do with belief or dying for belief…
but the video which we have seen in the seminar also shows us that the terrorists want to hurt the industralized and rich countries because they are afraid of their power…
and they want to do something against their power, against their wealth by crahing in the twin towers, a symbol of greatness and power…
And I think the terrorists also think that the industralized countries make profit out of their resources like oil or something like that.
So I think they want to show:”hey, here we are and you are not the power of the world, because look, how easy it is to insult you and you’re faible because you can’t do nothing againt it…”
and that’s why I do agree with the conclusion veronika has drawn concerning her text “Terrorists R Us” in so far, that the western civilisation has also to change his attitude concerning exploiting the “poor” countries.

The background of the cited picture shows three illustrations of Mao, a cruel and repressing former Chinese Communist ruler; in the foreground you can see two Muslim women who wear long black ropes and cover their heads with scarves.
Mao ruled China with terror. These women live in a time in which some Muslims try to achieve (more) power by using terror. A close look will also show that the women look at the picture which shows Mao in the most natural way (compared to the two others), the one in the mid of the two others. The Muslim women’s appear to be old-fashioned through their clothes; Muslims who are made reliable for terrorist attacks also appear old-fashioned.
Having collected these descriptions of the picture and the image of how terrorists look like in my mind (an image that I gathered through documentaries and articles displayed and printed in the media) one could make out some connections between Mao and Muslims and generalise these:
-Mao and Muslims are cruel
-the Muslim women look up at Mao, maybe at his way of life, his success
-old-fashioned Muslims are terrorists
The old-fashioned look of the women is also a contrast to the “Modern Art” and therefore “Modernity”. “The Orientalism” connects Mao and the Muslim women
From Delillo’s point of view, in regard of perception and representation, this picture might reveal the power of the media, the simplicity in “creating” people’s minds, the possibility to manipulate the way people think and therefore behave.
The photographer could also have taken the picture without the women to avoid the possibility of producing a connection like it is mentioned above. But maybe he chose to take a picture of this scenery because he only wanted to create a connection between Teheran, the capital of a mainly Muslim country, and that exhibition. He also could have understood it as a sign of progress and of freedom to take a picture that shows woman who (are allowed to) go to a Modern Art exhibition….but who could tell but him?

Dajana Schiller

I do also think the terrorists want to hurt or harm the industrialized countries because they do not agree with their way of doing politics or their Christian belief. Terrorists are against the western values and they are against the industrialized countries in that case, that the terrorists do not want to become westernized. And with their attacks they fight against it to show their attitude to the industrialized countries. Of course, the industrialized countries just want to help those developing countries. But the difficulty with it is they want to help the other inhabitants of the country and perhaps not the terrorists in the first place. And here is the critical point whereby terrorists perhaps also cannot work with.

amogk, please be more careful with your generalizations here. Given the charged, explosive contexts over representations of Islam at this particular moment, I find it disturbing at the least, if not unethical, to say that because the women in this picture appear “old fashioned” in their wearing of veils, that we can generalize “Mao and Muslims are cruel,” and how “old-fashioned Muslims are terrorists.” Are you even aware of how racist or prejudiced that sounds? I really, sincerely hope this is not what you meant to imply, or that perhaps this post is a some kind of failed attempt at irony.

These are women visiting a modern art museum, as Peter’s introductory made quite clear, and it seems you’ve completely ignored this context and that they are looking at a series of silkscreens by the artist Andy Warhol: these images of Mao are not reverent effigies or photographs in some kind of shrine to authoritarian rule, but works of art with a particular postmodern valence and international currency. You say that these images show “Mao in the most natural way” — are you kidding?! The canvases are neon yellow, lime green, hot pink, and deliberately campy — the middle picture has a ridiculous black squiggle coiling beside Mao’s head, and it looks like Mao has just applied a sexy shade of red lip gloss. He’s ready to put on drag, and go to the discos. And, if you were to visit a modern art museum in Berlin — let’s say the Hamburger Bahnhof, where more of Warhol’s colorful Mao portraits hang — would *your* looking at Warhol’s silkscreens of Mao mean that you were “looking up at Mao, his way of life, his success”? It’s an absurd question of identification to pose — as absurd as claiming that these women are doing some kind of hero-worship by gazing at Warhol’s Mao, which creates a chain of relation between Mao’s state-terrorism and how all “old fashioned Muslims” are terrorists.

Moreover, to fall into these simplistic binaries slips into the “us vs. them” dialectic that DeLillo’s writing seems explicitly aimed at imploding and complicating. We talked about this extensively in the seminar in relation to DeLillo’s essay “In the Ruins of the Future.” DeLillo writes there how “the sense of disarticulation we hear in the term ‘Us and Them’ has never been so striking, at either end… The Bush Administration was feeling a nostalgia for the cold war. This is over now. Many things are over. The narrative ends in the rubble.” I don’t know if there could be a clearer rebuttal of the “Muslim = terrorist” trope that has fueled the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than this moment in DeLillo’s prose. On our last day of class, a further wonderful point was made by one of you about the structure of Falling Man, how it manages to show, delicately and with sensitivity, the humanity of even the terrorist hijackers as people, almost at a level of mundane dailiness, and that there is something intensely powerful and symbolic about the ways that the terrorist’s body in the airplane literally fuses and explodes itself into Keith Neudecker’s body on page 239. This is not a representation of “us vs. them” at all — there’s a converse compact implosion of identities going on, at the level of physical space.

We need to be better social historians here. amogk, were you even in attendance the day we screened the documentary about 9/11? If anything, that film underscores how the majority of the terrorists related to the 9/11 attacks came from Arabic countries, especially Saudi Arabia. It is just wrong to blur their cultural identification into the two Iranian woman in this photograph — Iran is Persian, and is as different from Saudi Arabia as we might say a “christian” nation like the United States is different from a “christian” nation like Armenia. To sloppily lump “terrorists” into “Islam” in this way collapses complex cultural differences, and we have a particular responsibility as thinkers in a university to reject these kinds of facile assumptions, and aim for a more authentic complexity.

I see something wholly different when I look at this photograph — if anything, there is an uncanny visual echo between the “sameness” of Warhol’s pop-art style that machine-produces the same image, again and again, and the “sameness” that is repeated in the chadors the two women are wearing (and for Warhol as an icon of western capitalism, just type “Warhol” and “capitalism” into google and see what happens — or, simply look at the cover of Frederic Jameson’s _Postmodernism: the Logic of Late Capitalism_, and think about what Warhol is doing there). In the photograph, then, there occurs a visual identification between two agents that are normally seen as inimical and opposed: symbols of western (hyper)capitalism, in Warhol’s machine produced silkscreens, linked to the “otherness” of Islamic women wearing veils. Without having time to unpack the association further, I come to think on the ways Slavoj Zizek has written on the interdependence of high capitalism and certain forms of fundamentalist Islam — that each creates the “otherness” of the other, in order to dialectically define themselves, and that both bundles of ideology actually require the tension of this opposition (”we are free; they are not” vs. “we are religiously pure; they are secular and decadent”, etc) as a predicate to exist… but that in the end, these mythical oppositions end up being two sides of the very same coin.

We don’t need to go to Zizek to think about this kind of strange interconnectedness, which is one reason why I find the photograph so poignant and compelling, and hauntingly evocative of themes in DeLillo. What do we do with the deliberate interweavings of Warhol, Islam (particularly Islam in Iran), and western frames of representation throughout _Mao II_, the DeLillo novel that cribs its title from the New York artist? Between pages 188 and 192, we read about Karen watching the televized spectacle of the funeral of Ayatollah Komeini, an important Iranian religious leader. Rather than Karen reacting to the mass event as something strange and “other”, she undergoes a profound experience of identification with the Iranians at the funeral — it reads like she is undergoing a religious conversion, tears streaming down her face, through the medium of the television. If Karen embodies “the seeds of the future” (to quote Bill Gray), what in the world does that mean?

There’s a similar complex framing going on in _Falling Man_, when Lianne and Justin take part in an anti-war demonstration in New York City against the invasion of Iraq. Along the way, massed together with the other activists, Justin picks up a flyer proselytizing Islam, and begins to read the transliterated arabic phrases outloud – there’s this dizzying juxtaposition of words from the Koran with the anti-war protesters in the street, and Lianne’s thoughts on page 183-184. It’s an incredibly rich and complicated moment that demands to be mapped against that last paragraph in “In the Ruins of the Future,” which seems to celebrate an Islamic woman in a veil, praying towards Mecca in the streets of New York’s Chinatown, and ends with “Allahu Akbar. God is great.”

I have written more than I had wanted to — and amogk, I don’t mean to come down like a proverbial ton of bricks — but these questions are very, very serious, and we should be quite careful with the words we choose to use, or at least more historically sensitive and alert, when we want to speak about representation, terrorism, and Islam.

Dajana, just to play a little hard ball here — how can you heartily say you agree with everything in the Adbusters article (which is a resounding critique of American foreign policy), and yet maintain in the above comment that “the industrialized countries just want to help those developing countries”? Aren’t those two positions completely at odds with one another? If you read some of the other essays in the pages of Adbusters, they even more stridently argue that projects of western “aid” and development are sometimes just masks for resource exploitation.

Without derailing this into some kind of debate about American politics, I like thinking about this “Terrorists R Us” article as a point to bounce back towards DeLillo — this thread has been in my mind for some time, and thanks vdombaj, for posting the piece. It seems to me that if we are trying to analyze the motivations for terrorism related to fundamentalist Islam, it is this angle of critique that often gets lost in the western media: perhaps for obvious reasons, as it suggests that rather than terrorists being terrorists “because they hate freedom,” to quote George W. Bush, that certain practices in western democracy (and/or global capitalism) are also implicitly at fault. This is what the philosopher Jacques Derrida partially meant, I think, when he responded to 9/11 with the enigmatic comment that “we are all responsible for this catastrophe” (I’m paraphrasing Derrida, and too tired to find his exact words). With the Spiegel documentary we watched in class, for example, there was zero material on, say, how the majority of the hijackers hailed from Saudi Arabia–an authoritarian state that the United States has historically coddled and supported, despite their grand rhetoric for bringing democracy to the middle east. This is not to say that the narratives of religion and genuine anti-democratic sentiments are not also motivating factors for individuals who decide to die as terrorists — but they are just two strands of a larger, complex web.

I wonder where this strand is in DeLillo (if at all?). In Falling Man, it seems like the only place a kind of Adbustery-critique gets articulated is in the mouth of Martin. I don’t know quite how to respond to that; Martin almost seems like a cliche, a kind of stereotype for “the angry intellectual European” pissed-off at post 9/11 American arrogance and imperial hubris — it makes for a sense of distance, in other words, from the characters that DeLillo as an author is most invested in (such as Lianne). I know that Martin’s secret identity as a German leftist terrorist complicates this; but the deflection remains. When we turn to the pages that detail the inner mind of Hammad, the Islamic terrorist, there is no critical social content that I’ve identified — no brimming anger at unjust foreign policy of the kind that Martin rails against. Nor is there, on the other hand, the alternative stereotype of a Muslim man who is burning to die for his huris in heaven.

Thoughts? DeLillo’s representations of Islamic terrorism might be usefully juxtaposed against other, post 9/11 representations that avoid the cliches and prompt deeper reflection — I am thinking particularly of a series of films here, Abu Assad’s _Paradise Now_,Lotkev’s _Day Night Day Night_, and Gaghan’s _Syriana_ (with George Clooney). Have any of you seen these? All are remarkable for different reasons in how they choose to imagine the inner motivations of a terrorist.

With my comment I did not at all mean to be neither racist nor ironic and I would like to apologise for the misunderstanding. The comment did and still does not at all give my opinion and I am very sorry for the misunderstanding!

Please allow me to try to explain myself as obviously a lack of explanation produced this debacle. What I tried to record was a connection of thoughts that someone could have when looking at the picture, and obviously that person would be a racist. Opinions are quite often formed through generalisations and that is what I tried to do here – to report on generalisations that could be made.
 
I know that the works shown in the picture are neither “reverent effigies” nor “photographs in some kind of shrine authoritarian rule, but works of art with a particular postmodern valence and international currency”. What I intended to express by writing that Mao looks “most natural” in the picture in the middle was that in relation to the two other pictures this one appears to me to be relatively close to the way he really might have looked , in contrast to the ones next to it, on which his face is coloured in red/blue.

Of course, to draw a connection between two Muslim women and Mao only because these women are standing in front of a picture of him is ridiculous-in the same way as it is ridiculous to call two Muslim women “old-fashioned” only because they wear veils. But, unfortunately, there are people in this world who think this way and whose opinions might well have been shaped by the media. Most of the pictures of Muslim terrorists I have seen on TV or in the newspaper have shown Muslims who look quite “old-fashioned”; when I think back to the pictures shown on TV after the US marched into Afghanistan – a country that was invaded because of the terrorists who lived in it (if I remember it right). What I therefore tried to express with my comment above was with how many prejudices some people in our world could react to a picture like this. A picture that might fit into their world view, a view that has been shaped by the media, which can be explained by Abel’s quote on Bazin (Abel, 1238) who says that “the ontology of seeing consists of myriad modes of seeing; these modes, or force relations, continually become image events that eventually manifest themselves through how specific subjected viewers actualise – (are made to) see – them”. This is also l what I meant .

I am sorry that I do not actually know where in my text I differed between “us” and “them” which is why I cannot answer your comment on that. But if I only had understood how to post something under my own title by now, there would be another article of mine considering “Falling Man” which also mentions terrorists as “human beings with opinions, no matter what these opinions might be like, instead of so called “monsters”. This is a fact that the media forgets about most of the time”.

I was indeed present the day you screened the documentary on 9/11. As for the whole comment, as well as this part of it, it is a generalisation that I made on purpose; it was intended to provoke, to make obvious the idiocy of generalisations, to make us even more aware of the seductability of everyone’s mind.

Nonetheless, there might be endless ways of interpreting this photograph and I like your interpretation, which is very similar to the one I made in the beginning when considering my own way of thinking and feeling and therefore before I tried to interpret the picture from a point of view that another person might have.

Considering Karen and her crying when watching I can only say, that I did not have that part of the book in mind when writing the comment and therefore did neither respond nor include it in my comment.

In conclusion, I am very sorry for hurting anyone’s feelings. The way I interpreted the picture must have been a wrong interpretation of the task. Please, accept this excuse. If there should still be any doubts about what I tried to express or if there should still be the accusation that I might be a racist, please contact me!

Mr Schneck, in his comments above, asked the question of what one sees when one looks at the picture. Since the relevant seminar (called: Media, Masses and Terrorism: The Works of Don Delillo) was concerned with the media and terrorism, I understood the question to be about the possible conclusions that someone looking at the photo might draw, and that these conclusions would not necessarily be our own.

As far as my comments are concerned, it is therefore by no means a matter of my personal opinion, but about false ideas which might occur to a person; these might be caused by the media and the series of pictures shown here i.e the linking of burkas with the concept “old-fashioned” and the stereotyping of Muslims as terrorists.

The photo which shows two female Muslims standing in front of a picture of Mao could lead one to believe that there is a relationship between Muslims and Mao, a link established by the media. This in turn would create an image of Muslims in the mind of the viewer which is full of prejudices based on totally false links.

The above connection of the burkas with “old-fashioned” ways is an image which the media has created in my mind by means of various articles. When, post 9/11, pictures from Afghanistan were shown on TV, the people there seemed to be clinging to old ideas, for example the veiling of women and men with long beards. – and this quite separate from the laws enforced by the government of the time concerning clothing and appearance, laws sometimes not even mentioned in press reports. Published pictures of terrorists often showed men with long beards. It is easy to create generalisations on this basis, leading to the pigeon-holing of men and women. It was precisely my intention to emphasise this process. Any misunderstanding is attributable purely to a lack of explanation on my part.

In my text it is therefore a matter of a (negative) critique of the media and their sometimes grave effects on the thinking of some people.

I personally see a positive side to the picture: the image previously created in my mind of of an Islam partially closed off from the West undergoes a change here, since in my opinion the picture portrays the exact opposite of a “closing-off”.

What I found very interesting concerning the strucutre of Don DeLillo’s novel “Falling Man” is the passge almost in the middle of the book, where DeLillo describes the point of view from the terrorists.
The chapter “On Marienstrasse” makes me think a lot about what the terrorists feel.
Most of the time, DeLillo describes what the people feel, what the protagonist feels before and after the attack of the World Trade Center and that’s why these passage which begins on page 77 and goes on unitl page 83 is very striking and makes the reader think about the feelings the terrorists and especially Hammad had before the attack.
I don’t know why but this passage was one of the passages in the novel, which I remember the most.

Denis Mathew Schimmelpfennig

http://groups.colgate.edu/aarislam/msells.htm

The article I linked above is called “Taliban, Image-War and Iconoclasm” and quite strinkingly explains how the (Islamic) terrorists themselves create those images and prejudices in the Western world that the terms “Islam” and “terrorism” are interchangeable.
There is a certain Islamic movement called Wahhabism (after Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab). This fundamentalist movement detests idolatry, the popular cult of saints, and shrine and tomb visitation. Since our capitalistic societies are build upon advertisement and images, Wahhabism interpretes these images as idols which Western people worship.
The author of the article claims that the militant Muslims around Usama bin Laden etc. are well aware of the power the image has in Western civilisation. So they invite the media and take pictures and shoot videos of themselves surrounded by Arabic scriptures and Islamic symbols in order to present themselves as representatives of the one, true Islam advocating jihad against all non-Muslims.
The 9/11 attacks in this way are seen as a reaction on the image invasion (films, advertisement) of Muslim countries by the West (preceding military invasion, cf. Gulf war etc.). The terrorists want to throw these images back; and they achieve this: the images of the attacks are repeated over and over in the media and eventually in our heads.
But, as the article says, these terrorists are hipocrites. While pretending to belief in that “pure” form of Islam with its rejection of any image representation they study in the West, enjoying the pleasures of Western decadence (cf. the terrorists in Falling Man, p.174). Terrorists like Muhammad Atta, the author writes, live in this dichotomous state and so their hatred against the image is a self-hatred, resulting in the destruction of the self and the other, the producer of the image.

This is intended just as a short summary of the article and I think it adds some important thoughts concerning images and representation and their relation to terrorism. In order to comprehend the whole argumentation, please click on the link above and read the article in full.

At first I would like to say – I did not read the posts above. I do not watn to be influenced by the thoughts of the others.

At second I hope, I get my thoughts sorted a way you understand them…

When I look at the picture, the first thing coming to my mind is the connection to DeLillo’s book. In that book two worlds crash into each other.

On one hand there is the religious world Karen was caught in.
A world with very strict regulations, making her giving up herself and doing almost everything for her belief (no sleep, no meals…).
That kind of regulations you can find in the history of China ruled my Mao, too. As far as I know people where punished, just when they had another opinion. You might please correct me, when I am wrong – I feel very sorry that we never talked about that time at school, it would have been interesting, I think.

“Giving up yourself” I connect with religion. Some people might even give up theirselves that far that they fly a plain into a building… On that point I would like to mention, I do not want to generalise anything – there are many religions which are modern and do not require that you do not accept religions of other people, but there are TOO MANY facette-religions (I hope you understand what I mean with that term) requiring just to accept ones own belief and nothing else.
You can find them everywhere, in Christianity, Islam and even in Asian religions.
There is no need to fly a plain into a building, to show you do not accept others beliefes. In my opinion it starts with “Well. If you do not belief in god, you will enter Hell instead of Heaven.”
It starts in you head.
It makes you intolerant.
it makes you think you might not fit – or the others do not fit, but YOU are right.

On the other hand we’ve got the modern world with its popart and museums and worldwide connections.

The photograph unites both worlds, trying to connect them in a way but showing the contrast, too.

Best wishes from Cornwall
Sarah

I think, looking at events “coldly” just helps in the first moments.
To use something up, you need to learn how to cope with it and in my opinion that only works if emotions are included, because you normally connect everything with emotions – for that reason I disagree with your opinion, DeLillo would give advice how to cope with 9/11.

Best wishes from Cornwall
Sarah

Denis Mathew Schimmelpfennig

I disagree with Till on the point that terror generally is the result of the lack of power. Rather, I think that terrorists have a quite modern power at their disposal: the power of the image. In a comment on the post “Modernity, Art and Orientalism” I already wrote, how terrorists are well aware of the influence the image has in Western society and know how to use it to their advantage. In Mao II, Abu Rashid, like Usama bin Laden and others, “invites” the media to spread photographs of him throughout the world in order to create a certain, powerful image of him and terror in general.
Next to this, there is another, more banal, power at hand: the terror organisations in the Middle East are often said to be financed by Saudi billionaires who sell oil to Western nations and buy Western goods like cars etc. Why do they sponsor terror against their Western trade partners? Out of desperation? Certainly not. I think Mr Schneck is on the right track in thinking that the motivations for that lie in a mixture of political and religious agendas.
As we have seen in the documentation about 9/11 the terrorists who steered planes into the WTC were not poor and desperate, but well-trained, highly educated and equipped with the necessary financial means.
Their motivation therefore seems, to my mind, be religious fundamentalism and hatred against the image society of the West.
The terror of the Nazi-regime neither derived from desperation (although the propaganda ministers certainly made use of it among the population) and Hitler gathered the intellectual and economic elites around him.
So, as it seems, it is very difficult to make any generalisations about terrorism because there are different types of it with various kinds of motivations.
The terror of the Maoist group around Abu Rashid is aimed at the destruction of Western influence and the creation of an autonomous identity through a single powerful image – that of Rashid himself. As he says, his followers wear hoods and don’t carry names because they are one: All Men One Man. They give up their individuality to form one forceful image. At this, he refers to Mao, whose image is deeply anchored in our cultural consciousness as an image of terror and oppression. Warhol carried it into his art. Does this mean we are living in times of the image-war?
Novelists create powerful images, too. The media flood our brains daily with images from the news or films, invade every country. The terror of the Western democracies seems to be the image, and now terrorists use our terror against us.

Don Delillo’s Falling Man

Through his novels Delillo wants “to render visible the acts of seeing that generate specific representations (Abel, 1239). Having this in mind when focusing on “Falling Man”, it becomes even clearer that he wrote a novel that describe the happenings of 9/11 rather than trying to hold someone responsible for what happened on that very day. In Delillo’s opinion, the process of judgement in the media is exactly what happens most of the time when something becomes displayed and a representation is positioned as a cause “when it is merely an effect of a series of forces acting in one another” (Abel, 1239). This becomes even clearer with reading Abel’s quote on Bazin (Abel, 1238) who says that “the ontology of seeing consists of myriad modes of seeing; these modes, or force relations, continually become image events that eventually manifest themselves through how specific subjected viewers actualise – (are made to) see – them”. After having read these sentences I immediately had to think about how I felt after 9/11 and if there was a change in my behaviour towards Muslims. As far as I am able to reconsider my behaviour I can say that the documentaries and reports definitely changed my way of thinking as the reports were concentrating on making out someone responsible. Therefore, Delillo tried to work different to the media, not to judge but to describe what happened, he tried to avoid a “representation” of the event; furthermore, he asks “to take seriously the event qua event, in its singularity, its unrepresentability in language because it is not of language” but it was and still is a difficult task for fiction and film “to avoid reducing it to a moralistic lesson” (Abel, 1248). As 9/11 made the people around the whole world speechless through the awful scenes that were displayed on TV, not trying to “represent” this incomprehensible incident sounds most plausible to me. But to finally find words for being able to show all the different experiences the people made on that very day to therefore being able to give a relatively objective view on 9/11 appears to me to be something impossible, especially when considering the loss of words that most people had experienced. Having this and Bazin’s ontology of seeing in mind, Delillo’s decision to concentrate on the experiences of one single man and the effects on his family appears to allow the reader to make their own decisions, to develop their own image about the happening, at least up to a certain point. So Delillo described in his novel how the life of his main character Keith and his family changed since 9/11. A very important thing, from my point of view is as well that he chose a perspective that shows the terrorists as human beings with opinions/views, no matter what these opinions/views might be like, instead of so called “monsters”. This is a certainly a fact that the media forgets to mention most of the time.
The loss of words, the inability to express emotions, is not only demonstrated by Keith’s behaviour, but especially by Lianne’s in various ways. First, Lianne appears be be a kind of crazy about finding information about the attacks and she therefore seems to me to read every article she can find. She furthermore guides a group of people with Alzheimer’s disease whose members she regularly asks to take down their emotions, thoughts and memories when thinking about 9/11. Last but not least, she becomes very annoyed about one of her neighbours who listens that loud to the music that Lianne can hear it in her apartment too, what makes her very annoyed. The one day she meets the other woman in the corridor Lianne slaps her in the face. But her action doesn’t make any change and so she continuously has to bear the noise. The fact that she becomes confronted with the noise over and over again can be seen as an allegory to 9/11 and her inability to cope with it, to make any change. The meeting with her neighbour in the corridor and her action makes her finally understand that she is unable to turn back the clock which makes her, in my opinion, feel absolutely helpless and therefore lost in a kind of numbness. As Lianne is not able to understand the incident and therefore not able to accept it, she keeps on reading articles and as well encourages her patients to make notes on their images which will allow her to find further expressions for the attacks, allow her to maybe finally be able to express the “inexpressible”.The performance artist is another remarkable character which symbolises the impossibility of the public to assimilate the experiences made. One of his reasons for jumping off different kinds of buildings might be that he is not able to understand what happened on 9/11, like Lianne; he might live through his most important memory of that very day, the image of the “falling man”, and now “uses” the jumping off different kinds of buildings as a try to understand what happened, as a try to overcome the lack of words, as a try to be able to feel the emotions and therefore be able to express them and finally to assimilate that day. In my opinion, he is also connected to Lianne. Each time she reads an article about him she becomes reminded in 9/11. But I think that he also gives Lianne some hope by showing her that it is not only her who is not able to prevent such a dreadful incident, or in this case its reconstruction. When she sees the performance artist hanging in his safety harness and all the other people around only looking at him rather than doing anything, Lianne’s only thought is that “It held the gaze of the world” (Delillo 33). This could be understood as a criticism on the sensation-seeking of the public that even seems to be fascinated by such dreadful pictures and therefore as well a criticism on the masses, a criticism on onlookers, as the picture of the “Falling Man” had only been banned from the American media…

“Warhol carried it into his art. Does this mean we are living in times of the image-war?
Novelists create powerful images, too. The media flood our brains daily with images from the news or films, invade every country.”

Of course we do.
Imagine, what the world would be without the media influencing people. When I read the quoted passage I could not help but think of commercials and not only films or news.
There is a kind of war between the trademarks and we are used in that war.
Just as an example: We are told what kind of diet-product we should take, but we are not told about the side effects. Trademarks would do almost everything to make us buy their product.
It is the same with news – when you are honest: What would you prefer to watch?
RTL or ARD?
RTL seems to be much more interesting, doesn’t it?
It seems to be more “personal” and “touching” because of the images it uses, in contrast to that ARD seems to be very old fashioned, just giving you some information.
In the end it is all about the pictures.
Example: You can make a politician, who is part of a demonstration, wear a weapon instead of walking next to a car and touching it, just by zooming into a photo (later it became clear, the photo was faked as described above and the BILD had to apologise – now I have to apologise, I was not able to find that photo. A few months ago I saw a documentary on the TV, discussing German politicians and their careers, the photos were shown there – the faked one look very realistic, it is amazing what you are able to do just by adding or leaving out a little detail).

There are pictures on the internet showing people together who have never met.
Pictures influencing one to believe something that is not true.
There are organisations using faked photos to try to tell you Hitler and Stalin were good friends and that WW2 never happened. And there are people who believe what they see on these photos!

Novelists and journalists are very powerful, too but in another way.
They are creating pictures in your head by describing things. They may describe it that well, you think it could be real. And of course there are people describing events and facts how they want, just to influence you. Most people listen when somebody is shouting loud enough to get their attention. And some people start thinking “Well it could be like that, couldn’t it”. And sometimes the person shouting gets enough attention to challenge the system – sometimes that person is a “bad man” that you listened to and sometimes you will never realise that and just believe and do what you are told.

“The terror of the Western democracies seems to be the image, and now terrorists use our terror against us.”

I completely agree with you in that point – images can break men. And by watching the images of 9/11 many people might break. Every time they look at them… It is an awful war, but very effective.

Apart from this:
Please do also note, that the Falling Man, the Performance Artist, does not resemble the guy in the picture. “…,wearing a suit, a tie and dress shoes.” (p.33)
The photograph shows the man in an orange shirt, no dress shoes, no suit. Only the posture might be the same. “…,one leg bent up, arms at his sides.”(p.33)
For a long time, the Falling Man was not an individual, but stood for the many people who decided to jump.

I always wonder if it is an active decision, to choose between choking/burning and the jump. Or does mans natural fear of fire overcome the fear of hights? Or was it sheer panic? In the wikipedia article it is mentioned that the jumper appears to fall straight down, while the series of photographs show him tumbling. I also heard the description of him as zen-like accepting his fate. Is this the case, even if the pictures show otherwise? Just because he did not have control over his body does not mean that he did not have the choice.

Of course do the people have the right to see what is going on in the world…but just imagine that you would have known this “falling man” personally or that he would even have been one of your relatives…I bet you will change your opinion. When I imagine that this man on the picture, which is published all over the world, would be my relative, I would not have been so happy about the fact that the media published this photo over a thousand times…
To say it in a hard way: The photographer earns a lot of money by selling his photo to the newspapers, the TV and so on. He earns this money “with the help” of a person’s death…can’t this be called macabre and cruel?

http://www.photoshop-weblog.de/images_articles/manipu1.jpg

Take a look at this picture….
It shows a tourist standing on top of the World Trade Center seconds before an airplane crashes into the building. The camera was supposedly found in the rubble.
I am sure that this photo is a manipulation (this topic also matches into the comment sarah bade made in “Mao II and the media: We don’t need the novel, we have the news…” in which she also mentioned the fact that many photographies and images are manipulated in order to be more interesting for the people). But no matter whether this photo is real or not, the emotions it evokes are the same…

Dajana Schiller

I do absolutely agree with ckreuzka. But I ask myself, if it is not always the same with such photographs in that case, that the photographers make advantages (money) out of the disadvantages of the people who are shown on the pictures.
Perhaps, an other example could be, that paparazzi make money out of the mistakes actors or singers did in the public. But in a case, in which people have to die (one fürther example could be the death of Princess Diana or so on), it is in very bad taste.
Otherwise, it could be also the case, that an dramatic image can rouse up nations, but that is the exception. One of such exceptions is for example the image of the naked and napalm-burnt girl, who runs for her life during the Vietnam War, see link: http://www.national-zeitung.de/bilder/2006/NZ37-06/Vietnam_Napalm.jpg

But with the image of the “falling man” it is of course not such a case. And then it is for sure, that these photographers could only earn hate, scorn and of course dissappointment. And that is not a wonder, I think.

I agree with ckreuzka in so far as the faked photo evokes certain feelings/emotions/reactions, but I disagree that the feelings are the same.
When I saw the photo the first time I was very shocked that there is a photo like that – when I got to know it was a fake I got very angry.
I thought – and still think – this photo is just “too much”. In a way it fools all the people who lost a loved person at 9/11 and I would go that far to say it makes fun of that tragic event and I definitely do not like the sense of humour the person who designed the photo has.
In my opinion you can’t compare that photo with others of 9/11 because of its proved deeper sense to fool people.
On the other hand it might have been the way the person who designed that photo tried to cope with his own thoughts of 9/11.

By the way – here an interesting article about the man who seems to be “The Tourist Guy”:
http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2001/11/48225

I just read this article about the “Tourist Guy” and I do agree that it is very interesting to read. Isn’t it crazy how fast and how some people can become famous? This tourist guy who claims that he even gives autographs today and appears in the Volkswagen TV commercial…really crazy. But I liked to read this article. And I must say that this guy seems to be very sympathic and well grounded.
Sarah also just mentioned that she doesn’t like this kind of humour and I do agree…I don’t see anything funny when I look at this photo. And for the people who lost friends and acquaintances on 9/11 it must be very hard to see that some people “make fun” of the event.

Thank you for that ckreuzka – I now would like to know: Do you think it could be a kind of dealing with the event 9/11 or is it just a bad joke?
I surfed the net and found many different reactions to the photo – even positive ones from people who state they would have been involved in the event, for me personally that is not understandable…

“The author often uses the pronouns “he” and “she” instead of the protagonists’ names, so that you can almost only guess who is speaking or thinking.”

We can find that in “White Noise”, too for example in the conversation between Jack and Babette (Whit Noise, page 28/29) when they are in the bedroom.
I had to read that part 2 times – and then decided to make notes who is talking which sentence.
In my opinion the method of “mixing” the sentences underlines the band and togetherness of the two characters, but stands in contrast to the fact that they talked about everything excluding death – one of the most important and serious things you should have to talk about in a relationship, especially when you’ve got children in you household you take care of!

Oh no, I do not think that it could be a kind of dealing with the event! In my opinion it is more than macabre to publish photos like that…the term “bad joke” fits. I do not understand how people could react in a positive way when they see these faked pictures. Particulary those people who claim that they were involved in the event…I thought that especially these people would react negativly when they see these photos…

Since the major theme in Mao II is to be found in the prologue („The future belongs to crowds.“), crowds, for instance, occur at the mass-wedding at Yankee Stadium, at Tompkins Square Park and at Ayatollah’s funeral Karen watches on television. As discussed in one of the seminar sessions DeLillo was basically inspired by terror, art and masses. It is even said that DeLillo owns folders marked with “art” and “terror” he collects event information in and extracts his inspiration from.

Has this got something to do with Warhol and Mao? Well, even though artist Warhol and leader (terrorist?) Mao reflect main themes of Mao II, those are not the only icons DeLillo is fascinated by. As a matter of fact DeLillo’s tenth novel leads one to assume that some of the protagonist’s experiences can be associated with famous author J. D. Salinger’s life (born in 1919). Salinger’s reclusive nature (among his talent of course) made him become the living legend he counts as today. He even referred to publishing his novels as “a damned interruption” since his passion was writing and not selling books ultimately. Associations to main character Bill Gray can be furthered there as he lived a solitary life as well. Finally Salinger and Gray have or had to overcome there awe and individuality in order to obtain their goals.

Take care
Kai

I thought so, too. That’s what makes me asking myself in how far we, as people who are not directly involved in the catastrophe, have got the right to judge certain reactions we do not understand… I think it is a very difficult question and I would be very happy if someone could help me solving that “problem”, because it followed me through the last days!

Additionally I read about Thomas Pynchon’s nature being similar to J.D. Salinger’s. Pynchon dislikes photographers taking pictures of him or journalists interviewing him and so creates a kind of “Pynchon Myth”. There are only some 40-year-old photographs of Pynchon to be found in a movie called A Journey Into The Mind Of [P.]. In three The Simpsons episodes Pynchon occurs as a character mummed by a garbage bag with a questionmark painted on it. Bill Gray seems to be a combination of the characters of Pynchon, Salinger and DeLillo.

Veronika Dombaj

I sure don´t think that David Janiak wants to promote himself. If he aims to promote himself, than why isn’t he in the media, or giving interviews to the press and why isn´t he giving a sign that his “Falling Man show” is shown somewhere in New York?
I think his target is the representation, we already mentioned during class. In my opinion he takes us back to 9/11 by seeing him hanging somewhere head down from a highrise. It automatically crosses my head when I see a picture of the falling man, I immediately see the people that jumped out of the window on 9/11. In this case it is a perfect representation, because he brings back the scary pictures of the jumping people even if he wants to accomplish this. But it is also somehow sick because everyone is connecting bad feelings to 9/11. If I imagine being from New York and I´m walking down a street unsuspectingly and suddenly I see someone hanging from a bridge head down first it surely be a mayor shock and I will be forced to remember 9/11 and all upsetting feeling will be back at once. This will definitely make me angry. Because I don´t want to be reminded of the pictures, I don´t want to feel this pain again, I just want to forget this drama.
But the representation also always comes as a surprise. It can cross your way any time, any place; just like 9/11 did. It was the same stunning surprise when I heard about two airplanes that crashed into the World Trade centre. He does not only bring back the pictures of the falling people, he brings back the memory, the fear, the terror, the unbelieving truth of the moment and the reality of 9/11. He uses the same surprise attack. Can there be a better representation?!
De Lillo is able to represent on the 9/11 because of the performance artist Falling Man. What better, more stunning way could represent all the emotions of that time?
In my opinion the best representation of the 9/11 he could ever find. Every time has to find their own representation on events like the 9/11. And De Lillo fined one.

First of all, I want to quote a little passage of the text by Junod:

” Everything to the left of him in the picture is the North Tower; everything to the right, the South. Though oblivious to the geometric balance he has achieved, he is the essential element in the creation of a new flag, a banner composed entirely of steel bars shining in the sun. Some people who look at the picture see stoicism, willpower, a portrait of resignation; others see something else — something discordant and therefore terrible: freedom.”

When I read the text the first time, I didn’t really recognized these sentences quotated above, but by reading the text again, this passage seems very important to me and worth noting.
Especially the words “creation of a new flag” made me think a lot.
These words “creation of a new flag” shows exactly the situation before and after the event 9/11. Before, everything was fine, everything was okay, the Americans themselves thought that everything was fine and that nobody could ever challange their world power –> that was the old flag.

But while the two planes were crashing in the twin towers and while the people like the man in the picture were falling or jumping out of the windows, there was the start of a new time, of a new flag. America recognized that they aren’t invulnerable, it is the start of a “disoriented” America. Nothing seems to be like it was before.

You could also connect this situation to Don DeLillo’s “Falling Man” .
Before the planes, Keith worked in the WTC every day; it was his job, some kind of routine and gave him some kind of financial and social security.
But after 9/11, Keith was really disoriented, didn’t know what to do; he lost his social and financial security and also the routine of his everyday life didn’t exist anymore. Like “Peter-Lars Wenzel” mentioned above, Keith seems like “falling through his life”

The quotation from Junod’s extract also pick up again the discussion about the reasons why the people jump out of the WTC.

” Some people who look at the picture see stoicism, willpower, a portrait of resignation; others see something else — something discordant and therefore terrible: freedom. ”

In my opinion, the people who jumped out of the windows wanted to be free, wanted to escape from the burning towers. They didn’t see any other possibility than jumping. It is also said above in this discussion that the people wanted to breath fresh air; they knew that there is no chance of surviving in the burning towers; they couldn’t breathe, see or speak.
In order to die in freedom, they had to jump out of the windows.

When I read Americana and White Noise I always had a hard time to remember the narrator’s names. They are hardly ever mentioned in the books, and I had the impression that this disappearance of the names was intended; the characters are less important than the emotions and thughts they carry. They become more of a vessel for the concept behind them and less individual characters, which I found quite outstanding for books written from first person perspective.

In the other two books we read in the seminar, I also had the impression that the characters were not that important and the concepts behind them are meant to be as more significant. The names do not disappear like in the first person narrations, but DeLillo indeed does not use names widely spread, probabably for the same reason.

But, I have to disagree with ckreuzka – it is not only about terrorism, I think is a part DeLillo’s way of writing in all his novels.

Of course this is macabre and of course it is a form of bad taste, but jokes like this are a part of dealing with the situation. The ‘wounds’ (if you want to call the attacks that) are not that fresh any more and therefore the feeling of indignation has ebbed.

But the photograph shows again the power of picture on the mind’s eye.

The power over pictures is not the power of the terrorists or of any form of activity is not dependant from the terrorist or activist alone but from the media to present it Remember the murderer and Heinrich’s chess partner in White Noise whose scheme to become famous failed because of the lack of media representation. Terrorism alone has no imaginary power; this power is only fueled via madia representation.

From a rational pointof view, there is almost no such thing as a terrorist threat. The chance to die in a car crash or any other similar accident than to ever see a real life terrorist attack. The imagined, felt danger is inaproapably much higher than any real threat, and this fear is both a success of the terrorists whose actions had a much stronger subjective than objective result, but it is also a result of the media reports about the terrorists. In a way, it is a constructed fear.

I am also quite sceptical to build paralells between ’state terrorism’ like under the Nazi rule or the culture revolution in China with the terrorist cells of today’s terrorist movements; the SA, as a fighting organisation or an instrument of terror for the Nazi party had more than 9 million members. I hardly that any non-governmental armed political movement today has even slightly similar numbers. That is a complertely different level and and completely different form of activities.

The power over pictures is not the power of the terrorists or of any form of activity is not dependant from the terrorist or activist alone but from the media to present it Remember the murderer and Heinrich’s chess partner in White Noise whose scheme to become famous failed because of the lack of media representation. Terrorism alone has no imaginary power; this power is only fueled via madia representation.

From a rational point of view, there is almost no such thing as a terrorist threat. The chance to die in a car crash or any other similar accident than to ever see a real life terrorist attack. The imagined, felt danger is much higher than any real threat, and this fear is both a success of the terrorists whose actions had a much stronger subjective than objective result, but it is also a result of the media reports about the terrorists. In a way, it is a constructed fear.

I am also quite sceptical to build paralells between ’state terrorism’ like under the Nazi rule or the culture revolution in China with the terrorist cells of today’s terrorist movements; the SA, as a fighting organisation or an instrument of terror for the Nazi party had more than 9 million members. I hardly that any non-governmental armed political movement today has even slightly similar numbers. That is a complertely different level and and completely different form of activities.

I think that you, Till and Sarah, are completely right saying that dead celebrities become more popular (legends some would say). Nevertheless your achievements do not fit Bill Gray as he dies incognito one can argue. Not alleging you ever said something like that, I would like to explain my thoughts there. First – The difference between Reagan, Ledger and Gray is that the first two mentioned have already been idols whereas Bill Gray lived solitarily. Second – Living solitarily, people were not able to observe Gray on TV, which is the most important assumption to become famous nowadays. I am not afraid saying that Gray’s awe helped him becoming some kind of myth but he never ever would be as popular as Reagan or Ledger I think.

Take care.
Kai

In the Octobre edition of the Die Zeit Magazin I came across an interesting DeLillo interview. Since he worked on me quite like a fictious person from the beginning of my first reading, I can finally see his human side I was always searching for. He talks about 9/11, he is still daunted by, about his ill mother-in-law, about intimacy, America’s policy – DeLillo becomes vivid.
It is interesting to read he is sometimes frustrated writing books, and that an author experiences luck in the middle of his writing. And then there are the authors he was reading as a young man. Faulkner, Hemingway, Wolfe and then the Europeans.

Click here: http://www.zeit.de/2007/42/Don-DeLillo-Interview

Your post remembers me of a novel I read some years ago. In his autobiographical piece “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” Irish author James Joyce describes explicitly why he abjures religion. His protagonist Stephen Dedalus grows up in a deeply religious family and in a catholic convent school later on. Finally, his belief lets him decay and so he flees. I would like to cite James Joyce there who parallels alcohol with religion. The miracle cure which solves all the problems we suffer from. Actually, no one believes in this. Nevertheless, I think almost everyone has already drunk alcohol for at least one time.
In Joyce’s novel it is not the religion itself that makes him sad and embittered but the bishops and the monks who teached and punished him. On the one hand religion is always interrelated with humans and so a belief is interpreted subjectively. On the other hand many people find salvation within a religious group. And so it becomes indispensable to choose.

Take care.
Kai

Denis Mathew Schimmelpfennig

When we take a look at Waldmann’s work about terrorism as a communication strategy again, we can’t hold just the media responsible for the success of terroristic acts. Clearly the modern terror organisations know how to exploit the media to attract a wider interest for their cause and the media representation is “catalytic” in nature, prolonging attention for them that is, but can never be the cause for such an act.
The success of the terrorists rather goes along with the reaction – which ideally should be an overreaction – of who is the target of any attack. With the USA regarding the 9/11 attacks as a threat to Western democracy or, more particulary, to the United States democracy, and thus responding with the “war on terror”, we could argue, we have such a reaction as desired by the terrorists.
For, as Waldmann notes, terrorism has a long tradition going back to the first century and then and later, even without mass media representation, could lead to open rebellion (cp. Waldmann).
Delillo seems to have another opinion. In Mao II, the terrorist Abu Rashid explicitly uses the media (Brita taking pictures) to create a cultural image of fear. This seems to be the main terroristic threat in the book. There seems to be a warning interlaced into the story: do not let the image take over and do not let others think and speak for you. We can see that, too, in Bill Gray and Scott. “He’s at my brainstem like a surgeon with a bright knife.” (Mao II, 38), says Bill of Scott, who seems to think and speak for him (”Quoting Bill”). This becomes even more clear during the conversation at the dinner table: “His words in my mouth” (73), says Scott and thus enrages Bill. Scott is also the one, who wants to keep Bill’s new book shut away and attempts to use the media to create a mythological image of Bill: “We don’t need the book. We have the author.” (71).
But Bill escapes his “hostage-taker” and also Charlie Everson, representing the corporate book culture, and tries to get to Beirut on his own – without media representation.

Denis Mathew Schimmelpfennig

What also speaks against terrorists writing the master narratives of our times is that the terrorism that has been going for years in various countries (Latin America, numerous African countries etc.) has not gotten into the focus of our (Western postindustrial countries) attention. I think that the attacks of 9/11 in large part have these great cultural reverberations because there is not such a historical tradition of terrorism in Western culture as there is in other cultural circles (cp. Waldmann). Thus, we feel threatened and do not know how to react appropriately.
Moreover, how can the book’s statement be that the author has lost his power to shape the cultural consciousness and ceased to be dangerous when part of its background is the fatwa-affair around Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses”? A book that caused a leader of a state to pronounce a death sentence to an author?

Mhhh – I was thinking about your achievements for a long time and have not come up with a conclusion either. In my opinion the critical point here is: Where does individuality start and what can we do to be individual? Since clothing and fashion are in some way limited (most of us only have the opportunity to buy things), expressing individuality by wearing special clothes is impossible or rather does not last for long, ultimately (like you stated, Sarah). Accordingly, only personality and behaviour can be individual and will always be. The question is: Do you want to be individual and risk to become an outsider or shall you go the way you think is the best?
Since I am pursuing teaching certification, I will come up with some information I read in a psychology text book (Steins, Gisela (2005): Sozialpsychologie des Schulalltags – Das Miteinander in der Schule. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.). “Weak” pupils tend to conform to the standard “strong” pupils generally set, which means that they adjust clothes and behaviour. Accordingly, some pupils do not dare to be individual since they risk to become outsiders. Who decides which children are strong and weak? Well, this phenomenon has several reasons and is not to be limited to one. Generally, because of their appearance, strong students obtain power ressources and so gain a higher position within a group or crowd.
You see, individuality is hard-fought as it is not cheap.

Take care.
Kai.

Denis Mathew Schimmelpfennig

Indeed, in Mao II, DeLillo seems to draw a rather negative picture of the future of the novel as a narrative with cultural impact and reverberations.
In the book, it is also Scott, who thinks that “the future belongs to crowds”:

“Bill doesn’t understand how people need to blend in, lose themselves in something larger. The point of mass marriage is to show that we have to survive as a community instead of individuals trying to master every complex force. [...] I know all the drawbacks of the Moon system but in theory it is brave and visionary. Think of the future and see how depressed you get. All the news is bad. We can’t survive by needing more, wanting more, standing out, grabbing all we can.
[...] We’ve gone too far into space to insist on our differences. [...] We see them from space, where gender and features don’t matter, where names don’t matter. [...] We’re all Moonies, or should learn to be.” (p. 89)

This comes from Scott, who took over thinking and speaking for Bill (’Quoting Bill’) and who wants to replace the book and the author with the author’s image: “The book disappears into the image of the writer” (71).

Similar thoughts Brita has when she looks at the Warhol paintings at the gallery. She detects statements about “the dissolvability of the artist and the exaltation of the public figure, about how it is possible to fuse images, [...] and to steal auras,”. (134) Brita is the one who helps creating these images, technically, with her photographs.

Against this stands Bill’s opinion. After he escaped Scott’s and Charlie Everson’s grasp on him, he journey’s first to Athens and starts to write a new story. He defends the ideals behind writing against the idea of ‘permanent revolution’: “Do you know why I believe in the novel? It’s a democratic shout. Anybody can write a great novel, one great novel, almost any amateur off the street. [...] The spray of talent, the spray of ideas. One thing unlike another, one voice unlike the next. Ambiguities, contradictions, whispers, hints. And this is what you want to destroy.” (159).

But, as Kai already mentioned, Bill fails ultimately to write a new narrative by dieing on the ferry. Moreover, his ID gets stolen and thus the dissolution of the artist becomes perfect. All that is left of him are the pictures taken of him by Brita, now at Scott’s disposal.

Denis Mathew Schimmelpfennig

After having read Thurschwell’s essay, I think the performance artist in Falling Man is similar to the character of Lauren Hartke in Body Artist. As Thurschwell notes:

“Art and aesthetic representation, DeLillo suggests, begins in mourning and identification with the (absent or dead) other [...].” (291)

Thus, Lauren is mourning for her dead husband and wants to substitute for him. She is a body artist “acting, always in the process of becoming another or exploring some root identity” (cited in Thurschwell 290-91). This is exactly, I think, what the performance artist in Falling Man does, too, and thus he is writing some kind of counter-narrative to terrorism, because the “‘terrorist’ (regarding art in general,my note) annihilation of its object (of the mourning, my note)” (Thurschwell, 291) is at the same time always affirmative, has to do with love that is. This is because art, “after having denied things in their existence” by creating a fictional world, “preserves them in their being [and] causes them to have a meaning” (Blanchot, quoted in Thurschwell, 292).

So, the performance artist, maybe because he is mourning for relatives and friends he lost in the 9/11 event, represents the “jumpers” aesthetically and in this way preserves them in the minds of the watchers.

Similar things could be said of Fischl and his sculpture. Like the performance artist, this work of art is a kind of living still life (”nature morte vivante” Thurschwell, 292) that has death as its basis “but that at the same time is the source of ‘live’” (292). As Thurschwell notes, artistic representations are embodiments “of genuinely lived experience” (292).

What about the individuality of authors? Basically, clothes and body are some kind of metaphora of the author’s skills and so in a way jacket their individuality. What if the author dies? As proven in case of Bill Gray (Mao II), the author’s individuality decays as he is not able to use his greatest strength – the words.
In contrast to pictures words act like impersonal and fleeting. Pictures or rather photographies keep personality and nature alive, make people vivid but mostly only express superficial individuality like clothes and body do. However, photographies only show one part of the whole and do not offer an insight of the character itself.
In Mao II both photographies and words fail as Bill dies incognito and Brita cedes taking pictures of famous authors. One could assume that if photographies and words get combined, both sides of individuality or rather nature could be pictured.

Take care.
Kai.

Indexed pictures, music or movies always attract attention and so are some very popular commercial policy of – mostly – global players. I think that the companies’ heads are aware of the eventual consequences of their commercial. But as long as people keep the scandal in mind they will remember the product, as well (at least subliminally).
To promote their compact discs, the German right wing extremist band Landser produces their songs in the United States, smuggles them to Germany and waits until their songs are indexed. Sadly, the policy works as Landser is one of the most popular extremist bands in Europe and the USA – even in non-political circles Landser becomes more and more popular…

Take care.
Kai

Like Till said quite right, it is DeLillo’s intention to distract the reader by writing at least a bit confusing. In Mao II, for example, he tries to put us off the scent as there are so many ways of interpreting the novel and the author’s intention to write the story. Ultimately, it is rather unimportant that Bill Gray dies since he is a symbol for the general failure of the narrative (see my post “The Narrative’s Failure”).

Well, in fact, from this point of view DeLillo does not differ from most authors, since they always want their written words to obtain more than just telling a simple story. Nevertheless, it is strikingly complex to read DeLillo for all the reasons mentioned here before. I would read him more frequent would it not be so exhausting :-)
Take care.
Kai

I believe that the Western civilization’s reaction on 9/11 is based on inexperience with terrorism, like Denis says quite right, though the question is whether other civilizations would have reacted differently! I do not think so since there is a lot of provocation and revenge ciculating in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan there.
Considering Iran’s reaction on the “Muhammad” caricatures it was marked by hatred and threatenings towards the Danish press and all the Western countries. Regrettably, there was no intelligent dialogue on the issue. The latest anti-islamic video by Dutch politician Wilders stirred up hatred again. There are similar videos to be watched on Islamic TV channels. Click http://www.spiegel.de/video/video-28784.html !

I would like to jump in your discussion arguing that it is simply human habit to make fun of things we found disgusting / threatening / sad once. That is in a way how some of us overcome pain. I daresay that people who publish pictures like the manipulated one are not of bad nature, mandatorily. Well, I am sure most of us agree with Sarah’s and ckreuzka’s opinion: Such pictures are kind of black humour! Ultimately, the examination of cruel things, which happened to us or others, often follows a next step: The decay of pain and, finally, a free exposure of things. One could argue that time really heals any wounds. Or does it just remove former frontiers?

Moreover I would say that censorship is indispensable although we need to keep it balanced . Like Till says quite right: it is hard to draw the line that fits the situation. Nevertheless, we need to prevent minor children from watching violent / cruel pictures on TV in order to ensure their adequate development. Yet some censored pictures find their way and so are seen. It is like playing a banned computer game – it is alaways something special, something children can make a song about. Consequently, we will never be able to ban all the things we might find threatening or just too cruel.

Take care.
Kai.

Sure – the organization behaves oddly not being interested in the hostage but just seeing it as a tool or something. You might have observed this phenomenon throughout the whole novel. Names and individuals are not as important as the several lobbies’ notions. One example: Bill Gray dies incognito as someone steals his ID. We do not know if it really happens but his ID is supposed to be sold to some militia (p. 217). What does that mean? Well, I believe that DeLillo wants to show that the individual is just a tool, something lobbies use to obtain their objects. The same goes with the hostage which just exists to blackmail.

Lars, I am not afraid of terrorism and do not do anything which could save me in case of a terror act. I do not accept foreigners influencing my life and so I go on living my life. Otherwise I would become a hostage of some mental threat …

Take care.
Kai.

Denis Mathew Schimmelpfennig

As it seems, DeLillo’s characters generally do not seem that important to him, that is in the novels we dealt with in the seminar. More significant seem the ideas and concepts these characters stand for.
Thus, the characters from Americana to, at least, Mao II do not develop (or hardly develop):

David Bell is at the end of Americana where he started from.

The Gladney’s fear of death is still the determining force in their lives (and the supermarket is still a spiritual place). (White Noise)

Bill Gray, though he dies in one of the last chapters (or rather even because of it) of Mao II, remains a novelist who lost the power to shape a culture’s consciousness as Karen remains to be part of a crowd, serving some master, and Scott to be Bill’s myth creator.

So, the focus lies in the cultural concepts transcending the individual and terror is indeed the most important one in Mao II. DeLillo shows how it (terror using physical violence) affects Western culture, and how Western terrorism (using images) looks and works like.

Benjamin Hilwerling

I think this topic “Individual vs. Masses” alone would be worth a whole seminar. It’s just so unbelievably complex.

But I think everybody knows these thoughts that you had that night, about individualism of youth groups or scenes, Sarah. Are they really individual? I think there are two main, basic kinds of individualism. The one that many people live through during their youth or their puberty: Trying to look for a group of people with the same interest but often also trying to stand up against everything society and parents try to tell you. Trying not to get caught up in the rat race, trying to change the whole system somehow, to make a difference to the dull status quo. That’s the kind of individualism these (mostly) adolescents have to offer (be it punks, goths, skins, emos or whatever) and I think it is a very important part of growing up for many. It is the individuality of the masses, so to speak. Of course if you think about later, you see, that you yourself weren’t really individual but still it is a very important experience.
Some time later, after you realize that you weren’t really that individual, you should find your own way and be able to stand up for yourself and defend your points of view. Unfortuantely (at least that’s the impression that I get), the second part doesn’t always work all to well. Most people do find their own way, but only in a very restricted choice of ways. While the individualism of youth groups or scenes is able to stand out in society and to fulfill a 180° turn compared with the average citizen of a country, the moving angle of an individual gets smaller and smaller later on until it only contains a few degrees.
This is of course a very subjective point of view, but I think this shows the power of masses and in a way masses are sometimes able to offer a higher degree of individuality than an individual (I know it sounds paradox). The best way would probably be to try and strike a balance between both ways of individualism. If the masses-effect gets to strong, we could end up in a very dangerous scenario (I think there are enough examples throughout the history of man) and if the individualistic part gets to strong it is very difficult to make a change because you don’t have the same power as masses have.

Now to try to come back to deLillo: It is very difficult to try to analyze the characters in White Noise in front of the given background of Individualism. I think that Heinrich is probably the most interesting person concerning this. He knows a lot about everything and kind of shows the typical scepticism, incredulity and criticism of a boy his age but in a much more intelligent way than a normal boy. But he has hardly any friends and doesn’t really belong to a group or a scene or something similar, so the will to change something doesn’t really occur. He knows or belives, that many things are wrong the way they are and he criticizes all the time but still he doesn’t really try to change anything, he doesn’t act. On the other hand, his sort of friend Orest tries to do something really unusual and tries to stand out. He wants this so bad that he dies trying in the end, so he hasn’t accomplished anything that he wanted: nobody talks about him, he just vanishes.

If you tried to analyze other characters you’d probably be able to find further similarities or someone who stands out (like Heinrich for example who is rather untypical for his age) from the “average individual”.

Have a nice start into the new semester.
Ben

Hi Ben!
You are right, that topic would be worth a whole seminar – maybe we are lucky and somebody wants to organise one and we can be part of it ;)

Nice to know that I am not alone with such thoughts – although I think you are wrong with the opinion, everybody would know about the thoughts, cause I think it needs a minimum of social intelligence some people do not (jet) have. I do not want to point finger on persons or want to discriminate – but in my opinion, thinking definitely depends on education and the higher you get the more people think about what they are and how individual and independent they are from others.

Your “individuality of the masses” is a definition I really like! I think your almost right with that, but especially right-winged groups (not to compare with the groups you named) are taking individuals making them think they are just powerful because of the group they are in. That is the reason why I think your definition is not completely right.

I think one point why the individual itself loses when it is standing for its own point of view is a more powerful individual, influencing more people. I just had to think of my time at school, we had a teacher who thought that just his opinion would be the right one – although he was not always right. He thought he was right because he was the teacher and that influenced many students to think his way, although they all were wrong. I think, especially as a student when you are depended on the mark you get, it is very difficult if not impossible to stand that kind of pressure.
I am afraid later it is the same in university, job and peer group. So I join your opinion that an individual group has more chances to break with the habits than one person on its own.

I think too, that Heinrich definitely is (much more) intelligent that other in his age and he is very philosophic in addition. I don’t know, if Heinrich in a way just recognised that he has no chance to change something. I think this though is quite depressing (that just by the way…). I don’t know if Orest just vanished, he influenced Heinrich and maybe someday Heinrich is able to change something.
I think in the end we are all influencing each other – that’s the reason why we are changing our minds sometimes. We do not know in how far Orest REALLY influenced Heinrich and as long as we do not know we will not know if he did not reach something or just disappeared.

Best wishes from Cornwall!

Sarah

Benjamin Hilwerling

Ok, maybe I rather expressed a kind of hope there than a truth when I said, that everyone knows these thought. I should have said: “everyone of us” or something like that. Or maybe it is not the thoughts about the feelings about individualism that everyone knows but at least everybody experiences the feelings, probably all too often without reflecting on them.

Furthermore I think it is not only education (in the sense of school or college education) but also the values and principles that one creates over the years (in whatever way). I personally know or rather have met people who are not very individual although they have not the worst education and also vice versa.

Of course the individuality in “individuality of the masses” is not a real one but I think we agree on that and mean the same thing.

I also think you’re completely right about the fact that someone loses his or her individuality due to a person with a bigger influence like for example a teacher. This example is a very special one because it also overlaps with the time that young people start forming groups or scenes or whatever and I don’t think that this is a coincidence. It is also the time I think when a person either gets his own view or he or she doesn’t. But this is getting to psychological I think because there are many more factors playing a part in the development of a child. And yes, I think you’d better get used to someone always having a greater influence and more power than you have ;)

Well, I’ll just go home now since there obviously won’t be a seminar now ;)

Take care,

Ben