14. "9/11"

For us, 9/11 was a big media manipulation. Every day, thousands die because of ignorance, organised want, because of the force and pressure of the capitalist mode of production, and nobody speaks of them. But the victims of 9/11 are on TV, and provide wars and politics with official legitimacy. Democratic society shows us more and more its real face, not the liberal tingle-tangle Welfare State, but the face of the totalitarian dictatorship of capital, not only through Big Brother politics or wars, but also through the pressure to sell yourself as a wage slave.

Nobody should be surprised the 3500 dead bodies of the World Trade Centre weigh much more in public opinion and speech than thousands of other dead bodies in Afghanistan, Irak or the Congo. The ruling dead are the dead of the ruling countries.

However, we'd rather use the phrase totalitarian dictatorship for regimes such as Hitler's or Kim Jong-il's, not Bush's or A. Merkel's. In today's US, Italy or France, capitalism influences all aspects of daily life, but it maintains a political, ideological and cultural competition that is necessary to its fundamental economic competition, and therefore this form of capitalism is more aptly defined as a democracy than a dictatorship.

Neither State propaganda nor the media can impose anything they choose. Even Goebbels was forced to admit that Stalingrad was a defeat and that bombs were setting German cities on fire. In the West nowadays, nobody seriously believes that no plane crashed on the Pentagon, or that the Mossad masterminded the attacks upon Manhattan. Those that believe it, in some Muslim circles or countries, are ready to be gullible because they wish to think of Israel as an all-powerful manipulator behind the scenes.

September 11, 2001, certainly did not herald a new era. What was new about it was the exposure of the vulnerability of a system that regards itself as omniscient and invincible, in a highly symbolic place: for the first time, the flag bearer of the capitalist epic was struck at its heart. Manhattan is not Pearl Harbor. The media only played upon that unheard-of reality.

Besides, the notion of a manipulation has the disadvantage of minimising the contradictions exacerbated by the fall of the Twin Towers. The September 11 attacks allowed the US to increase social and police control in its own country, but also encouraged it to embark upon military adventures with overall negative results. The "War on Terror" certainly reunites the public under the protective strong arm of the State, not just in America, elsewhere as well, in Britain for example after bombs went off in the London subway. Yet the revealed fragility of US superpower also breeds more challenges, very few of them with a communist content, but which relativise the notion of a manipulation. There is no invisible hand pulling the strings, but a multiplicity of hands and heads. When the Spanish right put the blame for the bombing in the Madrid train stations upon the ETA (which clearly had nothing to do with it), the ploy backfired, and the exposed lie contributed to the victory of the left in the elections that followed. Only Stalin could force the press to publish any piece of news that the readers had no choice but to swallow - or to pretend to. We don't live in Orwell's 1984. "Real" capitalist domination is polycentrist: the State concentrates an amazing power without being obliged to use it every day and in every sector, because it controls the essential, and keeps the means to expand its hold upon society in times of acute crisis.

Another word seems to be inadequate: wage slave. It often happens for wage earners to be treated like slaves, in bureaucratic capitalism as in many aspects of "market" capitalism. But slavery is one thing, wage labour is another, and a very different one, where selling one's labour power implies some amount of freedom, some disposal of oneself.

If we'd rather avoid phrases like "dictatorship", "totalitarianism" or "slavery" in cases when we think they're inadequate, it's not out of a desire to be subtle and full of nuances. Whoever wishes to change the world always runs the risk of appearing provocative (see our answer 21). It's just that it's vital to assess where and when the specificity and strength of capitalism really lie.