In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities
or, The End of the Social and Other Essays
Distributed for Semiotext(e)
Baudrillard's remarkably prescient meditation on terrorism throws light on post-9/11 delusional fears and political simulations.
The whole chaotic constellation of the social revolves around that spongy reference, that opaque but equally translucent reality, that nothingness: the masses. A statistical crystal ball, the masses are 'swirling with currents and flows,' in the image of matter and the natural elements. So, at least, they are represented to us.
Written in 1978 and first published in English in 1983, In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities was the first postmodern response to the delusional strategies of terrorism. At a time when European terrorists were taking politics into their own hands, Baudrillard was the first to announce that the "critical mass" had stopped being critical of anything. Rather, the "masses" had become a place of absorption and implosion; hence the ending of the possibility of politics as will and representation.
The book marked the end of an era when silent majorities still factored into the democratic political process and were expected to respond positively to revolutionary messages. With the masses no longer "alienated" as Marx had described, but rather indifferent, this phenomenon made revolutionary explosion impossible, says Baudrillard.
The mass absorbs all the social energy, but no longer refracts it. It absorbs every sign and every meaning, but no longer reflects them... it never participates. It is a good conductor of information, but of any information. It is without truth and without reason. It is without conscience and without unconscious. Everybody questions it, but never as silence, always to make it speak. This silence is unbearable. It is the simulation chamber of the social. As a mere shadow cast by power, the silent majority and its hyper-real conformity have no meaning and nothing to say to us. To that, terrorism responds by an equally hyper-real act equally caught up from the onset in concentric waves of media and of fascination.
It aims at the mass silence, the masses in their silence. It aims at the white magic of simulation, deterrence, of anonymous and random control, and by the black magic of a still greater, more anonymous, arbitrary and more hazardous abstraction; that of the terrorist act.
Remarkably prescient, Baudrillard's meditation on terrorism throws light on post-September 11th delusional fears and political simulations.