Slavoj Zizek on 9/11: New Yorkers Faced the Fire in the Minds of Men

On this day 15 years ago the world changed irreversibly… The trauma of humanity gave birth to a new world driven by disorder, destruction, suffering and death… And the fury unleashed by this event has been put to many evil uses in the way of a total subsumption of the Earth under chaos since then… Is it worth mentioning that the inordinate measure of negativity now engulfing us still remains to be overturned?



Two Hollywood films mark 9/11’s fifth anniversary: Paul Greengrass’s United 93 and Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center. Both adopt a terse, realistic depiction of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. There is undoubtedly a touch of authenticity to them and most critics have praised their sober styles and avoidance of sensationalism. But it is the touch of authenticity that raises some disturbing questions.

The realism means that both films are restrained from taking a political stance and depicting the wider context of the events. Neither the passengers on United 93 nor the policemen in WTC grasp the full picture. All of a sudden they find themselves in a terrifying situation and have to make the best out of it.

This lack of “cognitive mapping” is crucial. All we see are the disastrous effects, with their cause so abstract that, in the case of WTC, one can easily imagine exactly the same…

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