Introduction: The present article surveys Don DeLillo’s Falling Man so as to attest to the political resistance against the narrative of horror effected by the mass media in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001. The researchers are inclined to read DeLillo’s novel in the light of the mind-sets of the illustrious contemporary thinker Jean Baudrillard. Baudrillard emphasizes that we gain our access to events through the mass media, particularly television. Nonetheless, argues Baudrillard, what we see in real time is not the event as it actually takes place. On the contrary, it is little more than “the spectacle of the degradation of the event and its spectral evocation” which is far more magnified than the actual life ([Persian] Gulf War 48).
Consequently, the truth begins to shrink and “the closer we approach the live and real time, the further we will go in this direction” (48-9). In other words, once an event is mediatized, it loses its significance and singularity for the commentary, modeling and packaging of the event become more important than the event itself. Baudrillard stresses that the public media privilege such matters as how to show the event to the viewers or who should interpret the event to what has actually taken place. The questions the article poses are that how the public media are terroristic in capitalist societies and whether the artist can display political resistance and counter-narrative against the terroristic narrative triggered by the 9/11 attacks.
Background Studies: The novels which target the terrorist act of September 11 and its aftermath focus on such issues as pre-9/11 American society, terrorism, and traumatic experiences and living in the aftermath, and the War on Terrorism. Considering DeLillo’s Falling Man, a number of critics contend that Falling Man as a work of art cannot proffer political resistance in the post-9/11 climate. For example, Anne Longmuir argues that “DeLilloʼs treatment of Morandi indicates his rejection of the reclusive artist paradigm as politically bankrupt” (54). She acknowledges a kind of political resistance in Janiakʼs performance; however, she deems his work of art “defeated by larger cultural forces” (43). Jonathan Yardley writes in a Washington Post article that in Falling Man, “DeLillo is merely piggybacking on Sept.11, counting on those vivid images cemented in our memories to give the novel the force heʼs unable to instill in it himself”. More radically, Kristiaan Versluys emphasizes that DeLilloʼs novel is “the most devastatingly pessimistic novel among all the 9/11 narratives” which not only fails to submit a resolution to heal the collective trauma in the post 9/11 New York Community but disperses the trauma “like a contagious disease” (14, 30). Versluys concludes that the “endless re-enactment of trauma presented in Falling Man allows for no accommodation or resolution” owing to the fact that September 11, 2001 culminates with “the collapse of everything that is familiar” (20, 21).
Methodology and Argument: The researchers are inclined to read DeLillo’s novel in the light of the mind-sets of the illustrious contemporary thinker Jean Baudrillard. In Fatal Strategies and In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities, Baudrillard emphasizes that we reside in a transpolitical epoch whose salient characteristic is the pervasiveness of politics. In this era, according to Baudrillard, such terms as ideology, class, or state have been superseded by terrorism.
Baudrillard insists that the mass media are tantamount to terrorism, and terrorism without the espousal of the public media is a nonentity. In this regard, claims Baudrillard, the media are terroristic for they target the masses. To be more precise, the public media are after people by means of simultaneously dispensing terror and galvanizing people into engaging in the intrigue of violence. The media propagate violence in the society. Hence, according to Baudrillard, the masses are the media’s confederate on the grounds that they are consumers of this terrorizing wide appeal. To him, “[t]he media are terrorists in their own fashion, working continually to produce (good) sense, but, at the same time, violently defeating it by arousing everywhere a fascination without scruples, that is to say, a paralysis of meaning, to the profit of a single scenario” (In the Shadow 113-14).
Baudrillard gives particular prominence to the part the media play in proliferating terrorism. He emphasizes that the capitalist system sets out to perceive and interpret the terroristic event for its own benefits so as to motivate counter-terroristic attempts which, in turn, provide the state with a golden opportunity to overstep its jurisdiction. Thus, the capitalist society enjoys this prerogative authority and boosts its police forces and military programs. In addition to the capitalist state, Baudrillard states that the masses are also accomplice in this process due to the fact that they are enthralled with consuming fear. While terror is dispensed by the media in the system, the masses welcome and consume it in deep fascination, or as Baudrillard argues, the masses, then, enjoy the spectacle.
Findings and Conclusion: The researchers render a Baudrillardian reading of Don DeLillo’s Falling Man and contend that the artist’s unmediated performance can proffer a counter-narrative against the oppressive and selective narrative of the media by entering into the collective political unconscious of the audience, bringing to the fore the repressed memory of the victims, and reiterating what took place on 9/11. Not only does the artist resist actively against the media hype which surrounds the post-9/11 world, but he fills the rift between the artist and the audience through his unmediated work of art. Hence, the artist proves capable of healing the post-9/11 traumatic injuries of American citizens by making them re-visit their traumatic memory.