It’s not surprising that the Western media have unilaterally labelled the Hamas October 7 attacks as a “new 9/11”. Of course, they refer to the official story about 9/11, indelibly impressed in its terrifying iconography (which tends to exclude the response unleashed by the US in the Middle East over the following two decades, a protracted mass murder operation known as the “global war on terror”). What the “new 9/11” tag should evoke, in fact, is the opposite of what MSM imply: that since September 11, 2001, global emergencies have been rolled out with a diabolical sense of timeliness so that the proverbial can (the bankruptcy of the global economic system) is kicked further down the road.
If we’re looking for a clue for what might have instigated the most recent iteration of the Israel-Palestine crisis, we could start with Joe Biden’s speech of October 11: ‘When Congress returns we’re going to ask them to take urgent action to fund the security requirements of our critical partners.’ Predictably, the US war chest is expanding. On October 19, in a primetime address from the Oval Office, Biden was explicit: ‘Hamas and Putin represent different threats, but they share this in common: they both want to completely annihilate a neighbouring democracy… They keep going. And the cost and the threats to America and the world keep rising’. Hence the request for billions in emergency security packages to Ukraine and Israel (as well as border security with Mexico and other “international crises”). It almost feels like they’re selling us two wars for the price of one.
Covid, Ukraine, Israel. At a fundamental level, these cannot fail to appear as interchangeable emergencies released with clockwork precision. The common denominator in the crisis-to-crisis metanarrative, which Covid inaugurated in style, is that global predicaments require funding: a continuous streak of liquidity (mostly US dollars) that is supposed to have much the same effect on heavily stressed bond markets as central bank Quantitative Easing. This is why the “war is the cure for Covid” pun hits the nail on the head (though it could always reverse into the opposite). Geopolitical crises are literally weaponized to pull magic money into the now and delay the coming meltdown of the financial system. Even the threat of expanding wars and terrorist activity has the power of summoning cash out of nowhere (while also bombarding the masses with apocalyptic visions that gently nudge them to submit to the “only policing authority” that can provide safety). However, from a financial point of view these are only desperate temporary strategies following one another in an absurd crescendo of real violence and destruction.
In the West, we’re heading back to the old “war on terror” playbook, as recently demonstrated in France and Belgium. FBI Director Christopher Wray has now issued an official warning on the rise of terrorism on American soil. In fact, the resurgent threat of “jihadist terror” was announced months before the October 7 attacks. For instance, in May 2023, French interior minister Gérald Darmanin visited the US asking for more intelligence collaboration against ‘Islamic terrorism,’ which, with incredible power of foresight, he called ‘the primary threat in Europe’. A warning repeated almost verbatim in July by UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who ‘identified Islamic terrorism as the primary UK domestic threat’, cautioning that ‘extremists could use artificial intelligence to plan more sophisticated terror attacks’. This is why war expansion from Ukraine to the Middle East, with the return of gory “Islamic terrorism”, was always a predictable candidate for the “Next Crisis” award. The déjà vu of a déjà vu.
If we adopt the moral standpoint, the truth of the event can be summed up with the words of Amira Hass writing on Haaretz on October 10: ‘In a few days Israelis went through what Palestinians have experienced as a matter of routine for decades, and are still experiencing – military incursions, death, cruelty, slain children, bodies piled up in the road, siege, fear, anxiety over loved ones, captivity, being targets of vengeance, indiscriminate lethal fire at both those involved in the fighting (soldiers) and the uninvolved (civilians), a position of inferiority, destruction of buildings, ruined holidays or celebrations, weakness and helplessness in the face of all-powerful armed men, and searing humiliation.’ In a similar but more politically cautious manner, Slavoj Zizek argued that ‘Hamas and Israeli hardliners are two sides of the same coin. The choice is not one hardline faction or the other; it is between fundamentalists and all those who still believe in the possibility of peaceful co-existence.’
However politically motivated, moral criticism is always at risk of developing into insipid idealism, thus overlooking the elementary difference between oppressors and oppressed (or domination and exclusion): Palestine has long been reduced to a concentration camp by a colonising state that, historically, acts as an outpost of US foreign policy. While some might argue that Netanyahu’s extreme right-wing government has been a huge headache for the Biden administration, the Israeli leader has nevertheless received the unconditional support of the US (and all Western governments): sympathy, weapons, and dollars. Joe Biden is providing Netanyahu with the most sophisticated military support, more than enough for what the Israeli leader himself has ominously called ‘a long war’. Furthermore, the US has vetoed the UN security council resolution to pause hostilities. The simple fact of the matter is summarised by Miranda Cleland: ‘Rather than demand an immediate ceasefire, the Biden administration is actively working to further provide cover for Israeli atrocities in Gaza.’ Cover, which is also likely to help Netanyahu retain political legitimacy despite his indictment on three counts of corruption.
As well as observing that both brands of extremism are wrong, then, we should emphasise that the genocide currently perpetrated in Gaza encapsulates the “heart of darkness” of Western fundamentalism. In the last decade alone, numerous attacks against Palestinians have caused thousands of victims, most of them civilians. And yet, somehow, it is Hamas’s terrorism that we should feel morally compelled to condemn first, before even being allowed into any discussion.
Ultimately, any criticism of the ongoing mass slaughter that posits two equally wrong sides is articulated from a position of proximity to capital, secretly (idealistically) assuming that capital’s functional managers are capable of restoring some kind of order. What such standpoint fails to consider is the opposite scenario: that the role of these events is to help those in power to preserve the criminal socioeconomic model they so loyally represent. Moral criticism, in other words, tends to ignore how mass slaughters are baked into the (implosive) capitalist cake. Capital is utterly indifferent to the amount of pain it inflicts upon humanity, and so are its cynical agents. As an anonymous drive, capital is the blind repetition of its crushing law of movement, which increasingly describes not only the internal compulsion toward profit-making, but also the external determination of the latter’s conditions of possibility, including 1) the fabrication/manipulation of global emergencies, to be launched when most needed; and 2) the authoritarian repression of dissent, from the criminalisation of “anti-vaxxers” to the crackdown on pro-Palestine voices. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the “elites” are the anthropomorphic expression of ironclad systemic imperatives. Increasingly pressurised by unstoppable economic decline, the democratic West reveals once again its true colours – with the assistance of a motley crew of intellectual cheerleaders that, sadly, includes “leftists” of all stripes.
Today’s fashionable “conspiracy theory” watchdogs conveniently disregard not only that conspiring is a fact of history common to all societies, but especially that the power of the social machine of capital is ipso facto conspiratorial. Lies and propaganda are embedded in the modus operandi of our “system.” Modern history is a priori inscribed in an objectivised, “reified” social narrative programmed to recreate its own conditions of possibility, whatever it takes. Hegel famously wrote that ‘world-history […] is self-caused and self-realised reason.’[i] But this self-causative process – which capital embodies to perfection as the “self-valorisation of value” – would not take place without the covert steering of the ruling classes, no matter how dull, delusional, botched, or even counterproductive their actions might turn out to be. More precisely, today the agency in question responds to the need to prop up, or even reboot, the system’s financial/monetary presuppositions. In this respect, subjective agency is indistinguishable from systemic violence, just as capital is indistinguishable from its sociopathic planners. The current war on “conspiracy theories” bears an uncanny resemblance to the war on “heresies” in medieval Europe.[ii] Its main ideological purpose is to silence critical thinking, stigmatising any question or belief that conflicts with the official narrative.
The main shortcoming of moralistic approaches to Ukraine and Gaza is that they lose sight of the key systemic contradiction: the fact that we live in an age of compulsive global emergencies, which cannot be allowed to stop. From the perspective of the reproduction of our hyper-financialised universe, war and destruction can hardly be avoided, or even paused. The implosive inertia of capital calls for increasing amounts of violence and mass deception. While this view does not intend to overlook the uneven, self-contradictory, and haphazard characteristics of human history, it nevertheless emphasises our decaying civilization’s growing appetite for barbarism. The true and very urgent problem we face – both philosophically and politically – is how to intervene in the ineluctable; how to conceive of interventions that are not caught in the deadly spiral of socioeconomic implosion, characterised by ubiquitous perception management and the perverse spectacle of false flags.
On alternative media, the parallel between 10/7 and with 9/11 tends to draw on their common “Frankenstein syndrome.” Just as the US were hit by their own CIA-nurtured “lab creature”, Israel is now facing the blowback of a “monster” that Tel Aviv’s intelligence services have fostered for decades, initially with a view to weakening Yasser Arafat’s secular PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization). While this reasoning is plausible, it remains inconsequential if we fail to develop the deeper context. The media-fuelled fog of war conceals the elementary opportunistic motif behind the conflict: war and mass slaughter are meant to expand so that liquidity creation can also be expanded. The illusion of a debt-soaked financialised economy is going to be kept alive by more sacrifice of ‘human animals’ – to quote Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant (the irony being that, in fact, all humans are, strictly speaking, “human animals” – just some are more equal than others!).
Capitalism has always been a “warlike enterprise”. Its self-congratulatory functional managers have never hesitated to send millions to the slaughterhouse to fulfil the system’s needs, and theirs with it. Have we already forgotten the passionate liaison between the Anglo-American corporate elites and Nazi Germany? JP Morgan & Co., Standard Oil, General Motors, Ford, Harrison Brown, Vickers-Armstrong and many other giants of the Western “free world” financed Hitler’s resistible rise to power and continued investing in Nazi Germany throughout WWII (mostly via the Bank of International Settlements, based in Basel).[iii] Autobahns, dive-bombing Stukas, U-boats, Zyklon B, death camps, etc. – they all exhibit Western fingerprints. These bankers, investors, and CEOs were not just rotten apples looking for easy profits – there was more purpose in their actions. The same devastating purpose hidden in the Treaty of Versailles which, as prophesised by Thorstein Veblen as early as 1920, was ‘a diplomatic bluff’ meant to foment radicalism in Germany while purposely sparing the country’s ‘absentee owners’ (its ‘imperial establishment’), thus reinstating a ‘reactionary regime’ and preparing ‘a continuation of warlike enterprise’.[iv] We cannot grasp the destructive character of modernity if we disconnect it from the substantial will of capital as a compulsive social disorder. In Marx’s words: ‘As a capitalist, he is only capital personified. His soul is the soul of capital’ which ‘has one sole driving force, the drive to valorize itself’.[v]
Can we even begin to fathom the destructive potential of today’s “emergency capitalism”? The social architecture of the commodity producing system – which, as Walter Benjamin wrote more than a century ago, is truly a religious cult that, as such, requires human sacrifices – is experiencing such terminal malaise that only the brutal butchery of “just wars” can conceal the breakdown of its modus operandi. The “just wars” of the democratic West act as moralistic shields against “enemies” that the West has consciously nurtured or produced by unrelenting oppression. There’s never shortage of such “enemies,” precisely because oppression has never stopped. But even more crucially, these wars are magnets for credit creation. They are deliberately set off so that increasing amounts of liquidity can be pulled from computer screens into the system. In this respect, we should not lose sight of the fact that, today more than ever, political leaders, military organizations, intelligence, and counterintelligence forces coordinating the war games are all more or less “priced in” as commodities in capital’s marketplace.
As of October 18, 2023, the total amount of US dollars in circulation in the entire world is $2.324 trillion, while the US national debt is $33 trillion and counting. Even intuitively, this alone should explain why a full-blown liquidity crisis is upon us, which means that more debt must be exponentially borrowed into existence. Moreover, when you raise the cost of debt without having the funds to pay for it, you’re inevitably going to have to fabricate reasons to create synthetic liquidity through the central bank as “lender of last resort”, at least to cover the servicing of that debt. This, then, is the paradox of our time: a debt-based economy requiring more debt (and reasons to generate it) in order to pretend it can stand on its feet. As I discussed in my previous pieces in this blog, real growth today can never catch up with debt as it is increasingly squeezed by technological productivity, while tax revenues have nothing to do with growth. At present, no other event in this world generates more cash for the system than war (including the fakery of epidemiological wars). Funds can always be conjured up as packages for “humanitarian conflicts.” Incidentally, this means that financial market risk – particularly acute for bond markets – can now be measured not only in fiat currencies, but also in human lives.
The Truman Show choreography around us was set up so that we don’t realise that the system is now permanently insolvent; that is to say, on the verge of a tsunami of margin calls which would annihilate the financial sector and the real economy in one fell swoop. This is why the only true demand that matters today is the demand for emergency monetary measures, namely the (massively inflationary) magicking up of heaps of electronic cash to be pumped into the financial architecture to postpone a catastrophic liquidity freeze whose devastating potential, however, these injections only make worse. For you can rest assured that no matter how much “humanitarian aid” is created, it will never be enough.
In the meantime, we are entering truly troubled waters. Shipping lanes are likely to be affected by the expanding conflict in the Middle East, which means that trade and commodities (including energy) are at risk of bottlenecks – an accelerator for a global recession hitting the heart of the real economy itself. As with Covid, this will eventually force central banks to print & support to paper over the massive cracks in the system. World Bank President Ajay Banga is already calling this war a ‘global economic shock’. Furthermore, growing budgetary deficits and debt servicing costs have long started to hurt. Without bad news, rates are likely to stay higher for longer, and yet the longer they stay higher, the more likely a credit event will be. On Friday before the new 9/11, losses on held-to-maturity assets of US banks had broken the all-time record of $400 billion. These are “unrealised losses”, i.e., assets held on banks’ balance sheets until maturity which, based on current interest rates, generate losses that are not yet accounted for. Perhaps this has something to do with ‘big banks quietly cutting thousands of employees’; perhaps there’s a connection between Bank of America’s massive layoffs and its monumental $131.6 billion in unrealised losses. But what really matters is that an entire financial ecosystem collateralised with Treasuries is now exposed to a trillion-dollar mega margin call. And perhaps this has something to do with the timing of this brand new 9/11.
Gaza, like Donbas, was a time bomb waiting to go off. Is it not legitimate to ask how Israel, a state literally based on intelligence and security (Mossad and Shin Bet), missed Hamas soldiers entering its territory by land, sea, and air (with paragliders)? The story of Hamas’s easy breach of Israel’s “unparalleled security system” (unseen, unobstructed, without response or alarm) will sound to many as preposterous as other official stories we’ve been told in recent time, and in any case since November 22, 1963. Of course, such an attack doesn’t have to be a complete false flag. More realistically, it can be allowed to take place, or facilitated. But regardless of how it happened, the point is that we’re left with chaos and destabilisation, which when we look at the bigger picture cannot fail to appear managed.
What is paramount for the correct ideological functioning of the emergency scenario is, of course, the shocking representation of horror, which functions as a quilting point that holds together the intricate layers of the entire narrative. The official story must be condensed into a single image of unspeakable revulsion, whose immediate purpose is to clear the ground for any opposition to the legitimacy of a “proportionate” retaliation. To understand the ideological use of horror we could refer back to Immanuel Kant’s late 18th century definition of the sublime in the Critique of Judgement: an overwhelming aesthetic experience that transcends our sensible forms and intellectual capacities. Whether it is planes hitting the twin towers, Isis murders by decapitation, the Italian army trucks transporting Covid-19 victims ‘as crematoriums were full’, the Bucha carnage of Ukrainians, or the Israeli kibbutz massacre ‘with 40 beheaded children’, we are faced with what we could call UMOs, Unidentified Media Objects. Whether true, partially true, or false, their mission is to capture the mind-blowing horror of the real, thereby ‘surpassing every standard of Sense.’[vi] The traumatic power of formless, unimaginable horror – like the “news” about the 40 beheaded Israeli babies, which was floated into the infosphere and then immediately withdrawn – lies not so much in moving us, but, like the Kantian sublime, in forcing us to suspend critical judgement and accept the official version. Here a quote attributed to Malcolm X comes to mind: ‘If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.’
***Many thanks to Todd Smith, Michael Marder, and Geraint Evans for commenting on a draft of this piece***
[i] Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Philosophy of Right (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 200.
[ii] See David Coady, ‘Conspiracy Theory as Heresy’, in Educational Philosophy and Theory, 55:7, 2021, pp. 756-759.
[iii] See Adam Lebor, Tower of Basel: The Shadowy History of the Secret Bank that Runs the World (New York: PublicAffairs, 2014).
[iv] Thorstein Veblen (1920), ‘Review of John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace’, in Political Science Quarterly, 35, pp. 467-472.
[v] Karl Marx, Capital. A Critique of Political Economy. Volume One (London and New York: Penguin), p. 342.
[vi] Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgement, trans. J. H. Bernard (London: Macmillan, 1914), p. 110.