Dec 292006

A key element of an economic system is the nature of the basic transactions, if any. So it might be worthwhile to attempt a brief explanation of the difference between a typical monetary transaction in the familiar  (market-money-industrial) economy, and a typical attention transaction, of the type that characterizes the new economy. Here goes.

A monetary transaction, normally involves two parties and an  actual or implied contract between them (often in the form of a receipt). This is so whether it be the buying (and simultaneous selling) of something,  a rental of some sort, or payment for work done.  The contract is in principle legally binding and enforceable. Also involved of course are a handover of money, on the one hand, and goods, labor or services (good as services) on the other. Generally the money and the goods are both in standardized amounts, and one or both are handed over at specific times, with definite deadlines, in accord with the contract. Either or both parties can be other than individual human beings: they can be any legal entity, such as a corporation or a government.

By contrast, an attention transaction is rarely contractual, virtually never legally enforceable, and generally involves unequal attention on the two sides. Consider the case of someone speaking to a large, rapt audience; many pay attention to one, far more then he or she can pay back. Sometimes those paying attention also pay in services of other kinds or money, in addition to attention, sometimes not. The attention of audience members doesn’t necessarily end when they leave the room, or when the speaker is finished, but can continue further, and be re-ignited, much later by some mental association or other with the speaker or something she said. Each such further transaction clearly occurs in the mind of a particular listener.

An attention transaction thus involves each individual attention payer separately. The audience can be said to pay attention, but only to the extent that the sum of people n it do. If some pay much more, or return more tot the subject later, they are clearly each involved in a separate transaction, even though they may tend to pay heightened attention to the speaker precisely because so many other around are also paying attention. Likewise, it is difficult to pay attention to a group as such. Even if you are listening to an orchestra or chorus, you are significantly listening to the composer, whose work they can be said to channel, and the a few others who direct the playing, especially the conductor, and possibly also the arranger. Some particular person decides what pieces to play and how to play them, and the others turn that into sound. Likewise you can pay attention to play or a movie only if one particular person’s feelings and views guide how the others involved do what they do. To prepare such a complex performance requires a lot of attention on the part of the key person, which is why it can take months or years to make a movie, say, even though you can then watch it in little over an hour. But you are not paying attention to the film company, say Sony Pictures or Paramount, in the sense that if you buy, say a car, you are paying money to the car company.

Dec 272006

Michel Bauwens’ P2P has EXCERPTS of my draft BOOK as book of the week on the P2P foundation site.

The new projected title of my book is
ALL THE WORLD A STAGE:The Emerging ATTENTION ECONOMY, Why It’s Coming, Its Deep Difference from the Familiar Market-Money-Industrial Economy, and What the Changes Mean For Our Lives.

MEANWHILE, the site Blau Exchange has an INTERVIEW with me conducted by Paul diPerna.

Dec 042006

[The following was partly written for the dialogue "underfire", but it also stands on its own.]

“If a gun is on the table in the first act, it will go off by the third act” – Anton Chekhov

In real life, the gun isn’t necessarily ever fired, yet its presence is still of great significance, and the same was true for swords and spears in the past, and for all manner of weapons now. Just as the gun as theater prop indicated to the knowing theatergoer that some play-acted attempt at violence could be expected before the night was over, weapons today signify power even when they do not actually “go off.” Even when a gun is is fired, it may well be as a warning shot. In fact, even when weapons are used to kill, most of the time their major intended effect is as warning to those not hit. Those warned are not necessarily anywhere near the weapon, nor do they have to directly witness whatever violence takes place, as long as they learn of it in a sufficiently graphic manner.

Depending on the sophistication and credibility of the audience, the threat of a weapon can merely be putative. A bank robber need not have a gun at all, but just a bearing and perhaps a note stating or only implying that he or she does. The kind of weapon does not even have to exist, as long as its present or future existence can be believably claimed or implied. Thus the “Star Wars” anti-missile system favored by President Reagan apparently helped undermine the Soviet Union in the 1980’s, even though up to the present, twenty years later, it has never been built in sufficient numbers to be any threat, and has never even been shown to work with any reliability. The point was that with both a nuclear-missile “sword” and the Star Wars “shield,” the US would be able to launch an unanswerable and undefendable attack on the Soviets. As long as the Soviet leaders could not be certain it would not work, and doubted their own ability to successfully devote the resources to counter it, it seemed to place them in peril. Of course, the Soviet system faced many other problems, which the Star Wars threat at most exacerbated. Still, it was a long-standing American policy — starting no later than the 1950’s — to attempt to bankrupt the USSR in a “qualitative” arms race.

Star Wars was only one of the many weapons of the qualitative arms race. In order to make the race as dramatic as possible, and thus as threatening, every conceivable technology had to be examined, and many then became irresistable to put into practice to some degree, whether that entailed talking about building them, actually doing so, or somehow brandishing or using them. For many reasons, even after the fall of the Soviet Union, when there has been no country racing the US to any degree, the emphasis on new weapons continued. Some reasons: bureaucratic inertia; the desire of weapons companies for lucrative new contracts; the assumed need to prop up the American economy with defense spending that does not compete with any profitable, private-sector offerings; and the self-promotion of defense technologists. Another reason to rely on technology was the hope that by so doing, the military could appear forceful without actually jeopardizing many soldiers’ lives. In the case of Kosovo, this actually worked; relying strictly on high-tech air power and a little diplomacy, the US pretty much achieved its war aims against Serbia without losing a soldier. However, to what extent the high-tech advantage was really necessary is not clear; it was a bombing campaign against a small, totally out-gunned country, and with limited objectives.

A quick, successful battle builds support at home as well. Another rhetorical thrust is to the home front, as illustrated by the televised beginnings of the Iraq war in “shock and awe.” An even better example in my view was the “amazing victory” over the tiny country of Grenada in 1983. Still smarting over the defeat in Vietnam eight years earlier, US “patriots” proclaimed this victory as a sign that “America is back.” The New York City Central Park Police were probably up to the task, but the country celebrated as if it had been a victory over China.

But there is a problem. Though the US outguns everyone many times over, at least on paper, the fact that our weapons are vastly expensive and highly sophisticated doesn’t mean they necessarily can be used to defeat an enemy without cost. Their rhetorical power may not be evident to those who in effect do not speak the language. Handing a note reading, “I have a gun,” to a banker who does not read English and has never heard of guns would not be an effective way to rob her. In the same way, stealth aircraft are no particular advantage against foes who do not even have radar, but they are more costly to use than conventional planes.

As I have hinted, the Pentagon desperately wants to avoid casualties, especially when fighting wars of only marginal value for the survival of the US. Under these circumstances, a draft is unacceptable; loss of life is unacceptable for most possible volunteers, and for their parents. Unless machines can replace soldiers, the Pentagon itself is just another “pitiful, helpless giant,” in the immortal words of Richard Nixon. Without the capacity to fight actual wars, the credibility of the advanced weapons will disappear, and eventually, the public will pull the plug entirely, or so they should reasonably fear. Thus the need to invent or discover enemies who will fall prey to the rhetoric of high-tech weapons at little or no cost in soldiers.

There are not many Grenadas, however. Nor even Kosovos. Finding an enemy that justifies vast military expenditures — that is, one which is not so much of a pushover that an unarmed bank robber could do the job — is not easy. That this enemy must also be perfectly attuned to the rhetoric of high-tech and will fold accordingly is even more of a challenge. Iraq has proved itself unsuited to its intended role. They just don’t get it. All the super-expensive weapons in the world can’t work, in that case.

In 1964, General Curtis LeMay, head of the nuclearized Strategic Air Command, supposedly advocated “bombing them [the North Vietnamese] back to the stone age.” In outline, this what the Allies did to win over the Axis in WWII., dreadfully bombing some cites in large measure as an example to the others. Then it had worked. Occupation after the utter defeat of the Axis armies involved much less resistance than either in Vietnam or Iraq. Germany, Italy and Japan each became or reinstated democracies of a sort.

One reason LeMay’s Indochina plan got no traction was that the Soviets were allies of Vietnam, and they were thought to have plenty of nuclear-tipped missiles that could hit the US. A similar strategy has undoubtedly occurred to some militarists in the case of Iraq, which, in fact, has no nuclear-armed allies that could be counted on to attack the US in reprisal. But even the Bush administration seems to realize that world- and even American opinion would be sharply against such a brutal and catastrophic attack. The US could never live it down. This is largely because of other technology— satellite television, the Internet, color photography. These are all now relatively cheap, but they are more effective than all the stealth planes or satellite surveillance in the world. Their rhetoric turns out to be far more universal, far more comprehensible, and thus far more powerful.

Nov 082006

On this blog, I don’t normally discuss raw politics or admit my preference for Democrats, but tonight, I am celebrating, so here goes:

The Democrats manged to flip about 53 seats in the House. I notice an interesting pattern. Every single one of those flipped districts was adjacent to one or more existing Democratic districts. SEE MAP

Democratic tendencies are spreading, oozing, perhaps, like blue maple syrup on a waffle. Neighbors don’t let neighbors vote Republican. Or grass-roots campaigning still actually works, or something similar…
(I participated in the effort to elect Jerry McNerney (D) over Richard Pombo (R) in the California 11th Congressional District, which had been gerrymandered so as to include the maximum number of Republican voters, to keep the surrounding seats safe for Democrats. That was supposed to make this a very safe Republican seat. Pollsters in the know said it was a hopeless campaign for a Democrat. We went ahead anyway, with many in the SF Bay area putting time into the campaign –and it worked.)

Today more of the waffle, tomorrow the whole waffle! You heard it here first.

Oct 302006

Note: The following is my contribution to a disucssion about war called underfire
(Thanks to Jordan Crandall for conveing this discussion and inviting me. This is especially in response to the remarks of Saskia Sassen on borders, Alain Joxe on structured chaos and Paul Edwards on weak discipline.)

As Immanuel Wallerstein once pointed out, old empires did not survive if they took more than forty days travel to cross from end to end. On that basis, we now find ourselves in world of six billion people sitting on the head of a pin. Virtual travel, at least, occurs in a fraction of a second, so the possibility of an “empire” or indeed a closed state is out of the question — unless every point is the capital, and, equally, a center of resistance.

Consider that we are all almost literally on top of one another, that crowding is supposed to promote anger and violence, and that so many means for violence are now readily available. What is most striking: The actual amount of violence at any scale is tiny. It is so especially in comparison with what we can easily imagine and what has been repeatedly prognosticated. It is certainly so in comparison with the spasms of killing that dominated the first half or even the first three quarters of the last century. This is not to deny or negate the horrors and criminality of most violence still happening. Nor is it to say that worse cannot happen; it certainly might, but we should not exaggerate the likelihood either. On the whole, Homo interneticus is remarkably peaceful.

Yet violence seems much more interesting to notice, watch, playact, imagine, bemoan or discuss than more peaceful topics. Hence this discussion itself. Somehow, it is very easy to put oneself in the shoes of either the murderers or the victims — or both. On the whole, I think, the victims cry out to us more, but only because we also understand the deliberateness of killing, and that it, too, is done by those like us. A victim of deliberate violence may cry out no more loudly than the victim of a natural disaster or a disease, but draws our sorrow and pity and desires for justice or revenge much more intensely. Heartless as we may feel is an employer who lays off workers or a real estate developer who disposseses tenants, or even a tobacco tycoon who knowingly presses the chance of lung cancer on unsuspecting smokers, we do not normally feel as much anger towards them as towards a small-scale serial killer, a torturer or rapist in some distant place who we read about only in the daily newspaper. Sex may sell; violence sells even better, or at least it more completely draws our attention.

Violence draws our attention. That thought, I argue, is key to understanding the violence and especially the “war-like” or terrorist variety of it still prevalent. War has always been “about” the control of scarce resources. The scarcest these days is nothing material. It is the attention of our fellow human beings. (See for many more details.) Terror, conquest and killing always work to draw attention, but especially so in this media-filled age — provided however that they do not settle into boring routine. The Western front in World War I would not have been ideal from this point of view, and audiences tire very quickly today on any particular war. Right now, after “only” three years, and with far fewer American casualties and no draft to incite opposition, the American public is much more tired of the current Iraq war than it was of the Vietnam war after more years. This despite the fact that this war was (falsely) sold on the basis of an actual attack on our home soil (9-11) — a case that could not be made against North Viet Nam.

I have repeatedly argued that, as we remember it, 9-11 was mostly a fluke —on the one hand quite possibly the fruit of an unprecedented and hard-to-repeat degree of organization on the part of the 19 terrorists and their accomplices, on the other hand a totally accidental horror — in that no one had reason to guess that the twin towers were so peculiarly designed that airplanes hitting them could bring them down. It mattered that the hit was in the media capital, so it brought intense worldwide attention, coupled with unprecedented hysteria. That was added to by the anthrax scare a month later, whose perpetrator we still do not know, but could have well been someone close to the neo-cons in outlook.

We must recall the long propaganda buildup — starting in the 1950’s — about the dangers of what were once known as “ABC weapons” (atomic, biological and chemical) — a phrase that papered over the immense difference between nuclear and other kinds of weapons, eventually lumping them all as equal “weapons of mass destruction.” Anyone using this term is trying to draw attention by a scare tactic, as has been much of the talk about “rogue states” and then “terrorists” obtaining some form of WMD destruction, as if “mutually assured destruction” was a less roguish concept.

If 9-11 led to the Afghanistan invasion, its apparent success led to the “axis of evil” nonsense and then the Iraq build-up and invasion, as a way to focus domestic attention on continued war successes in unknown parts. The reason the Bush administration was so unprepared for the realities of the Iraq occupation was that none of that mattered. What did matter was winning the ’02 and ’04 elections. Remember how the Iraq war was ushered in as a media spectacular: “Shock and Awe,” live night-vision videos, “embedded” reporters. Fake heroes. The works.

If politics today is less about statecraft than showmanship, heading a seemingly powerful state such as the US creates an overwhelming temptation to use its supposedly invincible supply of high-tech weaponry in a dramatic show —largely for domestic consumption. Why is that high tech weaponry there in the first place? It is a habit begun in WWII, then rationalized in the cold war. A purely quantitative arms race against the single-minded Soviet Union could not be won. But building a supposedly insurmountable lead in a highly expensive, qualitative arms race might, and in the process, the Soviets might be bankrupted. That was certainly not the only reason the Communist government eventually collapsed, but it did play a significant part, I believe.

High-tech weaponry has another role. Purely modern societies have small families, who are not very supportive of sacrificing their few children in wars. Only by what might be called greater “destructivity,” the flip-side of high productivity, can even rich advanced nations contemplate war today. Except that destructivity has to be very “precisely” targeted now. Had the US invaded Iraq in a World War II-style mode of destructivity, flattening Baghdad utterly, say, before occupying it, “victory” might have been possible. But in a media-saturated world, where, indeed, media reports are essential to the plan from the start, that level of destruction would have spelled utter defeat, not victory at all.

Even Rumsfeld could see that. There has to be at least some pretense that the populace welcomes the invading troops with flowers. If all that is seen on TV is destruction and gloom, that amounts to defeat. Israel found that out in its recent excursion into Lebanon. Where once — not long ago — destruction would have accompanied success and glory, now it achieves the opposite. The victims do better in world opinion. To win, you now must suffer more, or at least appear to.

This is a profound reversal. It demands the most careful consideration. Seeing a map in a newspaper showing the advance of “our” troops, along with a few heroic photos of them, which was the way the public mostly connected to WWII and other mid-century wars makes it easy to forget the suffering on the other side, and all the support goes to the valiant troops. Today, that luxury is no longer possible. We see and are directly affected by suffering because it is so much more central our own humanity than killing is. Statesmen only barely are beginning to understand this. One thing the Internet ahs already done is enlarge this contact with “the other side.” I don’t see any easy way for this trend to stop. Nor do I believe that anywhere in the world where such images are available they will not have effect.

This new form of war is entirely opposite of that that prevailed in WWII, where entire cities were demolished to make a point. There was not good war reporting in Japan, for instance, so the allies felt justified in fire-bombing Tokyo, heavily bombing other cities, and then using A-bombs against Hiroshima and, three days later, Nagasaki, just to make a point that might affect the Japanese war cabinet. Today such destruction would be seen immediately throughout the world, and the onus of evil would fall on the bombers, at least mostly.

Of course, the world consists of more than one audience. Al-qaeda-like attacks do win some number of fans in the Arab and Islamic worlds, just because these worlds feel otherwise utterly on the sidelines — affected by major changes at a heightening speed, but not able to affect them. At first, after 9-11 bin Laden surely garnered many fans, even though very few of these would be willing to blow themselves up to share in the glory.

But they no longer need to. Bin Laden’s success in 9-11 made him a media star. Whereas before his videos would have attracted little notice, now they are shown and discussed everywhere. How many people must you kill to get an audience? Well, none, actually, if you can somehow connect your rhetoric to the thought of ruthless activity. Bin laden is still no Clint Eastwood or Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Of course, other kinds of war, with much less media presence, still take place. Darfur, partly. The Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, Sri Lanka and Tamil Tigers, the endless border wars of Myanmar-Burma. I view these as aftershocks of aftershocks of aftershocks, the 4th world obtaining enough self-consciousness to fight back against the Third, as the Third becomes more like the first, after-after-after-effects of industrialization and colonization, but still, all in all, petering out. As other ways to get attention proliferate, as the Internet spreads further, the drawbacks of risking one’s life in actuality rather than in dramatization come to the fore. A dead suicide bomber can live on video, but so can a strategist or tactician or theorist or blogger who does not bother to become dead.

And death is rather a drawback in advancing one’s career through further steps. Bin Laden doesn’t seem any more interested in that trope than does Bush himself. After 9-11 and the stirring scene of the victory dance on the aircraft carrier, respectively, neither one knows exactly what to do for an encore. Still there is always the chance for one more personal-appearance tour. Hey, it works for the Stones.

Oct 242006

A few months ago I gave a talk in the offices of Root Markets in NYC. In the audience, was an editor from Vanity Fair, who declared that the days of stardom are over. I don’t think so……

In the past few days:

•A major news outlet (CNN?) reports that most Americans had probably never heard of Malawi until the brouhaha over Madonna adopting a child there.

•Maureen Dowd in the NY Times (October 21, 2006):
“Does Barack Obama want to be a celebrity or a man of history — or is there no longer any difference?” (There hardly is.)

•On today’s NY Times website in the article on winning magazine covers: “The best celebrity cover award was shared by two magazines that are not traditional celebrity magazines — Harper’s Bazaar, for a cover featuring the actress Julianne Moore, and Vibe, for a cover featuring Busta Rhymes. That these magazines could win in the celebrity category underscores the extent to which celebrities have come to dominate the industry. Many editors say that they often feel compelled to put a celebrity on the cover to compete in a celebrity-saturated marketplace, and that famous faces sell better than models or ordinary people.”

Sep 142006

It has been five years since the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York with its horrible loss of life. With it, even more shockingly, perhaps, came the disappearance of what had become an essential part of the New York skyline. And what made it all even worse was that it seemed to be an intentional act of suicide terror, by an implacable foe, that had struck from far away.

The fact that the small band directly responsible were quickly identified by name, and had been lurking calmly in our midst before deliberately smashing themselves and the hijacked jet passengers they took with them into their various targets was so searing in part because we could just fathom, remotely, what it might feel like to plan your own destruction and that of so many others so carefully. Most of us knew we just could never do anything remotely like that. These must be some kind of malign supermen, almost as if they were the harbingers of an invasion from some other, more ferocious planet.

Al Qaeda is perfectly real, but it is also a figment of media who were quick to provide handy titles to the attack back them:   “America’s New War”, “ A New Pearl Harbor” the TV channels quickly subtitled their coverage, so that we wouldn’t bother to hit the remote searching for Survivor, or a sit-com with a better laugh track. That happened far faster than President Bush could get his bearings. The networks’ news producers are pros, after all.

It was wonderful prelude though, to turning all the attention to Bush. As long as he took up the ready-made trope of war, and claimed we were now in a difficult,  “long, twilight struggle” against implacable “evil,” he had a stranglehold on media and popular attention, especially from young people who had little idea that Pearl Harbor was just one sally of many by the spreading forces of Axis imperialism sixty years earlier.

To be sure, 9/11 was the worst terrorist attack ever, the most cunning and ingenious, and certainly the most destructive. By turning ordinary passenger jets into cruise missiles they added a new fright to the fear of flying. In fact, the old fears — that a plane would simply fall out of the air because it shouldn’t be up there in the first place — had by then given way to a blasé — but valid — sense that flying is utterly safe and routine. But worse was knocking down such huge and highly occupied buildings — buildings that also constituted a significant landmark, seen daily by millions, known and recognizable all over the world.

Of course, a little over six years earlier, a very different terrorist attack had taken down a landmark also well-known, at least in Oklahoma. As far as I know, Timothy McVeigh’s attack on the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City was the very worst terrorist assault in the US up until that time. But after it became clear that the perpetrator was a right-wing American, there was no sense that we were on a war footing — not even a civil war. It was a criminal matter, and the main criminals were quickly caught and tried. Then McVeigh committed suicide by executioner, refusing to continue with appeals to which he was entitled. He engendered little talk that we were up against implacable evil, or that “sleeper cells” of his clones were out there somewhere and had to be hunted down and rendered harmless or extirpated, because they did not even fear death but welcomed it.

I have written before that one probable reason the World Trade Center was targeted was its name. But it was not the Center of World Trade, by any means. If it had been called the “Port Authority Towers” or the “Back-Office Skyscraper,” either of which would have been more accurate, it might well still be standing. However, by all rights, the two towers should not have collapsed when hit by two jet planes. No reasonable structural engineer would have guessed they were so vulnerable, and if Mohammed Atta and his cohorts did, it was probably because they had but a feeble grasp of civil engineering. They “lucked out” in their fiendish way because of peculiarities of design and construction probably unique to these buildings and almost certainly not known or even knowable to them.  A large part of the myth of puissance that has grown up around al-Qaeda is thus a huge accident. Al-Qaeda has been involved in some horrible acts before and since, but nothing at all comparable.

By now, as John Tierney, the New York Times columnist, pointed out the other day, we have good reason to believe that there were no sleeper cells, in the US or elsewhere. He cites Ohio State University political scientist John Mueller:

“Mueller’s conclusion is that there just aren’t that many terrorists out there with the zeal and the competence to attack the United States. In his forthcoming book, ‘Overblown,’ he argues that the risk of terrorism didn’t increase after Sept. 11 — if anything, it declined because of a backlash against Al Qaeda, making it a smaller and less capable threat than before. But the terrorism industry has been too busy hyping Sept. 11 and several other attacks to notice.” (See also Mueller’s own article “Six Rather Unusual Propositions about Terrorism.”)

I think Tierney and Mueller are quite right. But what is the “terrorism industry” and why is  it so effective?  It is those who draw attention and adulation by exaggerating the dangers to our society that seemingly stem from terrorism. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice are high on the list. So are many terrorism experts and foreign policy muck-a-mucks of either party plus academic experts aligned clearly with neither.

Why does it work so well? After all far more Americans die of preventable medical errors every year than died in 9/11, yet we have no comparable public outcry, no comparable effort to change a much more present and more corrigible danger. And there are also prophets of doom in connection with global warming who go much less heeded.

My guess is that terrorism and the terrorism industry both are so effective in drawing attention for several linked reasons. First is the drama of it all. Unlike someone dying of an infection due to a physician’s inadequate hand-washing before touching a wound, those injured or killed in 9/11 were in a state of intense fear, and actively trying whatever they could to save themselves. It remains a complex narrative, filled with compelling imagery— the actions on the planes, the hurtling attempts to rush for safety from the towers, the counterflow of firemen on their doomed upward mission, the long searches for missing loved ones, the sifting for months through the still-smoldering wreckage.

Then came the story of the terrorists themselves. The lazy, ignorant  or harried doctor not washing is nothing like the purposefulness of the terrorists meticulously plotting and planning, moving to clandestine meetings on various continents, shifting money through secret channels, living as if ordinary people in various American cities and towns, while all the while intending to commit the heinous crime. Much as we may view the terrorists as alien monsters, they are monsters very much like the inner demons and outward fears that every child must cope with and carries — if unconsciously — into adulthood. Long before there were suicide bombers the metaphor of “exploding with rage” was commonplace.

Horror movie makers well know that effective sources of fear are the stock aliens from another planet, the center of the earth, or Hell, who disguise themselves as ordinary humans before hunting the rest of us down. We can easily pay attention to such horrors because they stem from the early workings of a psyche intent on staving off its dangerous feelings towards those such as parents it must depend on, as the psycho-analyst Melanie Klein argued extensively.

Once a baby gets its first set of teeth, this previously helpless creature suddenly can cause pain and inflict injury. At the same time it is capable of great rage and anger when it feels thwarted. Handling those feelings is helped by projecting them onto external monsters, but the feelings do not disappear from the psyche. When something like a terrorist or a mass murderer comes along, our inner alignment with that outré behavior adds to the fascination and fear. This is all the greater when the perpetrators are themselves from an alien culture, acting for purposes and motivations that are really quite obscure.

At the same time, even though the exact purpose of the terrorist actions, other than expressing ultimate rage, are not really clear or knowable, anyone who can sympathize with their feelings will look upon them with some degree of admiration. They become heroes to be emulated among a small subset of those who feel such kinship, whoever that might be. This is immensely aided by a two factors. One is their ability via video cams, satellite TV  and now the Internet to spread their own images on the same channels in which their devastations are shown. Thus they gain a power that the lone mass murderer of the past cannot. The fact that a powerful country takes them as absurdly seriously as ours does only adds to their glory. Thus terrorists are a monster in so many ways the creation of the west and specifically America.

And we can uncreate them too, just by changing our focus. To do that, we will have to downgrade the terrorism industry.