DR. JOHN CARROLL is a reader in sociology at Melbourne's La Trobe University. That is to say, he is paid to educate young adults.
This bland statement of fact may mean nothing to you now, but let's see how you feel after we've finished examining the highlights from chapter one of Carroll's awesomely pretentious and imbecilic new book, Terror: A Meditation on the Meaning of September 11 …
The highjacked planes were flown through the bright early-morning American east-coast sky. This is the hour of Apollo, the sun god, who presided over ancient Delphi. His oracle dwelt high on the side of the sacred mountain, with two mottos carved over its portal. Two sayings watched over the foundation of our civilization, in exhortation and warning: "Know Thyself!" and "Nothing Too Much!"
Not to mention "Nothing Over 99 Cents!" and "Si habla Espanol!"
Ignorantly and flagrantly, the modern West has violated both.
As will shortly be revealed, Carroll follows a combination of both: "Know Nothing!"
We all know the story – about the events of September 11 and their aftermath. We all share the shock, surreal image of the second plane slicing through the World Trade Center tower like …
All together now …
… a knife through butter. We will take to our graves the slow-motion horror of watching, many of us as it happened, the tallest skyscrapers in the world crumpling, one after the other …
The World Trade Center towers weren't even the tallest skyscrapers in the United States.
… each no more substantial than a child's house of cards. Nothing was left of where 50,000 people had once worked but dust and smoke, numb pain for those trapped inside, and speechless awe at the power that had done this.
Nothing was left? The how come it took eight months to clear all that nothing away? Lazy teamsters!
These, however, are surface facts. The heart of the matter lies deep beneath. This is a story that is hard to read, essential to read.
He's got that half right.
Our culture has developed the shrug of the shoulders into a cosy reflex while we pour another drink, switch on the amusement parade, and wait for the house prices and stock market to rise.
"Honey, I'm home! Get me a Scotch and switch on the amusement parade!"
Will this culture be able to relearn how to take itself seriously?
Carroll isn't making it very easy.
Will anyone again choose to work in a skyscraper?
Beats me. I guess you could ask all the people worldwide who work in them every day.
Which insurance company will cover a landmark tower?
Er … the ones that do?
Indeed, were the twin 110-storey towers to be rebuilt they would stand like pyramids, colossal empty tombs, in memoriam to a lost civilization.
I'm no architect, but I'm pretty sure that rebuilt towers would stand like towers. Pyramids are lots more pointy and triangly. Here's a picture.
And if the age of the skyscraper is over, so is that of New York. Nothing big is safe anymore. Icarus never flew twice.
Icarus's problem was that he flew too close to the sun. New York's problem was that scum flew too close to it. Slight difference.
What has been exposed is chatter about who I am, why I am here, and what happens to me at death – the mumblings of a secular humanist age, which have been shown up for what they are, illusions masquerading as truth.
Those don't sound much like illusory mumblings to me. They're the kind of questions that kill dinner parties, or that you ask yourself at 3am after you've been arrested outside your ex-girlfriend's apartment.
They are no more secure than those 110-storey towers demolished by disciplined men not paralysed by the thought of death.
This is the first hint we get of Carroll's lust for the Brave Warrior Kings of Araby. As a warning, it's insufficient, to say the least.
It had all been brought about by one man, alone on horseback, riding through the wastes of Afghanistan, stealing America's own myth, its hero, its projection of valour. He is tall and handsome, with clear skin and full lips, sun tempered, looking the West and all its might nonchalantly, with a mocking smile, straight in the eye. He wears a fine, longish black beard streaked with grey, a cross between desert nomad and Confucian scholar, yet his bearing is elegant.
And those buns! Are they made of tungsten?
A capacity for brilliant long-range planning, mobilising technical expertise, carried out by clear-minded and self-disciplined individuals, has been the key to our civilization. Yet which of our institutions could match the successful hijacking, in unison, of four passenger jets, flown skilfully, three of them proceeding to hit their targets …?
Any of them, probably, were they insane enough. A bunch of librarians armed with boxcutters and religious mania could've done what Sammy's boys did.
The thing of it is, see, that the terrorists attacked a trusting nation. It's still a trusting nation; people will stand close to the edge of subway platforms, trusting that nobody behind them will shove them into the path of a train. When that happens, as it sometimes does, it is not usually hailed as a tactical masterstroke. It is condemned as evil.
For that it is.
By the way, which of bin Laden's "institutions" could build an aircraft? A couple of Western bicycle mechanics were able to, back in 1903. Binny's gang specialises mostly in killing people, and digging caves to live in. They're Flintstones with AK-47s.
Usama's face speaks of great sadness. This makes him difficult to place; his persona is not simply Hitlerian, a human contagion to be exterminated, after which all will be well.
There's only one way to find out.
Moreover, this defender of the Muslim faith did not attack the West's religious institutions – the Vatican, Wesminster Abbey, or an American synagogue.
No, but he wanted to. Carroll doesn't read newspapers. And I wonder how most Muslims feel about Carroll describing this mass murderer as a "defender of the Muslim faith"?
Usama released a pre-recorded video speech the moment America launched its first retaliatory strike, against Afghanistan. This speech – in its precision of rhetoric, its poetic mobilisation of theological and moral phraseology, the subtle force of imagery – strikes at the nerve centre of the West like nothing since its own Martin Luther nailed the Roman papacy to a Wittenburg church door in 1517, and marked the turn away from the squalor and stagnation of the European Middle Ages.
Yeah. That speech sure had the "subtle force of imagery" working real hard. Here's an extract: "I bear witness that there is no God but Allah and that Mohammed is his messenger. There is America, hit by God in one of its softest spots. Its greatest buildings were destroyed, thank God for that. There is America, full of fear from its north to its south, from its west to its east. Thank God for that."
This repetitive, toxic swill only lasted for 588 words, and nobody sane bothered to read it twice. Thank God for that.
The modern reformer from outside, with slow and measured enunciation, preaches against 'debauchery' and 'injustice'.
Bin Laden is the modern reformer? I bet that's news to any western women waiting to be freed from 'debauchery' and 'injustice'.
Nine days into the new and unmapped order the president makes his address to his nation … television shows him addressing this large assembly of the men and women who lead America in a vast, open chamber with no screen in front of him. Nor does he glance down to the lectern to read pages that may be placed there. The truth is that he faces a sheet of glass, invisible from the outside but reflective on the inside so that he can read at eye level, word for word, a teleprompted text projected from the floor.
Carroll likes his speeches pre-recorded on videotape. None of this new-fangled "invisible from the outside" glass nonsense for him.
Commentators rhapsodise over his Churchillian eloquence. But Churchill wrote his own great rallying wartime speeches, rehearsed them, then delivered them off the cuff to his nation and the democratic world.
How is it possible that Churchill was able to deliver, "off the cuff", speeches that he'd written and rehearsed?
On the one side is this image of the leader of the Western world like a bewildered schoolboy, wide-eyed in his lack of comprehension, shadowed by his advisors to minimize the gaffes … On the other side, the television screens show the lone Arab on horseback living by his wits, moving invisibly from cave stronghold to secret camp through the Afghan wastes and into the north-west frontier of Pakistan, or wherever he may be.
Many of you are being sick right now, I know. My apologies. I only ask that you consider this: Carroll will only admire George W. Bush if Bush abandons Washington for an Appalachian shack, from which occasional directives to Dick Cheney are delivered by invisible mules.
Usama's two leisure activities are horse-riding and reading – his reading, Islamic thought and current affairs. Wherever he has travelled in the past, his large personal library has gone with him.
Carroll is angling for some sales. Buy his books here, Usama.
Swarthy, dark, mature bearded men in white turbans and long, comprehensive robes, ruthless fanatics, some of them Islamic scholars, in targeting the West are challenging: You, you prove yourself. Let us see what you are made of. What kind of man are you, Dude?
John Carroll is well on the way to proving what kind of idiot he is, and we've only finished the first chapter. Six more await … Dude.