...compared to everyday life, heterogeneous existence can be represented as something other, as incommensurate, by charging these words with the positive value they have in affective experience.
Here is a man who would not take it anymore. A man who stood up against the scum, the filth...
In the hours and days immediately following the Oklahoma City bombing the American media directed its suspicion at a familiar cast of public enemies: Islamic terrorists, Branch Davidian cultists, deranged loners. It seemed certain that the homicidal will behind this horrendous act of killing could only belong to some element radically external to our own national community: either a foreign agent operating from without or a pathological element working from within. As the identities and affiliations of the perpetrator(s) came to light, however, it became clear that the authors of the massacre could not be placed among our well rehearsed roster of international bêtes noire, nor any of our domestic oddball fringes, but instead revealed a new terrorist element playing right in the ideological back yards of the country's most reassuring national narratives. It was from the banal heartland of the midwest -- a region which in the American national self image is frequently inscribed with a replenishing nostalgic innocence -- that the agent of this carnage operated. "Americans don't do things like this to Americans" one bystander at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was recorded as saying upon hearing the news of Timothy McVeigh's arrest.
Since the bombing, media focus on right wing networks and vigilante groups has brought an unusual twist to our regular repertoire of national paranoiac attractions. The rigorous coverage of a clandestine mesh of fringe groups connecting militant libertarians, White supremacists and regional separatists, Neo Nazi and assorted "hate" groups, whose insidious communication through rural gossip circles, national networks and even cyberspace has drawn increasing public fascination. During recent years, the term "hate" itself has been buzzphrased for a demonic though quite concrete quasi-interest group whose advocates appear at a surprising range of occasions from rock concerts and suburban neighborhoods to the senatorial political arena. The imaginary space of the new kitchen-table hatred is fetishistically etched out in repeated news reports of the bombing, diagramming the various farmhouses, barns and rural facilities used by the militia groups. America's favorite tropes of national innocence have emerged as the seed-bed of an giddy new carnage.
And who can be surprised that the facade of rural serenity and folk wisdom only conceals the romantic kitsch and anxious ennui of the countryside? But still the image of a unique transformation from the scene of a wholesome rural populace to the obscene site of wholesale slaughter presents a fetishistic media spectacle. Like the smoldering Branch Davidian compound in Waco, the image of the gutted Federal building where one hundred sixty-seven people died in an explosion that destroyed ten buildings and damaged another 337, composes a surface upon which a complex and deeply rooted national desire is grafted under the pretext of an objective coverage of events or the conspicuous display of public mourning. One thinks in particular of the image of the flag, draped like a bandaid over the ruptured edifice: the carnage of the battlefield redeemed as it is stamped with the national emblem, like the flag at Io jima. The bombing story depicts an inversion of aesthetic forms which resonates deeply with ideologies of nationhood in general. The story of the local boy turned right wing terrorist-patriot expresses a tense coupling of polar extremes linking banality with apocalypse -- a disturbing accord between kitsch and death whose function Saul Friedlander traces through various forms of Western 20th Century nationhood and particularly the Nazi nationalist aesthetic. Briefly, I would like to summarize some insights into the mechanisms that operate within the strange fascination expressed in this media phenomenon by relating a theoretical sketch drawn by Georges Bataille in his 1933 essay: The Psychological Structure of Fascism. In his paper Bataille attempts an interpretation of the recent electoral victories of the Nazi party where the political play of aesthetic properties reveals an reversability that is seen to wield enormous power and to draw a strange investment from every strata of society.
Bataille: Heterogeneous and Homogenous Elements
Bataille's essay provides a theory of the dynamic between "homogenous" and the "heterogeneous" elements of society whose antagonism expresses the opposition of two poles: unified social order and the reconciliation of social elements on one sided, and the sublime, sovereign, disordered or maddened differentiation of unassimilable elements on the other. Moreover, this second class of elements is itself divided along another dualism marking high against low, attraction against repulsion. Heterogeneous elements represent such factions as the monarch, the fascist leader and the military chief, but they also constitute the "untouchable", the degenerate, the corrupting influence, the unemployed mob. Thus the banal homogeneity of society -- characterized by the activity of daily life -- operates between the double heterogeneity of abject repulsion and sublime attraction -- the two inactivities of the transcendent beyond and excremental refuse. What Bataille points out, and what constitutes the political relevance of the strange interest in McVeigh's terrorism, is the immanent reversibility of opposed heterogeneous elements into each other through the terrorist act where the spectacle of slaughter is transformed into a redemptive moment of ecstatic glory. For Bataille, such an aesthetic transformation is at the root of the surprising successes of the emerging Nazi party, whose appeal to Germany's dejected masses signaled redemption from the despondency of idleness and unemployment through the widespread assimilation of a quasi-military culture and an unruly sadistic policing practice. Bataille writes:
This process [of identification with a militant leader] is the intermediary through which disgusting slaughter is radically transformed into its opposite, glory -- namely, into pure and intense attraction.
For Bataille, the manner in which the heterogeneous and homogenous elements make recourse to each other provides the beginnings for a broad political critique in which the radical agent of the heterogeneous-- the unthinkable element acting through unthinkable gestures -- invokes the underlying desires for homogeneity and conformity in the general society. Bataille's consummate figure in this respect is the fascist leader as messianic upstart, who commands both divine national destiny and ruthless state violence from the banal position of the man of common, even lowly origin, who is freely elective of his own supremacy and right to dictate. The relevance of Bataille's scheme to our own situation becomes clear as we understand the media fallout from the Oklahoma City bombing as an investment of this spectacle of radical transformation where the emblems of the national commonplace give way to heterogeneous elements which flicker in their reversibility between the repulsion of an unthinkable carnage to the attraction of an equally unthinkable glory. This reversibility derives from the mediation of an actor: a unique new social agent whose pathological status invokes the radical imbrication of banality and death.
Slaughter, as an inert result, is ignoble; but shifted onto the social action that caused it, the ignoble heterogeneous value thus established becomes noble (the action of killing and nobility are association by indefectible historical ties): all it takes is for the action to affirm itself effectively as such, to assume freely the imperative form that constitutes it.
In the moment of transformation from the ordinary citizen to the elective militant, the pole of ordered social cohesion meets the extremities of radical rupture and the shock of death. Their unity is attained in the character who exercises one in the name of the other: the radical terrorist actor whose atrocities invoke the preservation of local life against the incursions of some infectious pathology (in this case the bureaucracies of the Federal government). The binding moment comes in an act of violent and sometimes mad repudiation of such pathologies where the actor himself is set apart from the slow pace of the disintegrating herd, and signals a relation to a transcendent, heterogeneous element in the form of a morbid beyond. The irrational terrorist act, under the sign of a reactionary ideological program, joins together the everyday social element of mundane popular life with the sublime element of an moment that escapes the restrictive horizon of the thought of the social present. The unthinkable carnage of the slaughter is fused with the over-thought patterns of everyday life in a single sovereign act which expresses the opposition of the macabre to the banal in the same moment that it resolves them in a single redemptive agency. The irrational refutation of bureaucracy, the very stuff of rationality, confirms the autonomy of the terrorist act as a mad, irrational, self-vindicating will whose property it is to issue imperatives, not conform to them: an element beyond the law-governed patterns and activities of everyday life.
Agency and the Elective Militia
In social psychology, this imperative [militant] action generally appears as the characteristic of action; in other words, every affirmed social action necessarily takes the unified psychological form of sovereignty; every lower form, every ignominy, being by definition passive, is transformed into its opposite by the simple fact of a transition to action. 
The structure of the banal social homogeneity faced with the unassimilable sublime of a heterogeneous element -- which is itself transformed from repulsion to attraction and back through the violent refusals of an imperative agent -- is particularly clear in the case of Oklahoma City where militancy itself is an elective measure. The formation of the people's militia places the subjective, voluntaristic imperative of a sovereign refusal at the core of its structure. By their very nature, militias operate in excess of the standard institutional safeguards of social order provided by military and federal bureaucracies, and testify to a direct connection with the immanent conditions and real security needs of the population (in much the same way that fascists opposed the terms of modern nationhood through the invocation of a deeper historical claim to the essence of a people). The elective character of the militia inscribes the binary between the authenticity of the populace and the decadent spread of a decomposed and decomposing passive foreign element.
For the terrorist radical, the sublime recovery of agency has more than simply an instrumental importance for the preservation of a popular character: it is agency itself which is at stake as a creeping (lower) heterogeneity slowly dismembers and emasculates its host population. Federally enforced gun control laws, outside policing agents in the form of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Fire Arms, threaten to neuter regional autonomy, reduce it to the passive status of a lower heterogeneous element. Thus it is the act of a violent refusal that at once redeems activity as it constitutes itself as active. The terrorist act affirms a sense of regional belonging and homogeneity by its elective character: unlike homogeneous action, heterogeneous action does not have to act -- it simply is action. Heterogeneous action, like religious ritual, like excessive or redundant hygiene, is for its own sake, in a manner quite distinct from production and labour, heterogeneous action is purely formal, not proscribed by another sovereign. The terrorist act projects the sovereign, imperative act which affirms homogeneity while it reveals the homogenous in a state of endangerment, requiring further acts of terror or police carnage.
The terrorist hero represents the intersection of this complex web of antagonisms: the internal homogeneity of the social whole is opposed to the external heterogeneity of the emasculating element. Such homogeneity, expressing the ordinary activity of a common social life, is restored, redeemed from passivity in the sovereign, imperative act of a violent refutation of weakening heterogeneous elements. In this way, the lower heterogeneity of a pacifying element is negated as a higher heterogeneity (in the act of sovereign, lawless violence) is invoked: the unthinkable beyond, signified by a morbid, heroic act is brought against the spreading passivity.
This pattern of a redemption from the banality of everyday life through radical transformative violence is a common enough theme in American popular culture. Transformative redemption in the pattern of the Christian born-again narrative is a charged and broadly influential theme, and the violent -- if pathological -- rupture with the everyday derives perhaps from the wild west and the gangster myth, and finds its contemporary form in the image of Travis from Martin Scarcese's Taxi Driver (both Travis and McVeigh are former GI's) or more recently the homicidal pilgrimage of Mickey and Mallorie from Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers . It would seem that an analysis of the immanent reversibility of forms could uncover many other political dimensions of the American media's current patterns of aesthetic fascination.
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First published in La Critique Sociale 10 (November 1933), reprinted in Oeuvres Complètes, edited by Denise Hollier, 1970.
This translation first published in New German Critique 16, (Winter 1979)
 The musings of Travis from Martin Scarcese's film Taxi Driver
 At the time of this writing, McVeigh is of course only a suspect in the case: his plea is to be "not guilty", and the trial to begin later in the year. Thus his innocence is presumed.
 Saul Friedlander discusses the fetishistic property of fascist artifacts and their ability to draw investment from the most objective and morally detached chronologers and historians. Excessive studies, exacting in detail and precision, express a subtle fascination with the morbid and redemptive character of fascist culture. Friedlander's critique of Hans-Jürgen Syberberg's "Hitler, a Film from Germany" suggests such an excessive measure of conspicuous mourning which contains more than a kernel of investment. Friedlander, Saul, Reflections of Nazism: An Essay on Kitsch and Death trans. Thomas Weyr(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984).
 Friedlander, ibid.
 Bataille is of course referring here to the findings of social anthropologists who identify the dualities of the sacred and the profane, the pure and the impure in the societal structures of tribal communities and persisting even in the present. Bataille: 144
 Bataille, p. 150
 Bataille, p. 150
 Bataille, p. 150
 Klaus Theweleit's extensive volumes on the psychoanalytic properties of the fascist psyche are indispensable references for a treatment of this question within the frame of gender and the structure of masculinities. Theweleit, Klaus, Male Fantasies, v. 1, v. 2 ( Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 1989)
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