Years ago, I used to think it was possible for a novelist to alter the inner life of the culture. Now bomb makers and gunmen have taken that territory, we make raids on human consciousness. The way we live in the shadows, live willingly with death, our discipline and cunning, the coherence of our lives, the way we excite admiration. In societies reduced to blur and glut, terror is the only meaningful act. There’s too much of everything. More things and messages and meanings than we can use in ten thousand lifetimes. Is history possible? Is anyone serious? Who do we take seriously? Only the lethal believer the person who kills and dies for faith, everything else is absorbed. Only the terrorist stands outside.
The danger we represent equals societies own failure to be dangerous. Terror makes the new future possible. The state secures a monopoly over the unpredictability performed by violence, we provide a rupture that weakens and exposes the systems of control. Humanity lives in history as never before, to make and change history minute by minute. Second by second. 950km/h. The microsecond the event takes place we freeze time, momentarily, we induce the societal sigh of relief.

We understand how a reality is invented, a person sits in a room and thinks a thought and it bleeds out into the world. Every thought is permitted and there is no longer a moral or spacial distinction between thinking and acting. Stories have no point if they don’t absorb our terror.
Terror is a spectacle that haunts us through the mundane. We crave the terror– a reptilian jerk that reminds us of a more primal, real version of ourselves. It provides us with meaning. Fiction used to feed our search for meaning but our desperation lead us to something larger and darker. So we turn to the news that provides an unremitting mood of catastrophe. We don’t need fiction, we need something real.

You may be wondering why you’re wearing a vr set, why I’m talking to you through these headphones and why you’re in the cockpit of a Boeing-777. You’re in the cockpit of a missile. In seven minutes your flight path will converge with another plane traveling at an identical speed to you. Your mirror image. This is the mission. A spectacle so great that it will render policy and alter society permanently. All change must come from the spectacle. It has been written this way since religion was born out of the sky from lightning.

The perception of the hijacking has been permanently altered since 9/11, before then it’s end point wasn’t necessarily death. Wrestling a plane from the sky, like breaking a horse, only to bring it down to earth, to castrate it’s power. The hijacked plane loses all potency on landing, like some great beached whale. All that is left is the absence of its self– a great beached whale on a runway and the rest of the world asking themselves, how could this have happened to something so large. This changed with 9/11, we knew it was a hijacking, and the power of the plane was maintained and used with absolute potency. When asked how many died that day the number varies. In some manner it is irrelevant. The death toll is insignificant. Nearly 1.3 million people die in road crashes each year, on average 3,287 deaths a day. It wasn’t the death toll that affected us so much. It was the potency of the spectacle. The unexpectedness of its delivery; the horror of it all.

What is a plane? A plane is many things. The plane you travel on when you enter the airport is a conveyor belt. It travels a pre-determined route and seldom deters from that route. On that route the plane is not a plane. It cannot move in any direction, it’s held in place by systems; auto-pilot, air traffic control, fuel costs, landing times, holiday pay. It is a container, a box, a restaurant, a shop, an entertainment system, it is a toilet. It is only when the emergency happens, the onset of turbulence, that it becomes a plane. When a plane is hijacked and removed from its predetermined course, this is when it is a plane again. A representation of freedom, of dominion, a technocratic idol for the country it represents, a potent symbol for an epoch of globalisation.

The military flyover is boring to us, that’s why the F-16’s have to come so close to the ground. We’ve seen it all before, we see it every day. All the commercial airliner is doing is acting in defiance to everything below it– the only intervention possible for it, is to fall from the sky, as this is the only action it is consistently fighting against.

If you look to your right you’ll see a Boeing-707. In 1969, Leila Khaled hijacked the TWA Flight 840, she did so to create a platform for herself, a stage to communicate from. From this plane she was able to make her voice heard. She was able to use the systems entwined in the plane to amplify herself as someone who had hijacked these global power structures, she had transcended them. She approached the cockpit with live grenades and ordered the plane to fly over Haifa, Israel so she could see her birth place. On landing she became an icon; a freedom-fighter and a terrorist. But also in landing the plane she let a moment slip by, the real power she was using upon landing was not the power of the plane but the radical act of being a woman controlling a plane. We can see this in the glamour of her imagery, in the subsequent plastic surgery she went through to ‘remove the face of an icon’, in the questions from the tabloid press who asked her: ‘Are you in love? Have you had sex?’ She replies, ‘I am a solider, ask me about my job.’

The anthropomorphic quality of the plane is what allows it to be co-opted. The very fact it is acting out a subservient role allows it to be at the dominion of the human who controls it, and thus transferred between agents. But as well as it carrying the qualities of a subservient machine it also possesses the qualities of architecture, specifically public architecture, as apposed to something like a house. Because of this duality, the hijacking of the plane is a powerful act, at once becoming an act of domination and trespass.

All plots tend to move deathward, this is the nature of plots. Political plots, terrorists plots, lovers plots, narrative plots. Plots that are part of children’s games. We engineer death every time we plot, it’s a contract that all must sign. The plotter and those who are targets of the plot.

Shouldn’t death be a swan dive, graceful white winged and smooth, leaving the surface undisturbed.