The Plot was an attempted act of unprecedented cruelty and evil - an “offense that no man can express” (Edward Coke) Appelbaum summarises the official response to the Plot as a programme of “depoliticization”: there was no reason for it, according to the state, other than envy and evil; it had nothing to say about power or justice.
It testified only, in King James’s own words, quoted from the 2nd Epistle to the Thessalonians, to “the mystery of iniquity”.
the Gunpowder Plot and 9/11, Appelbaum sees my argument as a retrospective collusion with the Stuart state, whose agents insisted that the intended violence of the Gunpowder Plot exhausted its meaning in violence, and had nothing else to say.
He applauds my interpretation of Macbeth as an embodiment of the ‘terrorist imagination’; agrees that the the play is a “total response to the idea of the Plot”; and accepts the “provocative statement” that Macbeth “, Appelbaum seems to some degree to concur with what he understands me to be saying of the Gunpowder Plot: “[i]n retrospect it may seem that King James was certainly right, that the 9/11 of early modern England would have been a catastrophe beyond imagination […].”[B]ut that is because Coke (and we along with him) look at what might have been from the side of the intended victims …
This distinction parallels Zizek’s contrast between “subjective” and “systemic” violence.
We notice the former, “acts of crime and terror”, and are blind to the latter, which provides our standard of a normal “non-violent zero”: “Systemic violence is something like the ’dark matter’ of physics, that counterpart to an all-too-visible subjective violence”.Sinfield’s argument is that the play can be read either conventionally - as implicitly endorsing state violence, and condemning the violence of disruption and insurrection; or oppositionally - as equating the two.The play contains both possibilities, and the ‘qualitative’ difference lies in the chosen strategy of reading.Who knows how its message would have been disambiguated?Had the Gunpowder Plot been successful, a Catholic monarchy might have sponsored a complete re-write of its “founding violence” in the course of forming a state that would perhaps have been no worse than the Jacobean one.we are happy to resist the meaning of the intended violence.But from the opposite point of view, if the Plot had succeeded, who knows what the climate of discourse would have been in the end?In both cases effect is neatly elided with cause, reprisal cited as originating violence. Terry Eagleton writes of “the ineradicable terror that lies at the heart of social existence”.This ‘qualitative’ distinction between kinds of violence otherwise indistinguishable seems ‘natural’ only because we are ideologically trained not to think of state violence as violence at all. It argues that terrorism such as that exemplified by the Gunpowder Plot and 9/11 may, whatever their ostensible motives, be in reality nihilistic, merely destructive and offering (in Derrida’s words) et la Conspiration des poudres.Le présent texte vise à démontrer que le terrorisme tel qu’il s’est incarné dans la Conspiration des poudres et le 11 septembre est peut-être en réalité, en dépit de ses motifs affichés, une forme de nihilisme essentiellement destructrice et n’offrant, pour citer Derrida, “rien de bon à attendre”.