Terrorism and spectacle in White noise and Mao II
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This essay analyzes Don DeLillo's White Noise and Mao II in order to demonstrate a progression of his view of the role of the critic in postmodern society. In White Noise, DeLillo conveys his view of the postmodern condition as one that is characterized by simulation and inundated with advertising and media spectacle. He shows how this condition affects the way those within it perceive themselves and the world around them. Then, in Mao II, he shifts his focus to terrorism and a novelist's response to it. Over the course of these novels, he comes to the conclusion that terrorists have replaced novelists as social commentators and instruments of social change - a phenomenon that is possible only in a society mediated by spectacle. Terrorists, to DeLillo, are the only ones who stand out among the “endless streaming images.” Everything else is absorbed and neutralized. Some critics read this in DeLillo's fiction and conclude that culture mediated by spectacle is positive and progressive. This essay, though, argues that DeLillo's depicts this phenomenon as regressive, because it fosters a growing distaste for human subjectivity, which leads to a homogenized population and a general loss of critical thinking ability.