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ISSN: 1705-6411

Volume 4, Number 3 (October, 2007).


Special Issue: Remembering Baudrillard



Jean Baudrillard: Distinguishing Between Image and Reality1

 

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Walter Kirn of the New York Times gave Baudrillard "first prize for cerebral cold-bloodedness" for his book The Spirit of Terrorism and Requiem for the Twin Towers. "In terms of collective drama," wrote Baudrillard, "we can say that the horror for the 4,000 victims of dying in those towers was inseparable from the horror of living in them – the horror of living and working in sarcophagi of concrete and steel." "It takes a rare, demonic genius," wrote Kirn, "to brush off the slaughter of thousands on the grounds that they were suffering from severe ennui brought about by boring modern architecture."
Critics have long complained that Baudrillard's complexities are no more than pretentious gibberish and have dismissed him as a charlatan, "a suit of clothes with no emperor inside… an academic gown with no professor inside." But in this age of television reality shows and blossoming virtual net communities, it is worth considering that Baudrillard is on to something when he argues that we can no longer distinguish between imitation and reality, we are lost in a world of simulacra created and presented as "real" by the mass media, and we sometimes prefer the imitations because they seem more real than life.
Baudrillard's deliberately provocative claim that the "Gulf war did not take place" raised the eyebrows and the tempers of many literal minded critics who understood the phrase as a denial of empirical reality. But although the reality on the ground was one of horrendous death and destruction, the reality on TV for American viewers was largely a staged set-piece, a video game of computer effects, patriotic graphics and CNN cheerleading. American viewers, at least, did not experience the Gulf War; they experienced only a highly manipulative state and media representation of a war. How many knew the difference?


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Endnote


1 This remembrance appeared on the Lovethebook.com website: http://www.lovethebook.com/default.aspx?id=202

 



© International Journal of Baudrillard Studies (2007)

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