French thinker Jean Baudrillard died yesterday.
I would be tempted to ask if he really mattered in the great scheme of things if I wasn’t already aware that opinions on the matter at HP are already very polarized (and that some people will welcome a chance to talk about philosophy – if not that of JB himself.)
Baudrillard was known for provocations such as the comment that America was the “only remaining primitive society” and his famous declaration that the first gulf war never happened. That it was a mere simulacra of a war where teenage recruits aimed impersonal weapons in a way which was little different to how they played on a Nintendo console whilst at home.
Baudrillard’s defenders and critics are out in force on the internet today. Tim Footman at CIF already has an healthy comments thread for his contention that:
But, in many ways, Baudrillard got it right. He is the thinker most associated with the notion of the simulacrum: essentially that modern society creates representations and copies that are more “real” than the original. Reality TV is an obvious example: something marketed on the basis of its authenticity becomes more intense and absorbing and important (hyperreal) than the authentic life we see around us. People prefer it to reality. It becomes their reality. Chantelle (a simulacrum of Paris Hilton, whose existence is another grey area) is their friend, a situation that becomes feasible because they were complicit in her creation.
I can’t help feeling that hyperreality is a good description of what takes over in the Harry’s Place comments boxes at times, especially when people who once would have been expounding their political theories to a couple of others over a pint in the Dog and Duck, Wanstead, suddenly find themselves speaking to New York or Hong Kong leading to them becoming convinced that they are the new Lenin and should therefore start carving up the geopolitical world into juicy if simplistic slices.