Baudrillard and the News

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Baudrillard and the News Powered By Docstoc
					          and the News

Learning Objectives:
- to consolidate understanding of hyperreality
- to be able to explain Baudrillard’s theories on
the news
- to be able to explain the criticisms of his
Revising Hyperreality
 Simulacrum (plural: -crums, -cra), from the Latin
 simulacrum which means "likenesss, similarity", is first
 recorded in the English language in the late 16th century,
 used to describe a representation of another thing, such as
 a statue or a painting, especially of a god; by the late 19th
 century, it had gathered a secondary association of
 inferiority: an image without the substance or qualities of
 the original

 A simulation is an imitation of some real thing, state of
 affairs, or process. The act of simulating something
 generally entails representing certain key characteristics or
 behaviours of a selected physical or abstract system.
What are the 4 stages
towards simulacra?
 FIRST stage, the sign represents a basic reality
 SECOND stage for the sign: it misrepresents or
 distorts the reality behind it,
 THIRD stage for the sign, disguises the fact
 that there is no corresponding reality
 FOURTH stage for the sign: it bears no relation
 to any reality at all.
Baudrillard thinks…
 One of Baudrillard’s ideas is that we are
 immersed beyond our control in a world of
 Makes his position different to the ‘active
 audiences’ theories, which take more of an
 optimistic argument of media consumption.
 This theory of IMMERSION implies that we do
 not choose to consume media, but are
 submerged within it and are influenced by it
 without our consent.
How does this apply to the
Where do you learn about
the news?
 Newspapers – that you buy? that your parents
 buy? that you ‘see around’?
 Television/Radio – who chooses to have these
 on? Are you consciously watching bulletins or
 are they ‘interrupting’ you viewing/listening?
 What about 24/7 news channels?
 Internet – do you seek out the news? Or do
 you find out via other means? E.g. homepages
 – yahoo, BBC; social networking sites
Are we immersed in the
Baudrillard’s most
controversial claims
 Title of 1991/2 collection of essays (published
 as a volume in 2005)
 ‘The Gulf War Did Not Happen’
 What do you think Baudrillard might mean by
The Gulf War – a non-event
 Saddam Hussein was not fighting the Allied Forces, but using the
 lives of his soldiers as a form of sacrifice to preserve his power.
 The Allied Forces fighting the Iraqi military forces were merely
 dropping 10,000 tonnes of bombs daily, as if proving to themselves
 that there was an enemy to fight.
  So, too, were the Western media complicit, presenting the war in
 real time, by recycling images of war to propagate the notion that
 the two enemies, the US (and allies) were actually fighting the Iraqi
 Army, but, such was not the case: Saddam Hussein did not use his
 military capacity (the Iraqi Air Force), his politico-military power
 was not weakened (he suppressed the Kurdish insurgency against
 Iraq at war's end), so, concluding that politically little had changed
 in Iraq:
  the enemy went undefeated, the victors were not victorious,
 therefore, there was no war: the Gulf War did not occur.
Baudrillard’s argument is
basically that…
 The Gulf War and later 9/11 can only be
 understood as media events
 He sees the events of 9/11 in terms of image –
 this is what we recall when it is mentioned:
 the endless television repeats of the live
 He sees the US/British ‘war on terror’ as a
 symbolic war primarily.
What do we remember
about 9/11?
 Ask at least 5 people of varying ages what
 they remember of 9/11.
 Record these findings
Merrin sums up Baudrillard’s
argument on 9/11 as follows:
“Baudrillard describes the 9/11 attacks as ‘the
 absolute event’. Instantly passing into and
 imploding with its electronic transmission, this
 was a global media event, accelerating us into
 a state of hyperreality and of feedback,
 inference and uncertainty. Despite the
 audience’s extension into the heart of the
 event – the real-time montage of close-ups,
 long shots, multiple angles and ground
Merrin sums up Baudrillard’s
argument on 9/11 as follows:
 edited and replayed and mixed with commentary,
 speculation, political reaction, and the
 apprehension and adrenalin of the live moment –
 no event was happening for them. Their
 electronic experience simultaneously actualised
 and hyperrealised the real, and the deactualised
 and deterred it, in its semiotic transformation
 and presentation as a televisual spectacle for
 domestic consumption in the comfort and
 security of the sign.”
Baudrillard, in his own
 “At the same time as they have radicalised the
 world situation, the events in New York can be
 said to have radicalised the relation of the
 image to reality. Among the other weapons of
 the system which they turned round against it,
 the terrorists exploited the ‘real time’ of
 images, their instantaneous worldwide
 transmission, just as they exploited stock
 market speculation, electronic information
 and air
  traffic. The image consumes the event, in the
  sense that it absorbs it and offers it for
  consumption. Admittedly, it gives it
  unprecedented impact, but impact as image
  event. The collapse of the World Trade Centre
  towers is unimaginable, but that is not enough to
  make it a real event. An excess of violence is not
  enough to open on to reality. For reality is a
  principle, and it is this principle that is lost.”
From “The Spirit of 9/11: and Requiem for the Twin
  Towers” 2002
In summary:
 The events of 9/11 are as much televisual as ‘real’.
 We cannot distinguish the representation of the events
 on television from the actual events, so the events are
 HYPERREAL, neither real, nor ‘just media’, but both in
 combination, impossible to separate.
 If we accept this, it does not mean that we no longer
 believe in reality, but that the idea of ‘pure reality’,
 untainted by media representation, is no longer any
 The attack on New York cannot be seen to exist as
 ‘pure’ event, before or away from the televised images
 we are so used to.
What are the criticisms of
Baudrillard’s views on 9/11
and the Gulf War?

 What do you think?

William Merrin: :Baudrillard
and the Media” 2005
 “The media do not reflect and represent the reality of
 the public but instead produce it , employing this
 simulation to justify their own continuing existence.”

 How it this the case?

 Consider: interactive television news – audience
 encouraged to blog, email, telephone and vote in
 response to news items; citizen journalism (e.g. 7/7)
Merrin cont.

 “Thus news feedback functions to confirm
 itself, and to convince us, that someone is
 watching, that the news is important, and that
 the public are politically interested and
 mobilised. Desperately needing this
 confirmation, news programmes tailor
 questions, debates and features to provoke it.”