---- by Diane Rubenstein
  One of the most common misconceptions concerning Baudrillard is that he has little to offer political theory, that he is an 'irresponsible' or even a reactionary voice when it comes to issues of multiculturalism, feminism or identity politics in general. This is the case even when some of his positions are not all that different, for example, from those of Ћiћek on multiculturalism. Or he is associated with some of his more polemical and punctual interventions such as The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (1995 [1991]) or The Spirit of Terrorism (2003c [2002]). However, when one considers both the sheer number of political topics addressed in his writings - everything from the terrorism of the Baader Meinhof and Red Brigade groups (SSM, FS), the Watts riots (CS), disenfranchisement (A), both Gulf Wars (GW), racial hatred and the Front National (SC), human rights and Doctors Without Borders (IE, SC), to name just a few examples - as well as the way that these subjects are inextricably linked to his central concepts (simulation, impossible exchange, integral reality) it is difficult to maintain such a facile assessment.
  Baudrillard's writings on simulation are often associated with his discussion of Disneyland (figured as a deterrence machine to dissuade citizens that the rest of America is real). But the crucial sections of 'The Precession of Simulacra' essay (the section on 'The Strategy of the Real') foregrounds simulation as a political problem (SS, 19). This section follows an analysis of Watergate (as another scandal deterrence machine): 'Watergate. The same scenario as in Disneyland (effect of the imaginary concealing that reality no more exists outside than inside the limits of the artificial perimeter): here the scandal effect hiding that there is no difference between the facts and their denunciation' (SS, 14). It is the staged presidential assassination of Ford that is the frame for Watergate as it is also for Baudrillard's remarks on leaders in general, whether Mao, Franco (SS) or Mitterand and Chirac (SC). 'These staged presidential assassinations are revealing because they signal the status of all negativity in the West: political opposition . . . a simulacral contrast through which power attempts to break the vicious circle of its nonexistence, of its fundamental irresponsibility, of its "suspension"' (SS, 24). Watergate was a ritual putting to death of Nixon and (American) power; post-Watergate presidents (Ford, Carter, Reagan) are simulacra of this already dead power, immunised by their impotence (SS). Baudrillard's America (1988b [1986]) has a meditative penultimate chapter on Reagan (and obliquely Thatcher): 'The End of U.S. Power?'(A, 107).
  Baudrillard's idea of deterrence is an unconventional one and is similarly derived from his semiotic critique of reality. The nuclear - including both weaponry and 'peaceful nuclear power stations' (SS, 33) - is the 'apotheosis of simulation' (SS, 32). There is thus no strategy, no adversary, nor subject of deterrence: only a 'pretext' for 'installing a universal security system' (SS, 33) whose deterrent effect is aimed not at a nuclear event but rather any real event that would upset the balance of forces. Deterrence circulates as 'international capital in the orbital zone of monetary speculation' (SS, 33). Now only the 'simulacra' of conflicts remain. Baudrillard's examples are of the Vietnam (and Algerian) Wars. Why were there so little internal repercussions (politically) from what the Americans experienced as a resounding defeat? Baudrillard reads the war as a confirmation of his theories that the Vietnam War was not one (a war), but was a crucial episode in the 'peaceful coexistence' (SS, 36) of China. The normalisation of Peking-Washington was the true stake of the Vietnam War, and once this occurred the war could end '"spontaneously"' (SS, 36). What Baudrillard's inventive analyses demonstrate is that behind the well articulated rationale for war, 'the murderous antagonism of the adversaries . . . behind this simulacrum of fighting to the death and of ruthless global stakes, the two adversaries are fundamentally in solidarity against something else, unnamed, never spoken' (SS, 37). Baudrillard similarly presents singular interpretations of the dissolution of the Eastern bloc countries in The Illusion of the End (1994b [1992]). One example is that Chernobyl was the 'real starting point in this involuntary, but brilliant strategic inversion . . . It was the Eastern bloc that exploded that bomb in its own heart and it was that bomb which, in the form of the first atomic cloud, crossed the Wall . . .' (IE, 45). The events in Romania - both the Timisёoara massacre and the trial of the Ceausёescus - as well as the Gulf War - represent a radicalisation of Baudrillard's theories from deterrence to '"desimulation"' (IE, 54). These are highly mediatised televisual (CNN) events, and raise serious questions about what happens to the political import of an event that passes through a virtual medium (unlike cinema and photography) that lacks a negative. Romanians are dispossessed of their televised 'revolution' or placed 'under house arrest' watching it on the home TV screens (IE, 56).
  Baudrillard's enabling critical distinction between the orbital and the nuclear in the simulation essays return in the later period of Screened Out (2002 [2000a]) as an equally pertinent opposition between the 'global and the universal'. Universality pertains to values and the global to the realm of exchange. The 'singularity of forms' provides the third part of this model including 'languages, cultures, individuals and characters, but also chance, accident, etc. - all that the universal, in keeping with its law, impugns as an exception or anomaly' (SC, 158) The global/universal opposition frames his essays on European integration as well as his later editorial (Baudrillard, 2005) concerning the 'No' vote on the European Constitution. His writings during the Serbian/Kosovo war were similarly prescient (SC) and reveal him to be an astute reader of Islamic fundamentalism (especially when compared with Foucault's writings on the Iranian Revolution). Writing on Serbia in 1995 and foreshadowing his essay after 9/11 (ST) Baudrillard presents an alternative imperialism of values and asserts that a 'transpolitical fault line . . . today passes mainly through Islam' (SC, 65).
  Baudrillard's last writings detail a further development of simulation called integral reality that has implications for the extreme objects of war and terrorism. As integral reality is characterised by immersion and an umbilical relation, not a scene and a gaze, it will be the 'embedded' and not the hostage that is the figure of this new world of 'immersion, immanence and immediacy' (LP, 31). Integral reality comes about at a terrible cost of exclusion and exile for those who found themselves 'on the wrong side of the universal' (P, 101). We live in the shadow of the imminent revenge of this 'anti-matter' that haunts, constitutes and limits our material world. It put an end to the strike of events on September 11, 2001 and it is in this context that Baudrillard's more provocative statements in The Spirit of Terrorism (2003c [2002]) should be read.
   § America
   § feminism / feminine
   § globalisation
   § Gulf War
   § terrorism
   § universality

The Baudrillard dictionary. . 2015.


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