---- by Paul Hegarty
  The world of simulation is entirely bound up with 'Good' - the real, the true, the safe, the hygienic, the politically correct, and the notion that we can all be part of a global community under the perceived Good of western liberal capitalism. Simulation, or hyper-reality, is relentlessly positive and positivist - everything 'is', and its realness is a test of its goodness (hence the hyper-realism of the Gulf wars, hence the misunderstanding of Baudrillard's critique thereof). Baudrillard consistently argues that we live in a sanitised world, where all that is threatening, unpredictable, genuinely new, non-real, mysterious or other must be reduced, ignored or destroyed. Gradually, he introduces the idea that Evil is something other than the system of simulation, this principally in The Transparency of Evil (1993b [1990a]). Evil is not moral but structural - with simulation we already inhabit a world 'beyond good and evil'. But this condition of being beyond is not the ferocious opening of possibility envisaged by Nietzsche - instead it looks something like that, it seems to have been realised, visualised, modelled, mapped out (alternatively, it has failed to come to be, because Good and Evil merged (F)). So for there to be any radicality, there must be an Other, and this can be thought of as Evil. Given Baudrillard's take on Islamist terrorism as something that breaks through simulation, we might imagine his position to be a perverse rethinking of Samuel P. Huntington's 'clash of civilisations', but this is where we need to note that the terms 'Good' and 'Evil' are not attributes of one side or another. Good and Evil are not moral, and Evil is not just a way of dramatising attacks on the West, it is a structural critique of anything all-pervasive that emanates from simulation and a hygienised reality. Commenting on the title Transparency of Evil, Baudrillard clarifies that it is not about the visibility or obviousness of Evil, rather it is about Evil appearing everywhere, just where it is most excluded (PW). For a concrete example we can look to the overuse of antibiotics which allows the possibility of new bacterial evolution, or how excessively clean environments heighten vulnerability to infection. But it is also 'transparency itself that is the Evil' (PW, 36). Here the complexity of the idea of Evil begins to appear: transparency is of course 'good' - who can refuse transparency, openness, glasnost - or best practice, excellence, quality? Goodness and transparency meet up in a mutually reinforcing spiral, and all else, all that would be secret, or must now be done away with (things deemed inefficient, no longer desirable), will be seen as Evil. Simulation flattens, 'makes good' continually, and this is 'another world in which things no longer even need their opposites' (Baudrillard, in Clarke et al., 2009: 25). Baudrillard is in fact using Evil as a deconstructive term, one that restores duality, and through confrontation, the duel. At the same time, Evil is fundamentally caught up with simulated versions of goodness that are actually the thing that is bad. 'Evil' is the more positive force, though: 'the principle of Evil is not a moral principle but rather a principle of instability and vertigo, a principle of complexity and foreignness, a principle of seduction, a principle of incompatibility, antagonism and irreducibility. It is not a death principle - far from it. It is a vital principle of disjunction' (TE, 107).
  Baudrillard returns to the idea of Evil, this time relating it to unhappiness. Instead of Evil (le Mal), we have its reduced, curable form, unhappiness (le malheur) (F). Even better than being cured, it can be managed, prolonged - misery as a perpetual precursor to happiness - as seen in the hyper-realism of 'misery memoirs', but also at the international level, where every nation wants to be someone else's victim (F). The past is recast as the unhappiness underpinning today's shiny happy real, tinged with a halo of moral superiority for either being a victim or apologising for having made someone a victim. As the phrase has it, 'it's all good'. Attempts to resuscitate Evil fall into the cheapest simulation - like the low-budget special effect of the 'Axis of Evil' idea. When individuals, such as paedophiles, are deemed evil, they have a greater utility, which is to reinforce the sanitised goodness of everyone else, as we all agree that Evil exists, but not here, not me, not us. Meanwhile, the victims can 'rebuild their lives' according to one of many models available in the media or in psychological advice in general. As for national victims (or victimisers) of slavery, colonialisation and so on, they can work out the value of unhappiness as malheur is part of an economy where all can be bought, exchanged and traded, just so long as nothing interrupts that virtuous circle (F) - and for Baudrillard, all economic value is not only a mystical supplement, as it is for Marx, but is a replacement for the thing valued. The thing itself need never have been there, and valuing is an exact equivalent of de-valuing.
  Overall, unhappiness replaces Evil, because for all the rhetorical value of, say, the 'Axis of Evil', the attempts to extirpate that Evil can only bring the Evil more to the fore, and in a world where 'it's all good', there is no Evil, only malheur, and this is the slow living death of Evil as a creative principle. Baudrillard's hope is that the drive to render all transparent, good and clean can only encourage the possibility of disruption, of Evil.
   § duality
   § Gulf War
   § hyper-reality
   § simulation
   § terrorism
   § viral

The Baudrillard dictionary. . 2015.


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