[eDebate] baudrillard dies

Kevin Sanchez let_the_american_empire_burn
Thu Mar 8 01:49:04 CST 2007

in remembrance, listen to arvo part's 'spiegel im spiegel for violin and 
piano' from 1978. that happens to be the same year baudrillard published, 
'in the shadow of silent majorities or, the end of the social and other 
essays' which led ben attias (a former debate partner of gordon mitchell's; 
here's his site : http://www.csun.edu/~hfspc002/index.html) to write a 
comprehensive annotation (accessible here : 

The "mass" is a concept created by simulation. "The social void is scattered 
with interstitial objects and crystalline clusters which spin around and 
coalesce in a cerebral chiaroscuro. So is the mass, an in vacuo aggregation 
of individual particles, refuse of the social and of media impulses: an 
opaque nebula whose growing density absorbs all the surrounding energy and 
light rays, to collapse finally under its own weight. A black hole which 
engulfs the social," (3-4). "Can one ask questions about the strange fact 
that, after several revolutions and a century or two of political 
apprenticeship, ... there are still ... a thousand persons who stand up and 
twenty million who remain 'passive' -- and not only passive, but who, in all 
good faith and without even asking themselves why, frankly prefer a football 
match to a human and political drama? ... power manipulates nothing, the 
masses are neither mislead nor mystified. Power is only too happy to make 
football bear a facile responsibility, even to take upon itself the 
diabolical responsibility for stupefying the masses. This comforts in its 
illusion of being power, and leads away from the much more dangerous fact 
that this indifference of the masses is their true, their only practice, 
that there is no other ideal of them to imagine, nothing in this to deplore, 
but everything to analyze as the brute fact of a collective retaliation and 
of a refusal to participate in the recommended ideals, however enlightened," 
(13-14). "The only referent which still functions is that of the silent 
majority. All contemporary systems function on this nebulous entity, on this 
floating substance whose existence is no longer social, but statistical, and 
whose only mode of appearance is that of the survey ... They don't express 
themselves, they are surveyed," (19-20). "Today, everything has changed: no 
longer is meaning in short supply, it is produced everywhere, in ever 
increasing quantities -- it is demand which is weakening. And it is the 
production of this demand for meaning which has become crucial for the 
system. Without this ... power is nothing but an empty simulacrum and an 
isolated effect of perspective," (27). The mass "absorbs all the social 
energy, but no longer refracts it. It absorbs every sign and every meaning, 
but no longer reflects them. It absorbs all messages and digests them. For 
every question put to it, it sends back a tautological and circular response 
... The mass is dumb like beasts, and its silence is equal to the silence of 
beasts. Despite having been surveyed to death ... it says neither whether 
the truth is to the left or to the right, nor whether it prefers revolution 
or repression. It is without truth and without reason. It has been 
attributed with every arbitrary remark. It is without conscience and without 
unconscious," (28-9). "It has always been thought -- this is the very 
ideology of the mass media -- that it is the media which envelop the masses. 
The secret of manipulation has been sought in a frantic semiology of the 
mass media. But it has been overlooked, in this naive logic of 
communication, that the masses are a stronger medium than all the media, 
that it is the former who envelop and absorb the latter -- or at least there 
is no priority of one over the other. The mass and the media are one single 
process. Mass(age) is the message," (44). The masses "know that there is no 
liberation, and that a system is abolished only by pushing it into 
hyperlogic, by forcing it into an excessive practice which is equivalent to 
a brutal amortization. 'You want us to consume -- OK, let's consume always 
more, and anything whatsoever; for any useless and absurd purpose," (46). 
The masses and terrorism are "the most radical, most intense contemporary 
form of the denial of the whole representative system," (52).

Lambasts Lyotard's "libidinal economy" and Deleuze & Guattari's 
"micropolitics of desire" rather brutally: "But take care! Out of this 
private and asocial universe, ... some would like to make a new source of 
revolutionary energy (in particular in its sexual and desire version). They 
would like to give it meaning and reinstate it in its very banality, as 
historical negativity. Exaltation of micro-desires, small differences, 
unconscious practices, anonymous marginalities. Final somersault of the 
intellectuals to exalt insignificance, to promote non-sense into the order 
of sense. And to transfer it back to political reason. Banality, inertia, 
apoliticism used to be fascist; they are in the process of becoming 
revolutionary -- without changing meaning, without ceasing to have meaning. 
Microrevolution of banality, transpolitics of desire -- one more trick of 
the 'liberationists'. The denial of meaning has no meaning," (40-1).

The "social" no longer exists, (65-84). Thus socialism is impossible: "The 
social, if it existed with second-order simulacra, no longer even has the 
opportunity to be produced with third-order ones: from the beginning it is 
trapped in its own 'blown up' and desperate staging, in its own obscenity. 
Signs of this hyperrealisation, signs of its reduplication and its 
anticipated fulfillment are everywhere. The transparency of the social 
relation is flaunted, signified, consumed everywhere. The history of the 
social will never have had time to lead to revolution: it will have been 
outstripped by signs of the social and of revolution. The social will never 
have had time to lead to socialism, it will have been short-circuited by the 
hypersocial, by the hyperreality of the social (but perhaps socialism is no 
more than this?)" (85)

Information is BAD: it destroys meaning and signification (96); two reasons: 
1. "Instead of causing communication, it exhausts itself in the act of 
staging the communication; instead of producing meaning, it exhausts itself 
in the staging of meaning," (97-8). 2. "Behind this exacerbated staging of 
communication, the mass media, with its pressure of information, carries out 
an irresistable destructuration of the social," (100). "Thus information 
dissolves meaning and the social into a sort of nebulous state leading ... 
to total entropy. Thus the media do not bring about socialization, but just 
the opposite: the implosion of the social in the masses. And this is only 
the macroscopic extension of the implosion of meaning at the microscopic 
level of the sign," (100). Impact, fascination: "Beyond meaning, there is 
fascination, which results from the neutralization and implosion of 
meaning," (104)

Also, the Medium is the Medium! "there is not only an implosion of the 
message in the medium; in the same moment there is the implosion of the 
medium itself in the real, the implosion of the medium and the real in a 
sort of nebulous hyperreality where even the definition and the distinct 
action of the medium are no longer distinguishable," (101). "In short, the 
medium is the message signifies not only the end of the message, but also 
the end of the medium. There are no longer media in the literal sense of the 
term ... that is to say, a power mediating between one reality and another, 
between one state of the real and another -- neither in content nor in 
form," (102)

Terrorism, in its unrepresentativity, subverts power by unmasking the 
unrepresentativity of power. "Its blindness is the exact replica of the 
system's absolute lack of differentiation... terrorism strikes at precisely 
the most characteristic product of the whole system: the anonymous and 
perfectly undifferentiated individual, the term substitutable for any 
other," (55-6). "Terrorism is not violent in itself; only the spectacle it 
unleashes is truly violent," (114). "There is no possible distinction 
between the spectacular and the symbolic, no distinction possible between 
the 'crime' and the 'repression.' It is this uncontrollable eruption of 
reversibility that is the true victory of terrorism," (115-6). "The force of 
the terrorists comes to them precisely from the fact that they have no logic 
... Hence the stupidity and the obscenity of all that is reported about the 
terrorists: everywhere the wish to palm off meaning on them, to exterminate 
them with meaning," (116-7). "[T]he stakes are not to beat power on its own 
ground, but to oppose another political order of force ... [not] opposing 
one violence to another, ... but to oppose to the full violence and to the 
full order a clearly superior model of extermination and virulence operating 
through emptiness," (119). The goal of terrorism is thus "to make the system 
collapse under an excess of reality," (120).

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