C/W 26.11.

09
Baudrillard & the “reality” of
9/11
Objectives:
To understand why 9/11 can be seen as a
postmodern event.
What do we already know about
Baudrillard’s ideas?
• There is no real truth
• Hyperreality
▫ No longer a distinction between reality and the
representing image.
▫ Simulations of reality have replaced any “pure”
reality.
Baudrillard’s position…
• He thinks we are immersed beyond our control
in a world of simulation.
• Thus he does not ascribe to the more optimistic
“active audience” theories of media
consumption.
• Although he is an apolitical postmodernist he
has quite a traditional view of how media
exercises power over us.
• His most controversial statement is that the Gulf
War never happened. Why might he have said
this?
Watch the clip…
• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lKZqqSI9-s
• Baudrillard thinks that the Gulf War and 9/11
can only be understood as media events.
• 9/11 is only understood in terms of image. When
it is mentioned we recall the endless television
repeats of the live pictures.
• He sees the “war on terror” as a primarily
symbolic war. The terrorism and military
invasion are semiotic and symbolic as much as
physical.
• B describes 9/11 as “the absolute event”.
• As well as radicalising the world situation it also
radicalised the relation of image to reality.
• It was a global media event, accelerating us into
a state of hyperreality.
• The terrorists exploited the “real time” of the
images and their instantaneous worldwide
transmission.
• The image consumes the event, in the sense that
it absorbs it and offers it for consumption.
• Despite the audience’s extension into the heart
of the event, with the real-time montage of close-
ups, long shots, multiple angles, commentary
etc, no “real” event was happening for them.
• B argues that 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 a combination of both that is
impossible to separate.
• If we accept this, it doesn’t mean we no longer
believe in reality.
• It means the idea of “pure reality” untainted by
media representation is no longer any use.
• So 9/11 cannot exist as a “pure” event away from
the televised images that we are used to.
Homework:
• Essay Question: In what ways can
television be seen to be postmodern?
▫ Programmes
▫ Adverts
▫ News