The Simulacrum Effect:

On October 9, the stock market crashed and the day was christened Black Monday in reference to Black Thursday which marked the beginning of the Great Depression. We readily embraced the connation and braced ourselves as markets plunged throughout the following month, even having our fears confirmed, via media, by 33 eminent economists that gathered in Washington DC, in December, and collectively predicted that the economy “could be the most troubled since the 1930’s". And while things weren’t stellar (they rarely are), and aggravated economic conditions in urban areas, thereby contributing to the L.A. riots and Bush Sr.’s one term presidency, there was nothing about it as catastrophic as dust bowls, 25% unemployment, and soup kitchens. Not even the plummet of 2008 came close to that. On January 17, 1991, we braced again, with thoughts of Vietnam, as air force jets parted for Kuwait and Iraq and proceeded to bring it all to an anti-climax that carried, with it, the phenomenological and emotional impact of a spud missile. It was this sense of being little more than a media event that allowed Baudrillard to boldly state that it didn’t even happen. And while the experience would have been different for an Iraqi, huddled over his children in his living room, while the world exploded around him, Baudrillard’s point had merit and was supported by the statistical irony that more soldiers would have died stateside in auto accidents than did in desert storm.

The point is that, throughout it, things went on as usual. And I suspect this was the case with many others. Furthermore, I have never lost my job to a Mexican or been a victim of reverse discrimination. Never had my ID stolen. Never been carjacked by a dope feign. And throughout all the ups and downs of the economy, I have pretty much always worked –except the one time I got fired. And the experience of most people appears to be similar. And, as much as I hate to admit it, given all my harping, I have never lost a job over a piss test or smoking policy. And even those newsworthy items I have experienced, such as HIV (I lost one friend I hadn’t seen in years and knew another guy who had it), it has never presented itself to me as the epidemic portrayed by the news. I’ve had people close to me lose good jobs to globalization, but never me. And as I suggested earlier, the crash of 2008 hardly touched me or anyone close. And I’ve never been in a major natural disaster, not which affected me. Admittedly, I’m lucky. My life has always been a little less newsworthy than the news industry would have me believe it should be. And I wouldn’t shame anyone for accusing me of some kind of bourgeoisie complacency. But I suspect there’s something more and that my detachment is actually quite typical. I can’t help but feel that, throughout it all, we’ve been haunted by a chimera, a shadow play, a simulacrum effect perpetrated and sustained through media, and a sense that we’re always on the edge of doom while nothing seems to happen.

At the same time, they could be fulfilling a need, catering to their market. Many of us, as grade school students, crouched beneath our desks in cold war drills and were familiarized early with the apocalyptic grounded in New Testament prophecy. Perhaps we passed it to our children. From our fascination with Nostradamus in the seventies, to global warming, to 2012 and the end of the Mayan calendar, we’ve always known that something had to go wrong -as if all this was too good to last. Furthermore, it would seem natural for us, given our always pending deaths, to engage in an archetypal projection, that as we grew older we would feel that things were getting worse. So no wonder we act like it’s the end of the world. Let one illegal immigrant collect government benefits, let one white man lose his job because of a job quota, let one corporate leader be busted for corruption, and we’re all over it. I told you so!, we roar, triumphantly. It’s as if we’re dependent on the unreality of it while being equally addicted to the act of acting like it’s real.

But something changed on 9/11 –at least temporarily. Clearly, the primary offense was the murder of 3000 people. But given the very real fear we felt that day, that history would return and we would, once again, experience a war within our borders, that anything could happen anywhere, you have to wonder if the secondary, but equally important offense was having broken through the simulacrum, of having made it feel real. The swift manner in which the networks worked to mend the tear suggested this. It was all so media friendly: digital collages, video superimposed on video, tanks foreshadowing war, the devastation, our reactions, and all of it peppered with images of a media friendly villain. Even the act contributed. If it hadn’t really happened, it would have made an excellent plot for a Steven Segal movie. Except in that narrative, the towers never would have been touched. So we flexed our muscles and balled our fists. The networks balanced our despair with broadcasts of our patriotic glee and unity and fluff pieces on the increased consumption of American flags. Of course, no serious journalist would dare a real analysis of why the terrorists wanted those buildings so bad (it was their second attempt), of what went on in there before, and what policies pissed these people off to such an extent. “Jealousy” we barked without hesitation. But that only reinforced our unquestioned embrace of the given narrative. Of course, the healing wasn’t truly complete until the wars that followed, wars kept easy to forget by image control implemented by military, government, and the corporate vultures that benefitted. Having a vested interest, they clearly learned some important lessons from Vietnam in keeping those that didn’t (and even stood to lose) from putting a stop to it all. We have to keep in mind, here, that these are the first wars that failed to benefit the American worker (war being Keynesian economics on steroids), but managed the tradition of running us into debt.

But what we should really worry about is a “boy who cried wolf” situation. Given the conditioning involved in being convinced of the import of things we generally find to be inconsequential, how will we know the consequential when we see it? Common sense tells us that the earth can only sustain so many people before it has to start discarding them through catastrophic measures (hunger, disease, war). But how do you convince people of this who are stuck in the complacency of the simulacrum, who have grown use to the sensational non-event? Outside of the actual disaster, how do you prove, with what we have come see as mere entertainment, the camera of reality TV turned from the personal to the national (global even), that it could be real this time?

Yet another flaw of capitalist media.
When mass media is about money, it effects what is shown and what is not shown.
What is shown is whatever makes the most money, instead of what is most important or most educational.

There use to be a time when The Learning channel was about learning,

The Arts and Entertainment channel was about arts and entertainment(
I remember watching Spalding Grey’s performance piece, Swimming to Cambodia, on there(

And Bravo use to be the cultural channel.

But they’ve suffered the same fate as the news channels:

it’s not enough to report the news,

They have to sell it as well.

Christians and druggies have suffered the same fate because of this:

if a pot smoker goes home everyday, after work, and smokes a joint,
that’s not news.

On the other hand,
if a drug fiend kills someone in the process of jacking a car,
that is.

The same stands true for a Christian that uses Christianity as an anchor in their life.
It’s just not news.

On the other hand,
let a group of Christians stand outside of a church
and hold up signs that says:

remember: God still hates Fags…

well.