Jean Baudrillard does quite the number on liberal ideology in his piece, ‘The Precession of Simulacra’. The great work of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein is very much a symbol of hope for our modern day journalists, that there are perhaps those who will not sit by abated by the scandals of the White House filling their articles and instead set out to inspire someone out there to take notice and put an end to them. Does Jon Stewart and Bill Maher really want Bush to leave, or to pass on the punching bag McCain would very well become? They are liberal talking heads, and yet they fight the forces which make their shows so powerful, painful, and awfully damn funny with 99% of their talking points. To say that Woodward and Bernstein were mere pawns, or even concious manipulators, in the turnover of power, even the destruction of true political morality, strikes of grand apostasy. Furthermore, to denounce the great social contract which allows us liberals to constantly hold our government accountable to a higher standard as flim-flam, that power has never and will never reciprocate that contract outside of political conventions, and that to fight with whatever tools we have to get what’s always been acknowledged as ours (social justice) merely aids in the procession of next wave of corrupt politicians…well, needless to say, our friendly Frenchman invited quite an amount of rancour on my part.
Well, I must say that I can’t completely disagree with him. Take the 9/11 Truth movement, for instance. Regardless of my stance on the subject, I saw in his discussion of Watergate an eerie simularity. As much as O’Reilly and the rest would love to point to liberal freak-shows as the main purveyors of what surely is one of the greatest calumnies of our American government, the fact remains neither Barack nor Hillary nor the ever loquacious Biden have even mentioned this atrocity. However, John Buchanan (Republican presidential contender in 2004, fighting for the Truth movement) and Chuck Baldwin (Constitutional Party presidental nominee this year, a ‘right-wing fringe group) are perhaps the most vocal advocates, seemingly out to inundate their own party for the death of thousands of innocent Americans. In Baudrillard’s view, these men are either out for the selfish reasons of getting Bush and Cheney and the old Republican guard out of the picture or are out for their eponymous Truth. Can Baudrillard, as with Watergate, claim the only way to maintain any political justice is to forget about the alleged conspiracy, and instead blame these candidates for pretending any justice could possibly exist in Washington?
I believe that this small example shows the issue one might have with Baudrillard on the much larger issue of who to vote for this election. With both parties, especially the incumbant party, calling for change, are we all simply duped into believing this to be a possibility? Or, must we just be amazingly ‘naive to see an embittered good conscience at work here’ (100). Does either candidate really mean to change the business of Washington? I think Baudrillard would say we’re helplessly fighting the ‘precession of simulacra’. Obama’s appeal relies on his appearance of change–as he says, ‘he doesn’t look like those presidents on dollar bills.’ He’s channeling JFK, most strikingly Jimmy Carter, even Mr. Lincoln, with the idea of adding historical precedent to an otherwise ahistorical candidate. He is the change of the past and the face of the future, all in one earnest and appealing package. McCain–he relies on his former position as a maverick to call for change, but also to warn us that the wrong change will throw us into a communist, god-hating, valueless USSA. These bottled packages and ideas and rechanneled fears and hopes–what is real? This is politics, but surely what we feel, those ecstatic tingles we feel when a phrase or policy strikes the timbre and heartstrings we assume have laid dormant these past eight years: those are certainly very real for me. Yet Baudrillard, in his way of viewing things, sees all this as a farce, as the ever-shifting tango of corrupt power, all to the beat of the never-changing capitalist drums. Let us hope he is wrong. Obviously I have enlarged and politicized a small component of his argument, but that is how things reach my perception in this most political of years, where Baudrillard seems to attack everything I’m fighting for with my one frail vote.