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Fuck The Matrix. I invented that shit.
March 12, 2013 9:36 AM   Subscribe


 
Huh. I assume he used the term "American" because it would generate more page views than if he had accurately titled the piece "The Precession of Simulacra" by Jean Baudrillard, Translated from English into The Vernacular of a Kevin Smith Character Circa 1994.

Still, it would have been nice to at least introduce the piece by explaining that "American" is being used as shorthand for Mr. Smith's writing and speaking style, as opposed to its traditional meaning.
posted by The World Famous at 9:49 AM on March 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


To “simulate” is to pretend to have what you don’t. For instance, with that same one night stand, it would be to pretend that you’re a lawyer with shit tons of bank throbbage by paying for all her drinks with your credit card and acting cool like it’s a debit card.

Awful - a few less thuggish, anti-intellectual alternatives:

Doug Mann: Jean Baudrillard: A Very Short Introduction

Dino Felluga: Baudrillard on Simulation

All the dick-swinging here just gets in the way of a simple explanation of Baudrillard's ideas.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:53 AM on March 12, 2013 [13 favorites]


Metafilter: All the dick-swinging here just gets in the way of a simple explanation.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:55 AM on March 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


"simulated" dick-swinging
posted by kaminariko at 9:59 AM on March 12, 2013


And after all, what is dick-swinging but a simulacrum of potency?
posted by notyou at 10:01 AM on March 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Face it, it's simulated penises all the way down.
posted by notyou at 10:02 AM on March 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


As someone who values thinking, this is pretty offensive... I guess i am supposed to respond with: "oh the irony!!"
posted by Divest_Abstraction at 10:05 AM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


what is dick-swinging but a simulacrum of potency?

Sometimes a simulacra is just a simulacra...
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:06 AM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Translated from English into The Vernacular of a Kevin Smith Character Circa 1994.

I dunno, Kevin Smith's dialogue, while at least as vulgar, has always struck me as being much more laid-back. This reminds me more of, like, a trying-too-hard article on kuro5hin.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:09 AM on March 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


I came here expecting for a reason to hate-on Kevin Smith and went away disappointed.

Plus, tl;dr. The large blocks of text kind of defeat purpose of this exercise.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:14 AM on March 12, 2013


All the dick-swinging here just gets in the way of a simple explanation of Baudrillard's ideas.

While this isn't terribly successful, I have to say that, on the whole, Baudrillard's ideas get in the way of a simple explanation of Baudrillard's ideas.
posted by griphus at 10:22 AM on March 12, 2013 [17 favorites]


The Wachowskis insisted that Keanu Reeves read Simulacra and Simulation before reading the Matrix script.

[source: The Matrix Revisited]
posted by DWRoelands at 10:24 AM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah... "read"
posted by griphus at 10:26 AM on March 12, 2013


Baudrillard's views on The Matrix were less "I invented that shit" than "boy, they really didn't understand what I was on about, did they?"

Some choice bits:
The Matrix is surely the kind of film about the matrix that the matrix would have been able to produce.
and
What is notable about Matrix Reloaded is the absence of a glimmer of irony that would allow viewers to turn this gigantic special effect on its head.
posted by yoink at 10:34 AM on March 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


. . . on the whole, Baudrillard's ideas get in the way of a simple explanation of Baudrillard's ideas.

While Baudrillard's language can be difficult, I think his ideas do often lend themselves to more simple explanation in English. From the Mann piece linked to above:

Baudrillard's writing is difficult, and for starting philosophers and social and cultural theorists is best taken in small doses. If you read his work, remember that his central claim about postmodern culture (thought he claims that he himself is not a postmodernist) is quite simple - that we live in a "desert of the real," a cultural space where television, film, and computer images are more "real" to us than the non-media physical reality that surrounds us. This loss of reality isn't so hard to understand, even if it's difficult for some of us to swallow.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:35 AM on March 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Man, the actual (translated) quotes from Baudrillard here are a real tonic. And they transport me back to being an undergrad in the early '90s, and talking about this stuff stoned out of my gourd.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:40 AM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


i was actually hoping for a "Simulacra For Dummies" kind of explication here. it would be really great if someone could use reality TV, ads, 24-hr news, etc. for a full-on, everyday language, elucidation of Baudrillard. next up, Twitter as Lacanian mirror. or Delueze, Tumblr and difference.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 10:55 AM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


All the dick-swinging here just gets in the way of a simple explanation of Baudrillard's ideas.

I'm pretty sure you're missing the point here. It's from continent., a para-academic theory journal, so they would assume the reader is already well familiar with Baudrillard that they don't need a simple introduction. The dick-swinging, and the possibility of presenting theory in that voice, is what the reader is meant to enjoy/think about.

I don't like dick-swing-ese, but I double-dog dislike the idea that dick-swing-ese might not be a vehicle for complex (or interesting) thought just because it's dick-swing-ese.
posted by Casuistry at 10:56 AM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The dick-swinging, and the possibility of presenting theory in that voice, is what the reader is meant to enjoy/think about.

OK - then it's just A) not funny and B) misogynist.
posted by ryanshepard at 11:02 AM on March 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


i was actually hoping for a "Simulacra For Dummies" kind of explication here.

I really wish there was a source for these. There's all these nearly-impenetrable (to me at 19, at least) texts that I think back to -- S&S, The Cyborg Manifesto, a bunch of Barthes and Deleuze -- that I'd love to read (again?), but have zero inclination to bust my head over the source material like I did in college.
posted by griphus at 11:02 AM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Speaking of swinging dicks, twenty years ago the faculty of poli sci with its embrace (back then) of post modernism was definitely a male preserve. My own university saw a bitter battle between old, established (and entitled) tenured male faculty in the poli sci department and younger female professors who used a feminist lens to interpret feminism. Ultimately, it led to segregation - although it's a bit of a generalization, but men taught in poli sci, and women taught women's studies. Sad, really.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:10 AM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


From Dino Felluga: what has happened in postmodern culture is that our society has become so reliant on models and maps that we have lost all contact with the real world that preceded the map.

This may be a superficial response, 'cause I haven't had time to do the reading. (Speaking of transporting me back to undergrad.) But, I can't recommend highly enough the book Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which presents a (testable, tested) scientific argument that this fusion between models and reality is the root cause of most psychological suffering, and that we can learn to cope with it.

The first chapter in the Amazon preview is the philosophical part. Basically they argue that: (1) humans suffer despite having all of their apparent needs met, not as an exception but as the rule, in a way that other animals don't seem to; (2) attempts to fix this by treating it as a set of illnesses have largely failed -- most of the categories in the DSM don't seem to have predictive value, and we're not getting healthier as we add more; (3) instead of coming from some abnormality, our unique suffering seems to derive from our symbolic reasoning -- we build elaborate symbolic structures that drift farther and farther from reality, believing in them and responding emotionally to them as if they were real, using emotional and logical tools that don't work reliably on imaginary constructs.

And then they present a set of tools for breaking free of that trap and learning to use our symbolic minds without buying into destructive fake realities -- preserving the flexibility to recognize when one imaginary construct isn't working and switch to a different one, understanding that none of the models are reality. It's just so satisfying -- they take these claims that are recognizable from philosophy and religion, build them into a testable scientific theory, and use the theory to develop a totally practical prescription for living happily with post-modernism. So good.

(I speak here, of course, as an enthusiastic amateur who hasn't done the reading.)
posted by jhc at 11:27 AM on March 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


There appears to be a whole genre of "...for Beginners" books/comics in the style of Rius' Marx for Beginners that explain complicated continental theory.

Rius' comic was good. Maybe these are, too?
posted by notyou at 11:30 AM on March 12, 2013


griphus, Introducing Baudrillard?
posted by clavicle at 11:38 AM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


i'm pretty sure there is, or was, a Post-Structuralism for Dummies/Beginners. and there's a really great textbook style breakdown of all those big ideas by Madan Sarup called "Introductory Guide to Post-Structuralism and Postmodernism". i know that, at least with Derrida, the difficulty in reading served a purpose. Baudrillard however is the one whose ideas could probably be most easily digested, if not easily demonstrated, if presented with different language.

i wish someone, not including myself, would have the wherewithal to pull all of this into the realm of daily life/language. something like a bridge between "Network", "Groundhog Day", "Cleo From 5 to 7", "Brazil", "The Candidate" and "The Real Housewives...".
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 11:47 AM on March 12, 2013


As someone who values thinking, this is pretty offensive...

Or perhaps you only value the simulacrum of thinking—a very specific academic image of thinking irrespective of whether it is saying anything meaningful.
posted by AlsoMike at 12:04 PM on March 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


AlsoMike: Says the man with a Lacan quote in his profile... troll much?

However the article is not saying anything meaningful. It is taking some serious, albeit complicated ideas/theory and reducing them to some trivial version of performance art that degrades the intent or impact of the original ideas.

There is no thinking that is not as you say "the simulacrum of thinking" all thought is basically thought about thought about the idea of thought.... etc. This is what Baudrillard was getting at. The further the simularcrum gets away from the "desert of the real" the less meaning anything has.

But I guess its better to say: Cuz Matrix!!!

I'm done being trolled, good day sir.
posted by Divest_Abstraction at 12:25 PM on March 12, 2013


"i know that, at least with Derrida, the difficulty in reading served a purpose. Baudrillard however is the one whose ideas could probably be most easily digested, if not easily demonstrated, if presented with different language."

-- I think Derrida did much of it on purpose despite the challenge to use language to get outside of language, etc...still, at least I've (successfully perhaps) worked through many of his books. Though I spent 3 days with him--and two of his friends at UF during a visit to Gainesville, FL--I only understood about 20% of what was said; I just nodded a lot. Baudrillard IS bad, but nothing compared to Deleuze and Guittari (or maybe it's the translators' fault...I remember realizing that I'd been rereading sentences or paragraphs over and over for 20 minutes or so, and forcing myself to move on). I think Zizek is someone who really relishes the obfuscation and ridiculous.
-- LOL'd at "says the man with a Lacan quote in his profile"!?!
posted by whatgorilla at 12:33 PM on March 12, 2013


Unfortunately, no one can be told what simulacra is. You must become a bitter philosophy major yourself.
posted by Perko at 2:18 PM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


The "American" version was a little bit funny for a paragraph or two, but is it just me, or did it get old fast?

Sill, it wasn't really any worst than the original, which is third-rate pseudo-philosophy. At least the parody wore its lack of seriousness on its sleeve.

Sad that a whole generation of English grad students was lost to the po-mo plague. And I mean that; it's not just snark. It's actually a sad thing.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 2:21 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Today is apparently the day that I finally express pleasure at having specialized in Bakhtin.

For all the good it did me.

Nevertheless, for this, I thank you.
posted by aramaic at 2:22 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sad that a whole generation of English grad students was lost to the po-mo plague. And I mean that; it's not just snark. It's actually a sad thing.

In what way do you feel that postmodernism is a plague? In what ways do you feel that an emphasis on postmodernism is sad?
posted by Greg Nog at 2:27 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


ryanshepard: OK - then it's just A) not funny and B) misogynist.

Maybe and maybe. But it's not necessarily meant to be funny, and it's not necessarily meant to be misogynist, even if it takes on a misogynist voice. It's the simulacrum of thinking translated into the simulacrum of not thinking; if this "degrades the intent of impact of the original ideas", as Divest_Abstraction suggests, is that because of a bad translation, or because we insist that the simulacrum of thinking is thinking.

(I didn't actually like the article much until I started seeing how other people didn't like the article. I think I decided that what the article seemed to be doing was more interested than what the people disliking the article seemed to be doing.)
posted by Casuistry at 2:31 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like it, since it seems to take the original ideas and make them more understandable while still keeping the core of them. Or maybe I understand them because I've seen Goons use them to explain the Transformers movies. Sure, Cracked does this sort of 'explain complicated ideas' in a dumb way better, but there's nothing really offensive about keeping the ideas but changing the register in which they're expressed.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:54 PM on March 12, 2013


In what way do you feel that postmodernism is a plague? In what ways do you feel that an emphasis on postmodernism is sad?

Well, I subscribe to the fairly common view that it's nonsense on stilts. I mean, I teach philosophy, so it's not that I think that questions and arguments in that vicinity of intellectual space are foolish. I'm not, say, a hardcore positivist or anything.

There are serious arguments about such things...just, well, not in Baudrillard or Lacan or Derrida or Slovoj Zizek, or, basically, any of those guys. If you want to think about skepticism--which I think is a good thing to think about--then read DesCartes. (Or, if you want something lighter and more modern and introductory, Dancy or Michael Williams or whatever.) You want to read about language and problems of reference and why it's difficult to represent reality with language? Read...gods...any number of people... Put in the effort, learn some formal logic, and explore Putnam's model-theoretic argument against realism (based on the Lowenheim-Skolem theorem). Or C. S. Peirce. Or Kant. Or any number of thinkers really worth spending time on.

I'm all for thinking about issues of knowledge, representation and reality. But, honestly, these guys like Baudrillard just aren't serious.

But this stuff has been influential. Largely because it lets you say a bunch of cool, smart-sounding, five-dollar words without being held up to any discernible standards of actual rigor.

It's sad that there's a lost generation of English grad students because, well...I've tried to talk to such folk. They really think that they are learning and talking about something interesting and important when they learn and talk about this stuff. But, honestly, they really aren't.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 3:05 PM on March 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


However the article is not saying anything meaningful. It is taking some serious, albeit complicated ideas/theory and reducing them to some trivial version of performance art that degrades the intent or impact of the original ideas.

OK... You read the essay as a critique of Baudrillard, showing how he really has no interesting insights by translating his ideas into a vulgar language of pseudo-profundity. That may well be the point, basically dethroning the emperor by humiliating him and exposing his nakedness. But I don't find this offensive. In today's world of incivility, skepticism and ridicule of anything that purports to be treated with any respect or dignity, it is a boring cliche.

The problem with being offended is that it means you've already succumbed to this logic, where nothing has any genuine value except insofar as we pretend that it does. That means believing that Baudrillard's ideas are only interesting if we keep up the appearance of him as a heavy, serious intellectual.

The only way out is to celebrate the degraded, vulgarized version as the authentic Baudrillard and treating it with dignity even without all the usual intellectual trappings.

There are those who mock Baudrillard, Zizek, Lacan, etc. as frauds and believe their writings should be in a garbage dump, not a university. I'm not afraid of this attitude -- if the garbage dump is the only place for them, then that's where I will be.
posted by AlsoMike at 3:31 PM on March 12, 2013


It's sad that there's a lost generation of English grad students because, well...I've tried to talk to such folk. They really think that they are learning and talking about something interesting and important when they learn and talk about this stuff. But, honestly, they really aren't.

Said the structuralist.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:53 PM on March 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, this interpretation is pretty cheeky, but I am impressed that he actually finished transcribing the thing. A generic slacker would've gotten bored part way through.
posted by ovvl at 3:59 PM on March 12, 2013


This tough-guy take on philosophy is apparently a thing. May I present Exhibit B: Philosophy Bro.
posted by zardoz at 4:17 PM on March 12, 2013


AlsoMike I think we have more in common than I would have previously thought, so I apologize if I misread your previous statements.

I do see my flaw in being offended and how it relates to Baudrillard's overall theory. I didn't read the article as a critique of Baudrillard but more as an intentional ironic misunderstanding presented as a critique.

It would be more useful if the author were to first admit that he has no real existent understanding of the subject, maybe proclaim his status as an imbecile and then on the other end produce something non-ironic. But instead you as the reader are trapped in a mobius strip (to use his own example) of trying to figure out if he really believes what he is writing since it seems at times that he does, but it also seems that he only wants you to think that he is believing what is being said in order to maintain his distance from the subject matter (which is the point I am trying to make about irony)

The thought that I have struggled with today in regards to this article is: What if this strange irony-fueled version of these ideas is more real than my own? That is where your statement comes in: The only way out is to celebrate the degraded, vulgarized version as the authentic Baudrillard and treating it with dignity even without all the usual intellectual trappings.

That being said I probably need to shut up and learn to fully love irony.

I'll see you at the dump.
posted by Divest_Abstraction at 4:36 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Post-Structuralism for Beginners? I have that book, and yes, it's enjoyable.

Funny coincidence--I'm on the Las Vegas Strip at this very moment. And enjoying the ironic synchronicity.
posted by gimonca at 4:44 PM on March 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


As far as I can determine, "structuralism" was a minor fad, mostly in anthropology, that for a few years was popular with intellectuals in France. Can someone explain to me why they consider the rejection of this school of thought to be so important?

I have a suspicion that "theory" people use the term in a much broader sense than in the Levi-Strauss kind of way that I am understanding it, as in, they are using it to denote the whole metaphysical tradition going back to Plato, as in Heidegger or Derrida's critiques of traditional philosophy. It seems like a misnomer to me to call that "structuralism", but if that's what people mean, then I'd like to know that.
posted by thelonius at 5:32 PM on March 12, 2013


As far as I can determine, "structuralism" was a minor fad, mostly in anthropology, that for a few years was popular with intellectuals in France.

I guess wikipedia is as good a start as any.

also this, but even more importantly this
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:21 PM on March 12, 2013


H'm, in the 1990s in Britain i was taught all Wittgenstein and the American school, now that's seen as dead and defeated and the continental school as having trounced it. (I'm very outside all of this now, i just happened to brush up against a university recently.)
posted by maiamaia at 12:50 PM on March 13, 2013


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