Bush as Presidential Simulacrum
July 14, 2004 2:37 PM   Subscribe

Being Nothing: George W. Bush as Presidential Simulacrum. [Via wood s lot.]
posted by homunculus (20 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Being nothing?.......Being There

"Chance's empty-headed pronouncements and generalizations, delivered dead-pan, are taken to be profoundly intelligent, metaphorically deep, and wisely insightful. He becomes wealthy, is treated as a famous celebrity in the media, and becomes a political advisor for the rich and powerful, including President 'Bobby' (Jack Warden). His new-found popularity leads to talk-show appearances, insider parties, book publisher advances, and the potential to become a presidential candidate. "
posted by troutfishing at 3:18 PM on July 14, 2004

Good stuff. But Bush as Chance the Gardener had to be one of the first things through everyone else's heads as well, as it became more and more clear in recent years how utterly clueless he is.

(I always wonder about the sort of person who writes a piece like that -- who takes the blindingly obvious (relatively speaking) and wraps it in the mummy-gauze of bigword, beard-chewing filozofizin', at great length. Still, without them we'd have less to read, I suppose.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:51 PM on July 14, 2004

stavros: They're called "academics".
posted by mr_roboto at 5:05 PM on July 14, 2004

I was wondering how long it would take for The Gulf War Did Not Take Place to come up; three paragraphs as it transpires.

Bush's estrangement from the real -- evident in his unfamiliarity with geography, history, ordinary English syntax and semantics, and a fund of common knowledge -- stems from his own lack of reality. George W. Bush does not exist.

An ambitious premise upon which to base this article given that these characteristics could just as easily be ascribed to a low intelligence.

Moreover if you want to lie down with Baudrillard you have to abandon such value judgements as to the ‘knowledge’ which another has or is deemed not to have. If I correctly understand Simulations – and don’t start on me about ‘correct’ understanding either – Baudrillard wrote:

"Unlimited semiosis ensures not only that the real isn't possible, but also that illusion is no longer possible -- the concept of "illusion" assumes some notion of the "real" to contradict. Simulation supercedes ideology -- "it is no longer a question of the ideology of power, but of the scenario of power. Ideology only corresponds to a betrayal of reality by signs; simulation corresponds to a short-circuit of reality and to its reduplication by signs ... it is always a false problem to want to restore the truth beneath the simulacrum"

As such, Bush’s view of the world is from the postmodern perspective no more or no less ‘correct’ regardless of whatever ‘facts’ you think that he may be ignorant of or ‘wrong’ notions which he holds to be true.

On preview; stav, mr_roboto - I couldn't agree more. I badly want my Poly Sci PhD but if I ever had to read a sentance like this again I'll kill myself: "The culture of tactile communication is in fact burgeoning in the techno-lumino-kinetic space provided by this total, spatio-dynamic theater. It brings with it a kind of contact Imaginary, a sensorial mimeticism, a tactile mysticism that grafts onto the universe of operational simulation, multistimulation, and multiresponse like an entire system of ecological concepts," (Baudrillard: Symbolic Exchange and Death Paris: Gallimard, 1976); p. 144
posted by dmt at 5:17 PM on July 14, 2004

I actually enjoy wading through lingo like this. To a point. But I can't believe the author didn't see the irony of using the quote about 'gobbledegook' at the end.
posted by homunculus at 5:37 PM on July 14, 2004

An ambitious premise upon which to base this article given that these characteristics could just as easily be ascribed to a low intelligence.

The Misunderestimated Man
posted by homunculus at 5:43 PM on July 14, 2004

I always wonder about the sort of person who writes a piece like that

While I don't know the author, and she doesn't appear to have a personal site, I can tell you that the article appears in ctheory, an international journal of theory, techonlogy, and culture. The multimedia portion, aptly enough ctheory multimedia, is run by my major advisor, one Timothy Murray. Though I personally wasn't overly impressed with this article, ctheory does tend to publish interesting stuff on a regular basis. For instance, rather than this article, I might have posted an earlier ctheory offering which takes it straight from the horse's provebial mouth:

The Violence of the Global, by Jean Baudrillard, translated and published in ctheory on 5/20/2003

There are many, many other interesting articles there. Go here and start scrolling. I never posted this before because it felt kinda self-linky, since its something that someone I work closely with has a big hand in. But now that someone else has...
posted by ChasFile at 6:27 PM on July 14, 2004

"if you want to lie down with Baudrillard"

... you will appear to get up with fleas.
posted by raaka at 7:14 PM on July 14, 2004 [1 favorite]

I shoulda' wrote something like that. I had the same idea a couple years ago. I thought, "Damn! This reminds me of Being There!"

For real though, I'm not what you might call a Bush-basher, but sometimes (especially during that last press conference) I almost feel sorry for the guy. I mean for me to watch him and be reminded of Chance the Gardener...
posted by jaronson at 8:39 PM on July 14, 2004

Interesting, but I think Chance the Gardener is too favorable a comparison for Bush. Dubya is definitely empty-headed, but at least Chance had one talent: making things grow. Dubya is cannier than the Peter Sellers character, to be sure, but only enough to allow him to serve as a steady, faithful tool for others. And without talents of his own, entirely. Seriously, what has that man ever done right in his entire life?
posted by scarabic at 9:12 PM on July 14, 2004

I've read more crap like this article during my life than I care to remember. It's difficult to follow for no good reason, relies on words rarely used outside the need of a grad student to break up the monotony of the regurgitated ideas in her thesis, and is based upon a premise that is never proven.

It must be nice for all those clever folks to bask in the knowledge that they are, indeed, smarter than the President of the United States. Yes, a mediocre academic is certainly more intelligent than George Bush. Thank goodness envy is alleviated by such small, unprovable claims.

Hopefully this belief will allow all those people to sleep better at night knowing Bush didn't deserve all he's received, just like that damned professor who got the grant they applied for. After all, they are smarter than he is, too.
posted by CRS at 9:31 PM on July 14, 2004

Interesting stuff. It has always struck me that living in the Bush era is a pomo fantasy come alive.
posted by rks404 at 10:10 PM on July 14, 2004

Under the sign of postmodernism, the hermeneutics of depth have been replaced by the play of surfaces, and the flat celebrity has superseded the complicated historical figure. In his magisterial Postmodernism, Fredric Jameson commented on the shift between the deep subjectivity represented in the modernist novel and the postmodern "death of the subject."

If I admit that I refuse to take seriously anything written in this style, will I be outing myself as a dogmatist?
posted by trharlan at 11:58 PM on July 14, 2004

I can tell you that the article appears in ctheory, an international journal of theory, techonlogy, and culture.

I am very familiar with the ctheory site, and familiar in a passing way with the kinds of postmodernist stuff that the piece is built on.

I still have to wonder about the kind of people that write it, though.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:34 AM on July 15, 2004

"Good stuff. But Bush as Chance the Gardener had to be one of the first things through everyone else's heads as well" - I honestly don't think everyone has seen the movie, unless your "everyone" is the set of manifestly worthy individuals who have seen Sellar's film.

Why so cranky?

trharlan - Not in my opinion. But, I think that sort of use (or abuse) of language happens as the accretion of somewhat obscure and field-specific terminology leads to a sort of intoxification - as such scholars become deluded into thinking that their arguments are made, somehow, more empirically valid, and that they are engaged in a project which is akin to science.

I view it as a sort of peformance art.

It's also - if you happen to be Alan Sokal or Richard Dawkins - very fun to skewer.

Such language might be viewed as a ritualistic attempt to ward off off inevitable, as the industrious ants of modern science reduce that huge overbaked loaf which once comprised the "Humanities"......

Ant by ant, Crumb by crumb, off they go marching.
posted by troutfishing at 6:33 AM on July 15, 2004

Now, if only the swarming ants of the media would begin to gnaw in earnest at those huge, overbaked loaves that are the Bush Administration and Neoconservatism.
posted by troutfishing at 6:36 AM on July 15, 2004

I still have to wonder about the kind of people that write it [ctheory], though.

I pesonally only know a few of them, but I do know many more by reputation. I can tell you they are generally very intelligent, inquisitive, helpful, and gentle. It takes a very rare breed to forfeit the money such intelligence could make them for the academic's life, and I respect immensely everyone who does it.

I've read more crap like this article during my life than I care to remember
I refuse to take seriously anything written in this style

Fine. I admit that to a large degree it is kool-aid drinking; people write this way because everyone else in the field does. I think many pepole are turned off by this type of writing because they see it as intentionally exclusive. But to a large degree it also has to do with exactitude and precision. Its not easy to read, and it does take a certain amount of study in the basic texts in order to understand most of it; once you do, however, the insights you gain are often well worth it. I think that is true of just about any academic field, however.

I personally find most scientific writing to be bland, dry, and unnescissarily plain. The sentences go on forever, have waaaay too many clauses, and use the passive voice almost in exclusivity. But I would never dismiss the research, nor its results, out of hand because it was poorly written.

This debate is obviously much bigger than me, and there are many more subtleties than can be captured here. I hope this thread doesn't digress into a "pomo jargon is BS" flame-fest. Like most difficult pursuits, the bad examples are very bad. But the good examples are very, very good. Don't be stylistically prejudiced; don't judge a book by its lingo.
posted by ChasFile at 7:11 AM on July 15, 2004

Here is a better link about the Sokal affair, his own website, which contains links to both sides of the debate. I will not comment, since much more intelligent people than I do at that site, but I must agree that it was pretty funny. Unethical, maybe; underhanded, probably; but very funny. However, it also engendered a nescessary and productive debate, and therefore in my book ranks as one of the all time great pranks, as it was deviously humerous, pointed, and despite temporarily injuring some in the end I believe was to the benefit of many.
posted by ChasFile at 7:27 AM on July 15, 2004

Who says theory is dead?
posted by homunculus at 10:23 AM on July 15, 2004

Why so cranky?

Not cranky at all. More....wry.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:19 AM on July 16, 2004

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