Communication: The Terror of the Hyperreal

One of the secret lies of liberal democracy is the dogma of free speech. The word ‘propaganda’ has obtained over the last six decades a nasty flavor; hence the need to use the word ‘communication.’  However, as much as everybody in modern society craves to communicate, traditional community ties, or in-group ties, are more than ever before subject to the process of disintegration. It is worth recalling that etymologically the terms “community” and “communication” are of the same origin. But how can one communicate if community no longer exists?

To provide a make-believe image of absolute freedom of speech, the media and the modern Prince resort to a hyperbolic language filled with hyperreal metaphors and qualifiers. This is especially true regarding the terms ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’. These terms have assumed the emotional role in rallying political allegiance formerly reserved for terms evoking nationhood and patriotism.  Opinion makers in Europe and America are not so much concerned with the content of their language, but rather with the appropriate packaging of the language and its emotional impact on the masses.

For effective communication a modern politician (or the modern Prince?) is required to use images with a cheerful setting and a happy ending scenario. His looks are important too. An aspiring presidential candidate must be concerned more with his dentures than with his deontology. A well-fitting Armani suit and polished Gucci shoes are far more important than his IQ.  The image is essential since it does not encourage reflection, but obliterates all reflection. The hyperreal image on TV screens with all the trappings of wealth, power, and personal appeal is ideal for propagating new political lies and, by extension, for instituting horrendous political censorship.

For a European or American politician who aspires to high office, the ritual of repentance has become de rigueur.

Presidential Candidate John McCain visits Jerusalem’s Yad VaShem Holocaust Memorial

The exception, of course, is President Obama who capitalizes on his Black identity to induce guilt in his audience.

President Obama Speaks at a Slave Depot in Ghana

Not long ago Europeans were proud of their colonial exploits. Not long ago the exclusion of the Other (Blacks, Jews, Arabs) was perceived as a normal thing — typical of human societies from time immemorial. Today the exclusion of the Other is replaced by the hatred of oneself. Ceaseless national-masochistic sermons about Euro-American real or surreal crimes bear witness to a quasi-pathological desire to cleanse oneself of a past that evokes guilt rather than pride.

Public language must be “soft” and didactic — conveying a self-deprecating message and requiring the modern Prince to formulate his statements in the conditional tense — or by using evasive sentences starting with adverbs such as “admittedly,”  “considerably,” “presumably,” etc. No politician wishes to stick out his neck by using affirmative sentences that would clearly enunciate his value judgments or depict his potential foe.  After reading mainstream newspaper editorials, a student of  political semiotics is struck with convoluted locutions such as ‘one could say, ‘one might say,’ ‘one should consider bombing Iran,’ or ‘help democracy become transparent in East Timor.’  Such vague locutions provide a safe retreat for the liberal ruling class, as they signify nothing and everything at the same time.

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Political language must be neutral or neutered; it must reflect the desire for a world of stasis — not of global liberal metastasis. The only exceptions are modern heretics who must endure the most violent epithets. Thus the $PLC, a principal architect and enforcer of modern discourse on race and immigration, likes to use expressions preceded by the noun ‘hate,’ or followed by the adjective ‘extremist’: ‘hate groups’, ‘hate speech’, ‘hate crimes’; ‘White extremists,’ ‘political extremism’, etc. Contemporary politicians and their media watchdogs love to compare absolute Evil to absolute Good, using words that are loaded with emotional significance, such as “fascism” vs. “antiracism”: the horrors of the Auschwitz on the one hand versus the Hollywood-like fantasy of multicultural conviviality.

Nothing new under the sun, as the old Latins used to say. This idea is well captured by the late Christopher Lasch, the best American visionary and the theorist of narcissistic democracy. He noted a long time ago in his book The True and Only Heaven that “Liberals’ obsession with fascism … leads them to see fascist tendencies or ‘proto-fascism’ in all opinions unsympathetic to liberalism.”

As much as Lasch was right he was also wrong. Today he would be accused of “fascist, revisionist tendencies”  by the masters of political discourse — thus giving further credit and credence to the paranoid liberal mind.  Historically, both the fascist and communist temptations did not drop from the moon. They were logical responses to the failures of liberalism — to the “democratic deficit” of the liberal experiment. Therefore one must not rule out the revival of the fascist temptation, albeit in a new garb, as a third option in our late postmodenity: If a good man in a village is constantly and publicly called a crook, he will eventually embody those accusations. White nationalism, which is on the rise in the US and the EU, is the logical response to the chaotic policies of the liberal class and its promotion of all ethnic prides world-wide — except for white Europeans.

In postmodernity, political messages are transmitted by visual images and the sound bite — not the written word. Rėgis Debray, the ex-leftist guerrilla who ascended to high office in the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs — and probably the best observer of the perverse nature of liberal democracy, notes that the traditional ‘graphosphere’ has been completely devoured by the “videosphere.” Books and prose are relics; the virtual video message has become omnipresent. It is no accident that a dissident or a violent radical no longer dreams of storming the Prince’s palace, but rather contemplates the seizure of the TV tower.

Postmodern political imagery does not reflect the lack of reality, but rather mirrors the excess of reality. Henceforth any political debate on a TV screen is not designed to hide the truth, but ironically, to hide the absence of all truth. Everywhere the media and the modern Prince simulate fictitious events such as terrorist attacks as if they wish to have them happen, while at the same time they try to prevent them from happening. The bogeymen of the left —”hate groups” and “extremists” — appear to be nowhere near the horizon. Yet, as was the case in the ex-Soviet Union, they must be reinvented over and over again in order to provide legitimacy and solid funding to groups like the $PLC who love to dress up in the  apparel of “tolerance” and “humanity.” Everything is stage-managed as if everything were true.

What we are witnessing today in the West, in all spheres of official political discourse, is a gigantic display of lies — far worse than in the notorious totalitarian despotisms of the 20th century which the postmodern liberal pretends to abhor.

Political Metastasis

In his recent editorial in the quarterly Elėments (summer 2009), under the title “Une époque de basses eaux” — literally translated as  “An epoch of low tide,” or loosely and metaphorically as “Stalemate Times” — Alain de Benoist gives us a bleak picture of the forthcoming darkness:

In the catalogue of the ephemeral and the superficial, images and noise are following one after the other. Their goal is to capture attention and distract, and to make us think about other things, or more precisely, to make us cease to think altogether. The insignificant becomes a general rule. What comes to mind is the world depicted by the Wachowski brothers in the movie, Matrix (1999). In the movie everybody takes for real what is actually inauthentic; everybody is manipulated from the very moment he imagines himself to be free.  Never have people thought to be able to do what they wish, yet never ever have they been subject to so many regulations.  In fact they do not really know what they desire because it is the system that formulates their desires.

The biggest victory of the system is to have persuaded everybody not of its qualities, but of its fatal character. The system does not claim to be perfect; it claims that there are no other alternatives. Hence, if one cannot dream of a better world, then there is nothing that can be done.

High politics follows the same hyperreal lead. There is no longer any need to await disasters or the proclamation of a state of emergency, since they are constantly evoked and artificially provoked —creating thereby the genuine feeling of a state of emergency and impending disasters and setting the stage perfectly for a judicial or police clamp down. The security checks that one must endure at all airports in the West inevitably give the feeling of a creeping state of emergency. Depictions of catastrophic images on fictional television drama shows inevitably influence people’s perceptions of real catastrophic events. The image no longer follows reality; it precedes reality. Modern politics is the show of hyper-reality — as witnessed for the first time during the recent ex-Yugoslav and Iraqi wars, which were getting bloodier and bloodier the more they were shown on TV.

The Books of the Dead

The same applies to modern historiography and to the sudden surge among Third World nations for the resurrection and beatification of their dead. The more dead they manage to hold up as icons of Western evil the better able they are to affirm their own ethnic identity. One of the best theoreticians of political hyper-reality, the late Jean Baudrillard, describes Auschwitz “not as a site of annihilation, but the site of dissuasion” (The Evil Demons of Images, 1988, p. 24).  It is no longer a site of suffering; it is a site of deterrence and didactics, designed to be the ultimate symbol of postmodern Western culture as psychotherapy for Europeans.

The Jewish narrative regarding the “singular” and “unique” historical event of the Holocaust has already given birth to similar “singular” and “unique” narratives among other peoples, notably Armenians and (ironically) the Palestinians, with dozens more nations waiting in the wings.

Diversity obliges. Soon our postmodernity will be forced to open up post-graduate studies on political necrology or (more precisely) political necrophilia, as more and more groups clamor for their forgotten real or hyperreal dead. However, political necrophilia carries its own dangers for groups that see themselves solely through the lens of victimhood. In attempting to avoid the repetition of disaster, the Jewish narrative of “never again” does exactly the opposite: By focusing solely on a decontextualized event of persecution, it runs the risk of failing to rationally comprehend Jewish history — with unforeseen consequences.

Almost thirty years ago, Baudrillard wrote memorable words to illustrate the metastasis of liberal democracy:

The energy of the public sphere, the energy that creates social myths and dogmas is gradually disappearing. The social arena turns obese and monstrous. It grows like a mammal and glandular corpse. Once it was illustrated by its heroes but today it refers to its handicapped, its weirdos, its  degenerates, its asocial  persons — and all of this in a gigantic effort of therapeutic  maternity. (Les strategies fatales, 1983) (Fatal Strategies.)

The system puts forward the transparency of evil by parading images of evil in the form of maladaptive individuals. The ruling class and its mediacracy need to display the proof of their power by showing that those who transgress the most basic values of the multicultural zeitgeist are psychologically deranged — literally insane. Proverbial ‘revisionists, ‘bigoted anti-Semites,’ and ‘Nazi pseudo-scholars,’ are cherished demon images of liberal democracy. They need to be constantly put on exhibition in public places — like wayward Puritans of old — in order to lend further credibility to the eroding system.

17th-Century Puritan in the Stocks

Americans and Europeans are constantly put on false alerts by the media about pending terrorist threats. The invocation of terrorism is often fictitious, yet it engages the media machinery in a gigantic show of lies and mendacity. The purpose of the negative imagery is to scare the masses into submission. In a world that encourages narcissism and extreme individualism, one is not only the victim of the image. One becomes the image himself at the price of deforming his own tragic reality.

Tom Sunic www.tomsunic.info is an author, former political science professor in the USA, translator and former Croat diplomat. He is the author of Homo americanus: Child of the Postmodern Age ( 2007). Email him.

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