Sunday, 30 September 2012

"The Gulf War Did Not Take Place"

Jean Baudrillard, a French philosopher and sociologist, once made the profound statement that "The Gulf war did not take place". Some thought it genious, others dismissed this as a sensationalist headline grabber sparked by a continental philosopher searching for the truth and reality. Because naturally philosophers are solely tormented people in the search for truth. If, however, you read past this simple statement, you would realise that Baudrillard wasn't actually denying the validity that the event happened, instead he was making a bold statement about the contentious issue of interpretation. That is, Baudrillard questioned whether the events that took place where comparable to how they were presented through the means of media.

For those of you who know me personally and whom have read my articles prior to this one, you will know I have a keen interest in reality television and the frightenly blurred relationship that it creates between fact and fiction. I learned of Baudrillard and his views in my Media class when I was at school, and I would say he has definitely influenced my outlook on life and made me cautious of the powerful entity that is the media itself.

With relation to the Gulf war, Baudrillard put forward the notion that it was a media spectacle, rehearsed much like a war game and then played out to the public as a simulation. The war itself, including the real violence and real bloodshed, was lost in the heavily shaped electronic narrative. That is to say the news reports and other forms of coverage were so heavily edited and focused on dangerously shot hand-held video clips and boasting of their supply of missiles that the nature of the war itself dissolved. The media stood in the way of communicating the truths of the war, as opposed to adding to it.

Whether or not you agree with Baudrillard picking of such a contentious topic to use as the example to put forth his theory, it would be hard to dispute how much the media shapes, influences and distorts our lives. I for one believe it's a sad reality that newspapers and their highly one-sided political bias shape our views of politics. If we don't know the whole unbiased and unedited truth about politics, then surely it's a dangerous situation to vote for someone or a party to gain political reign of our country that you know so little about.

Naturally you would want to deny that the media is a replacement of reality, but that is exactly what Baudrillard believed and I advocate. Consider your use of social media: you de-tag the photos you look bad in, you upload the ones that you look nice in, you write comedic and captivating statuses that make you sound interesting and you 'check-in' at 'cool' and 'hip' places - because that shows your friends and followers that you too are cool and hip. So you might not do all of that, but you're guilty of at least one point I guarantee. (I used to be jealous of compulsive Instagrammers, until I attempted to 'join the club' so to speak, only to realise it would take far too much time from my day trying to edit photographs to make me look artistic and effortlessly cool.) We ourselves are guilty of shaping our own lives through the media, and the media does this in turn to us on a much larger scale.

Next time you're watching the news, or reading the newspaper just think of how fictional and contrived the "news" really is. Because after all, reality cannot be replicated or reported, only distorted.

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