Living as we do in a fake world of copies are we not in accepting the mediascape as the ‘apparent’ world, a fake world where truth and politics have become pure entertainment without consequence? With the deregulation of the markets in the 90’s a process that generated a copy of a copy that did away with the real world and its linguistic traces began…
The same vertiginous deregulation is visited on both value and the sign. Not the real, but the sign and, through it, the whole universe of meaning and communication is undergoing the same deregulation as markets (doubtless it even preceded the deregulation of the world market).
An example: Lascaux.
The original has been closed for many years and it is the simulacrum, Lascaux 2, which the visitors queue for. Most of them no longer even know it is a simulacrum. There’s no longer any indication of the original anywhere. This is a sort of prefiguration of the world that awaits us: a perfect copy, which we shall not even know to be a copy. Now, what becomes of the original when the copy is no longer a copy?
– Jean Baudrillard, The Intelligence of Evil
Our acceptance of the mediascape as real, as the world where truth and politics is revealed as if it were just a transparent screen onto the world behind the screen, are we not living in the pure simulacrum of Plato’s Cave? Have we in our pursuit to escape the Cave constructed its copy, delivered ourselves to the fake simulacrum where reality is replaced by its copy? Our ousting of the distinctions of the real and apparent worlds for the appearance of appearance without depth has produced the horizon of a fractal universe of proliferating images without signs, without meaning; an endless self-deluded delirium of deceit and lies unbounded.
Norman Cohn in his influential book The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages offers us a glimpse of the aftermath of failure we might term the Great Crisis of the human project we like to mythicize as Western Civilization. For Cohn a social struggle is seen not as a struggle for specific, limited objectives, but as an event of unique importance, different in kind from all other struggles known to history, a cataclysm from which the world is to emerge totally transformed and redeemed. This is the essence of the recurrent phenomenon – or, if one will, the persistent tradition – that we have called ‘revolutionary millenarianism’.1 As Pellicani will surmise the crisis seems to follow a tri-fold pattern – a crisis of legitimization, of redistribution, and secularization that dissolved the ancient patterns of political, economic, and religious tradition based on their closed systems of hierarchical and authoritarian modes for the modern progressive open systems of egalitarianism based on freedom, equality, and emancipatory and collective sociality.2
William Blake the English poet of the new Jerusalem once remarked through his character Los that “I must Create a System, or be enslav’d by another Mans”.3 He’d explicate on this sayin,
Striving with Systems to deliver Individuals from those Systems;
That whenever any Spectre began to devour the Dead,
He might feel the pain as if a man gnawd his own tender nerves.
What Blake called systems later philosophers would term ideologies those subtle systems of power and rhetoric that enclosed their political worlds within a mental cage of thought, belief, and habit to form and shape a mode of life that reinstated the legitimacy of political power, secular power, and – for lack of a better term cosmological power in society to bring about a sense of absolute meaning and destiny for a people.
In the face of illegitimacy power reigns by fear; and fear turns its ugly mask upon the host that spawned it. The French Revolution that burst asunder the chains of tyranny in turn fell to its own twined agonies of terror: a fear that rapidly became hysteria, transforming the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of both the elites and the masses. In the end, no one was able to control the Revolution; it became autonomous; something “other” than originally intended.1 Robespierre and Saint Just will go down in history as the scourge and desecration of the revolution, the men who spawned the terror and killed Marat and Danton, while imprisoning Paine and many other former philosophes and revolutionaries.
Where counterrevolutionary and Counter-Enlightenment writers like Antoine de Rivarol declared the Terror the fruit of la philosophie moderne, adamantly claiming Condorcet had been forced to take poison by “his brothers in philosophy,” Constant, Roederer, Creuze-Latouche, Say, Louvet, Naigeon, and many others proclaimed Robespierre “le chef ” of the Terror, contending that he was neither a republican nor an adept of la philosophie moderne but, on the contrary, the Enlightenment’s foremost enemy.2 Brissot not only proclaimed a “holy war” against reactionary Europe for the “renewal of the faceoftheworld,” heal so declared that the Revolution “was in need of great betrayals.” And massacres—added Danton—so that a “river of blood” would ﬂow between the republicans and the emigre´s. From then on, a perverse logic took possession of French society: the logic of fear, conspiracy, suspicion; in a word: the logic of a state of siege. (Pellicani, p. 31) It was dominated by fear because it was an illegitimate government in form and in substance: in form, because it came into being illegally; in substance, because it did not have the support of the vast majority of the French population—the monarchists, the Girondists, the feuillants, the indifferent—and in deed was even perceived as an usurper.