Volume 4, Number 3 (October, 2007)
Source: Dead Author.com
This obituary appeared on the website The Life of the Dead Author on March 7, 2007.
My first experience with Jean Baudrillard was where most professional academics present their personalities: on their office door. In this case, it was the door of the now deceased Dr. Robert Solomon at the University of Texas at Austin’s Philosophy Department. The sticker was the size of a postcard, the color of safety orange. If I remember correctly, the art consisted of a grainy bust of an older Jerry Lewis with the name “Baudrillard” underneath. I have never seen the sticker since, though I have searched. This began my relationship with Jean Baudrillard, which, given his subject matter, seems quite appropriate. I was saddened this morning when I learned he died yesterday. I think that the brief obituary presented by the New York Times does little justice to the man.
I was fascinated with Baudrillard before the rise of the World Wide Web in popular culture. His notions of simulation, reality, and truth and the perception of truth made their impressions. His remarks on “residue” and meaning made deep impressions on me. And I believe that I actually understood, to some paltry degree, what he was saying. In my more dyspeptic and belligerent moments, I think I would employ his scalpels in a late night analysis of Christendom.
I remember that I was surprised to see how Baudrillard returned (to some degree) to the American pop consciousness after September 11. Independently, I remember thinking of Baudrillard when reading about how people, actually at the scene in Manhattan, described the attack as being “like a movie” as if the whole thing was simulated. And once reality had been simulated on such a scale – or perceived to be so – what is left other than our consumerist culture? The very moment when reality seemed to be heightened, in shock we could not handle belief and resorted to simulation in order to manufacture disbelief. What politico-media spectacle resulted in the aftermath needs little commentary right now.
Baudrillard I knew in mere simulation. I never met him. I only knew him through his media or media about him. Baudrillard never existed for me, only his residue… much like his analysis of the First Gulf War. It was merely a media event. Now his death shall be as well – and only to those for whom such things matter.