Volume 10, Number 2 (July 2013)
Author: Ryan Ashley Caldwell and Keith Kerr
That which was previously mentally projected, which was lived as a metaphor in the terrestrial habitat is from now on projected entirely without metaphor, into the absolute space of simulation (Baudrillard, 1988:16).
Jean Baudrillard, the “high priest” of postmodernity (even though he denied the label), shocked the lay public with his publication of three separate essays spanning January through March of 1991. Baudrillard proclaimed with these essays, and in seemingly illogical succession given the context of the then developing Middle Eastern events, “The Gulf War Will Not Take Place,” “The Gulf War: Is It Really Taking Place?” and finally after the cessation of hostilities, “The Gulf War Did Not Take Place.” (These essays were subsequently been re-issued in an English translation, single-book form entitled The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (1995)). Baudrillard’s essays, written against the backdrop of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the subsequent build-up of Western and Arab militaries deployed to the region, as well as United Nations’ (UN) resolutions authorizing the use of force to expel Iraqi troops from the Kuwaiti Kingdom, held fast to the seemingly absurd position, contrary to empirical reality, that the Gulf War did not happen, despite the universally accepted “truth” that it did.
The following response explores and expands upon what Baudrillard meant by his proclamations, and examines the phenomenon of the “non-occurrence” of cultural events that is touched upon in Baudrillard’s statements regarding the First Gulf War through the exploration of a small segment of cultural theorist Carl Gustav Jung’s ideas. This analysis takes into consideration Baudrillard’s notion of the screen and Jung’s shadow, and shows how both of these theoretical entities complicate the representation of self and culture as they are embedded within postmodern culture. What is found is a striking link between Baudrillard’s claim that the Gulf War “did not happen” and the non-occurrence of self identified in Jungian thought. Linking culture and society, Jung and Baudrillard both seem to locate analogous shadows and screens that work to obscure, re-interpret and/or erase contemporary man as within and as part of a cultural environment.
If Baudrillard is correct in that the screen (seen as the conduit for reality in postmodern culture) mirrors back to us varied depictions of reality, what appears to be a direct Jungian observation within Baudrillard’s thought is made plain. Conversely, the projection mechanisms housed in the psyche, and operating on a cultural level for Jung, are thus depicted via the postmodern culture as understood within Baudrillard’s conjecture.1
While an analysis of “war and self” may seem an odd and haphazard theme to analyze together in relation to Baudrillard and Jung, beginning with Freud and further along the psychoanalytic heritage, a self at war is perhaps the most accurate metaphor for self that has emerged from this tradition. (Outside the strictly psychoanalytic tradition, linkages and understanding of war with self is a major theme even within Judeo-Christian texts). We read Jung vis-à-vis Baudrillard because of the very similar findings they seem to generate, albeit with drastically different approaches to the non-occurrence of cultural phenomenon and self.2 In a sense, two different “methodologies” (if such a term can even be used in references to Baudrillard’s conception of postmodern culture) seem to have stumbled upon similar insights — specifically, the contemporary individual’s break with reality, or described differently, reality’s break with the self.
II. Baudrillard’s Screen and Postmodern Culture
Before understanding Baudrillard’s claim that the First Gulf War did not happen, it is important to touch upon some of his views concerning postmodern culture. Baudrillard’s theorizing consistently engages and questions issues surrounding media and representation, modernist critiques of subject and object, systems of identity, and how culture is critically made sense of given these intersections. In his book America (1986), one of the dominant themes is the depiction of American culture as existing only in the images created in the “microcosm” of Hollywood. Says Baudrillard: “American reality. It was there before the screen was invented, but everything about the way it is today suggests it was invented with the screen in mind, that it is the refraction of a giant screen…Where is the cinema? It is all around you…” (56-57).
Baudrillard’s “America” is a culture of appearances, of motel rooms with TVs that are never turned off, and of people who’s reality is defined by the images that it creates. In this way, reality for Baudrillard is a cinematic image of truth, able to be told in the latest blockbuster news story, full of images, feedback loops and catchy phrases that speak to non-existent dialectics: War on Terror, War on Drugs, etc. Reality is a never-ending rerun where the fast changing, unanchored, and above all recycled images that create reality become reality itself. These images are simulacra for Baudrillard, or the recycled pastiche to which Jamison (1991) refers.
Says Baudrillard in Simulacra and Simulation (2002)) about the lack of any kind of meaningful signified account of reality within postmodern culture:
In this passage to a space whose curvature is no longer that of the real, nor of truth, the age of simulation thus begins with a liquidation of all referentials – … It is no longer a question of imitation, nor of reduplication, nor even of parody. It is rather a question of substituting signs of the real for the real itself (Baudrillard 2002: 2).
Baudrillard points out that “reality” within a postmodern culture is without origin, and is instead a model of free-floating images, or system of simulations at best. The distinctions between object and representation, “thing and idea,” have collapsed and are no longer well-founded, subject-object relationships. The simulated world is thus a hyperreality, according to Baudrillard, where the image itself is celebrated void of reference — a world of self-referential signs (Baudrillard 2002).
This theme of a simulated reality, including identity simulacra over and above authentic representations, is found again in The Ecstasy of Communication (1988), where Baudrillard puts a spin on Marxist notions of consumption and argues that in the age of mass consumerism, culture actually consumes images rather than produces them. (Elsewhere Baudrillard (1975) points out that pre-modern societies are organized around symbolic exchange rather than production).Baudrillard’s point is that the postmodern individual finds meaning solely within these pre-fabricated cultural images and messages, and without critical question about the presented images, their meanings, their uses or exchanges. Literally, image and reality have become one and the same, and so for the postmodern individual there is no separation between these two, as the spirit of the object’s representation has come to literally serve the individual in terms of the use-value of identity via the simulacra reflection of culture itself. In this way, self and culture collide and become one representation — namely the postmodern representation of a simulated screen of (self)identity, or literally the “postmodern self.”
Individuals are exposed to the free-floating simulacra images of a postmodern culture via the “screen” such as the computer, video, or television screen. Baudrillard further develops his notion of the subject-screen relationship in his book of essays The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena (2009). Here Baudrillard is concerned that screens have supplanted reality through an unending replication of images, where the “hyperreal” or virtual world is thus congealed through the immaterial networks of screened information flow. In this way the screen becomes the inverted mirror reflects back images of self and culture operating, ironically, on the screen itself. It is in this way that subject and object are replaced by screens, now used to transmit ideas, information, and images so as to “screen out” the very subject/object relationship (Baudrillard 2002a: pp.176-180). Interestingly, it is this very conception of the screen that challenges how both space and place are understood. For example, Baudrillard’s notion of the screen helps to show the symbolic distance between the metaphoric and the real, where what was once considered “real” has been abandoned for notions of simulation in terms of reality, space, and place — literally there is no difference between subject/object, self/other, ad infinitum.
Baudrillard’s questioning of the relationship between the self and other using the screen was actually predated with his use of the mirror, and this configuration is also represented in sociological theory with notions such as Charles Horton Cooley’s (1902) looking-glass self and George Herbert Mead’s (1934) generalized other. While these concepts certainly antecede Baudrillard’s similar metaphor of the screen and its reflective properties (and as will be discussed in later sections, Jung’s similar discussion of projection, shadow and reflection mechanisms), neither Cooley nor Mead dealt with the problematic mirroring process found in contemporary culture, and both assumed and focused on authentic reflection mechanisms (See Kerr 2008 for further discussion on the parallels between Cooley, Mead, Baudrillard and other postmodernists). However, as both Baudrillard and Jung argue, the mirroring process of 20th and 21st Century culture is one of obscuration, invertedness and potentially dangerous and inauthentic reflections3
In addition, a Durkheimian interpretation also echoes the dangers and consequences of Baudrillard’s postmodern cultural arrangements, perhaps focusing on the suffering of human relations as individuals within postmodern culture are drawn to the lure of the flickering image over and above human interaction, social integration and self-reflection (see Durkheim’s The Division of Labor (1965), Suicide (1951), and The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1995). The Durkheimian concern is that these screens may at best only reflect the individual user’s thoughts, thereby mirroring the user back to herself on the screen, rather than anyone with whom the user might communicate or experience social solidarity — the self as virtual anomic reality. At worst, these screens vis-à-vis internet sites such as YouTube, Facebook and MySpace present identity such that the screen becomes a version of the “self” that is elevated to such status that the individual attempts to occupy their ego ideal through the aid of the screen — comprised of and reacting to images and representations taken from the larger culture’s clearinghouse of hyperreal symbolic imagery — the self as virtual narcissistic reality. (We also see here strong connections to Riesman’s (1961) other-directed self as a precursor to the postmodern self [see Kerr 2009 for further discussion on this point]). All of these realities depend upon a network system of screens engaging and reacting without difference.
Given that technology has radically altered the way that we interact with not only ourselves but also with others, this notion of the computer screen comes to represent our interaction with ourselves as predicated upon self and same, rather than as self and object, and thus obscures reflexive tendencies, thereby illustrating Baudrillard’s notion of implosion between the two. (Sartre discusses this tendency in terms of his notion of the self as a reflexive subject and object with his keyhole example in Being and Nothingness (1992)). Additionally, the screen masks the relationship with the modernist notion of the other from the self, and distances (implodes) the other in favor of a relationship that is founded in pure postmodern self. The screen, coupled with the preoccupation with image and the systematic destruction of the other, forces us to deal only with our “selves” as they have been defined by the break in reality and the abstraction from the real. Such an alteration in the notion of interaction actually implodes the meaning of interaction itself, where interaction and communication become about self rather than about communication with others or the recognition of the self as object (which is the “self” others come to interact and communicate with socially). In this way, the screen not only re-conceptualizes our varied knowledge about reality and representation, but also how it is that we come to know the self and others, where the primacy of screened images rule over all forms of meaning making. It is in this context that Baudrillard’s postmodern individual is best depicted as “searching for grounding where no cultural grounding exists” (Baudrillard 1986: 8).
III. The Gulf War Did Not Happen
We can begin now to understand Baudrillard’s claim that the First Gulf War did not happen. Previous understandings of war rested on the foundation that place, within a distinct and direct time-space continuum, could mark the battlefield; also, the battlefield’s territory (that is to say space and place) demarcated the location within which real people, with actual weapons would directly engage each other in an event where the outcome was uncertain and uncontrollable. Further recognized was that those directly engaged in the First Gulf War, as well as those providing support, were doing so from places far removed from the battlefield, and were often caught-up in the “fog of war” — a notion that alludes to the obscurations of discernable realities in the immediate and chaotic context of the battlefield and war. For Baudrillard, this raises a question of legitimacy: did an actual war take place?
As Baudrillard claims in the opening passage of the essay “The Gulf War did not Happen,” none of these things held true in Desert Storm:
Since the war was won in advance, we will never know what it had been like had it existed. We will never know what an Iraqi taking part with a chance of fighting would have been like. We will never know what an American taking part with a chance of being beaten would have been like. We have seen what an ultra-modern process of electrocution is like, a process of paralysis or lobotomy of an experimental enemy away from the field of battle with no possibility of reaction (1995: 61).
Baudrillard sums up his hypothesis that the war was of a movie script with a clean and moral plot (powered by technological advances allowing for decreased American causalities), and that the war did not happen in the sense that it did not possess the uncertainty, hostility, suffering, and chaos that have defined war up to this point. (Indeed, the Gulf War did not resemble what is usually thought to represent war, where this can be understood in terms of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s family resemblance, and as explained in his text Philosophical Investigations (1958)). Instead, a simulacrum within a programmed simulation was played out on the television screen with a knowable and foreseeable outcome, with the projection of military power via the media as a deterrence mechanism against war in the traditional sense, and was presented on CNN as the reality of war itself. The reporting of the war via the media was, according to Baudrillard (1995), automatic history of which was often disinformation produced by the military — as in the reporting of Allied troop placements off the Kuwaiti coast — troops that never even entered the traditional battlefield. However, once the information of the existence of Allied troops flowed into the simulacra battlefield of media and image, the Iraqis were forced to react to the inaction of Allied troops. Thus, we see the information of the simulated battlefield on CNN’s screen, and represented as powerfully as if the troops had entered a “real” battlefield. For Baudrillard, this hyperreal battlefield blurs the line between reality, suggestibility, truth, and spin, thereby resulting in a controlled and programmed version of the war. In fact, it is from this concept of “real” that terms such as “clean” and “smart” bombs can be understood, and where notions of brutality itself are repackaged.
Consequently, the fear of American military might is projected via the “screen” of CNN, and the virtual then becomes both the battlefield and arsenal in a postmodern war — displacing even the existing enemy, actual warrior, and war. In many ways, Baudrillard’s screen functions as a virtual smokescreen in that the screen itself displaces, hides, and even shadows the familiar in favor of the unknown, where all traditional notions of locality, space, identity, intimacy and familiarity are uprooted, for both warriors and the public alike.
It is within this insight that Baudrillard can claim that the war never happened in that the outcome was a foregone conclusion — namely that America would not have entered into the theater had it not been already heralded as victor. As we will explore in relation to Jung’s thoughts, such depictions of postmodern wars played out in the information and image of the television screen (both in our homes and on the ships and planes that controlled the missiles and bombs) and reflected back to us our own misperceptions about self and culture, and worked to obscure the “shadow” that Jung argues all people and cultures posses — surely a shadow that a real war brings out in us all.
IV. Carl Gustav Jung and the Shadow: Visions of the Self
Writing in a unique and uncertain time in Western history, Carl Gustav Jung had some hard to swallow words for those brave enough to pay credence to his short but insightful essay, The Undiscovered Self ( 1959). Written amidst the destruction of Fascism, the eminent rise of Communism, and the uncertain future of Western Capitalism, Jung argued against the obvious — the evils of Fascism and Communism were not the evils of a perverted anti-Enlightenment “other,” but were instead the manifested evils of a Western culture that the West was too blind to see as an incarnation of itself. That is, Jung thought that at the socio-cultural level, defense mechanisms worked such that the West literally projected a “shadow” of itself upon the “other,” thus showing that the enemy was actually the enemy within.
Following the lead of his former mentor, Sigmund Freud, Jung utilized principles of psychoanalytical theory, and attempted to show how defense mechanisms of projection on the socio-cultural level could work to provide insight into the nature of Western culture. Jung argued that Western culture, rooted in early Judeo-Christian theology, recognized evil in the world, but saw evil as existing not within itself, but as existing outside of itself. Jung’s insight was that despite Western perception to the contrary, and despite Biblical depictions of evil, people (and by extension the cultures within which they exist) are neither “all good” nor “all bad”; instead, we see potential for empathy, love, forgiveness, unselfishness, hatred, rage, and murder all embodied in the fully developed self. This contradicts notions and depictions of Western Judeo Christian culture and theology that postulates these embodied qualities as disembodied, where temptation and the passive subject are lured into sin because of outside forces.
Consequently, Jung’s point was that contrary to one of the fundamental tenets of Western cultural morality, evil did not exist independently and outside of the self, but instead, initiated from inside of the self (see Jung 1958), (1968) and 1933). Similarly as Durkheim argued in Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1995) that religion was the worship of society by society, Jung argued that evil, an intricate and unavoidable component of religion, was also a product of self and society. The evil we recognized in the guise of the devil, of Fascism and Hitler, of Communism and Stalin, was in fact the recognition of our own evils existing within us. Guided by cultural symbols rooted in Biblical stories, and even further engrained in cognitive mechanisms housed in the unconscious, the West’s recognition of evil was achieved by the projection of its own inherent evil onto an “other” — be it an individual or culture. Interestingly, it becomes this evil, or the very thing we come to hate in others, that we are unable to recognize as existing within the self.
There are numerous examples of the West’s failure to accurately account for this projection on a cultural level, and Jung spoke directly to this point in reference to the West’s approach to Communism:
But all such attempts [at protection] have proved singularly ineffective, and will do so as long as we try to convince ourselves and the world that it is only they (i.e., our opponents) [emphasis added] who are wrong (1968:73).
In fact, Middle Eastern scholar, Akbar Ahmed, has stated something very similar regarding Islam and “us/them” rhetoric in his book Islam Under Siege (2003). Ahmed argues that the U.S. helped label notions of the Islamic “other” with its response to the events of September 11th, namely with Bush’s statement that “either you are with us or against us,” again using us/them rhetoric to unite a country against terrorism. Many times, Ahmed argues, words such as terrorist, fundamentalist and extremist were used to denote the Islamic “other,” and Ahmed calls this move by Bush an action in “crusader mode against terrorists” that rejects ideas of multi-religious multiculturalism (or the postmodernist pluralism) in favor of a Grand Narrative. For Ahmed, this is Islamophobia, where targeted incidents against Muslims increased after September 11th, and where Muslims were equated with terrorist (Ahmed 2003: p.36-39).
The result of our seeming habitual belief that it is only they who are wrong, as discussed in some detail by Riesman’s (1961) notion of the other-directed and Mestrovic’s (1997) approach of postemotionalism, has been the recycling of “pocket Hitlers” in the West’s approach to cultural and national “enemies”. (This phrase is borrowed from a 2004 unpublished manuscript by Ronald Lorenzo dealing with postemotional war). Hence, the West’s assessment of itself flows from its relational comparison to an “other,” which the West habitually depicts in terms of “all-bad”; thus, Saddam Hussein, has frequently been compared to Hitler, and Kim Jong-Il, and was portrayed as fanatical, irrational, pornographic and perverted. Likewise, the former Soviet Union is known under the Reaganesque title, “The Evil Empire,” and more frequently our newest enemy(ies) have been called the “The Axis of Evil.”
Interestingly, a brief examination of the facts that lay dormant in the face of such rhetoric reveals a Western “shadow” for which the us/them rhetoric cannot account. Consider the following: the fact that the U.S. once considered Iraq and Saddam Hussein an ally; that we traded weapons with Iraq; that the U.S. engaged in weapon’s trade with yet another member of the “Axis of Evil” and enemy of Iraq — Iran (and did so in violation of U.S. law); that we rewarded the Taliban with millions of dollars in the months just prior to September 11th; that U.S. actions in response to almost 3,000 dead civilians in the 9/11 attacks has resulted in approximately 600,000 civilian deaths in Iraq (Burnham, Lafta, Doacy and Roberts 2006) and at least tens of thousands of civilian deaths in Afghanistan (Chesser 2012) ; that the only remaining justification for the United States invasion of Iraq was because Hussein was a tyrant who violated human rights, while all the while the United States considers both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan (both non-democratic countries who have a history of human rights abuses) as allies in the “War on Terror”. (There is no single report documenting the number of civilian deaths for the entirety of the war. The US Government report cited here lists over 10,000 civilian deaths between 2007-2012). Arguably, all of these facts have done little to dampen the American rhetorical spirit that the West is culturally and morally superior, while its enemies are the symbolic reincarnate serpents in the garden.
Remarkably, Jung was not the only intellectual to make the observation that we often project onto others those things we most dislike about ourselves, failing to recognize the truth and reality of the self, our culture or the other. Edward Said (1979) was clear in his critique of the assumptions of Western empire and domination, where the “Orient” was characterized as a passive “other,” and the West the active proprietors of the knowledge of their conquered, colonized, and owned “inferior.” Interestingly, this notion of Orient included for Said the Middle East as well. The “feminine,” weak and defenseless Orient gains an identity in terms of its Western counterpart through the actual domination relationship, where the construction of “other” is made in terms of Western empire. The importance of this kind of identity construction is that it creates a single subject, as no relationship of self/other previously existed apart from this power creation. Nonetheless, this relationship exists only for the benefit and conceptualization of the Orientalist, or dominant Western Subject, and as a means for establishing its subjecthood.
Within this construction of dominant identity, and providing a new reading of Said, we argue that there exists a simulacra identity created via Jungian projection mechanisms, where what comes to represent “The Orient” is really indicative of the West. What is really created in this false binary is a shadow of the Western self, where Said’s notion of the “other” can be interpreted as the cultural enemy-within, imposing its power in the name of self-identity, while at the same time defining the notion of “other” thereby signifying our deepest fears of inadequacy and worries about loss of dominance.
Likewise, Thorstein Veblen has previously and convincingly demonstrated this projection of a shadow at the cultural level. For Veblen, the West’s proclamation and distinction of existing within an Enlightenment era, as opposed to non-Western’s unenlightened and barbaric ways, was as inaccurate as it was absurd. Such a factual and moral claim, according to Veblen, was the very height of honorific pretense. Veblen pointed out that at the very moment the West was undergoing its “Enlightenment Period” it was also engaging in witch-hunts (see Rumford 2009 for further discussion on this point). Likewise, Veblen showed that the very cultural foundations of capitalist societies were rooted in irrational barbarism that sought to fight and conquer the competitor in the field of financial battle. In some sense for Veblen, the West’s distinction between itself and the barbaric, non-Enlightened “other” was part and parcel of the very non-enlightened impetus that we disowned and projected onto the “other” (Veblen 2004). Additionally, subsequent empirical studies have gone even further in demonstrating this position. For example, the widely known experiments of Stanley Milgram (1965) and Philip Zimbardo (2007) have worked to show that nearly all individuals will engage in potential “deviant” and harmful actions directed at others under the right social conditions.
The assertions made by Jung, Said, Veblen and others seem to merge around the idea that the potential for evil was in fact a fundamental component of the human condition and not just a trait only possessed by “exotic,” “barbaric,” and “othered” enemies of the West; thus, a somewhat counter-intuitive psychoanalytic and sociological interpretation followed — for better understandings of Western culture and self, it is best practice to study not only our own culture, but also focus on those we currently view and define as our enemy. With the knowledge of projection and our currently hidden and unexamined cultural “shadow,” our culturally situated understandings of who and what we define as the “enemy” provides a glimpse into a component of Western culture that we have thus far been unable to view due in part to defense mechanisms of repression and/or suppression, which Jung and others suggest operate on both the individual and cultural level.
V. Connecting the Screen, Shadow, and Self
Jung’s shadow can be connected to Baudrillard’s notion of the screen in that the screen forces a self/same relationship, based in the destruction of the other and the projected abstraction of the real. For Baudrillard, the self/other relationship is masked because of the fixation with image and representation in a postmodern culture that exists in the unreal cinema of the screen. Hence, the “enemy within” is manifest and replicated in the screen-image as the self attempts to make sense of its representation through these image re-duplications. For Jung, this manifestation of the self at the socio-cultural level is a “shadow” that the West projects upon the “other,” which offers and obscures at the same time a reflection of our self and the other — a similar reading of our interpretation of Said’s “Orientialism.” As Baudrillard writes of this process and its transformation for postmodern culture:“That which was previously mentally projected, which was lived as a metaphor in the terrestrial habitat is from now on projected entirely without metaphor, into the absolute space of simulation” (Baudrillard, Ecstasy of Communication: 1988:16).
All forms of these relationships involve the reflection or incarnation of the self in such a way that the self is actually “self-referential” — that is, it refers back to itself for meaning and exposes the very root of its character, nature and identity for its sense of meaning.
Quite simply our “enemy,” the “other,” does not fit into the box we consciously live in, and they cannot be accurately viewed by the lens we have employed as the West in defining ourselves as the only remaining “rational” superpower. As briefly touched upon by Baudrillard in The Spirit of Terrorism (2002), the idea that a handful of terrorist attacking on September 11th has done more in a short order of time to reshape and redefine world events than the U.S. has been able to do, calls into question just what is meant by “superpower,” and ironically highlights our fear of the irrational “other” (See Staples 2009 for further discussion on Baudrillard and the media’s response to terrorist attacks).
Still, Jung’s thesis leads us to conclude that such non-rational behavior on the part of the “terrorists” — of which we have subsequently labeled barbaric, irrational and fanatical — and which at first seems contrary to American and Western culture, may very well be a fundamental component of our own culture that we have projected onto our enemy. What is almost unavoidable in re-reading Jung in light of current events is the applicability his ideas hold in relation to the West’s treatment of the “terrorist threat.” Replace references to Communism with Islam and the East with Middle East, and Jung seems to speak from the grave:
…mankind is now threatened by self-created and deadly dangers that are growing beyond our control. Our world is, so to speak, dissociated like a neurotic, with the [Islamic World] marking the symbolic line of division. Western man, becoming aware of the aggressive will to power of the [Middle East], sees himself forced to take extraordinary measures of defense, at the same time he prides himself on his virtues and good intentions. What he fails to see is that it is his own vices, which he has covered up by good international manners, that are thrown back in his face by the [Islamic] world…It is the face of his own evil shadow that grins at Western man from the other side of the [Middle East]. It is this state of affairs that explains the peculiar feeling of helplessness of so many people in Western societies. (Jung, 1968: 73).
Further, Jung argues that rather than trying to convince ourselves that it is always “they” who are wrong, it would be much more revealing to examine our own shadow and its nefarious doings, thus revealing to ourselves we are really doing practically the same thing as they. Thus, what we see in our enemy is what we cannot see, and may not want to see in our self.4
Additionally, the larger theoretical bridge between Jungian and Baudrillardian thought, is that culture and self are obscured as we act, react and self-reflect based on a shadow projection eradiating form the postmodern screen. The result is one of moral certitude about self and culture and the fantastical belief in the order and rational organization of our world and our place in it.
In harkening back to David Riesman’s (1961) prediction concerning the emerging other-directed society and Mestrovic’s (1997) extension of this to uncover the existing postemotional society, we have the hallmark of a fake sincerity — an inauthentic nicety and ordering that obscures the true chaos, or a screening out of reality as Baudrillard might argue (see Harden 2011 for further discussion on this point).
Specifically, in terms of the First Gulf War, we are led to believe that the war was “clean” with “surgical” strikes, which were all being used to free the Democracy of Kuwait. Yet, such was not the case. In this sense, the McDonaldized explanation becomes simulacrum. The war itself began not when an irrational and fanatical tyrant rashly decided to invade Kuwait out of pure evil; instead, while not widely reported, and certainly not included in the dominant narrative played out on CNN, Hussein invaded in part over oil-based economic reasons that pertained to over production by Kuwait and accusations that Kuwait was “slant-drilling” on the Kuwaiti-Iraqi border and was thus stealing Iraqi oil (Katzman 2012). This explanation was obscured within the hyperreality of war. Likewise, U.S. reasons for going to war against a former ally was either to protect existing oil fields in Saudia Arabia, to free existing oil fields in Kuwait, to liberate the people of Kuwait, and/or to exercise the demons of Vietnam — or maybe all or some of these. Likewise, the highly touted “Patriot Missiles,” lauded as being an anti-missile missile that represented the height of American military technological capability — a technology that had progressed from killing people efficiently to saving them, was in fact an utter failure, despite the widely broadcasted misinformation to the contrary (Cirincione 2000).
In an Orwellian like re-writing, little mention was made of Saddam Hussein’s quick transformation from ally and arms trading partner, who became labeled the “Butcher of Bagdad.” Despite the fake sincerity of nicety, clear distinctions of moral categories and all around order being depicted in the news media, and all of these claiming the US were the good guys battling the treacherous enemy in the desert, the facts remain that disorder, confusion, misinformation and moral uncertainty was the norm, even if this was obscured by the recoded “facts” that many have come to believe was Desert Storm.
The point here in relation to the larger theoretical bridge between Jungian and Baudrillardian thought, is that culture and self are obscured as we act, react and self-reflect based on a shadow projection eradiating form the postmodern screen. The result is one of moral certitude about self and culture and the fantastical belief in the order and rational organization of our world and our place in it.
In this sense then, our current War on Terror is little different from the First Gulf War — where the pretenses of a “nice,” moral and ordered simulacra plays itself out on the TV screen, obscuring and precluding true emotional responses to the chaotic events that are “war in the real.” Control the simulacra shadow flickering on the screen, create and manipulate the false dialectic and you create and manipulate the self whose existence is derived from the screen’s depiction of the shadow. As Baudrillard writes, “…[T]hat smile everyone gives you as they pass…It is the equivalent of the primal scream of man alone in the world…” (Baudrillard 1999:33). We smile, but we truly no longer know what for.
Once again, we see the nice and structured narratives emerging from this event as standing-in for the reality of the chaotic events that are recoded in the hyperreality and shown on the screen. We are told we are fighting terrorists — a group of individuals whose moral depravity (as clearly evidenced by their label) is achieved in part by their choosing to bring death, destruction and fear, in manners not sanctioned by bureaucratic agencies. It is not so much that terrorists kill civilians (although they certainly do), but America and her allies do the same; however, “terrorists” kill civilians outside of the controllable bureaucratic structures such as a given military code of justice and the Geneva Conventions. Despite Douglas Kellner’s (2005) previous discussion on Baudrillard and the shared irrational acts of terrorism and the West’s irrational response to this, the predominant narrative outside of academic circles still seems to be that the US and its response is rational, while the terrorists and their acts are irrational.
Ironically, evidence to the contrary has certainly emerged indicating the appearance of America’s Jungian shadow on the larger global scale for all to see. The events at Abu Ghraib, outside of the widely circulated pictures, demonstrated that torture and abuse of prisoners were occurring at the hands of US soldiers, contractors and government employees. When these events became part of the landscape of abuse, they held the power to demonstrate the horrors of war and to blur the moral distinction between “us” and “them,” between our ego-image and our shadow ideal. Yet, predominant narratives that have now emerged are such that these events have been explained away as being perpetrated by a “few bad apples.” That is to say it is argued that these barbaric acts were committed at the hands of a few rogue soldiers, who much like the terrorists we are told, operated outside of bureaucratic regulation and control of the moral and legal agencies governing military actions. This narrative has laid mute the fact that these “bad apples” were in fact part of a “bad orchard.” Well documented is the fact that soldiers at Abu Ghraib were following orders from interrogators to soften-up detainees and that abuses had been reported up the chain of command, but to no avail (Caldwell 2012; Mestrovic 2007; Strasser 2004). Further, we now know that “enhanced interrogation techniques,” a euphemism for torture, were approved by the highest levels of US command. These practices become reconceptualized as patriotic actions that help protect the homeland. Perhaps the more important distinction is that one leads to the prosecution of low ranking soldiers when it becomes public, while the other is deemed legal.
What such a narrative can do, however, is to maintain the façade, the belief in a clean, moral, predictable and controllable war, and obscure the reality that our enemy possesses no more and no less depravity than do we. Similarly, neither do the low ranking American soldiers, prosecuted for their war crimes, posses any more or any less depravity than their officers who ordered or ignored their actions, the politicians or the lawyers who carved out the legal precedence to engage in torture, or the enemy who we are fighting.
It is in this context, then, that we see (or fail to see?) along Jungian lines, the non-occurrence of these wars, as proclaimed by Baudrillard. Undoubtedly a war, with all of its brutality, death, and suffering occurred. Jung, however, leads us to believe that in very real terms, it did not occur for the American culture because, in his above quoted phrase, “disassociated like a neurotic,” American culture’s break from reality precluded any true grasp of the scope and multifaceted and chaotic reality of either the First Gulf War or the War on Terror — a position which is in nearly perfect agreement with Baudrillard. Such neuroticism, explored by Jung in the middle of the 20th Century seems to have changed very little in the made for TV environment of the media/entertainment industry’s treatment of contemporary war. In fact, this narrative for understanding has changed so little, Baudrillard even recognizes it in postmodern culture:
[T]hrough a kind of egocentric generosity or stupidity, the Americans can only imagine and combat an enemy in their own image. They are at once both missionaries and converts of their own way of life, which they triumphantly project onto the world. They cannot imagine the Other, nor therefore, personally make war upon him (Baudrillard 1995:37) (emphasis added).
How striking that in laying his claim that the first Gulf War did not happen, Baudrillard anchors his argument to the Jungian terminology and mechanisms of the ego, projection and the other. For Baudrillard then, in linking the psyche with the image, the unreality of the screen and its images, reflects back to us the unreality of the possibility of our self-perception. In the First Gulf War, our psyche’s inability to perceive the totality of our selves, our culture, or the Other — coupled with the screen’s inability to project the totality of the multifaceted aspects of war, ensured that for America, the First Gulf War in fact never did happen. Likewise, in the War on Terror, our own soldiers, threatening via the image to input the brutal nature of war in equal terms to the brutality we profess to be fighting in the enemy, posed more of a threat to the non-occurrence than did the terrorists. In its attempts to maintain the façade of control, the military prosecuted its violence against its own soldiers with the same ferocity as if they were terrorists. In fact, our own American soldiers became America’s enemies at Abu Ghraib, where we divorced them from ourselves, labeled them the “other,” and acted as if they were themselves irrational terrorists who were working apart from, and in opposition to, all that was Western, rational, and real (Caldwell 2012).
Such should have been predicted, as per an extension of Robert Bellah’s analysis of American secular religion: the distinction between the fanatical irrationalism that berths religious violence is little different than the narcissistic cultural injury that berths nationalism. The religious “other” who we profess to be so different than our bureaucratized secular self, is not so different after all. Thus, our projection of the shadow onto the “other” becomes a made-for-TV John Wayne movie for Baudrillard, as this reality once played out in the perception mechanisms of the mind are transferred to the TV screen’s banal, clean, image-based landscape that has replaced the psyche in the non-autonomous, other-directed, postmodern condition of Baudrillard’s world. This is the shadow of the enemy within, this is what is depicted.
About the Author
Ryan Ashley Caldwell is an associate professor of sociology at Soka University of America in southern California. Her research interests include feminist and social theory, cultural theoretical analysis, gender and sexuality, and identity construction. Her recent book Fallgirls: Gender and the Framing of Torture at Abu Ghraib (Ashgate 2012) examines the abuse at Abu Ghraib using theoretical analysis and participant observation of several of the war crimes trials surrounding the abuse, and using several theoretical perspectives. She is working on two current projects. The first focuses on how identity is constructed in the Los Angeles drag community in terms of performance. The second considers the ethics of sexuality research as applied to the BDSM community, issues of consent, and notions of identity and exchange within the dungeon and between D/s negotiated relationships.
Keith Kerr is an assistant professor of sociology at Quinnipiac University and is an affiliated professor of sociology at Ningxia University in northwest China, where he lives and works in the summer months. He is the author of Postmodern Cowboy: C. Wright Mills and a New 21st Century Sociology (Paradigm 2009). His research interests are in social theory and cultural sociology. His most recent work, focusing on theory application in a Chinese context, has appeared in CrossCurrents, Societies Without Borders: Human Rights and the Social Sciences and Change.
Both authors work together on conference presentations and publications dealing with issues from war crimes to socialization. The authors thank Erica Lee, Handrio Nurhan and Charlie Chin of Soka University for their help with editing this article.
Akbar Ahmed (2003). Islam Under Siege: Living Dangerously in a Post-Honor World. UK: Polity Press.
Robert Bellah (1967). “Civil Religion in America.” Daedalus 96: 1-21.
Jean Baudrillard (1975). The Mirror of Production. Trans. Mark Poster. NY: Telos Press.
Jean Baudrillard (2002). Simulacra and Simulation. Trans. Sheila Faria Glaser. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.
Jean Baudrillard (1999). America. Trans. Chris Turner. London: Verso.
Jean Baudrillard (1988). Ecstasy of Communication. Paris: Semiotexte(e).
Jean Baudrillard (2009). The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena. Trans. James Benedict. London: Verso.
Jean Baudrillard (1995). The Gulf War Did Not Take Place. Trans. Paul Patton. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Jean Baudrillard (2002). The Spirit of Terrorism and the Requiem for the Twin Towers. Trans. Chris Turner. London: Verso.
Jean Baudrillard (2002a). Screened Out. Trans. Chris Turner. London: Verso.
Gilbert Burnham, Riyadh Lafta, Shannon Doocy and Les Roberts (2006). “Mortality after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq: A cross0sectional cluster sample survey.” The Lancet.
Ryan Ashley Caldwell (2012): Fallgirls!: Gender and The Framing of Torture at Abu Ghraib. London, UK: Ashgate International Publishing.
Susan G. Chesher (2012). “Afghanistan Casualties: Military Forces and Civilians.” CRS Report for Congress. Accessed at: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R41084.pdf
Joseph Cirincione (2000). Testimony for the Committee on Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs, and International Security (9/9/00). Transcripts accessed at: http://oldsite.nautilus.org/archives/pub/ftp/npp/000908CEIP_NMDtestimony.txt
Charles H. Cooley (1964). Human Nature and the Social Order. NY: Schocken Books.
Emile Durkheim (1965). The Division of Labor in Society. Trans. George Simpson. NY: The Free Press.
Emile Durkheim (1951). Suicide: A Study in Sociology. Trans. John A. Spaulding. NY: The Free Press.
Emile Durkheim (1995). The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Trans. Karen E. Fields. NY: The Free Press.
Garrick Harden (2011). “Nihilism and Cultural Cohesion: (Re)consideration of Jean Baudrillard.” International Journal of Baudrillard Studies 8(2).
Fredric Jamison (1991). Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
C.G. Jung 1933. Modern Man in Search of a Soul. Trans. W.S. Dell and Cary F. Baynes. NY: Harvest Books.
C.G. Jung (1959). The Undiscovered Self. Trans. R.F.C. Hull. NY: Mentor Books.
C.G. Jung (1968). “Approaching the Unconscious.” Pp. 3-94 in Man and His Symbols, edited by Carl G. Jung. NY: Dell Publishing.
Kenneth Katzman (2012). “Kuwait: Security, Reform and US Policy.” CRS Report for Congress. Accessed at: http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/188178.pdf
Douglas Kellner (2005). “Baudrillard, Globalization and Terrorism: Some comments on Recent Adventures of the Image and Spectacle on the Occasion of Baudrillard’s 75th Birthday.” International Journal of Baudrillard Studies 2(1).
Keith Kerr (2008). “The Intersection of Neglected Ideas: Durkheim, Mead and the Postmodernists.” Sociological Inquiry. 78(1):121-140.
Keith Kerr (2009). Postmodern Cowboy: C. Wright Mills and a new 21st Century Sociology. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.
G.H. Mead (1934). Mind, Self and Society. Chicago, IL: University o Chicago Press.
Stjepan Mestrovic (1997). Postemotional Society. London, UK: Sage Publishers.
Stjepan Mestrovic (2007). The Trials of Abu Ghraib: An Expert Witness Account of Shame and Honor. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.
Stanley Milgram (1965). “Some Conditions on Obedience and Disobedience to Authority.” Human Relations. 18:57-76.
David Riesman, Nathan Glazer and Reuel Denney ( 1961). The Lonely Crowd: A study of the changing American character. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Chris Rumford (ed) (2009). The SAGE Handbook of European Studies. London, UK: Sage Publishers.
Edward Said (1979). Orientalism. NY: Vintage Books.
Jean-Paul Sartre (1992). Being and Nothingness. Trans. Hazel E. Barnes. NY: Washington Square Press.
Sacha Staples (2009). “Incarcerated by a Discourse of Binaries: America’s Mediated Culture of Terror.” International Journal of Baudrillard Studies. 6:2.
Steven Strasser, ed. (2004). The Abu Ghraib Investigations: The Official Reports of the Independent Panel and the Pentagon on the Shocking Prisoner Abuse in Iraq. NY: BBS Books.
Thorstein Veblen (2004). Thorstein Veblen: On Culture and Society. Edited by Stjepan Mestrovic. NY: Sage Publications.
Ludwig Wittgenstein (1958). Philosophical Investigations. Trans. G.E.M. Anscombe. Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell.
Phillip Zimbardo (2007). The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. NY: Random House.
1 – As will be quoted and discussed later, Baudrillard does make direct claims to such a mechanism, and as we argue, even goes so far as to incorporate Jungian terminology into the argument.
2 – Throughout this analysis, the Jung section should in no way be read as an attempt to contend that Jung can (or even should be) viewed as a postmodernist. While Jung does explore some ideas that postmodernists and poststructuralists alike later tackle (most notably Man and his Symbols (1964) treatment of the shift to signs in contemporary times as opposed to symbols), Jung is far from postmodern.
3 – Such a cultural trend begins to call into question the possibility for socialization and interaction, which Cooley and Mead seem to argue, is premised on unproblematic mirroring mechanisms and representations. Baudrillard, Jung and others find much to worry about in contemporary culture’s ability to produce such a straightforward and trouble-free process.
4 – Many see and experience the modern Western world in terms of progress, morality, logics, rationality, and the Enlightenment spirit. For example, we can turn to social theorists such as Anthony Giddens, George Ritzer and Max Weber who have done much to advance this view of the Western world as dominated by the “juggernaut,” “the iron cage of rationality,” etc. Nonetheless, the antithesis of these characterizations we maintain are clearly the characteristic of our most hated enemies. Thus, the non-efficient, non-calculable, non-controllable and non-predictable “enemies” are housed in terms of barbarianism, fanaticism, irrationality, brutality and savagery; however, honest appraisals of Western actions indicate that the West too is prone to such behavior.