Friday, March 09, 2007

More Real Than Reality Itself

Jean Baudrillard died on Tuesday.

His obituary in the New York Times is surprisingly sympathetic -- certainly much better than the early Le Monde obit for Derrida -- even if it gets a few things not quite right and needlessly gives more publicity to the intellectual hoaxters Sokal and Bricmont, quoting a passage that probably has nothing to do with Baudrillard. (At least no one seems to be reading Sokal and Bricmont's book.) This might be because either more people in the media understood Baudrillard (writing about their own terrain, not the history of literature and philosophy) or because they didn't understand him at all. You can read the obituary either way.

The next day, it seemed almost as though Baudrillard had played some kind of Bunuelian joke from beyond the grave. Here was the NYT headline from the 7th:

Jean Baudrillard, 77, Critic and Theorist of Hyperreality, Dies

Then, on the 8th, this headline, featured as the lead image on the Times web site:

Captain America Is Dead; National Hero Since 1941

And story after story, announcing his "death," without any mention in the headline that he is an (ostentatiously) fictional character...

Baudrillard would no doubt find this funny, charming, and appropriate. Of course, he would say, my media "death" is no less fictional. Like the Gulf War, it never happened. The only surprise for my death, unlike Captain America's, is that it is news at all.

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