From AlterNet.org by Paul Buchheit titled, “The 2013 Oscars for America’s Foulest Hypocrites”, “Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) introduced a bill against child pornography and supported sex offender laws. Then he was caught sending sexual messages to underage male congressional pages. Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) said “All life should be cherished and protected. We are pro-life.” It was later learned that he had encouraged both his lover and his wife to get abortions. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) stepped down as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee after failing to pay income taxes. Later he said “Governor Romney should come clean about the tax returns he’s hiding from voters.” Al Gore won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change. Utility bills for his 20-room Nashville mansion amounted to $30,000 in 2006. Former Sen. Pete Domenici kept secret that he fathered a child in the 1970s with the daughter of a Senate colleague. Then he voted to impeach Bill Clinton and was quoted as saying “Truthfulness is the first pillar of good character.”
Mr. Buchheit’s piece above, reminded me of Alfred Korzybski’s famous statement, “the map is not the territory.” And more recently Jean Baudrillard, a French sociologist and cultural theorist proposed that one hallmark of postmodernity (our current social milieu) is our fascination with the simulated rather than the real. In other words, we like the map more than the territory it represents.
Baudrillard broke our simulations down into four stages. The first is a faithful copy of reality like the scale model of the USS Constitution on the fireplace in my study. The second and third move progressively away from faithfulness, to the fourth which is simulation of an imaginary reality. It has no relationship to anything real whatsoever. At the fourth level, experiences are so overwhelmingly artificial that even claims to reality are in artificial or “hyperreal” terms. Think of the characters who walk around Disneyland re-enforcing a simulated kingdom that doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, fourth level simulacrum doesn’t end with entertainment.
Now multiply the impact of the individual examples in Mr. Buchheit’s piece by thinking of the combined effects of advertising, mass media, educational curriculum manipulated by elected school boards with religious agendas, revisionist religious institutions with political agendas, political think-tanks financed by multi-billionaires, politicians compromised by campaign finance commitments, multi-million dollar marketing and public relations organizations whose only purpose is to convince us of their clients’ self-serving points of view.
We don’t just mistake the map for the territory, we idolize it. I fear for us because it is no longer obvious to the average American that our map is not the territory. I fear because at some time we will figure out the territory supposedly represented by our collective map is in pretty dismal shape. When we do, we won’t know how to navigate because we won’t recognize the real territory. I fear because I think that day is very close.
My reasoning? The map makers in all the institutions above are diligently at work plugging every hole, stitching every tear, and perfecting every tall tale necessary to keep us convinced the collective map is real. Why? Because the unfiltered and unedited communication potential of the Internet is poking holes faster than they can be plugged.
Think of the Arab Spring, where social media is credited with toppling whole governments.
But the center doesn’t hold here either. Mythologies like the American dream are dead. People are walking away in droves from the original mapmaker – religion. American exceptionalism isn’t real, except in the minds of those who are still duped into believing in the artifice.
What will it take to finally wake us up to see the real territory? As long as we confuse TV reality shows with reality, we’ll stay asleep. As long as we allow our kids to play simulated games on their computer screens rather than go outside and play the real game, the next generation will stay asleep.
Simulation is served up so readily and consumed so easily and reality is such a dismal proposition. Maybe it’s just easier to turn the TV on and the real world off. Before you agree, watch the movie titled “The Matrix.”