Future Cinema

Course Site for Future Cinema 1 (and sometimes Future Cinema 2: Applied Theory) at York University, Canada

Fatalism at its Finest

Posted on | November 20, 2005 | No Comments

I think JB may soon need some Prozac.

N.Y. Times
November 20, 2005
Questions for Jean Baudrillard
Continental Drift

Q: As one of France’s most celebrated philosophers, can you give us any
insight into the civil discontent that is pitting a generation of young
people against the rest of the country?

It will get worse and worse and worse. For a long time, it was a
relatively friendly coexistence or cohabitation, but the French haven’t
done much to integrate the Muslims, and there is a split now. Our
organic sense of identity as a country has been split.

Perhaps that was inevitable. Many of us here were surprised last year
when the French government banned hijabs, head scarves, and other
religious emblems from public schools.

Yes, in America there is more of a history of immigration. America is
constituted by ethnic communities, and though they may compete with one
another, America is still America. Even if there were no Americans
living in the United States, there would still be America. France is
just a country; America is a concept.

Are you saying that America represents the ideal of democracy?

No, the simulation of power.

At 76, you are still pushing your famous theory about “simulation” and
the “simulacrum,” which maintains that media images have become more
convincing and real than reality.

All of our values are simulated. What is freedom? We have a choice
between buying one car or buying another car? It’s a simulation of freedom.

So you don’t think that the U.S. invaded Iraq to spread freedom?

What we want is to put the rest of the world on the same level of
masquerade and parody that we are on, to put the rest of the world into
simulation, so all the world becomes total artifice and then we are
all-powerful. It’s a game.

When you say “we,” who are you talking about? In your new book, “The
Conspiracy of Art,” you are pretty hard on this country.

France is a byproduct of American culture. We are all in this; we are
globalized. When Jacques Chirac says, “No!” to Bush about the Iraq war,
it’s a delusion. It’s to insist on the French as an exception, but there
is no French exception.

Hardly. France chose not to send soldiers to Iraq, which has real
meaning for countless individual soldiers, for their families and for
the state.

Ah, yes. We are “against” the war because it is not our war. But in
Algeria, it was the same. America didn’t send soldiers when we fought
the Algerian war. France and America are on the same side. There is only
one side.

Isn’t that kind of simplistic reasoning why people get so tired of
French intellectuals?

There are no more French intellectuals. What you call French
intellectuals have been destroyed by the media. They talk on television,
they talk to the press and they are no longer talking among themselves.

Do you think there are intellectuals in America?

For us, there was Susan Sontag and Noam Chomsky. But that is French
chauvinism. We count ourselves. We don’t pay attention to what comes
from outside. We accept only what we invented.

Were you a friend of Susan Sontag?

We saw each other from time to time, but the last time, it was terrible.
She came to a conference in Toronto and blasted me for having denied
that reality exists.

Do you read the work of any American writers?

I read many, many American novelists. Updike, Philip Roth, Truman
Capote. I prefer American fiction to French fiction.

Perhaps French literature fell prey to French theory?

Unfortunately, French literature starved itself. It didn’t need French
theory to die. It died by itself.

Some here feel that the study of the humanities at our universities has
been damaged by the incursion of deconstruction and other French theories.

That was the gift of the French. They gave Americans a language they did
not need. It was like the Statue of Liberty. Nobody needs French theory.


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