Our Virtually Real Existence

I. Nullity

“A revolutionary age is an age of action; the present age is an age of advertisement, or an age of publicity: nothing happens, but there is instant publicity about it.”

-- Soren Kierkegaard, The Present Age

II. The Non-Event

“The non-event is not when nothing happens. It is, rather, the realm of perpetual change, of a ceaseless updating, of an incessant succession in real time, which produces this general equivalence, this indifference, this banality that characterizes the zero degree of the event...We have, then, to pass through the non-event of news coverage (information) to detect what resists that coverage. To find, as it were, the ‘living coin’ of the event. To make a literal analysis of it, against all the machinery of commentary and stage-management that merely neutralizes it.”

-- Jean Baudrillard, The Intelligence of Evil or The Lucidity Pact

III. Remoteness

The world that comes at us with such ferocity is also a world that is out of reach. TV and radio personalities, supermarket-tabloid celebrities, the authors of bestselling books, film stars, bloggers, movie sets, broadcasting studios, advertising shoots -- all are distant, not proximate. In the past proximity meant seeing people in the flesh, experiencing them in person, being party to the scenes that shaped our Weltanschauung. Today we consent to having reality beamed into our living room and study den, living life behind screens, through satellites and networks. Both experience and experiencer have suffered a loss.

-- Tim Ruggiero

"The spectator's consciousness, imprisoned in a flattened universe, bound by the screen of the spectacle behind which his life has been deported, knows only the fictional speakers who unilaterally surround him with their commodities and the politics of their commodities. The spectacle, in its entirety, is his 'mirror image.' Here the stage is set with the false exit of generalized autism."

-- Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle

IV. Contrivance

“We have heard ours called an age without direction -- a ‘directionless’ age. It would be better to call us the age of indirection...We make, we seek, and finally we enjoy, the contrivance of all experience. We fill our lives not with experience, but with the images of experience...The awkward monstrosities of our everyday speech betray the secondhandness of our way of looking at everything. We no longer talk about something; we talk ‘in terms’ of it. In an organization a man is no longer important; he is ‘at the policy level.’ What we seek, we are told, is no longer wealth or glory or happiness, but a sociological concoction called ‘status.’ We do not simply ‘believe’; instead we talk of ‘the values we hold.’ We cannot do something in our spare time, we must cultivate it as a ‘hobby.’ We do not study music or art or literature; we study the ‘appreciation’ of music or art or literature.”

-- Daniel Boorstin, The Image

V. Reaction Is Electric

“Reactionary politics work well with electronic media because reaction is electric; that is, immediate, automatic, and superficial. Revolutionary politics, on the other hand, have always been tied to a dogged willingness to teach: to raise consciousness, to show how the ties that bind include those invisible economic cords that bind the disadvantaged to their fates.”

-- Garret Keizer

VI. Watchableness

"For 360 minutes per diem, we receive unconscious reinforcement of the deep thesis that the most significant quality of truly alive persons is watchableness, and that genuine human worth is not just identical with but rooted in the phenomenon of watching."

-- David Foster Wallace, "E Unibus Pluram: Television & U.S. Fiction"

VII. Feel, Don't Think

"News broadcasts come and go as abruptly as the advertisements winking on and off in Tokyo and Times Square, the messages equivalent in their weightlessness, demanding nothing of the audience except the duty of ritual observance. Who knows or cares to know whether Rush Limbaugh's truths are truer than Toyota's? Who can follow a story to the end of the week, much less over the distance of thirty-three years? Nothing necessarily follows from anything else, and the constant viewer is free to shop around for a reality matched to taste, to make use of the advice imparted by a wise old Jedi knight to the young Darth Vader in Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace, 'Concentrate on the moment. Feel, don't think. Trust your instincts.'"

-- Lewis Lapham, Harper's (August 2005)