10/28/2008 02:46 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Yeah, It's All My Fault

I know because I saw it on my video screen. In other words, "all reality is an imitation," as a friend of mine, Bill Osborne, says. He cites Baudrillard.

Third Order of Simulacra: The present age -- dominated by simulations, things that have no original or prototype (though they may parallel something). Era of the model or code: computers, virtual reality, opinion polls, DNA, genetic engineering, cloning, the news media make the news, Nike sneakers as status symbols, Disneyland. The death of the real: no more counterfeits or prototypes, just simulations of reality -- hyperreality. Information replaces the machine as the basic mode of production.

There must be millions of cleverly individualized videos like this one circulating now.

"So," says Osborne, "the war In Iraq never happened for the vast majority of Americans. We perceive it only through the simulacra of the media (embedded or not) -- a plastic-wrapped CNN, MSNBC, NYT hyperreality coming right through the screen you are staring at at this very moment. Assess that we are, we click the hyperlinks and Google for more info and analysis." He continues:

Colbert imitates O'Reilly, and is thus an imitation of an imitation journalist. When reality becomes mediated by the media, and thus a simulacrum, we take comfort in the simulacrum that parodies the simulacrum. This explains shows like The Onion, Jon Stewart, and Colbert. We think we are being realisitic when we create simulacra that make us laugh at the "real" simulacra. Unfortunately, this has gone on for so long that we no longer remember anything but imitations. What we call reality is just a somewhat older imitation, like Harry Reasoner or David Brinkley.

"In short," he adds, "we laugh at the comic simulacra in order to feel we are being realistic, but they only add to an ever-spinning historical vortex of imitations of imitations of imitations. Humor about journalism has long since become but one more part of the simulacra.

"And Lucy, Jerry, and Frasier become our friends, even our home life.

"And of course, I too am just more video screen bullshit. The real William Osborne was never there."

A counter-argument comes from another friend: "To be honest, I never much liked Baudrillard or the 'everything is simulation' school of thought," says Supervert. "Maybe it's because I don't watch TV. The 'fiction' that I read and admire always has a fundamental sort of reality to it. The same with music -- it offers the opportunity for experience, and therefore seems very real to me."

More broadly, the whole question of "reality" and what it is has never struck me as very interesting. I don't know why. I feel real, and I feel that my experiences are real, so it's nothing that troubles me. Even if you were to object that music, for example, is just a sign, I would reply that my experience of the sign is real and therefore has little to do with simulacra. I guess the problem would be if you internalized the simulacra, so that your response to external signs was like a mirror looking at a mirror.

Meanwhile, it's nice to know the Gasbag is "resting comfortably now," after being rescued from his campaign bus. "We bought him some black licorice and a book of puzzles," his spokesman said, "so that ought to keep him busy for a while."