I know I have been crowing about hyperreality a lot lately, and I apologize to those who are getting tired of the term. But when Karl Rove goes on Charlie Rose to mind-wipe America by insisting that Congress led the march to occupy Iraq and secure its oil reserves, I'm pulled back into hyperreality's vertiginous vortex without resistance. It is everywhere, kind of like The Force, or Jesus. It's the webwork we're caught in, all of us. There is no escaping it, especially if you live in the reality-based community. After all, it was most likely Karl Rove himself who told Ron Suskind the following:
"The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
Creating reality? I thought reality created all of us -- before I read Jean Baudrillard or Aldous Huxley or Karl Rove or any number of hyperrealists who understand that perception is reality, as marketers and advertisers have been telling us for decades. And while Suskind was right to dredge up the ghost of the Enlightenment and empiricism, he forgot to mention that the former is just a word that fell apart under the weight of class and resource wars, while the latter is incomplete for our purposes. Empiricism, after all, can only get you so far, because you can't see or experience everything. And if you're relying on those who can experience more than you, in the end, you're merely relying on their word.
And we know how that usually turns out.
From the Declaration of Independence establishing equal rights for everyone except women, slaves or the Native Americans we nearly exterminated to control North America to the Constitution and Bill of Rights which still to this day cannot establish our total access to habeus corpus, free speech or any other rights, we are at the mercy of language and those who manipulate it for our lives. And Karl Rove? The dude knows how to manipulate with force.
He understands that, decades down the line, the party line on the Bush administration will blur, as Americans, who have a hard enough time remembering what happened to them yesterday, forget the intricacies and details of geopolitical dilemmas past. This is, of course, why America could get behind an invasion and occupation of Iraq, or the political assassination of Saddam Hussein, a man we placed in power for the specific purpose of controlling the country's oil reserves and murderously pacifying its populace, who themselves are drunk on thousands of years of tribal differences that amount to nothing. It is why they could forget, barely two years after 9/11, that Saddam had nothing to do with it at all. Or why they could forget that the Saudis, who bankrolled and mostly comprised the terrorist group that attacked us, were our real enemies.
It is also why Rove's Office of Special Counsel spent much time erasing every incriminating piece of email he could with the help of a group called, hilariously enough, Geeks On Call. The nerds gave his hard drive a level-seven mind wipe, I kid you not, which is what Rove and his pals have spent the last two decades giving an all-too-willing American populace, who woke up too late in the procedure to stop it. By the time their polled dissatisfaction caught up to "reality," Rove's hyperreality had already replaced it.
And it will again, if Charlie Rose is any indication. The media, to mangle McLuhan, is the message, Rove understands, and it doesn't matter how large the lie is. All that matters is that the media repeats it, over and over again. Eventually, through the powers of language, apathy and consumption, the lie will become truth.
So yes, hyperreality is here to stay for the reality-based community. The exponentially increasing ubiquity of the internet and media in American life mandates it. We unplugged from the real world and jacked into MTV's Real World a long, long time ago. Revisionists like Karl Rove and Rupert Murdoch may not be anything new -- the Germans had Goebbels, the Romans had Nero, the Catholics have the Pope -- but in the information age, their reliance on erasure and drive-wiping is more than manipulative. It is inevitable.