“Illusion is no longer possible, because the real is no longer possible” Jean Baudrillard
On 9th November 2016 Donald Trump became President Elect of the United States of America. This was a hold-up. A protracted hold-up, admittedly, one that took a few years. It wasn’t a hold-up in the sense that immediately springs to mind, rather it was a simulated hold-up like that described by Jean Baudrillard in ‘Simulacra and Simulations’. This is what happened:
In the “strategy of the real” Baudrillard explains how when you simulate something the structures around that event are such that, not recognising the event is not real, they put into play the relevant apparatus that validate the event. This adds to the realistic appearance of the event. Baudrillard gives an example of a simulated hold-up to explain his theory. He asks this: “it would be interesting to see whether the repressive apparatus would react more violently to a simulated hold up than a real one?” He explains that, since all the signs of a hold-up look real - even if you use a fake gun – you will be treated by those around you as if the whole process is real. You may be shot, a bank customer may become ill, etc: “you will unwittingly find yourself immediately in the real”. But this is what is important to Baudrillard: “a real hold up only upsets the order of things, the right property, whereas a simulated hold up interferes with the very principle of reality”.
At the beginning of the presidential race – in fact, even before then, in the 2000 campaign nomination – Trump’s simulated hold-up began. However, he kept finding himself propelled into the real: he was never really rumbled. I am sure this was as much a surprise to him as it was to the rest of us. I am not saying he didn’t believe in each individual moment what he was saying. I am saying that because there was no other place for this simulation to function, it had to be seen as real. Since the order of power politics is only a second-order simulacra, the third level simulation is viewed as a representation that fits within the model it is represented in, not that in which it was formed.
It was actually the case that Donald Trump’s presidential election was “inscribed in advance” because of being written in the order of simulation. What Trump said became a “set of signs dedicated exclusively to their recurrence as signs, and no longer to their ‘real’ goal at all” (Baudrillard). It worked precisely because it was a simulation.
Baudrillard says that “transgression and violence are less serious” than the simulated hold-up “for they only contest the distribution of the real. Simulation is infinitely more dangerous since it always suggests, over and above its object, that law and order themselves might really be nothing more than a simulation”.
A Hysterical Simulacra
Donald Trump’s Lunatic Fringe