simulacrum.art

October 6th, 2004

CTHEORY.NET > Being Nothing: George W. Bush as Presidential Simulacrum by Carol V. Hamilton

This article appropriates ideas from Being There and Baudrillard’s Gulf War pieces in order to propose that George W. Bush is a simulation, a virtual figure upgraded from a prototype
like that of Chance the Gardener. I am not interested in George W. Bush’s corporeal being but rather
in his flatness and in the way that his obvious deficiencies are “spun” by supposedly
disinterested media pundits. Bush’s estrangement from the real — evident in his unfamiliarity with
geography, history, ordinary English syntax and semantics, and a fund of common knowledge — stems
from his own lack of reality. George W. Bush does not exist.

Under the sign of postmodernism, the hermeneutics of depth have been replaced by the play of
surfaces, and the flat celebrity has superseded the complicated historical figure. In his
magisterial Postmodernism, Fredric Jameson commented on the shift between the deep
subjectivity represented in the modernist novel and the postmodern “death of the subject.” “This new
order,” Jameson writes, “no longer needs prophets or seers of the high modernist and charismatic
type, whether among its cultural producers, or its politicians. Such figures no longer hold any
charm or magic for the subjects of a corporate, collectivized, post-individualistic age.” Accordingly, the cosmopolitan, dignified F.D.R. gives
way to the bland, folksy, often incoherent persona of GWB, with his faux-Texas accent and gunfighter
strut.

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