We live in a world that has become more real than ever before. A world filled with meaning, meaning that has been given to it by technological progress. We are enthralled in a world of media and a virtual reality that preludes it. Baudrillard sees reality as a simulation, a doubling that has nothing behind it. There is nothing that exists behind the meanings and the symbolism that we attribute it too. Language gives meaning to the world, it constructs our very reality. The symbolisms and the appearance that we give unto events or things is what constitutes their essence. Looking at events through an inhuman perspective, there exists nothing but action, there is no meaning, no symbolic order that can assign it a meaning, it does not exist in idea. Through a human lens an event starts to take on many attributes, through language it becomes a simulation of itself, covering the nothing that it is, instilling in it a meaning that is relative. This meaning does not exist, it is simulated by outside sources which are mediums of information.
The reality that exists has become so hyper-realized that events in real-time do not hold the same values as a past or future event. An eruption or outbreak penetrates through the veil of reality producing a shock. How could this happen? why did this happen? this sudden lapse of meaning is what gives it the shock. The event happening in real time becomes too real than real (hyperreal), having no symbolic value it takes us right out of the reality that we are living in and places us right in the thick of a true reality with no meaning. This reality is very inhumane and it destroys the simulation of reality. It is only after the event, that it becomes simulated and is given meaning.
I would like to use pornography as an example for what Baudrillard means by the “hyperreal”. In pornography the scenes enacted are more real than “real”. They are pure fantasy, they give the acts symbolic value through a medium of information (video), this gives the acts more reality, there is meaning here. Sex in real life, the sensuous activity experienced loses the meaning it had through hyperreality. It is very different because it is now more real than real, it has lost a meaning and it becomes shocking. The act is not what is expected, it takes you out of the semblances of reality and places you into a “hard” reality. This is the same thing that happens when events that have been simulated through their appearances and imagery actually transpire in real-time. The meaning is gone, it’s lost. The very fact that the meaning is (for a short period) nonexistent signifies that the very meanings the events have are simulated by a power outside of itself, that brings it into our reality, that covers the nothingness inherent in our true reality, in the apathy of the world.
When Baudrillard says certain events have not actually happend what he means is that, the imagery and the ideological values that we assign to these events are not part of reality, they are part of a hypperreality that assigns it meaning. This is the simulation. We simulate the event through the symbolic order of language and affixing it the appearance of what it represents.
We are very stuck in this hyperreality (where things take on more reality), that actual events seem almost unreal compared to it. There is a dissonance here where one world permeates itself throughout all of life and another world at sudden times takes over through a “violent” act and changes the very fabric of what we know to be “reality”. This reality, this new reality, that is very different from any other historical period has fetishized life to the point it has disillusioned itself.