The Simulacrum of War: ‘In a Time of War’ revisited

Posted: September 2, 2010 in Journalism and war
Tags: , , , , ,

As the media is currently showing great interest in the departure of the last US combat troops from Iraq after more than seven years of war, I think it’s worth revisiting the Independent Media Center’s documentary ‘In a Time of War’. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! speaks passionately about the importance of dialogue for democracy and highlights the shortcomings of the US commercial mass media in reporting on the invasion of Iraq to represent the ‘true face of war’.

Amy Goodman’s arguments about the distorted war coverage fit well with Jean Baudrillard’s theory of the simularcrum, which he developed in the early 1990s. According to Baudrillard, the simularcrum describes the transformation of an image from reflecting reality, to masking reality, to masking the absence of reality, to the point where it has no relation to any reality whatsoever. Baudrillard famously declared the first Gulf War as a non-event, a heavily mediated spectacle – a simularcrum. According to him there was no shared, collective experience, only the individual consumption of signs produced by the mass media.

The simularcrum of the Iraq War, the media spectacle, can then be seen in this documentary when Amy Goodman points to the heavy use of embedded journalists, video game like simulations of missile action, the use of high-rank military personnel as ‘experts’ and the use of military terminology in the daily news reports. This is definitely a documentary that makes you think about the power of the media to influence our perception of war.

Part 1:

Part 2:


Part 3:

Further Readings:

Baudrillard, J 1994, ‘The precession of simularcra’, in Simulacra and simulation, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, pp. 1-14.


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