Perhaps you are not watching the 2009 Utah Olympics. But I did for a very, very brief moment and here is what I noticed.
Your vantage point is not exactly the one most suitable for watching sports, so much as watching ads. To view your favorite Olympic team get the gold, you must experience this event as they maneuver around - not the slope of a mountain - but around numerous advertising apexes. The goal is exposure. Okay, so this is really obvious, I know.
There is another thing, too. Capital and the state are two thing you confront when watching the Olympics. The reporters and announcers are constantly comparing nationalities, getting the audience to identify with an imaginary community - not a bad thing in itself - but one that exists within the confines of imaginary legal borders, with a false unification.
For the Olympic Games, advertising creates the frame, creates the experience, creates a spectacle. The ads actually block our view in most scenes. But they are necessary, integral to the experience, and we don't even need to respond to them. They didn't really ask a question in the first place, and so they get no response. What is their use - who can say? This is something Marshall McLuhan and Jean Baudrillard noticed about mass communication in a simulation economy.
Frame by frame, the fantasmagoria is lining up to greet you. A camera patiently waits at the next station, carefully placing another ad into the centerpiece of its broadcast - this time for KONICA MINOLTA. The bobsled finally comes into view and passes by swiftly enough, in a neck-breaking blur. But the whole time the logo KONICA MINOLTA is staring you directly in the face.
Things last no longer than the time it takes for them to happen. From the very beginning to the very end of this one-and-a-half-minute experience, you might have been exposed to thirty or more advertisements. Many of which you probably did not notice. Through your viewfinder you see a little red spot appear at the bottom of the screen, announcing "OMEGA".
It's the perfect mixture of exhilaration and deception.
But to tell you the truth, I don't see how bobsledding can be deceptive. The ads do not deceive. The slope of a mountain does not deceive. Nothing here is deceptive. Everything is pure fact. At bottom there is this truth: nothing deceives, there are no lies, there is only simulation.
Simulation is the separation of value from fact. This is the way I understand it.
Political economy has a strategy of using exchange values and use values as "alibis" for one another when it is convenient. But the new political economy can do no such thing. When the only thing being exchanged are simulated experiences, value is arbitrary in a political economy of signs.
I can spy with my little eye, an INTERSPORT ad... whatever that is!
If we stay with this line of thinking, we become suspicious of reality. But here there is no suspicion, the facts are there before us, "ADIDAS", "KONICA MINOLTA".
The critique of simulation is not a complementary critique of political economy - it is the new critique of political economy, because simulation has already replaced reality.
ADIDAS, by the way, stands for "all day I dream about simulation".
Advertising is just a system of objects, just a technology. Or is it?
By reinventing capital in each successive phase of capitalism, (1) counterfeit, (2) production and (3) simulation, the ads confirm the latest initiative capital has enjoyed since the dawning of the simulation economy. It is a way of life!
The lonley slope of a mountain, an event that was made for television, and one advertisement. There are no accidents here, no catastrophes, no terrorism, no traffic-jams, no panic, and no Soviets. It is just surplus time. But it is still a 100 percent advertising event. This is a desert in real-time, a scenery full of value, and the clock is ticking.
At least we know it was a good day for KONICA MINOLTA.
The bobsled team see their whole lives flashing before them in one big whooosh! For you it is a moment of truth. To quote Jean Baudrillard from Symbolic Exchange and Death:
"Reality itself founders in hyperrealism, the meticulous reduplication of the real, preferably through another, reproductive medium, such as photography. From medium to medium, the real is volatized, becoming an allegory of death. But it is also, in a sense, reinforced through its own destruction. It becomes reality for its own sake, the fetishism of a lost object..."
Who will have the final word? Let's talk to the bobsledding team and find out.
With the ubiquity of ads here, it's amazing these sports channel announcers have the audacity to say they will return once again to the Olympics after a short "commercial break".
But the American bobsledding team's colors are red - the world about to dawn! - and black - the night that ends at last! - and he's got his fist up in the air, so who can really complain...