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What is "speaking evil" in the context of Baudrillard?

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So earlier in the year a friend of mine ran Baudrillard on me with the Speak Evil alt.
I didn't know what the alt was.
He didn't know what the alt was.
Our judge didn't know what the alt was.
Does anyone know what this alt is?

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This is something I'm pretty sure I do know.

 

Speaking evil means (as far as my interpretation goes) to be evil in opposition to the Western values. For example, anyone who doesn't abide western rights is evil. By speaking evil you can disrupt the normalized system of values inserted onto the others. Baudrillard explains better thou...

The alternative is endorsing the principle of evil in a terrorizing act, poking a hole in the pressurized universe of the debate space and thus sucking all morals out

Baudrillard ‘2k (Jean Baudrillard, Smart Frenchy, 2000, “screened out”, pg 34-35)                                                                                                  

By hounding out the 'accursed share' from within ourselves, and allowing only positive values to shine forth, we have become dramatically vulnerable to the slightest viral attack, including that of the Ayatollah, whose immune defenses are certainly not down. The only thing we can range against him - and it is not much — is human rights, which is itself part of our political immunodeficiency. And, moreover, in the name of human rights, we end up describing the Ayatollah himself as 'absolute Evil' (Mitterand), that is to say, end up identifying with his irrational curse in a way that stands in total contradiction to our enlightened discourse (do we call a madman 'mad' today? We don't even call a handicapped person 'handicapped', so afraid are we of Evil, so much do we wallow in euphemisms in order to avoid designating the Other, misfortune, the irreducible). We should not be surprised that someone capable of speaking the language of Evil - speaking it literally and triumphantly - should trigger such an access of weakness in Western cultures, in spite of petitions by intellectuals the world over. The fact is that legality, humanitarian good conscience and reason itself yield in the face of imprecation. Reason is completely fascinated by it and falls in with it, as do all the world's media. All it can do is mobilize its reserves of stigmatization and satanization, but, in so doing, it lapses into the same language and falls into the trap of the principle of Evil, which is essentially contagious. Who is the winner? The Ayatollah of course. Admittedly, we still have the power to destroy him, but symbolically he has won and symbolic power is always superior to the power of weapons and money; our modern idealism should have taught us that. It is, in a way, the revenge of the other world. The Third World had never really managed to mount a challenge to the West. And the USSR, which for a few decades personified the principle of Evil for the West, has clearly moved over quietly to the side of Good, the side of a well-tempered management of the world's affairs. By a marvelous irony, that country even offered itself as mediator between the West and the Satan of Teheran. And it has the experience to do that, having spent five years defending Western values in Afghanistan, without anyone properly realizing it. Some commentators have at least acknowledged, with some bitterness, that Khomeini's sentence has, by force of anathema, restored a fantastic value to books — a value they had lost. This is to recognize the shameful state politics has fallen into in our countries. The effect of fascination, attraction and repulsion on a world scale, unleashed by the Ayatollah's death sentence on Rushdie, is exactly like the phenomenon of sudden depressurization of an aircraft cabin when there is a hole or crack in the fuselage (even if this is accidental, it always resembles a terrorist act). Everything is sucked violently outwards into the void, as a result of the pressure differential between the two spaces. You have only to make a breach, a hole in the ultra-thin film separating the two worlds. Terrorism, hostage-taking, is pre-eminently the act which makes this kind of breach in an artificial — and artificially protected — universe (our universe). The whole of Islam, current Islam, which is not in any sense the Islam of the Middle Ages, and which has to be assessed in strategic, not moral or religious terms, is creating a vacuum around the Western system (including the countries of Eastern Europe) and, from time to time, making breaches in that system, by a single act or statement, through which all our values hurtle out into the void. Islam does not exert revolutionary pressure on the Western world; there is no danger that Islam will convert or conquer it: it is happy to destabilize it by this viral aggression in the name of the principle of Evil (to which we have no answer) and on the basis of the virtual catastrophe that is the pressure differential between the two milieus - the perpetual risk for the protected universe (our universe) of a sudden de-pressurizing of the air (the values) we breathe. Admittedly, quite a bit of oxygen has already escaped from our Western world through all kinds of fissures and cracks. We would be well advised to hold on to our oxygen masks.

Edited by ConsultAndromedaCouncil

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This is something I'm pretty sure I do know.

 

Speaking evil means (as far as my interpretation goes) to be evil in opposition to the Western values. For example, anyone who doesn't abide western rights is evil. By speaking evil you can disrupt the normalized system of values inserted onto the others. Baudrillard explains better thou...

The alternative is endorsing the principle of evil in a terrorizing act, poking a hole in the pressurized universe of the debate space and thus sucking all morals out

Baudrillard ‘2k (Jean Baudrillard, Smart Frenchy, 2000, “screened out”, pg 34-35)                                                                                                  

By hounding out the 'accursed share' from within ourselves, and allowing only positive values to shine forth, we have become dramatically vulnerable to the slightest viral attack, including that of the Ayatollah, whose immune defenses are certainly not down. The only thing we can range against him - and it is not much — is human rights, which is itself part of our political immunodeficiency. And, moreover, in the name of human rights, we end up describing the Ayatollah himself as 'absolute Evil' (Mitterand), that is to say, end up identifying with his irrational curse in a way that stands in total contradiction to our enlightened discourse (do we call a madman 'mad' today? We don't even call a handicapped person 'handicapped', so afraid are we of Evil, so much do we wallow in euphemisms in order to avoid designating the Other, misfortune, the irreducible). We should not be surprised that someone capable of speaking the language of Evil - speaking it literally and triumphantly - should trigger such an access of weakness in Western cultures, in spite of petitions by intellectuals the world over. The fact is that legality, humanitarian good conscience and reason itself yield in the face of imprecation. Reason is completely fascinated by it and falls in with it, as do all the world's media. All it can do is mobilize its reserves of stigmatization and satanization, but, in so doing, it lapses into the same language and falls into the trap of the principle of Evil, which is essentially contagious. Who is the winner? The Ayatollah of course. Admittedly, we still have the power to destroy him, but symbolically he has won and symbolic power is always superior to the power of weapons and money; our modern idealism should have taught us that. It is, in a way, the revenge of the other world. The Third World had never really managed to mount a challenge to the West. And the USSR, which for a few decades personified the principle of Evil for the West, has clearly moved over quietly to the side of Good, the side of a well-tempered management of the world's affairs. By a marvelous irony, that country even offered itself as mediator between the West and the Satan of Teheran. And it has the experience to do that, having spent five years defending Western values in Afghanistan, without anyone properly realizing it. Some commentators have at least acknowledged, with some bitterness, that Khomeini's sentence has, by force of anathema, restored a fantastic value to books — a value they had lost. This is to recognize the shameful state politics has fallen into in our countries. The effect of fascination, attraction and repulsion on a world scale, unleashed by the Ayatollah's death sentence on Rushdie, is exactly like the phenomenon of sudden depressurization of an aircraft cabin when there is a hole or crack in the fuselage (even if this is accidental, it always resembles a terrorist act). Everything is sucked violently outwards into the void, as a result of the pressure differential between the two spaces. You have only to make a breach, a hole in the ultra-thin film separating the two worlds. Terrorism, hostage-taking, is pre-eminently the act which makes this kind of breach in an artificial — and artificially protected — universe (our universe). The whole of Islam, current Islam, which is not in any sense the Islam of the Middle Ages, and which has to be assessed in strategic, not moral or religious terms, is creating a vacuum around the Western system (including the countries of Eastern Europe) and, from time to time, making breaches in that system, by a single act or statement, through which all our values hurtle out into the void. Islam does not exert revolutionary pressure on the Western world; there is no danger that Islam will convert or conquer it: it is happy to destabilize it by this viral aggression in the name of the principle of Evil (to which we have no answer) and on the basis of the virtual catastrophe that is the pressure differential between the two milieus - the perpetual risk for the protected universe (our universe) of a sudden de-pressurizing of the air (the values) we breathe. Admittedly, quite a bit of oxygen has already escaped from our Western world through all kinds of fissures and cracks. We would be well advised to hold on to our oxygen masks.

Evil is not reducible to binaries traditionally accompanied by western determinations of good/bad that you're falling prey to because that implies that Baudrillard believes in value systems and meaning, which is frankly not true. Rather, it's cited as the primary example of duality/reversibility that he discusses. I think this passage will summarizes it best. http://www2.ubishops.ca/baudrillardstudies/vol-11_2/v11-2-pawlett.html

 

"Good and Evil are perhaps Baudrillard’s most developed example of duality. Good and Evil as symbolic forms are irreconcilable yet inseparable, they alternate or ‘duel’, neither can vanquish nor eliminate the other. The unending, cyclical duel of Good and Evil is dramatised in the great myths and tragedies. Heroes and heroines do not lay the foundations for social order, they experience or embody the metamorphosis, collusion or reversibility of Good and Evil (2001: 54). Good and Evil, considered as dual or symbolic relations are eternal and destined to emerge from each other. The dynamic, alternating energy of duality defies structure, value, power and hierarchy. However, morality seeks to separate or “distil” Good and Evil, working to produce the conceptual opposition good/evil, literally barring their symbolic exchange, denying their duality. Modernity, or Post-modernity, is even less tolerant of Good and Evil as symbolic forms, and works to replace both the symbolic and moral dimensions of Good and Evil with the reductive, individualised and psychologised notions of happiness/wellbeing in opposition to misfortune/ victimhood (2005: 139-158). “Evil” reduced to misfortune is understood as something accidental, something that can and should have been secured, controlled and finally eliminated, for example by a culture of insurance, surveillance, risk assessment and “future-proofing”. Reduced to a quantifiable scale happiness should always increase, and misfortune decrease. The cultural demand now is that we show all the signs of happiness at all times, and, for Baudrillard, the simulacra of happiness and wellbeing sustain the system and flourish precisely in order to obscure the symbolic dimension of Evil, which is nevertheless ineradicable.

This is not a historicist position, Good and Evil as symbolic forms are not eliminated, they are diverted, disjointed, severed, smothered yet they remain, and indeed take their revenge on happiness/misfortune. Good has been progressively disarticulated from Evil, the goal being its universalisation, yet, Baudrillard insists, Evil reappears or “transpires” through the hegemony of this enervated sense of Good, often generated by very measures employed to eliminate it: "by denying the very existence of Evil (all the forms of radical, heterogeneous, irreconcilable otherness) … Good has, in a way, given Evil its freedom. In seeking to be absolute Good, it has freed Evil from all dependency and given it back its autonomous power, which is no longer simply the power of the negative but the power to change the rules of the game" (Baudrillard 2010: 55-6).

Where Good attempts to eliminate Evil, Evil will reappear in the measures taken by Good. Misfortune and happiness, as binary oppositions, feed and complement each other, indeed Baudrillard notes that misfortune and victimhood become increasingly attractive to all as ‘a kind of escape route from the terroristic happiness plot’ (Baudrillard 2005: 145). To give some examples, it is through the misfortune/happiness binary that violent and tragic events are produced as instances of types of events such as “human rights violations” or “crimes against humanity”. Not allowed to be singular events of tragedy, the awarding or conferral of the title “crime against humanity” produces an event to be deplored by the media, not one to be thought about, but one to be consumed quickly. A violent event cannot, under this way of thinking, be worse than a crime against humanity, there is nothing worse. Further, for Baudrillard, the current political fashion for apologies, for ‘the rectification of the past in terms of our humanitarian awareness’ (2005: 150) is an extension of colonial rule and global liberal capitalist hegemony because it declares – Ok, we are sorry, get on with your mourning and then you can join the new economic order that we have defined: ‘we make imbeciles of the victims themselves, by confining them to their condition of victim, and by the compassion we show them we engage in a kind of false advertising for them’ (Baudrillard 2005: 153). It might well be that those who are genuinely deprived and powerless simply do not have the time or energy to promote themselves as victims, however it might also be, as Baudrillard suggests, that the powerless sense or implicitly understand the snares, humiliations and loss of symbolic defences that await them if they try to play by the rules imposed upon them by liberal humanitarian discourse (Baudrillard 1983: 48-61).

This is the violence of the good, the “Empire” or, in a particularly memorable phrase, the ‘axis of good’ (Baudrillard 2010: 88 & 111). If Evil has no essence, neither does Good. They are relational; each is internal to the other, a charge that is carried by the other. Good and Evil as symbolic forms are not reducible to individual acts or choices, but they emerge in the ambivalence and reversibility of order and system, and in events or exchanges between people caught up in the cycle.

Baudrillard’s metaphysical, or perhaps anti-metaphysical, speculations are very suggestive and his work moves from a high level of abstraction to more concrete examples and illustrations with surprising ease. However, there are some problematic assertions. Why must duality always re-emerge? What makes it indestructible? And if reality, simulation and integral reality are faltering, deeply vulnerable and never fully hegemonic why doesn’t duality, in the form of symbolic counter-gift, seduction, radical otherness, illusion, ‘immanent reversion’ (Baudrillard & Noailles 2007: 61) or ‘blowback’ (2005: 185) finally shatter them? Could it be said that Baudrillard has “faith” in duality? This is, in a sense, quite different from religious faith because it does not privilege the human, it posits no transcendence and because there is no sense in which duality can be relied upon (1993b:40). In his conversations with Noailles, Baudrillard is clear that duality should not be understood as in any sense originary, that it is immanent to the world of reality, simulation and integral reality. In this discussion Baudrillard speaks of reality producing the conditions in which illusion thrives, irreversibility producing the conditions in which reversibility thrives, Good producing the conditions in which Evil thrives (2007: 58-63). But it is not a case of “equal and opposite” reversibility (Evil producing Good, illusion producing reality, ambivalence producing equivalence) because Western modernity has shattered any prospect of equilibrium. In investing all its energies in generating a real, in securing the real against all predators Western modernity is caught in a process of ‘degradation … an apparently irreversible process … shot through with, and undercut from within by, duality and reversibility’ (Baudrillard & Noailles 2007: 58-9). "

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Evil here is similar to uncleanliness, which is one of the most important concepts in moral theories grounded in so-called Natural Law. Baudrillard believes we live in a very sanitized culture today. This is an almost Nietzschean article of faith with him: we're domesticated, we're feminized, we've had our balls cut off, we're hypochondriacs, we're afraid to really live, we're couch-sitters. So Baudrillard surmises that a society like ours would only grant its citizens free speech if that speech no longer could disturb this placid landscape, only if speech can be rendered lifeless or 'good' (and indeed when you look at the exceptions to First Amendment protections, these are generally unclean and disruptive forms of speech: like pornography without redeeming social value, or encouraging people to riot). Another obvious way to understand this distinguishing characteristic of modern society is how far away we are from anything resembling an honor culture: there's literally nothing a person can say against your honor (or your class, or your mother) that would legally justify your using physical violence in reaction. That wouldn't have been true of ancient or medieval societies, and would've been odd even to the founding parents of this republic, who grew up in an age of duels (Burr-Hamilton 1804, for example). For Nietzsche and Baudrillard our evolving standards of decency actually signal our entrance into a video game facsimile of authentic society, a Westworld in which we can't get hurt. George Carlin's advocacy of swimming in raw sewage as a kid, on the belief that doing so would help strengthen one's immune system later in life, is the kind of bit we're dealing with here. In a phrase, to Nietzsche and Baudrillard and Carlin, we've gotten soft. And whatever resists this universal order of bland Goodness must appear to us as Evil. But, in fact, we're so stuck in the Goodness bubble/simluation that the very existence of Evil is increasingly denied: Noble Prize-winning humanists make statements like 'an enemy is only someone whose story you have not heard', and violent tendencies are explained away neurologically as chemical imbalances which can be fixed with drugs.

 

I myself find this irrational elevation of Nature above Culture decidedly reactionary and proto-fascistic, but you know - at least it's an ethos.

 

 

 

 

P.S. The relevance of the term "the accursed share" is also worth reading up on.

Edited by Lazzarone
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Oh okay. So basically Baudrillard is critiquing the view/standard or norms of the good/evil dichotomies of ethicality/morality, and so advocates for "speaking evil" to help break down these ideas and recognize/accept evil as a fundamental piece of morality. Do I understand this right? Thanks so much for all you guys' (or humyn's - don't wanna get gender k'd) help! The Nietzsche comparison helped me a lot, as I'm a pretty big Nietzsche debater and that's what I'm familiar with.

So the reason I'm asking is that me and a friend were case writing for the new LD topic (for reference, it's "Resolved: In the United States, public colleges and universities ought not restrict any constitutionally protected free speech."), and he suggested a Speak Evil aff. If I were to upload our attempt at writing one, could you guys give us some pointers/tips? Thanks again!

Edited by pdfox0513
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Immanuel Kant denied the possibility of true Evil - that is, even evil deeds and evil-doers aim at some kind of good. Difficult to argue with that.

 

Baudrillard merely repeats a Nietzschean reversal of perspective on what we consider Good: it's redescribed as bland, lazy, safe, passive, passive-aggressive, resentful, self-righteous, deceptive, self-deceptive, weak-minded, manipulative, oblivious, and boring. Then Nietzsche gives us another concept of the Good with his ideas on eternal recurrence, Dionysian joy in destruction, the Overman, the will to power, et cetera. From our perspective, these ideas may appear as evil, and Nietzsche playfully called himself an "immoralist". But both Nietzsche and Baudrillard posit that a sanitized concept of the Good has suffocated Western civilization and we'd do well to rid ourselves of it. That suggests (barring a more fatalistic reading) an ethos, a teleology, and even an ethical project.

 

In the context of Baudrillard's article, 'speaking Evil' is a proof: our own incapacity to speak evil is proof that we live in the mediocre age he claims we do. Baudrillard gives the example of the words of the Grand Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, specifically the fatwa calling for the death of writer Salman Rushdie, but we might add as a contemporary example the YouTube-pronouncements of the hacker group Anonymous. It's not the particular content of the speech-acts that are at issue, but how different the form of these speech-acts is from everyday 'domesticated' discourse.

Whether 'speaking evil' is a tactic in addition to a proof, and what 'speaking evil' would actually look like in a debate round, I leave to you. Something like Gordon Mitchell's "reflexive fiat" seems like a nice start though.

 

Edited by Lazzarone

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