The White Bentley Chase Did Not Happen

Such was Jason Quackenbush’s response #5 to the polemic that has been going on the the blogosphere about a live-tweeting event of a certain suicide last month. Yes, I know this is very much a late response, but you will forgive me for I was isolated from the blogosphere in the past two months. I knew of the story just a while ago from my good friend A.V. Flox, who blogged about it herself. Five days later Amber Rhea responded rather harshly to A.V.’s post, saying that accusations of technology being awful has always been going around for ages in virtually every era.

Simulacra by Tatchapon Lertwirojkul, which has nothing to do with our post

Tatchapon Lertwirojkul's Simulacra, which has nothing to do with our post

I agree with them. Yes, all of them. Well, I’m a Lacanian, and Lacanians like to bring seemingly contradictory things together and show how they are two sides of the same coin. This is what I’m going to do here.

But before that, a quick recap of what happened. On the eve of February 10th, there was a white Bentley chase in LA that lasted for three hours before the driver pulled over in front of a Toyota dealership and finally killed himself. Let us quote A.V., who tells it in a much more eloquent manner than I could ever do:

The white Bentley stopped in front of a Toyota dealership near Universal City after a three hour chase on Hollywood Freeway and Interstates 5, 10 and 405. The stand-off began at around 11:00PM PST, with hundreds tuning in to the FOX11ABC7 and KCAL9 live feeds online.

Before long, Twitter streams were on fire with commentary from people around the world about what was happening. People watching gave in to speculation about the identity driver, debating whether it was hip hop singer Chris Brown, charged earlier with assault—allegedly against his girlfriend, the singer Rihanna or rapper DJ Khaled, as well as the reason for his fleeing.

As time passed with no action, the public became more and more irate. Jokes followed, including the creation of the fake account @WhiteBentley, which ran a stream of comments as though he was the driver inside the car.

The jokes soon turned sinister, with many expressing someone should just shoot the driver down and save the LAPD thousands, and still others suggesting the driver end his life to avoid repercussions of the extended chase. Then, after news reports began coming in that the driver might indeed have shot himself and the ABC7 cameras zoomed out to avoid exposing the public to a gruesome scene, the disappointment was almost unanimous.

“They aren’t going to zoom in and show us the possible brains, bullshit!” a chilling tweet read.

The driver and law enforcement personnel involved were no longer human to those of us watching. Moving around inside our computer screens, they had become characters in a play put on for our entertainment.

Fascinating. Of course, I could not agree more: people inside the computer screen have become characters in a play put on for our entertainment. Let’s get back to Jason Quackenbush. The same idea, of course, underlies his post. He mentions Baudrillard, whom he likes the more “the older he gets”, and evokes Baudrillard’s famous statement that the Gulf War did not happen and applied the same idea to the suicide tragedy.

I am not a Baudrillardian. I like Baudrillard, but to me his ideas are a little simplistic, and I could never be convinced of his idea of a postmodern rupture after which all things implode into a simulacra. I do not like the technophobic tone, often with hints of a nostalgia for the past, detectable in his works, but also in most postmodern philosophers including today Paul Virilio. And this is where I agree with Amber Rhea. “What’s the current monster of the week?” she said, “The formula seems to be: pick something relatively new and use it as a scapegoat; wring hands; bemoan the direction society is heading (downward, one presumes); repeat in 2-3 months.”

In fact Amber made an excellent point, that we can always go further back in time to find this monster. As far back, I would say, as the development of language and tools itself, the very things that make us what we are today instead of cavemen. You see, mankind is a creature that is fundamentally alienated, separated from reality. Deal with it. To bemoan technology is in effect to bemoan language itself. When I said that the white Bentley chase did not happen, it is not because Twitter has created a Baudrillardian rupture of reality, but because nothing really happened. We live in a Symbolic universe, the universe of technology and language, mediated by it, and things happen, be it with drama and empathy or with sheer coldness and chilling morbid jokes, in none other than our imaginations. We always connect with Imaginary relations with other people.

That should not however be an argument to merely dismiss the live-tweeted suicide event as another day in the office. One could not deny that it was a horrible event, and one that can only happen after the invention of Twitter. Technology does change us, in major ways, and we cannot deny that. Does Twitter kill your soul? Perhaps. But let us not forget that the history of technology is a history of human souls being killed over and over and over again since the beginning of time. It is lso a history of their rebirth, of new modes of Being, as Heidegger put it.

Ultimately, the question of the inherent good or evil within technology is a personal wager. We are never sure that technology will bring us good. But let us not die in postmodern simulacra. Let us be a good Badiouvian and realize the militant nature of truth and the good. I’m rooting for Twitter all the way. Kill our souls, if only to make us grow.

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6 Responses to “The White Bentley Chase Did Not Happen”

  1. […] and Why It Doesn’t Matter by Jason Quackenbush Twitter Is Killing Your Soul by Amber Rhea The White Bentley Chase Did Not Happen by Bonni Rambatan Suicide Hashtag Livetweeting by Sandra Kiume Internet Hate – Not So Much With the […]

  2. “and Lacanians like to bring seemingly contradictory things together and show how they are two sides of the same coin.” That’s what critical theorists do in general, its called dialectics ;)

    I am not sure if technology is responsible for this, take the example (which does happen) of a person trying to kill himself by jumping off a bridge, you get people driving by (or “worse” to them, being stuck in a traffic jam because of this), shouting: “go on, kill yourself”. The internet, or twitter, just helps to multiply the number of people witnessing such an incident and commenting on it..

    I agree with Baudriallard that simulations are a big thing nowadays, he might sound technophobic, but at least he has worked out a modern phenomenon
    Love your blog! :)

    • Bonni Rambatan Says:

      “That’s what critical theorists do in general, its called dialectics.” Oh LMAO, good point! :p

      Nice example about the bridge suicide. Yeah, definitely technology has things up its sleeve but as I said I think such evils in fact form the core of language itself! As when people drive by they put the suicidal in their Symbolic function as some deviant who disrupts their routine, etc. One can only hate another on a Symbolic level.

      Yeah, actually I like Baudrillard a lot, I’ve read a lot of his works, he definitely has a lot of good things to say. It’s just that when you get deeper and deeper into Lacan you can find most of his ideas already developed, and to a much further, precise, and less technophobic extent at it, in Lacan.

      Thanks for your comment :)

  3. “One can only hate another on a Symbolic level.” That’s true.

    Unfortunately I haven’t read anything from Lacan, could you recommend a book in which Baudrilliard’s ideas about simulacra can already be found, as you said?

  4. Bonni Rambatan Says:

    If you’re planning to read Lacan it’s better to get some introductory books about him. And you should definitely check Zizek out, too. No Subject is a great wiki to start learning Lacan, and my friend has a nice blog that collects free resources and e-books here.

  5. Wow, thanks a lot for the links!
    I really like Zizek, I haven’t read that much of his books though.. I really enjoyed “Zizek!” the movie, he is hilarious sometimes.. :D

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