Ron Suskind famously quoted an unnamed Bush official who said in 2004:
The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
It has been speculated that this aide was Karl Rove but neither Suskind nor Rove have verified this. However, a column by Rove today in the WSJ gives further weight to him as the speaker.
While officials in the Obama White House dismissed yesterday’s “100 Days” anniversary as a “Hallmark Holiday,” they understood it was what sociologist Daniel J. Boorstin called a “pseudo-event.” By that, Boorstin meant an occasion that is not spontaneous but planned for the purpose of being reported — an event that is important because someone says so, not because it is.
So, who is Boorstin and what did he say and why was Rove studying him?
Within the discipline of social theory, Boorstin’s 1961 book The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America is an early, description of aspects of American life that were later termed hyperreality and postmodernity. In The Image, Boorstin describes shifts in American culture — mainly due to advertising — where the reproduction or simulation of an event becomes more important or “real” than the event itself. He goes on to coin the term pseudo-event which describes events or activities that serve little to no purpose other than to be reproduced through advertisements or other forms of publicity. The idea of pseudo-events closely mirrors work later done by Jean Baudrillard and Guy Debord. The work is still often used as a text in American sociology courses.