The word subject used in the text can be interpreted as masculine-male-person-reader-audience, and the word object as feminine-woman-devil-mass media-writer-presenter. The words subject and object are used throughout the text.
One of Baudrillard’s innovations in philosophy was changing the traditional view of the “process of desire”. The philosopher argued that the historically assumed process of desire of the subject for the object is wrong; on the contrary, the process develops from the object to the subject.
What was the place of the “process of desire” in history before Baudrillard, and to whom did history assign this role?
For the ancient Greeks, “desire” stemmed from the will of the human subject, and the object did not have sufficient influence on the process of desire; the object was treated as a means. From the point of view of that era, “desire” was the monopoly of the subject. The subject’s mind controlled the object and the desire.
This approach remained valid in modern era. Free will even somewhat magnified the role of the subject. Descartes, one of the greatest representatives of the early modern era, most forcefully defended the link between the process of desire and the subject. Descartes strongly supported the idea that one has a will to do or not to do something, to reject or accept. Therefore, the invisible power given to man by God expressed man’s power to choose freely as a bearer of will.
If we link the human will to the process of desire, we will see that, like the thinkers of the Classic era, Descartes believed that a person gets nourishment from themselves, that is, from their birth. Thus, there could be no question of the object’s impact on the subject, or the object’s impact on the “process of desire”, as the subject possessing the will was the judge of the process.
In the later modern era, views on human nature and human somewhat changed: unlike Descartes, existentialists emphasized the influence of the human will on subjective choice. By virtue of this perspective, the individual was responsible for themselves and society, they had to be able to create themselves. Existentialists also differed from Descartes in that they believed that the subject’s freedom of choice depended on social conditions. But they also believed that the individual was free and could eliminate with their own will the conditions that would affect their choices.
But this approach began to dramatically lose its supporters after the second half of the twentieth century.
The idea emerged of the possibility that the individual does not make choices as a bearer of will, but can make choices that are free from the conditions of the social environment in which they exist.
The “process of desire”, consisting of perception, desire, reason, and will, which goes back to the ancient Greeks, was seen by Baudrillard as a process realized from the object to the subject.
According to Baudrillard, this process began after the 1950s, with the increasing influence of fashion, advertising, and mass media, which determined the means of consumption, on the masses. Thus, these factors caused major changes in both the consumption habits of the subject-masses and in the process of desire. In other words, circumstances, through symbols, transformed the object-presenter into an instrument of production and presented it to the subject, thereby playing a serious role in shaping the subject’s desires.
In the context of the topic we will explore, for example, it can be shown that authors writing popular texts begin to determine what the reader will read. Or, we can give the example of simulative texts written by the writer-object using terms that the author does not fully understand—symbols such as ethnic identity, feminism, Islamophobia—in order to make the subject-reader want to read. This is because the object attracts the attention of the subject with artificial symbols. According to Baudrillard, a seducing female knows that makeup or certain means of concealing her flaws, cleavage, and other symbols will arouse desire in her subject, and in this way she is bound to catch them in her nets. The author-object is also adept at using their artificial symbols in the game they create. The author knows and must know which topics will provoke a reaction in the reader, this is a requisite of the postmodern era.
“There is no finer argument than to accuse a woman of being incapable of seducing a man.” We can extrapolate this statement by Baudrillard by saying that “the inability of the object-author to captivate the subject-reader is their incompetence”. Truth is unnecessary when symbols do not show but are shown; the stronger the symbols, the more likely is the seduction to happen. According to Baudrillard, the secret of catching the subject in the nets is still unknown. Because the subject is bound to be caught in these gambling-like nets.
In this way, the subject is seduced by the object. According to Baudrillard, the subject “becomes an illusion” before the object. The modern world does not need truth because it cannot be sure of the existence of reality and of an existence worse than reality (hyperreality). The reason for the disappearance of truth is the emergence of more effective symbols. For example, no real beauty today can attract as much attention as beauty adorned with symbols. Consumer society does not accept the phrase “a sweet lie is better than a bitter truth”. The more one attempts to disseminate something through symbols, the weaker its impact on the subject, bringing forth the well-known notion of a “hackneyed topic”.
Pure symbols were capable of taking people away from the real world and immersing them in dreams. But not today. Today, hyperreal symbols do not allow the human imagination to work. This is why people feel nostalgic about a time before hyperreal symbols, when pure symbols “captivated” them. A generation that grew up with hyperreal symbols cannot feel this difference.
Given the social environment, is it possible that the subject-reader, whose desires are shaped by others, has the will and the authority or wishes to have them?
The seduced subject-reader thinks that the text presented by the object-writer is what they desire, so the subject-reader needs no authority. The subject-reader is relieved of the burdens and responsibilities they would bear if they had the will. That is, the subject does not bear the burdens caused by a choice made of their own free will. Since the will makes the decision, along with all its advantages, it also entails responsibility.
Finally, note that the shifts in the object-subject nature brought about by the consumer society also affect the author-reader relationship. We can see the simplest example in Google searches: readers mostly look for entertaining texts and articles that do not burden them with responsibility, are not thought-provoking, contain familiar symbols, and are easy to process. Or the difference between readers of articles marked with pure and hyperreal symbols on websites also confirms that the modern reader-subject has become passive, and, in contrast, the author-object has taken over the process of desire.