Never much cared for Jean Baudrillard, but I've always liked his line "Desert of the Real," which, as Matrix Geeks know, is how Morpheus opens Neo's eyes to the scorched-earth reality outside the computer simulation. Baudrillard's line came to me again when I read this piece in the NY Times about a new "reality" show on Israeli TV -- "The Ambassador." The task: finding fresh young faces to sell the modern Israeli state to foreign audiences.
And you thought eating cockroaches on "Fear Factor" was tough?
In one episode, two "Ambassador" teams, divided by sex, were sent to Cambridge University in England to compete in persuading students that Israel's policies really aren't that bad. One would-be ambassador clearly misread the room:
"Responding to a student's question, Ofra Bin Nun of the women's team said, 'Let me make it clear that Israel has not taken anything from anyone.' That drew snickers and derisive laughter from the audience, which later expressed a preference for the men's presentation by a 3-to-1 margin."
The language of state is naturally false, misleading, and most times hypocritical. But the better propagandists understand nuance, a lesson Ms. Bin Nun needs to learn if she's serious about a career in diplomacy. Her rookie mistake got her voted off the "Ambassador" jet, but word has it that Ariel Sharon expects "big things" from the kid.
If "reality" shows are yet another facet of superior Western values (and yet another reason why They Hate Us), then we must insist that the Palestinian Authority produce a show of their own, just to prove their seriousness in stopping terrorism. An amateur diplomacy show is out, since you usually need some kind of state to engage in diplomatic relations. Perhaps something called "Demolition!" where Palestinian contestants have 1 hour (onscreen clock running) to decide what they get to keep and what they must sacrifice before Israeli bulldozers smash their homes to rubble.
But there's a happy twist. Once "Demolition!" contestants find some kind of shelter, they'll receive a visit from "Trading Spaces" star Paige Davis, who'll help them re-decorate their bullet-riddled hovel into something snazzy and fresh.
Of course, this is all prelude to the sequel, "Airstrike!" But we'll review that another day.
The Iraqis are on the stick, what with their current "reality" offering, "My Big Fat Ex-Ba'athist Ruler," the sequel of which is currently in development.