From the virtual to the actual

It felt surreal to wake up to this news this morning – only a few hours after discussing the recent manifestations of political extremism in South Korea at #rhulpir10.

US ambassador to South Korea slashed with razor by political extremist (The Guardian, 5 March 2015)

My talk was about Ilbe and the attacker is reportedly from the other end of the ‘spectrum’ (with a history of assaults at public servants, including the Japanese ambassador in 2010, and mental health pleas). I found the timing to be disturbing in any case.

If this is not your first time here at this blog, you might have noticed that I have a problem with the conceptual framework of the virtual versus the real. I do agree with my old French professor that the virtual is not antonymous to the real; it is as real as anything and its antonym is the actual.

My concern about online expressions of political extremism is that they certainly have ‘real’ implications. One of such implications is that they desensitise us. I mean, you are not aware that you are shouting when you step out of a place filled with amplified music. I hope my metaphor of the discothèque (Do people still use this term?) made sense to at least some of the audience yesterday. Above all, I wish the ambassador a speedy recovery.


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