From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Second-order simulacra, a term coined by Jean Baudrillard, are symbols without referents, that is, symbols with no real object to represent. Simply put, a symbol is itself taken for reality and further layer of symbolism is added. This occurs when the symbol is taken to be more important or authoritative of the original entity, authenticity has been replaced by copy (thus reality is replaced by a substitute).
The consequence of the propagation of second-order simulacra is that, within the affected context, nothing is "real," though those engaged in the illusion are incapable of seeing it. Instead of having experiences, people observe spectacles, via real or metaphorical control screens. Instead of the real, we have simulation and simulacra, the hyperreal.
In his essay "The Precession of the Simulacra," Baudrillard recalls a tale in which a king requests a map (i.e. a symbol) to be produced so detailed that it ends up coming into one-to-one correspondence with the territory (i.e. the real area the map is to represent); this references the philosophical concept of map–territory relation. Baudrillard argues that in the postmodern epoch, the territory ceases to exist, and there is nothing left but the map; or indeed, the very concepts of the map and the territory have become indistinguishable, the distinction which once existed between them having been erased.
Among the many issues associated with the propagation of second-order simulacra is what Baudrillard considers the termination of history. The method of this termination comes through the lack of oppositional elements in society, with the mass having become "the silent majority," an imploded concept which absorbs images passively, becoming itself a media overwritten by those who speak for it (i.e. the people are symbolically represented by governing agents and market statistic, marginalizing the people themselves). For Baudrillard this is the natural result of an ethic of unity in which actually agonistic opposites are taken to be essentially the same. For example, Baudrillard contends that moral universalism (human rights, equality) is equated with globalization, which is not concerned with immutable values but with mediums of exchange and equalisation such as the global market and mass media.