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Turning back the clock : hot wars and media…

Turning back the clock : hot wars and media populism (original 2006; edition 2007)

by Umberto Eco

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508431,210 (3.64)4
"The time: 2000 to 2005, the years of neoconservatism, terrorism, the twenty-four-hour news cycle, the ascension of Bush, Blair, and Berlusconi, and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Umberto Eco's response is a series of essays - which originally appeared in the Italian newspapers La Repubblica and L'espresso - that leaves no slogan unexamined, no innovation unexposed. What led us into this age of hot wars and media populism, and how was it sold to us as progress? Eco discusses such topics as racism, mythology, the European Union, rhetoric, the Middle East, technology, September 11, medieval Latin, television ads, globalization, Harry Potter, anti-Semitism, logic, the Tower of Babel, intelligent design, Italian street demonstrations, fundamentalism, The Da Vinci Code, and magic and magical thinking."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)
Title:Turning back the clock : hot wars and media populism
Authors:Umberto Eco
Info:Orlando : Harcourt, c2007.
Collections:Your library, printbooks
Tags:used, translated, printbook, translated from italian, english language

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Turning Back the Clock: Hot Wars and Media Populism by Umberto Eco (2006)



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Much of this collection is dominated by the September 11 attacks, the response to such by President Bush and Prime Minister Blair. A nearly equal measure chronicles the political infamy enacted by Silvio Berlusconi. It easy to extrapolate such on to our geo-political present. I wasn’t in the mood for such.

The final third of the essays were more compelling (though lacking the force of Eco's Travels in Hyper-Reality) stretching across myriad subjects such as anti-Semitism and the provenance of the quote, standing on the shoulders of giants. Interspersed is a delightful reading of the mass appeal of Harry Potter.

I applaud the maestro as always and will now make more of an effort to walk under ladders. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
The Italian author Umberto Eco is an extremely prolific writer, who has published several novels, collections of essays and academic papers, particularly in the field of semiotics. This interest in semiotics, perhaps, leads to a tendency to look for meaning in places and events where others see no connection. Some of Eco's novels are suggestive of conspiracy or dark powers. However, Eco is much more sophisticated and much more careful than, for instance, Dan Brown (This book features an essay on The Da Vinci Code).

Eco's massive output makes selective reading necessary. This collection of essays contains several short pieces of very temporary value, often very specifically related to Italian politics. While these pieces are related to the main theme of the book, they are hard to follow for readers at a greater distance.

"When people stop believing in God, as Chesterton used to say, it's not that they no longer believe in anything, it's that they believe in everything." (p. 301)

This sentence perhaps most clearly demonstrates the main idea of these essays. It is the expression of the shattered optimism that postmodernism has brought to the fore. While in the intellectual aftermath of the Second World War, writers gradually concluded the demise of the Age of Enlightenment, the emergence of postmodernism led to an increasingly depressing outlook on the world. Reason is seen to have failed, and rationalism has led to computationalism and mechanization, which has been seized upon by capitalism to take a squeeze hold on society. This is reflected in the emergence of conservative politicians in the United States and Europe, a trend which has become even more pronounced recently with the emergence of strong authoritarian leaders in various countries around the world.

This pull to the right means much of the optimism of the 60s and 70s has evaporated and much of the progress achieved in those decades is under threat. «Turning Back the Clock» . ( )
  edwinbcn | Feb 3, 2019 |
Umberto Eco's latest translated collection of essays is Turning Back the Clock: Hot Wars and Media Populism (Harcourt, 2007). Loosely connected as a reaction to some of the leaders (Bush, Blair and Berlusconi) and events (terrorism, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, &c.) of the first years of the present century and the media's involvement in those events, Eco's essays are all thought-provoking and make for fascinating reading, even if all of his conclusions might not be what we want to hear. Some of the selections seem a bit dated or rather parochial (a few deal solely with Italian political campaigns, which while interesting didn't seem timely at this stage), but on the whole this volume is highly relevant. Typically even when Eco's making a point about Italian politics it's perfectly reasonable to extend it to American life, so even if you don't recognize the names, pay attention to the message.

In "Some Reflections on War and Peace," Eco makes the point that a truly global war in this day and age would be utterly disastrous for every culture, while adding that a truly global peace is as unlikely now as it's ever been. Our only hope for any lasting peace, he suggests, is to focus on making local peace and slowly extending it outward. "Enlightenment and Common Sense" is a fascinating look at the legacies of the Enlightenment based around the fundamental assumption of that movement: "there is a reasonable way to reason."

Eco takes on cellphones in "From Play to Carnival" and expresses his concern at what he calls "the joyous renunciation of privacy" so many of us have allowed ourselves to become a part of. I found his views on political correctness rather useful: "Let us stick to the fundamental principle that it is humane and civilized to eliminate from current usage all those words that make our fellow beings suffer" seems a good rule to live by to me. I also quite enjoyed his take on what he sees as Americans' "tacit rules for coexistence," including our extreme patience with waiting in lines and our assumption that everyone's telling the truth (except advertisers).

"Back to the Seventies" was one of my favorite essays included here; in it Eco reacts to what he calls the "dangerous principle" that "Because terrorists exist, anyone who attacks the government is encouraging them." This is "moral blackmail, holding up to civic disapproval all those who express (nonviolent) disagreement with the government." We don't have to look far to see this in practice every day, and I agree wholeheartedly with Eco that it's a terrifically dangerous thing.

Always witty, with some of the best analogies and pithy comments in the business, Eco's pulled off another win with Turning Back the Clock.

http://philobiblos.blogspot.com/2007/11/book-review-turning-back-clock.html ( )
2 vote JBD1 | Nov 21, 2007 |
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