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Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and…

Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle

by Chris Hedges

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A depressing but hard-hitting look at the dumbing-down and commercialization of American society. Well-written if a bit too earnest (would it have killed the author to have a bit of fun with some of this... ala Freakonomics?!) , this is a sobering look at future generations in the US and the world. ( )
  mjspear | Jun 5, 2013 |
Hedges vents his considerable anger with America's cultural and intellectual decline, and the penchant for most of our fellow citizens to choose the comforts of distraction and delusion over confronting the challenges of reality. I share his disillusionment. ( )
  Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
Chris Hedges in January/February 2010 Tikkun:

"Barack Obama is a brand. And the Obama brand is designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, armies of corporate lobbyists grease the palms of our elected officials, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia, and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East. Brand Obama is about being happy consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like our president. We believe he likes us. But like all branded products spun out from the manipulative world of corporate advertising, this product is duping us into doing and supporting a lot of things that are not in our interest.

What, for all our faith and hope, has the Obama brand given us? His administration has spent, lent, or guaranteed $12.8 trillion in taxpayer dollars to Wall Street and insolvent banks in a doomed effort to re-inflate the bubble economy, a tactic that at best forestalls catastrophe and will leave us broke in a time of profound crisis. Brand Obama has allocated nearly $1 trillion in defense-related spending and the continuation of our doomed imperial projects in Iraq, where military planners now estimate that 70,000 troops will remain for the next fifteen to twenty years. Brand Obama has expanded the war in Afghanistan, increasing the use of drones sent on cross-border bombinb runs into Pakistan, which have doubled the number of civilians killed over the past three months. Brand Obama has refused to east restrictions so workers can organize and will not consider single-payer, not-for-profit health care for all Americans. And Brand Obama will not prosecute the Bush administration for war crimes, including the use of torture, and has refused to dismantle Bush's secrecy laws and restore habeas corpus."
( )
  pessoanongrata | Apr 1, 2013 |
Hm, this is where the ratings system doesn't reflect reality too well. I'm not sure that I 'liked' this book - but it was well written and interesting. Also depressing, bitter, voyeuristic and frightening. I really could have done without some of the detail in the chapter on pornography. I was glad that Hedges managed to end the book on a note of hope for humanity, but the overall message was one that made me want to move as far away from the US border as possible and buy a big gun. :-( ( )
  AJBraithwaite | Mar 31, 2013 |
This book brings up a lot of good criticisms against capitalist societies but it is certainly not without flaws. Hedges' biases are obvious and he seems to have a grudge against those he calls the "elites", that is, the wealthy and powerful capitalists that his book rails against. I get it, money takes over for morals, corporations are destroying America (and the rest of the world by extension) due to their unbridled thirst for profit, and our society is flooded with slick images selling ideology that may hurt us rather than help us. He paints a very dark image of present day America with his messages of doom.

But what about the people themselves? There is no discussion of individual agency, no sympathy or understanding towards the people or the elites that govern them; instead Hedges chooses to rant about how much he hates capitalism and the entertainment industry. He obviously thinks the general public is too stupid so it's up to him to tell them that they're being duped. And then confusingly, in the last two or three pages, Hedges says that it is human love that will save us.

While I don't think his complaints are wrong, this book is hardly a critical look at the problem. It reads more like a rant against a few specific things that Hedges dislikes (non-print media, porn, elitism, positive psychology), which are all examples/symptoms of a much bigger issue that he never quite addresses directly. I am also surprised and curious as to why he hasn't mentioned the works of theorists such as Guy Debord and Jean Baurdillard, who have written what can be considered seminal works on the the same topics. Hedges was definitely onto something in this book but he executed it poorly. ( )
  serrulatae | Mar 31, 2013 |
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While Hedges isn't the first to posit that the biggest threat to America is Americans .. his may be the most compelling argument yet. .. Citing everyone from Socrates to Steinem, Hedges manages to ratchet up the terror factor by several degrees per chapter so that, by the end, the reader is at least exhausted, if not completely defeated.
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John Bradshaw Layfield, tall, clean-cut, in a collared shirt and white Stetson hat, stands in the center of the ring holding a heavy black microphone.
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Chris Hedges argues that we now live in two societies: one, the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world, able to cope with complexity and to separate illusion from truth. The other, a growing majority, is retreating from a reality-based world into one of false certainty and magic. In this "other society," comforting, reassuring images, fantasies, slogans and a celebration of violence push reality, complexity and nuance to the margins. The worse reality becomes, the less a beleaguered population wants to hear about it and the more it distracts itself with squalid pseudo-events of celebrity breakdowns, gossip and trivia. These are the debauched revels of a dying culture.--From publisher description.… (more)

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