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Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (2009)

by Chris Hedges

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9543916,908 (3.71)18
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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» See also 18 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
I find myself really taken with the idea that society has gone to dogs, and so I love reading all this stuff about how we really are living in the Kali-yuga. Effective illiteracy is a very real phenomenon, most literate people really don't read anymore. And porn of course is really magnifying the worst aspects of their sexuality for most men. I am yet to read the last chapter on America, I might not read it though, it seems to be too narrow in scope to be applicable to me.
  Sebuktegin | May 25, 2021 |
Chris Hedges has done the impossible. He has breathed on the embers of my interest in Federal politics. I would have never believed a Harvard seminarian could speak to me so directly. This book is so piercing; I have to believe ANY world weary political road kill will feel they are not alone. He argues the generation spanning "political/social/economic A.D.D."(my quotes) is not only a by-product of the Military/Industrial Complex, but an actual GOAL.
In my mind this book is a primer for a new truly "united" States. It is not so much a call to arms but a call for recognition of the responsibility that the dwindling Literati have to their fellows.

If you know:
The two party system has been bought and paid for by big corporations.
That reading is considered static and boring by the majority of Americans and consequently they have little or no exposure to the tools of analytical thought necessary to expose "Treasonous Greed"(my quotes).
That we have reached rock bottom in the disparity between the Illusions of the American Way and our actions:
Buy this book. Give copies to the readers in your life. Speak out. Organize. ( )
  064 | Dec 29, 2020 |
This is a terrible book. I gave up after four chapters--no evidence, no facts, just his opinions stated as facts, buttressed by conversations had with other people who share his opinions. Having read much of the source material he criticizes, I can categorically state that it was often misquoted and completely misunderstood. His generalizations about categories of people he disapproves of are offensive and insulting (managers, for instance, are incapable of criticizing the systems they work in and are functionally illiterate, having given up reading).

The epigram just in front of the table of contents was good. You will not miss anything by skipping the rest of it. ( )
  andrea_mcd | Mar 10, 2020 |
A good book, but it is nothing knew if you are familiar with Neil Postman or Christopher Lasch who treated the same subjects more deeply. ( )
  bearymore | Mar 27, 2018 |
A tricky book to assess. Hedges is preaching to the choir: most of his readers are print-centric thinkers and will enjoy hearing that Images are ruining the world. The same was said in Plato's day when teachers worried that the written word would ruin students' ability to memorize long works of oratory. (It did!) That said, I loved the book and especially Hedges' analysis of Spectacle. The invention of Fake News in 2016 makes this book all the more relevant. ( )
  LaurelPoe | Dec 25, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
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.

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