Loads of Learned Lumber

Monday, June 13, 2011

Chris Hedges, _Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle_

THE AMERICAN JEREMIAD is alive and well, if this book is any indication. It covers a wide spectrum of topics -- television, the pornography industry, academia, and the "positive psychology" movement all get sustained attention -- with the overarching thesis that as the real circumstances and prospects of we the citizenry have deteriorated, the tools and resources of those who would bamboozle us have become more powerful and more sophisticated, and our ability to pierce the illusion weaker.

The main culprit: corporations, with their insatiable appetite for profit and greater profit and their inability to take into account any future prospect save the next quarterly statement. Keep the marks bedazzled, the government regulators impotent or bribed, the media watchdogs drugged or muzzled.

Geez, what a downer! Hard to disagree with, though.

Hedges sounds some inspiring notes in the last few pages, but he keeps comparing the contemporary U.S. to Weimar Germany, and seems to think we would be a pushover if the right flag-waving, Bible-toting charismatic maniac came along. Sarah Palin's name comes up....

Not even a single reference, though, to Guy DeBord, an obligatory touchstone for the topic, or so I would think. Hedges takes a few smacks at "arcane academic jargon" and ivory tower-ism, but there is some critical theory out there that he could read with profit.

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