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

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

Написано Chris Hedges

Озвучено Jonathan Yen


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

Написано Chris Hedges

Озвучено Jonathan Yen

оценки:
4/5 (32 оценки)
Длина:
9 часов
Издатель:
Издано:
10 апр. 2018 г.
ISBN:
9781977379139
Формат:

Описание

We now live in two Americas. One—now the minority—functions in a print-based, literate world that can cope with complexity and can separate illusion from truth. The other—the majority—is retreating from a reality-based world into one of false certainty and magic. To this majority—which crosses social class lines, though the poor are overwhelmingly affected—presidential debate and political rhetoric is pitched at a sixth-grade reading level. In this "other America," serious film and theater, as well as newspapers and books, are being pushed to the margins of society.

In the tradition of Christopher Lasch's The Culture of Narcissism and Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges navigates this culture—attending WWF contests, the Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas, and Ivy League graduation ceremonies—to expose an age of terrifying decline and heightened self-delusion.

Издатель:
Издано:
10 апр. 2018 г.
ISBN:
9781977379139
Формат:

Об авторе

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, New York Times best selling author, former professor at Princeton University, activist and ordained Presbyterian minister. He has written 11 books, including the New York Times best-seller Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt(2012), which he co-authored with the cartoonist Joe Sacco. His other books include Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt, (2015) Death of the Liberal Class (2010), Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (2009), I Don’t Believe in Atheists (2008) and the best-selling American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America (2008). His book War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning(2003) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction and has sold over 400,000 copies. He writes a weekly column for the website Truthdig in Los Angeles, run by Robert Scheer, and hosts a show, On Contact, on RT America.


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Что люди думают о Empire of Illusion

4.2
32 оценки / 32 Обзоры
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  • (3/5)
    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. :-(
  • (1/5)
    Polemic wrapped in non sequitur garnished with glimmers of insight. This topic has potential that was not realized by the author. The leaps in logic (Most psychologists belong to the APA, the APA is involved in torture, therefore positive psychology is a technique used to break humans down) and constant seepage of personal vendetta into his writing leave this book thoroughly missable.
  • (3/5)
    An okay book. Hedges seems to want to blame everything for the state of our society and succeeds in perpetuating the attitude of "it's not my fault and surely someone else should be responsible."He blames the younger generation for most of our ills, takes the position that nothing will get better but only worse, and I couldn't help but think of Pliny, who two thousand years ago, bemoaned the attitude of the "youth of today."By far the worst chapter was the one on the adult film industry. He complains about how terrible the women are treated, and blames the industry and the viewer while acting like the women are victims of something. And herein is where I began to doubt what he was writing. The women are adults, they chose their path. No one held a gun to their head and said they had to make porn films. No one is making them stay in the industry either. The entire chapter is really sympathetic to the puritanical religious right, and I was very annoyed by it.
  • (3/5)
    This is a passionate diatribe against corporate dominance in our culture. While Hedges is most likely hitting the target quite squarely, I fear that his preaching will only be accepted by the choir. I don't see that Hedges even gives the choir any very useful instructions. What he gives us is a pathology report. If you already think things are bad, and you think they're bad because e.g. Goldman Sachs run the treasury, Archer Daniels Midland run the Department of Agricutlure, Exxon runs the Department of Energy, etc., then Hedges will probably convince you that things are even worse than you thought. If, on the other hand, you think our problem today is that the government interferes excessively with pharmaceuticals, petroleum, finance, agriculture, etc., and the way to happiness and prosperity is to give the big corporations a freer hand in maximizing profit, then I don't see how Hedges is going to budge you from your position. Perhaps such a case is just hopeless - the chasm is so broad that any kind of bridge will take far longer to build than the time remaining before utter disaster hits - utter disaster perhaps defined as the time when Hedges and folks who loudly resist corporate power as he does are rounded up and silenced.The book is a quick read, so the fact that it doesn't really work to create a change is not such a flaw. A more thorough diagnosis surely has enough value to make reading the book worth the while. Certainly Hedges writes well and presents a coherent view. The tactic that intrigues me right now: perhaps the grass roots passion of the Tea Party can be dissociated from the corporate control of Murdoch etc. and then connected instead to something like the Transition Town movement. There's nothing wrong with small government, as long as the other players in the game are similarly small. To make small government work, we need to dismantle the American Empire, the hundreds of military bases around the world. For this to work, we need to dismantle the globalized corporations that live in symbiosis with that Empire. Of course, the USA is hardly the only contender for World Empire. The dismantling of our bid may occur whether we choose that path or not. Looking at budget deficits at every scale of government, we will likely get small government one way or another. But it could easily mean that we end up under the thumb of multinational corporations all the same, but corporations in symbiosis with some other World Empire. As most anyone in a banana republic will tell you, that is not a happy prospect. We really need to look for alternatives. Hedges is a smart fellow. It's reasonable that he doesn't elaborate any of these, but just a few pointers to likely candidates would make the book a lot more valuable. Ultimately his conclusion is right, that love can never be conquered by evil, but that's about as weak an alternative as can be. While we have our voices, while we still have remarkable freedoms and resources, let us use these wisely to steer away from those bleakest prospects to which we seem headed.
  • (4/5)
    This book makes we want to hide in my basement until the revolution is over.
  • (3/5)
    Overly detailed on what is wrong with current American society, innured to violence and porn and war.
  • (4/5)
    This book is a very interesting look at how empty American culture has become. News and reality TV blurring the lines between each other. Corporate training that resembles brain washing and the self-delusional transformational positivity that passes as mental health care. Read the last chapter and be frightened.
  • (3/5)
    (Caution: Spoiler alert.) What?!? I paid $24.95 to voluntarily and diligently slog through 191 pages of Mr Hedge's doom and gloom about the imminent collapse of America democracy and the implosion of our morally/intellectually impoverished society only to have the last two pages sum it all up with a couple abrupt 'but-love-will-always-triumph-in-the-end' quotes? Did his loving wife Eunice slip in a few closing paragraphs to soften the blow when Chris wasn't looking? It earns the 3 stars for the depth of historical research and the wealth of concrete examples to illustrate his point of view. Obvious political bias detracted from the overall content, but it still had a lot of thought-provoking material. I'm not sure I can wholeheartedly recommend it to the general audience, but I'm sure a variety of the still literate niches who have managed to survive the propaganda machinations and pop culture distractions of modern society (Yes Mr. Hedges, there are a few) will find it interesting.
  • (3/5)
    Hedges takes on the phenomenon of pop culture that appears to be making us less politically involved and he feels is being used to control us with pleasure, ala Brave New World. The book is extremely weak; many authors have covered the same ground better. The first chapter allegedly deals with literacy, but spends almost all the time on pro-wrestling, and spends a matter of maybe 2 paragraphs addressing literacy, or the relationship of mass entertainment to declining literacy. The rest of the book is much of the same; his best chapter is the one on positive thinking, but it falls far short of the work of Barbara Ehrenreich, and would have been a better chapter if he'd just said "See Brightsided". He also falls victim to the idea that somehow or other all this is forced down our throats against our wills, though he does make one or two passing glances in the direction of noticing that the general public have been not just passive but eagerly engaged in promulgating this problem. Overall, I don't know that I would waste my time on this book when there are better treatments.
  • (5/5)
    An unbiased look at how our radical capitalist system fails most people at the bottom, and distracts us with the illusion of freedom, choice, patriotism, among many other things.
  • (4/5)
    Amazing if you can get past the first chapter! If the chapters were rearranged, it would better catch someone’s interest. Important message though
  • (2/5)
    Randomly disconnected rants about the decline of American society. Some interesting insights in the acidic tide of bitterness - but most were immediately obvious, and some of his other points were either nonsensical or hypocritical.
  • (4/5)
    Novels that describe such grim prospects are referred to as dystopian literature. The problem is that Empire of Illusion is not a novel – and that it doesn’t describe the future, but our present reality where everything and everybody has become a commodity. Pessimists will enjoy this dark essay on the modern culture of entertainment that fancies style over substance, promotes image over wisdom, and fosters gullibility (when not outright stupidity) for the benefits of mega-egos and manipulators
  • (1/5)
    It takes a special kind of talent – or lack thereof – to make me find fault with an argument I'm predisposed to agree with. It also takes a special kind of talent to write a two-hundred page book that I just can't finish. Mr. Hedges, however, has succeeded brilliantly. "Empire of Illusion" is less a book than Biggie-sized version of the anguished lefty rants that Harper's Magazine publishes at least once an issue. I can't recommend it to anyone. It's not that I don't agree with Mr. Hedges; I do. Mass culture is often nothing more than trite, sensationalistic trash. The porn industry is a nasty business. A belief in unencumbered capitalism is replacing any other value Americans might have held. Still, it doesn't seem like the author has much to add to these debates. He doesn't seem to have done a great deal of original research and provides lengthy quotations from earlier, more important, thinkers, which makes him seem like a college freshman trying to discuss ideas he can't quite connect with. Lacking either journalistic specificity or a deep engagement with the underlying philosophical issues at play, Hedges' writing is essentially a lengthy jeremiad aimed at everything wrong with America today, a lengthy gloss on arguments that you've already heard, and perhaps even made. It's a lefty version of the "kids these days" rant that your Republican grandfather made, in which everything wrong with the country could be attributed to Roosevelt or miniskirts. There's also a nasty personal undertone to this entire exercise. I'm one of those educated, coastal liberals that Fox News loves to hate and a serious reader to boot, but I admit that I'm not above enjoying some mass culture every now and again. Hedges, however, strikes me as a Humbert Humbert type – a person who can only enjoy mass culture by decrying it. There's a pretty thin line between criticizing the lowest dregs of the entertainment industry and wallowing in them, but Hedges walks that line pretty often in "Empire of Illusion." Lastly, when he's not trying to shock his readers, his tone is one of sad exasperation. He seems like a person who's genuinely disgusted with the cultural milieu he's forced to inhabit, which doesn't make the book a particularly enjoyable read. Now that I'm done with this review, I think I'll go eat a whole bag of potato chips while I watch a few "Maury" reruns. Take that, Chris.
  • (5/5)
    Hedges attacks those places in society that I also feel could deal with criticism. I tend to agree with him on many of these issues. But there is not a string of solution to wrap the whole muddled bundle with, except for the very thin one he delivers at the end of the book. This could be a problem with the book. It is very likely also simply Hedges’ opinion on how far gone American society is.The book struck me as the journalism of the problem, more than an actual analysis. It works well, but left a couples of points for consideration wide open.Take for instance, pornography. Economics would tell us that if pornography used to have a plot (as it did initially) and then it was dropped for the ‘Gonzo’ style pornography we all know so well (you’re on the internet, you have seen it), it was the demands of the consumer that caused this change to occur. One may not like the change, but the people have spoken. At the end of the day, it is a preference. It is a preference just as some people will choose fast food over fine dining. This extension can on almost all the chapters of the book. One then must ask “why is society making that choice?” I have suspicions on what the answer might be. It is a monster I will not challenge. I would sooner tame a Cyclops.It was fun to see berated what Roland Barthes so highly praised in the first essay of Mythologies. Moderation is the key.
  • (3/5)
    It’s end times for academics. Hedges bewails the plethora of in-your-face-ness in America: wrestling, tv, even government and universities. Thoughtful discourse is found tedious, he moans. “We are chained to the flickering shadows of celebrity culture….”No one who spent an hour in our country could deny this. It’s obvious. Hedges spends two hundred pages visiting all the most worrisome spots in American culture, pleading his case that America is in trouble. Bread and circuses everywhere, but more: bread tainted with toxins and circuses of the depraved. Yes, America is definitely the land of spectacle these days. But does that mean doom for the country? Like most books of this sort, Empire is long on problems and short on solutions. A careful look at the stats that prop up Hedges’ treatise shows the author is prone to the very thing he is ranting against; Hedges’ book is filled with, well, illusion and spectacle.
  • (1/5)
    It’s been a while since I read such a frustrating book all the way through. It’s an extended, unremitting, and therefore badly organized rant about how much America sucks, loosely grouped at least early on into chapters (our celebrity culture sucks, our pornography sucks, our education system sucks). It’s not even that I disagree with most of what Hedges argues, including that a culture of spectacle diverts people from large structural economic and political problems and hides the fact that we have engaged in a massive wealth transfer to the richest and more-or-less permanent impoverishment of the poorest among us.But since we (Americans) just make Hedges sick, he is not interested in convincing or in offering solutions, just in spewing his polemic. This leads to a couple of systematic issues, aside from the frustrating lack of structure. First, Hedges thinks that he’s the only one who sees through popular culture, that the audience eats it up unquestioningly, seduced by WWE wrestling and Jerry Springer into thinking that image is everything.Second, though he sometimes recognizes that the people we see on reality shows are often there to provoke “there but for the grace of God” reactions, he’s so disgusted that he has what is actually, I suspect, exactly the reaction the producers intended. He tells a somewhat misleading story about a Jerry Springer show featuring a man who has a fantasy that his wife will dress up in a cheerleader outfit and do a cheer/striptease just for him. I find this a rather sweet fantasy, to be honest. The show (which is only available on pay/DVD, not regular TV) then apparently has a woman in a cheerleader outfit demonstrate, including stripping off everything and giving the guy a lap dance, after which the wife is offered the opportunity to do the same thing in front of the studio audience and then does. Okay, I’m not really comfortable with that, but everyone seems to be consenting. The problem is: the man and his wife are fat (while the cheerleader, apparently, is so thin that she lacks much in the way of breasts, which Hedges also finds offensive). And this disgusts Hedges so much that he can’t stop harping on it. How dare fat people have sexual fantasies? How dare they show their naked bodies in public? Fat’s just another indicator of the moral decay of American society, to Hedges, but he doesn’t recognize how his own reaction is far from oppositional.Because Hedges hates everyone, no accusation is too contradictory. So, today’s students “put in punishing hours, come to office hours to make sure they grasp what their professors want, and challenge all grades under 4.0 in an effort to maintain a high average. They learn to placate and please authority, never to challenge it” (emphasis mine). Now, there’s a way to reconcile these two statements, I think, but it would have something to do with resistance and subversion and negotiation, as well as with the place of educators in a university hierarchy (Hedges even mentions professors’ loss of authority, though given that he says they’re all corrupt servants of oligarchy, obfuscating in the service of their corporate masters, it remains unclear why he thinks that’s a bad thing) which are all too complicated for Hedges’ blanket condemnations. If you like unfair generalizations, you might like this book!
  • (4/5)
    This is an enjoyable work although the items referred to can be rather depressing. The discussion in this book centre around the phenomenal value placed on entertainment and spectacle. The author does well in referring to the changes developing in our culture where disciplined consideration and thought are not given the respect their due. The World Wrestling Federation and the importance given to what amounts to very poorly written and stereotyped characters is reviewed. The idea that the end justifies the means is well laid out in this section. The willingness of people to demean themselves for a few moments of fame is discussed. This includes talk show guests as well as reality TV “stars”. Chapters consider pornography and the worsening image of women. The author does not approach this topic in a prudish manner but outlines the changes over the past decades where women are increasingly objectified and presented as not having value other than for men to entertain themselves.The activities in the business world as well as in higher education are highlighted. The value corporations give to unproven techniques that should improve employee moral are brought up, and given that many of the claims that are made by the myriad of self- help gurus, life coaches and motivational speakers are unproven and often not scientifically plausible, the effort corporations put into this field is embarrassing. Education and the gradual decline in benefits of knowledge for its own sake seem to be apparent in the inability of many of our leaders to assess new information. Schools do not seem to value education as much as they do revenue. The author does well linking the importance of funding to universities to the changes in curriculum where now many universities are more colleges rather than a centre of higher learning.I will admit that this book does mirror some of my own perceptions and this does make a more enjoyable read. I would recommend this to read as an easy introduction to some of the issues that will be important in our own future.
  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    This is a very sharp critique of a society that seems to have lost the ability to address real problems, partly because everyone's attention is focused on spectacle and partly because wealthy corporations and individuals control both the media and the political process. Nearly all Hedges's critique is derivitive from earlier writers, some going as far back as Daniel Boorstin in the 1960s. But that does not invalidate it. I do believe that sometimes Hedges implies that a worst case example is typical of the whole. Nevertheless, a generally valid, and for me, a quite depressing critique of contemporary America.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    When I finished this book, I wasn't sure whether I should cry or start stockpiling assault rifles and canned food. Hedges argues that while Americans were busy being entertained and pleasured, corporations and the industrial-military complex have brought American democracy to its death bed. Yes, in the past tense, as in we're almost done and we don't even know it. If Hedges is correct, it is already too late to change the system. I don't agree with all of Hedges politics, but I think he has definitely reported what will likely be the demise of the U.S. Hedges divides his argument into five sections. The first deals with Americans' obsession with entertainment. Hedges argues that we have become a polytheistic society worshiping celebrities, athletes, and charismatic politicians and preachers, because they represent what we wish to be. We no longer want to deal with the complexities of reality. We don't want to have to think too hard about complex issues. We want to live in the fantasy world of celebrities, reality TV, and sports. We want to be lied to, because the lie makes us feel so much better about our lives. We have created a culture of illusion. Hedges next section deals with the porn industry in America and what he calls "the illusion of love." I felt this section was unnecessary and didn't flow with the rest book. Basically it is a more extreme example of what is discussed in the first chapter. The illusion men get from the product is that they can control and use women as commodities. Interesting stats- porn made $97 billion in 2007, and GM and AT&T rake in 80 percent of the profits from porn made in the U.S. Hedges connects the moral decay and desensitizing nature of porn to Abu Ghraib and war in general. It destroys compassion and empathy and creates a feeling in the user that he/she is a god. In the third section Hedges attacks what he calls the "elite" schools of higher education. Hedges argues that Harvard, Princeton, Yale and the like create the next leaders of corporations and government; however, these schools have failed society by become corporatist themselves. They no longer teach true critical thinking. Professors who question the system or challenge the status quo are ostracized. Morality and the common good are not mentioned. Finding solutions to maintain the current corporate systems and defense projects are the top priorities. The next section attacks "positive psychology," which many corporations and institutions, including the United Nations, are adopting. Essentially, there are psychologists who make a living from teaching/brainwashing people to lie to themselves. It is terrifyingly similar to Huxley's Brave New World where citizens walk around quoting happy slogans they've been taught from birth totally unaware that they live in a totalitarian state. Scary stuff. The last section encapsulates everything and deals the death blow. While we have been watching coverage of Michael Jackson's death, fantasizing about "gonzo" porn, and repeating the new happy slogan we learned at work; corporations and the industrial-military complex have bankrupted the country and are preparing for a police state. Almost everything you see, read, and hear is controlled by 5 or 6 corporations. Hedges states that they are already under-reporting how bad the economic crisis is and will be. The Obama administration has no power against these forces. In fact, no one is allowed to run for President in this country without millions of dollars from the corporations. It sounds like doomsday prophesies, but Hedges' evidence is very convincing. He quotes reports from the Senate Armed Services Committee and the U.S. Army War College, among many other credible sources. What I found most convincing is the reminder that history shows us that after the economic collapse in the 1930s, America experienced the most extremism it has ever seen. When the Wiemar Republic collapsed economically, Adolf Hitler came to power. When Czarist Russia failed, Lenin and the Bolsheviks came to power. What kind of demagogue will America produce? We are not prepared to face that kind of reality. I'm afraid we will embrace any illusion presented to us, no matter how immoral or deadly.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    When I was finished with this volume, I was spent. The final chapter on the decline of the American Empire was very disturbing but not a surprise to me. In 2000, I rode my bicycle across your great land and was shaken by the poverty, the vacant stores in the small towns and the environmental degradation I witnessed. This past August, I rode it again across the state of Ohio. What I saw & what I heard from Americans I met, confirmed much of what I read in this book. The USA is a nation in deep trouble and many of its citizens are not aware because they are too distracted by seeking pleasure from the latest electronic gadget or the latest celebrity escapade in People Magazine. God bless America.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Hedges does an admirable job in bringing together disparate threads of our society to mount an indictment of the culture of spectacle. While Rome burns, we focus on celebrity culture, and those who try to speak the truth are marginalized by manufactured slogans and irrelevant images. I think of Pynchon's Proverbs for Paranoids, #3: "If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers."My problem with Hedges is twofold. For one, he has a tendency to overstate his case, casting a wide loop with a short rope. Also, his style of writing is Hemingway flat. He seems averse to any kind of transitional phrasing, and just plows ahead, piling up instance after instance of what he sees going on around him. Substance without style is a sin. Compare him to Joan Didion, a writer with similar concerns, and you'll immediately see the difference.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (3/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    We have here a collection of four diatribes on what's wrong with contemporary culture in the US, followed by a nostalgic lament. There is no introduction, conclusion, or thesis, other than to say the the US is going to hell in a handbasket unless we all start to love each other more.The writing is fluent and informed. There are proper endnotes and citations, and an excellent bibliography. The first four chapters are centered on four aspects of US culture: the cult of the celebrity; the pornography industry; the dumbing down of universities and intellectual life; and the optimistic thinking, self-help movements. The fifth and final chapter begins, "I used to live in a country called America." It recalls a better time in the past, at least for what the author presumes to be his audience, and decries the takeover of US culture, politics, and society by the corporation and its mentality. With the exception of the pornography industry, which has taken off after the 1960s and in the internet age, the other areas mentioned for scathing review are not new to social critics of America.What makes this a disappointing book is not the writing but the lack of focus or intent outside of unrelenting complaints. The piling up of assertions without moving toward general conclusions becomes tiring. While the author may regret the passing of what he thinks was a better America, especially for Euro-American blue-collar workers, I think a more objective view of US history would reveal a far more negative picture. The excellent survey by James Loewen (1995), "Lies My Teacher Told Me," comes forcefully to mind.The author's final three pages, where he opines that the only hope for Americans is that they learn to love and sacrifice and respect the sacred, come so late and are so insufficient as to be without force. If this final opinion is true, and if it is the point the author wants leave with the reader, then surely its truth needed to be shown incisively in each chapter and then argued for in a final chapter of its own.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (1/5)
    Read half this book. Too much anti-Jesus bias and too depressing to finish. Glad I borrowed rather than bought it!
  • (2/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Chris Hedges has gone native. In his previous books (e.g. "War is a Force That Gives of Meaning" and "American Fascists") he wrote about topics close to his own experience as a war correspondent and student of divinity; for "Empire of Illusion" he appears to have steeped himself in apocalyptic leftist political literature, and the result is disappointing. The point here seems to be that American culture is hopelessly mired in illiteracy, pornography, and irreversible moral decay. We're all doomed. In the cause of buttressing this misanthropic thesis, Hedges musters a host of gloomy statistics, random anecdotes from tawdry television programs, dialogue from porn films, and a variety of other artifacts of venality culled from mass media sources. What he doesn't do is entertain or explore any countervailing influences on this parade of eschatological auguries. I'm not unsympathetic to the many grim prognoses presented here, but the disinterested style of at least the first four chapters is totally disingenuous. Hedges is clearly angered by the filth he is writing about, but refuses to own his anger and commence doing what he really wants to do - rant hysterically - until he is well into the final chapter. Consequently, the prevailing tone is cold, withdrawn, bitter and (most damningly) unpersuasive. Polemic literature that is too earnest runs the risk of being swallowed by its own curmudgeonliness. This effort, as brief as it is, quickly succumbs to this sad fate.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Hedges comes off as the angry intellectual. Angry that theedia fools us and that we allow ourselves to be fooled. The frustration is understandable and he is a brilliant writer, but his writing comes off as a bit caustic and standoffish. As f he is an observer, but not part of the same system. The anger detracts from the book and if he didn't let these rants run amok, the story can speak for itself. We are all fooled everyday. People don't give us the truth, there is a varnish to everything from the local news to the larger media, to individual bloggers. Hedges points out how easily we eat up the cult of the celebrity and that it leaves us hungry. We are never good enough.Chapter 2 dealt almost entirely to the horrors of the pornography industry. I read lightly there, very difficult stuff. Chapter 3 reminds me of Malcol Gladwells Outliers, peeling away the truth of success and achievement. If you are born into privledge, you will always have that, but people act as if it is an accomishment to be born into a family with means. Chapter 4 deals with the positive psychology and manipulation created by businesses to control their employees and governments to control it's citizens. Chapter 5 is the angriest rant, but brings up the same type of liberal intellectual anger about the commercialization, militarianism and manipulation of America that has existed since the 1960's. It can even be found in Charlie Brown's lament over the commercialization of Christmas. He has updated the issues and made these ideas fresh with example of how we are manipulated today similar to Huxley's Brave New World. He has written it in an approachable style, under 200 pages so that everyone can digest these real issues. A must read.Favorite parts:Celebrities, who often come from hollow backgrounds, are held up as poof that anyone, even we, can be adored by he wold. These celebreties, like saints, are living proof that the impossible is always possible. Our fantasies of belonging, of fame, of success, and of fulfillment, are projected onto celebreties. These fantasies are sykes by the legions of those who amplify the culture of llusion, who persuade us that the shadows are real. The juxtaposition of the impossible illusions inspired by celebrity culture and our "insignificant" individual achievements, however, eventually leads to frustration l, anger, insecurity, and Invalidation. It results, ironically, in a self-perpetuating cycle that drivesthe frustrated, alienated individual with even greater desperation and hunger away from reality, back toward the empty promises of those who seduce us, who tell uswhat we wNt to hear. We beg for more. We ingest these lies until our mney RNA ou. And when we fall into despair, we medicate ourselves, as if the happiness we have failed to find in the hollow game is our deficincy. And, of course, we are told that is. P29Those who suffer from historical amnesia, the belief that we are unique in history and have nothing to learn from the past, remain children. They live in an illusion. P 98the power of love is greater than the power of death. It cannot be controlled. It is about sacrifice to the other--something nearly every parent understands--rather than exploitation. It is about honoring the sacred. And power elites have for a millenia tried to crush the force of love...love will endure, even if it appears darkness has swallowed us all, to triumph over the wreckage that remains. P 193the flight from the humanities has become a fligh of conscience. It has created an lite class of xperts who seldom look beyond their tasks and disciplines to pu what they do in a wider, social context. And by the humanities, hey hav opted to serve a corporate structure that has destroyed the culture around them. P111Positive psychology is about banishing criticism and molding a group into a weak and malleable unit that will take orders. Personal values, those nurtured by an independent conscience, are gently condemned to be antagonistic to harmony and happiness. P 129it is a dirty quid pro quo. The media get access to the elite as long as the media faithfully reports what the elite wants reported. The moment that quid pro quo breaks down, reporters--real reporters-- are cast into the wilderness and denied access. P170The country I live in today uses the same civic , patriotic, and historical language to describe itself, the same symbols and iconography, the se national myths, but only the shell remains. The America we celebrate is an illusion. P142

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  • (4/5)

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    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.

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  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    How to review this book? The idea is certainly true -- or at least deeply resonant with me at the moment. We as a culture have become addicted to illusion and spectacle. Prominent examples from the book include professional wrestling, porn, and our obsession with celebrities. We are surrounded by distraction -- TVs everywhere blaring a 24-hour fluff news cycle and somehow no programs of substance, twitters and Facebook statuses on constant rolling feeds, all in 140 characters or less, all of us chained to this stream of entertainment and pseudo-news, and who has time to read a book? Who has time to think deeply about any one particular issue? How easily those with a different script are dismissed as doomsdayers, naysayers, future-fearing Luddites, so they can be erased from view and replaced with someone who will move more product.

    Corporations are running the world. All so subtly it's like we didn't even know it was happening. It's not a monopoly if it's five companies controlling every thing we read, hear, watch, and surf, right? Never mind they all have the exact same interests at heart -- profit, advertising, the commodification of the audience: us. It's still a democracy if we have so many choices, right? But now strange all those voices sound the same on the issues important to the deep pockets required to make those voices loud enough for us to hear in the first place.

    This is a bleak world view. As it goes on it gets clearer and clearer just why that shiny world of glitz is so much more attractive than reality. But then just when I was ready to give way to despair, Hedges won me back with one very simple promise: love wins. I emerged from the other side of this book even more deeply convicted of the importance of manifesting my crazy liberal theology. We'll see how that goes.

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  • (5/5)

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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.

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  • (3/5)

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    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."

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