Monday, September 6, 2010

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

Book Club... And Then Some!

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

by Chris Hedges

Book Review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

“The sky is falling, the sky is falling,” said Chicken Little.  In Hedges’ book, one reviewer—Jiang Xuequin of Toronto, Canada, says, “Chris Hedges writes in the lucid and cogent manner of a powerful intellectual who has become disgusted and contemptuous, angry and frustrated at the lame and stupid culture he finds himself suddenly imprisoned in.  Unfettered market capitalism, corporate interests, and America’s oligarch have conspired to create a ‘brave new world’ of lies and stupidity that everyone hold dearly to be truth and wisdom.”  Now, doesn’t that just sound like Chicken Little—"’The sky is falling,’ has passed into the English language,” says Wikipedia, “as a common idiom indicating an hysterical or mistaken belief that disaster is imminent.”  I am not suggesting that Hedges is mistaken, but what I am suggesting is that his plea is intense and, perhaps, even hysterical.  (Actually, I love it!)

Hedges includes five essays here: “The Illusion of . . . 1) Literacy, 2) Love, 3) Wisdom, 4) Happiness, and 5) America.  Within these categories, Hedges draws his examples from industries as diverse as entertainment, wrestling, pornography, education, testing, wellness, celebrity, news, defense, armaments, health care, infrastructure, transportation, finance, and more.

The overall conclusion by Hedges is captures well by Xuequin in his review, and it’s a position I fully support as well: “People have chosen, and given a choice they have proven to everyone that they will do what human nature dictates and choose to live lives where they can enjoy their laziness and stupidity, and ignore critics who are trying to get them to read books and criticize.”

This is a well-written, meticulous, shocking yet honest, thorough analysis of how the American public is being seduced by advertisements, reality television, infotainment, and the “social” Internet, and how they are pathetic slaves to what they hear (and believe) on television, radio, and the Internet.

Hedges writes, “A public that can no longer distinguish between truth and fiction is left to interpret reality through illusion.”  The book is a relevant, real, sombering wake-up call that everyone should read.  Yes, “the sky is falling,” and Hedges offers a wonderful, captivating, well-researched and documented explanation of where and why it is happening and how everyone will be affected.  Read it.


This book is available from Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle

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