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Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle Paperback – October 5, 2010
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"Remarkable, bracing and highly moral, Empire of Illusion is Hedges' lament for his nation."
"Each chapter of Empire of Illusion makes a strong case for how different illusions — of literacy, love, wisdom, happiness — taken together are destroying the American mind, culture and the nation itself."
— National Post
"Each chapter torches one of our cultural illusions."
— The Globe and Mail
"Hedges is a fan of big ideas, and in Empire of Illusion, he draws upon the culture of professional wrestling and pornography, the elite university, positive psychology and the financial crisis to fashion a social theory of everything."
— Winnipeg Free Press
From the Hardcover edition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Chris Hedges is a fellow of The Nation Institute. He spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans, with fifteen years at the New York Times. He is the author of the best-selling War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists. He currently writes for numerous publications, including Harper's, The New York Review of Books, Granta, and Mother Jones. A columnist for Truthdig, he lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
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Top Customer Reviews
Even better is that the author's style is approachable and non judgemental. This isn't an academic talking down to the masses, but a very solid reporter presenting findings in an accurate, logical style.
Every American should read this, and then consider whether to buy that glossy celebrity oriented magazine or watch that "I want to be a millionaire" show. The lifestyle and choices being promoted by the media, credit card companies, and by the celebrity culture in general, are toxic and a danger to our society's future.
But you have to stop & catch your breath, or else be swept away by the torrent of mediocrity & cheerfully willful ignorance that passes for contemporary culture & thought. Once you're aware of how thoroughly blanderized & infantilized our culture has become, it's all too easy to succumb to despair or cynicism. And with good cause!
Hedges wisely selects just a few specific examples as indicators of something far more pervasive & widespread. Particularly disturbing is the chapter on the so-called "adult" entertainment industry, which is anything but adult. The graphic description of the ways in which women are used & discarded as commodities is sickening, yet we're clearly just getting the tip of a very slimy iceberg.
And Hedges connects this aspect of dehumanization to the horrors of Abu Ghraib, showing how sexuality & torture intertwine. Most disturbing of all is how accepted & mainstream this sort of "entertainment" has become -- we're not talking about erotica or old-fashioned porn, which at least portrayed sex as mutually enjoyable for men & women; what we see now is humiliation, suffering, pain, almost all of it inflicted on women for the pleasure of emotionally stunted men.
More than that, though, Hedges explores the ways in which reason & literacy -- the humanities -- are shunted to the margins in favor of a utilitarian mindset, one that boils down to, "What's in it for me, right now, and how can I get the most of it as quickly as possible?" And that "most" is wealth, status, power, and the illusion of importance -- a humanity measured in things, rather than in being.
From that point, we're shown how these personal illusions contribute to & help sustain a national, even global, illusion of power, self-righteousness, corruption & control. It's bread & circuses for the masses, with digital soma mainlined at every waking moment. Meanwhile, the real elites, the corporate masters of our world, do whatever their insatiable appetites demand. This invariably requires bloodshed & suffering inflicted upon those least able to resist it. .
Is Hedges overwrought? Is he exaggerating the crisis at hand? If so, it's not by very much. As a war correspondent of some 20 years, he's seen the brutal results of illusionary thinking first-hand. This book is born of bitter experience, as Hedges bears witness to the ongoing destruction of the human soul, which is lost in a world of glittering superficiality which can't conceal its innate cruelty, ugliness & emptiness.
Not a reassuring book by any means, but certainly an eye-opening one -- most highly recommended!
That desert is coming also. This is one of the 5 greatest books I have ever read and I will be forever changed by it..
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Mr. Hedges writes well, and his chapter on professional wrestling is priceless.Read more