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

ISBN: 0307398463

ISBN13: 9780307398468

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

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Format: Hardcover

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Book Overview

A prescient book that forecast the culture that gave rise to Trump -- a society beholden to empty spectacle and obsession with image at the expense of reality, reason, and truth. An instant... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

Distressing - I Hope He's At Least a Little Wrong

This is a simultaneously cogent (if a bit strident) and disturbing view of America. I'd rather not believe that we're headed to as dark a place as this book indicates, but there is little to dispute here. I think all Americans should read this, but with 80% of us never picking up a book over the course of a year, it seems unlikely that will happen. Eminently readable, alarmingly logical account of where we are and where we are likely headed.

Flawed, but essential reading

I give this book 5 stars based in the same logic that Rolling Stone applies to its 5-star ratings for music albums. If, according to Rolling Stone, an album is essential to any comprehensive modern music collection, they rate it five stars. In that same spirit, I would say that Hedges 'Empire of Illusion' is essential reading for any engaged citizen of the U.S. (or anywhere else, for that matter, but "we're" really the ones who should be taking this warning to heart). Certainly, the book is flawed. For example, I do not think that the thesis of the book -- that we've erected and maintain a purely illusory empire that is destined to crumble -- is set up or supported well enough in the text. I do, however, think that the main thesis is _correct_. The supporting chapters (on wrestling, porn, higher ed, etc) feel too anecdotal. The main thesis is not established clearly enough, early enough, to wade through these rather long-winded chapters with a real understanding of how, exactly, they support the main thrust of the book. There are mistakes and/or editing errors as well. One in particular that made me cringe, considering it was in a chapter on the increasingly widespread ignorance of the humanities, was when "The Jungle" is credited to Sinclair Lewis rather than Upton Sinclair. That, in itself, might be an egregious enough error for anyone who want to dismiss the entire book to justify doing so. It's too bad, really, that it's in there (maybe this was corrected in the paperback?). All that said, the body chapters are interesting and paint a clear and terrifying picture of a sad and empty contemporary culture in precipitous decay. What makes the book absolutely essential, however, is the final chapter. It is, perhaps, the most succinct, convincing, and damning condemnation of globalization (and, specifically, the USA's role) I have ever read. It's as convincing as, for example, Klein's 'Shock Doctrine', but it cuts an even wider swath. And it's more up-to-the-minute as well. While depressing as hell, this book has also reinvigorated and re-radicalized me. I may not have much "HOPE" that the Democrats will make much of a difference, but I am damn well ready to help bring this crushingly morbid system to its knees. God rest its soul when this system of death finally dies.

An anguished, angry cry of outraged reason

Chris Hedges' newest book may be a screed, but it's an uncomfortably accurate one, delving into the addictive, corrupting hold of comforting & distracting illusion over too many Americans. From the even vaster wasteland of TV, brought to us by endless channels, to the drug of sensation at its lowest common denominator from the porn industry, to the "think happy thoughts" snake oil of both New Age & fundamentalist belief systems -- 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 m

Entertainment is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

Chris Hedges, the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of "War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning" and "I Don't Believe in Atheists", is back with another diatribe about our morally-bankrupt society. Whether you agree with all of his assertions or not, "Empire of Illusion" is a necessary, thought-provoking work on the role of entertainment in American culture. Particularly fascinating is Hedges's take on professional wrestling. Whenever an academic brings up wrestling, it is usually as an example of low-brow culture. Hedges doesn't snub his nose, however: He merely observes and reports. His thesis that wrestling storylines have "evolved to fit the new focusing on the family dysfunction that comes with social breakdown" is on the money: Gone are the simple bouts of good vs. evil. "Morality is irrelevant," he writes. "Wrestlers can be good one week and evil the next. All that matters is their own advancement." The "illusion" here isn't that wrestling is fake. The "illusion" is that the wrestlers are idealized versions of what we want to become. He asserts that this mirrors a fundamental change in society. Hedges traces this change through other American institutions (reality television, celebrity culture, the adult industry, universities, psychologists), arguing that we are "unable to distinguish between illusion and reality". We forgo morals for an elusive and unattainable happiness. He states that we "will either wake from our state of induced childishness...or continue our headlong retreat into fantasy". The subtitle--"The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle"--is somewhat of a misnomer. Even with the alarming illiteracy rate in this country, it's a stretch to say that literacy has literally come to an end. "The Triumph of Spectacle" is a more accurate description of the book's contents. "Empire of Illusion" is a snapshot of America, circa 2009 AD. Some of the precepts that it touches on--such as universities churning out morally-dubious graduates--are already coming under populist fire due to the banking crisis. WWE, wrestling's most popular promotion, has toned down the sex and violence in recent years. The once-popular Jerry Springer Show limps along on basic cable, its cultural relevancy having long since expired. Hedges believes that the financial crisis "will lead to a period of profound political turmoil and change." In a recent Truthdig article, he wrote that "Those who care about the plight of the working class and the poor must begin to mobilize quickly or we will lose our last opportunity to save our embattled democracy." "Empire of Illusion" makes a strong case to be the much-needed cry for arms.
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