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

Tags:
Amazon Page

Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Potential Straw to Break the Camel’s Back
September 19, 2009
Chris Hedges
I disagree with those who dismiss this book, however erudite their claims. The author first impressed me with American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.
Reading this book on the heels of Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny and Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling, on top of my own cry of the heart in the preface “Paradigms of Failure” in Election 2008: Lipstick on the Pig (Substance of Governance; Legitimate Grievances; Candidates on the Issues; Balanced Budget 101; Call to Arms: Fund We Not Them; Annotated Bibliography), I have to say in the strongest possible terms that this is a capstone book of great service to both those who know it all and those who know little at all.

My flyleaf notes:

+ An advance on existing sociological understanding, a serious book that joins a rich literature on the evils of the corporate state and the loss of humanity

+ Clearly runs alongside E. O. Wilson’s Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge and Will Durant’s Philosophy and the Social Problem: The Annotated Edition in appreciating the urgency of preserving the humanities.

+ Slams the left generally and Barack Obama specifically, doing to them with fewer words what he did to the extremist religious right in his book on fascism in America. He says the left has crumbled, sold out, and that “Obama offers a false hope” (page 155) as Obama is of, by, and for the elite, NOT of, by, and for the progressives, much less the black community, which is increasingly Independent and NOT Democratic these days.

+ QUOTE: “The bill is now due. America’s most dangerous enemies are not Islamic radicals but those who sold us the perverted ideology of free-market capitalism and globalization. They have dynamited the foundations of our society.” Two other books make this case with intellectual gusto: William Greider’s The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy and retired venture capitalist John Bogle’s The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism.

+ Illusion of Literacy. The books, most appropriately since we now have the CEO of World Wide Wrestling running for Congress in Connecticut, with a full body slam on the idiocy of this entertainment and the damage it has done. This has to be read in the original, I cannot do it justice, other than to say that a world-wide wrestling CEO might be a step down from the clowns we have on the Hill now–her motivation for running is in my view suspect. This chapter is in many ways the strongest, covering the true cost to society of celebrity cultures that solidify the commoditization of humanity, the cult of distraction and the superficial, all leading to “junk politics.” A great QUOTE: “Pseudo-events destabilize truth.” This is one reason I consider the White House to be theater, as nothing the White House is doing today makes sense as anything BUT theater.

+ Illusion of Love. This chapter is short and shocking. Most significantly, it connects to the trauma of women and on page 73 explicitly connects torture with pornography, and on page 79 cites a porn cameraman as saying “Porn is a prime example of the ‘stupefaction of America’.” A very sad detailed but concise look at porn, drugs, HIB, and abuse. See my review of Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence–from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror as well as the literature on lost voices and especially the lost voices of women.

+ Illusion of Wisdom. This is a great slam on the universities and their combination today of militarization, commercialization, and nihilism. I have reviewed several books in this area, see those reviews for additional support for the author’s thesis. We are creating drones that perform to standard and cannot think for themselves. The author is compelling in discussing how specialists are illiterate and disconnected from reality as well as all the adjacent disciplines. The author lays the blame for our economic and political collapse directly on the universities and their sacrificing of the humanities.

+ Illusion of Happiness. here the author focuses on the substitution of harmony as a social control device, spending some time on the manner in which corporations have hijacked all our social systems including the electoral system, with which I quite agree–we live in a two-party tyranny that serves Wall Street, and Wall Street was too greedy and myopic to realize they were killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

+ Illusion of America. In this last heart-rending chapter the author is moving and provocative, and I find no fault with his articulation of the death of the America he once knew, although I personally believe the announcement is premature. Any Nation that has a Tom Atlee, a Jim Rough, a Robert Fuller, a Howard Zinn, and a Noam Chomsky still fighting for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is not completely dead. I think we needed to see Obama kow-tow to Wall Street in order to realize we must destroy the two parties that have betrayed the public trust, and on this note, the author is brutal toward Bill Clinton, for NAFTA, for gutting welfare, and for allowing financial deregulation (remember, Goldman Sachs has held the Treasury positions for the last five Presidential Administrations–this is not an accident, this is a condition for being elected and allowed to live).

+ There are passing notes on government manipulation of statistics and on the divide that has grown between the elite who take 50 cents of every dollar made in America, and the larger body of individuals that are supposed to comprise this intended Republic.

+ The author recounts how Nader said in advance the bailout would be the ultimate fraud, waste and abuse program, and juxtaposed that with an account of the AIG CEO telling Congress the bail-out did not work and AIG would have been better off filing for bankruptcy.

The book ends weakly but with the best of intentions on the power of love. See my Public Intelligence Blog for direct access to all my other reviews grouped into just under 100 categories.

Vote on Review

Vote on Review

Sep 19

Comments are closed.