Jennifer's Reviews > Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle

Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges
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's review
Dec 06, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction, politics, culture
Read in June, 2011

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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Quotes Jennifer Liked

Chris Hedges
“The words consent of the governed have become an empty phrase. Our textbooks on political science and economics are obsolete. Our nation has been hijacked by oligarchs, corporations, and a narrow, selfish, political, and economic elite, a small and privileged group that governs, and often steals, on behalf of moneyed interests. This elite, in the name of patriotism and democracy, in the name of all the values that were once part of the American system and defined the Protestant work ethic, has systematically destroyed our manufacturing sector, looted the treasury, corrupted our democracy, and trashed the financial system. During this plundering we remained passive, mesmerized by the enticing shadows on the wall, assured our tickets to success, prosperity, and happiness were waiting around the corner.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle

Chris Hedges
“Washington has become our Versailles. We are ruled, entertained, and informed by courtiers -- and the media has evolved into a class of courtiers. The Democrats, like the Republicans, are mostly courtiers. Our pundits and experts, at least those with prominent public platforms, are courtiers. We are captivated by the hollow stagecraft of political theater as we are ruthlessly stripped of power. It is smoke and mirrors, tricks and con games, and the purpose behind it is deception.”
Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle

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