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Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

Chris Hedges
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Kurzbeschreibung

11. November 2010
We now live in two Americas. One--now the minority--functions in a print-based, literate world that can cope with complexity and can separate illusion from truth. The other--the majority--is retreating from a reality-based world into one of false certainty and magic. To this majority--which crosses social class lines, though the poor are overwhelmingly affected--presidential debate and political rhetoric is pitched at a sixth-grade reading level. In this "other America," serious film and theater, as well as newspapers and books, are being pushed to the margins of society. In the tradition of Christopher Lasch's The Culture of Narcissism and Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, Pulitzer Prize-winner Chris Hedges navigates this culture--attending WWF contests, the Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas, and Ivy League graduation ceremonies--to expose an age of terrifying decline and heightened self-delusion.

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Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle + Death of the Liberal Class + Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt
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Pressestimmen

"Remarkable, bracing and highly moral, Empire of Illusion is Hedges' lament for his nation."
Maclean's

"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 -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

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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5.0 von 5 Sternen no democracy, no reality, only illusions 13. Dezember 2009
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
It seems as if Old Testament Prophets synergistically coalesced into Hedges book with plenty of ethical and philosophical justification. Here we have a long overdue, relentless, realistic and uninhibited exposure and description of what ails America. It is sprinkled with plenty of justified moralizing.

When interpreting, Hedges writes in highly condensed sentences that are so overloaded with wisdom wrought through historical synthesis that many deserve a pause for intellectual digestion, reflections, and verification. He shows that he has digested for a long time what he produces. Almost always, the perceptive reader will quietly and, at times, tragic-comically, say true, true, true. He draws from plenty of famous writer of a similar genre ranging from Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, C. Wright Mills, Christopher Lasch, Neil Postman, John Ralston Saul, to Laura Nader, Daniel Boorstin, Andrew Bacevich, Chalmers Johnson, David Cay Johnston. et al..

The book starts with a long, poignant, if not mood-setting, description of a typical faked, surreal and stage-managed World Wrestling match. Relating it to Plato's allegory of the cave, Hedges then expands the analysis to current socio-economic conditions, the Empire of Illusion, where fantasy is more real than reality. This state is forged by celebrity gossip, advertisement lies, pop psychology, New Age mysticism and marketing and sales techniques. He says celebrity culture banishes reality and morality and creates the illusion of aspiration.

Drawing from popular and infantile TV programs, Hedges zeroes in on capitalism and its ability to lie and manipulate.
Lesen Sie weiter... ›
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In Empire of Illusion beschreibt Chris Hedger umfassend, provozierend, aber auch nuechtern und sachlich (und mit Angabe seiner Quellen) den Werteverfall in der Amerikanischen Gesellschaft in der Postmoderne, die die derzeitigen 'Medienrevolution' hevorruft, sowie das Scheitern der Demokratie, trotz Barack Obama als Praesidenten. Dieses Buch wird hoffentlich noch fuer Fuerore Sorgen, da er einerseits nur derzeitigen Entwicklungen beschreibt, damit aber gleichzeitig die Gesellschaft vor einer zukuenftigen Welt ohne Printmedien warnt, und sich damit visionaer aus dem Fenster lehnt. Ein Pflichtbuch fuer jeden der noch nicht aufgeben hat einen Versuch zu unternehmen die Welt zu verstehen in der wir leben, denn wir alle umarmen die Illusionen die Amerika der Welt beschert, ob wir wollen oder nicht, und beeinflussen damit auch unser eigene Auffassung von der Realitaet in der wir leben.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Hedges 9. September 2013
Von Boethius
Format:Taschenbuch|Von Amazon bestätigter Kauf
Hedges is the most important chronicler and interpreter of the American scene today. He can not only see his way clearly to the truth of things, but he can also reveal that truth and its implications with honesty, courage, clarity, and skill.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen An anguished, angry cry of outraged reason 16. Juli 2009
Von William Timothy Lukeman - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Von Amazon bestätigter Kauf
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 means, but certainly an eye-opening one -- most highly recommended!
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Interesting if gloomy reflections by a former New York Times reporter 20. Juli 2009
Von Chris - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Von Amazon bestätigter Kauf
Hedges describes how corporate entertainment encourages people to desire to be rich and famous, devote themselves to material things, reckless self-gratification and reckless consumer spending. It encourages people to care much more about news relating to celebrities than genuinely important news. Hedges analyzes episodes of WWE wrestling, Survivor, The Swan and Jerry Springer to back up his arguments about pop culture.

Chapter 2 is about porn. Porn actresses are portrayed by porn mediums as nothing more than wild beasts whose only desire is to satisfy the sadistic fantasies of men. Most porn actresses are heavy drinkers and drug addicts as a result of the mental pain and serious physical damage to their private areas, front and back, caused by their line of work. Most of them appear to work in escort services on the side. Hedges give an account of one porn movie featuring an actress who engages in the very unhealthy activity of engaging in sex acts with 65 different men over the six hour shoot of the film. Porn is one of the biggest industries in this nation; a great many of our male citizens appear to take pleasure in the degrading and brutal version of sex found in modern porn.

The last chapter is a sort of general overview of the dismal state of this country. Hedges writes that our financial crisis is rooted in the destruction of American manufacturing since the 1970's. An example of the decline of American manufacturing ability, he observes, occurred when the city of New York in 2003 offered a several billion dollar contract for a company to build subway cars. No American company took the offer, which was eventually given to Canadian and Japanese companies. Since the 1970's our economy has rested on the accumulation of un-unsustainable amounts of corporate and house-hold debt, used to a large extent not for productive investment but for participation in speculative bubbles and consumption to support luxurious living. Our economy is kept afloat by the willingness of foreigners to buy up this debt. As government social services are continuously slashed, the bailouts of 2008/2009 have only strengthened the stranglehold of corporate America on our economy and government resources.

While the annual compensation packages of CEOs soar well into the tens of millions of dollars, the median American family income has declined in inflation adjusted terms since the early 70's. We call ourselves a free market economy but a leading pillar of our economy is the taxpayer funded military-industrial complex, powering companies like Lockheed Martin. Hedges notes the example of the US government's annual provision of 3 billion dollars of taxpayer funds to the dictatorship in Egypt, 1.3 billion dollars of which (taxpayer dollars) is required to be used for purchasing weapons from private American defense companies. The US uses half of its annual discretionary spending on the military and spends more on its military than all the other countries in the world combined.

While trillions of dollars are spent on weapons and foreign occupations, our health care costs spiral out of control. Hedges writes that our private health care system is nearly twice as expensive as the national health services "in countries like Switzerland."Hedges notes how the percentage of budget devoted to overhead and administrative costs in our for profit health system is so vastly greater than the same costs in traditional government run Medicare. According to the Institute of Medicine, 18,000 people die every year because they can't afford health care. 46 million Americans have no health insurance and 25 million more are under-insured. Half of all bankruptcies in the US are due to health care costs overwhelming family budgets. Americans pay 40 percent more than Canadians for prescription drugs. Our politicians, Obama included, do everything they can to accommodate the for profit health care companies. In his overview of health care problems, I wish Hedges would have included some comparisons of a few health indicators between the US and some of the countries that have the most efficient socialized medicine systems.

Meanwhile, our politicians have covered up our unraveling. According to Hedges, the Consumer Price Index is constructed to under-estimate the real rate of inflation. Ronald Reagan lowered his unemployment rate by including members of the military in the employment count. Bill Clinton lowered the official unemployment rate of his reign by excluding from the employment count people who had stopped looking for work and also by counting low wage under-employed workers as employed. American jobs have gone to the low wage third world. Hedges notes that, contrary to Clinton's prediction in 1993, NAFTA has thrown 2 million Mexican farmers off the land and many of them have ended up in the US. Even more illegal immigrants have come from Mexico as northern Mexican factories have closed down and relocated to the even lower wage and even lesser regulated paradise of China.

Hedges gives a great deal of space to quoting various scholars and philosophers in order to back up his sociological observations. Other topics he discusses include positive psychology, the destruction of higher education and the willingness of corporate media hacks to take at face value the words of the powerful.

Hedges suggests possible future scenarios where most Americans are virtual corporate slaves, controlled and monitored by the ever expanding power of law enforcement. He fears that the biggest contrast in this country will be between a marginalized literate minority on the one hand and on the other a barely functionally literate or functionally illiterate majority enchanted by corporate entertainment and the vacuous PR spectacles and slogans of politicians. He fears that as social conditions worsen, right wing demagogues will make great headway. He is very worried about future environmental catastrophes. However he ends his book with the hope that decent human values can be utilized to confront our growing corporate tyranny.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Entertainment is a Force That Gives Us Meaning 4. Juli 2009
Von Anastasia Beaverhausen - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
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 era...by 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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5.0 von 5 Sternen Hedges writes everything that needs to be written! Fantastic book. 16. Oktober 2009
Von Mr. Gray - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Von Amazon bestätigter Kauf
This book is superb, I really can't say enough good things about it. Take a couple quotes: "When a nation becomes unmoored from reality, it retreats into a world of magic. Facts are accepted or discarded according to the dictates of a preordained cosmology. The search for truth becomes irrelevant." (p. 50) "The specialized dialect and narrow education of doctors, academics, economists, social scientists, military officers, investment bankers, and government bureaucrats keeps each sector locked in its narrow role. The overarching structure of the corporate state and the idea of the common good are irrelevant to specialists. They exist to make the system work, not to examine it." (p. 98) I could go on and on citing terrific passages.

Though this book is a screed, it is a spot-on screed. Hedges hits, what I believe, are the major reasons why we Americans are essentially locked into a downward spiral as a culture and country. He starts with Pro-wresting as a prime example of how media panders to the me, me, me attitude infilitrating popular culture. Reality TV, celebrity narcissism and how Americans, in general, are becoming a functionally illiterate society. Hedges then moves into explaining how the Porn industry has lead to an entire sub-culture that promotes a 'women-as-objects' mentality, which destroys some men's ability to have meaningful relationships (Warning: this chapter, to me at least, was pretty raw). Next, Hedges points out how a cycle sustains itself between elite educational institutions (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc.), the Government (think Congress in particular) and Corporations. Ivy league schools basically turn-out lackies that do whatever is necessary to maintain their elite, self-absorbed status. The last chapter is entitled, "The Illusion of America," and this is where Hedges does a fantastic job of pulling together all the elements of this disfunctional society we live in. You could probably read a dozen books about each of these elements and put them together yourself, or save yourself the trouble and read this one. It's short enough to give to a friend and not have them give you the "evil eye;" yet, it's long enough so that nothing is glossed over. I can't recommend this book enough.

Here's a list of some of the more popular books Hedges cites: Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and StickYou with the Bill), The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (American Empire Project), The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities, Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone?, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show BusinessDemocracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Distressing - I Hope He's At Least a Little Wrong 21. Oktober 2009
Von W. K. Gray - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Von Amazon bestätigter Kauf
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.
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