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Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle Paperback – 11 Nov 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (11 Nov. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568586132
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568586137
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.6 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 95,096 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize--winning journalist. He spent nearly two decades as a correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans, with fifteen years at the New York Times. He is the author of numerous bestselling books, including Empire of Illusion; Death of the Liberal Class; War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning; and Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, which he co-wrote with Joe Sacco. He writes a weekly column for the online magazine Truthdig. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.


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4.6 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover
In describing the use of illusion as a distraction from the reality of our lives, it is not surprising that Hedges quotes one of the first recorded metaphors which explained this distinction, Plato's cave dwellers, who thought the shadows on the wall were the actual reality. Illusion vs. Reality; Illusion as a deliberate distraction from Reality - issues that have been with us for a long time. Hedges has written an angry polemic against the Illusions that dominate American life; those that succumb to them, and those that promote them. Have the use of illusions in our society become more prevalent today than 100 years ago? Hedges does not really say. But what he does focus on is the here and now and how it could be so much different.

Hedges account is richly anecdotal; certainly the one I will always remember, and Hedges provides the references, is that 42% of college graduates never read another book in their lives (p 44). What he does not mention, and the reader can do their own informal survey, is the quality of books that are read by the other 58%. A casual perusal of an airport bookstore, or even the top 100 books, in terms of sales, at Amazon, can be disheartening. "The Illusion of Literacy" is a fitting title for the first chapter.

And in that first chapter the author managed to "draw me in" by discussing the illusion that is the "drama" of the World Wrestling Federation. I used to watch it with my son, when he was 9-10 years old, and even then he realized it was hokey.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hedges reports that American culture has slid into a vast, narcotizing, fantasy realm that distracts us from confronting the economic, environmental, political and moral collapse that surrounds us. The argument goes beyond Neil Postman's in that media and journalism are smoking the same pipes, and have become vapid celebrities and courtiers instead of truth diggers. Financial movers and shakers are indifferent to the human suffering they are causing. It takes enormous effort for the citizenry to achieve clear sightedness since society has become a vast forum for illusion immersion. As the country hurtles toward the rocks ahead, there are demogogues lying in wait for their chance to peddle yet more illusions of healing and relief. As despair and disillusion become more acute and riots erupt, the incipient forces of authoritarian clampdown will have the excuse they've been waiting for to destroy civil liberties, restore order and make the Constitution a faded memory. As Hedges notes, "the tools are in place" and all that's needed is a national crisis to legitimize their use. The novel feature of Hedges's diagnosis is that hatred of the present elites that are leading us to destruction through greed or pipedreams is growing, and these familiar elites may be thrown overboard in favor of a new cadre we cannot imagine, but who will immerse America in a deep valley of tears with all exits blocked. The route will be blindness to our crisis, then despair, then social convulsions, then the clampdown that extinguishes our democracy for good for the sake of law and order. Hedges lists the illusions we"ve bought into that are greasing the slide.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book makes for a powerful read to say the least. It points to the corruption at the heart of contemporary American society with it unchecked corporate greed and the ability of corporations to control the political system and the media and thereby to stifle any possibility of dissent. The chapter on corporate control of the university system was particularly shocking. The dominance of corporate control of the political system, academia, and the media, is coupled with a society that has lost the ability to question and think, and is more than content to be spoon-fed the lying propaganda of the main-stream media. The public's sense of what is truly important for their welfare and the welfare of their fellows is effectively transposed by the main-stream media into a preoccupation with the outcome of American Idol, and other such earth-shattering events. America society has become, in Hedges' apt words, an 'Empire of Illusion', and the long-term consequences of this for ordinary Americans can only be disastrous.
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This was a good read but one where you may agree with absolutely everything and say 'yes isn't it awful' or agree with none of it and be tempted to throw the book out of the window.

Let down a little by the relentless style it is nevertheless a breathtakingly journey through the underbelly of a giant.

The problem I have with most diatribes against the current power systems is that I agree with the analysis of the issues but no the solution. Here we aren't really given a list of solutions but rather the basic challenge to educate ourselves and pierce through the illusory nature of this world. No easy task.
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I share many of the author's concerns but I feel they are unconvincingly argued in this book. This book quickly becomes repetitive. They are times when he doesn't seem to know what his argument actually is. The chapters at times feel choppy, inconsistent and in places somewhat contradictory.There's much grandstanding but little by way of persuasive evidence despite the many references and interviews that informed this book. Hedges panders to "the man is out to get us " sentiments but doesn't seem to acknowledge the agency and participation of the "victims" he writes about, he seems to believe they are as unknowingly stupid as the corporations and manipulators he writes about. This book is a letdown to say the least.
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