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New Book: Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges

Posted on 22 July 2009 by Tim

Pulitzer-Prize winning author Chris Hedges debuted his new book Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle at Powell’s Books on Tuesday, July 21. The book is essentially about the devolution of our society from a literate, critical thinking mass that can separate reality from illusion into a society focused on spectacle and shallow entertainment to the detriment of our society and the world as a whole.

Chris Hedges Receives a Standing Ovation from Oregonians

Michael Jackson

In his talk at Powell’s Books, Mr. Hedges started out by talking about Michael Jackson and the spectacle of his death. Hedges said that Michael had his childhood stolen from him and was “surrounded by vultures” who preyed on his insecurities. Michael turned himself from a masculine African-American man into an androgynous, effeminate individual whose “chalk white skin” became a “Caucasian death mask”.

The point was certainly not to mock Michael Jackson but to illustrate America’s disturbing obsession with the rise and fall of celebrities. Hedges goes on to describe the odd spectacle of Michael Jackson’s funeral which was turned into an entertaining media event complete with singing children, performing artists and even a plug for KFC chicken courtesy of Magic Johnson.

Politics and Brand Obama

In his critique of politics, Chris Hedges discusses the vast sums of money required to run for Congress. He also points out that economics trumps politics as demonstrated by the unregulated bail out of the financial sector. Although Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and others get special attention, Hedges zooms in on Bill Clinton for some precision strikes against his welfare policy and NAFTA. Both of which, as Hedges describes, are major contributing factors to the economic problems our nation faces.

Chris Hedges Speaking at Powell's Books on July 21st.

Regarding Barack Obama, Hedges refers to his campaign as Brand Obama since he was portrayed as something new and fresh, willing to change the old ways. However, Brand Obama has been unwilling to consider the “prosecution of the Bush Administration” and has not repealed many of the spying programs nor has he “reinstated habeus corpus”.

The Economy

Hedges points us in the direction of Henry David Thoreau to learn more about living a simple life so we can achieve a real sense of happiness rather than chasing the latest trends and celebrities to escape our existence. Following that, he delves into the shift in our economy from production to consumption.

A great point Chris makes is that life is not just about “tangible success but of resurrection of integrity”.

After about an hour of speaking, with occasional bursts of applause, Chris Hedges took questions for about 30 minutes or so. It was a very stimulating presentation and discussion. I’m glad I was able to make it out to see him speak. A big thanks to Powell’s Books!

Chris Hedges Around The Web:

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