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

Lecture

Chris Hedges

A culture that cannot distinguish between reality and illusion dies. And we are dying now. We will either wake from our state of induced childishness, one where trivia and gossip pass for news and information, one where our goal is not justice but an elusive and unattainable happiness, to confront the stark limitations before us, or we will continue our headlong retreat into fantasy.

The New York Times bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Fascists and the NBCC finalist for War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning travels in Empire of Illusion to the ringside of professional wrestling bouts at Madison Square Garden, to Las Vegas to write about the pornographic film industry, and to academic conferences held by positive psychologists–who claim to be able to engineer happiness–to chronicle our terrifying flight as a culture into a state of illusion. He exposes the mechanisms used to divert us from confronting the economic, political, and moral collapse around us.

The more we sever ourselves from a literate, print-based world, a world of complexity and nuance, a world of ideas, for one informed by comforting, reassuring images, fantasies, slogans and a celebration of violence the more we implode. We ask, like the wrestling fans or those who confuse love with pornography, to be fed lies. We demand lies. The skillfully manufactured images and slogans that flood the airwaves and infect our political discourse mask reality. And we do not protest. The worse reality becomes, the less a beleaguered population wants to hear about it and the more it distracts itself with squalid pseudo-events of celebrity breakdowns, gossip and trivia. These are the debauched revels of a dying culture. In Empire of Illusion, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author writes about professional wrestling, the pornographic film industry and America’s rampant militarism and moral decay. He exposes the mechanisms that divert us from confronting the economic and political collapse around us. The worse reality becomes, the more a beleaguered population distracts itself with pseudo-events of celebrity breakdowns, gossip and trivia. These are the debauched revels of a dying culture.

Biography

Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winner, is the former Middle East Bureau Chief of The New York Times, and a Senior Fellow at The Nation Institute. He is the author of several books, including War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, Losing Moses on the Freeway: The 10 Commandments in America, I Don't Believe in Atheists, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. The 2010 Oscar-winning film, The Hurt Locker, opens with his quote, "war is a drug." Hedges lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Assigned Reading

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

Reception

A reception will be held at 5pm at the UNE Art Gallery

Sponsors

Center for Global Humanities

Contact

cgh@une.edu

(207) 221-4335

Feb182010
6:00 PM
WCHP Lecture Hall

Portland Campus

Free and open to the public