The country I live in today uses the same civic, patriotic, and historical language to describe itself, the same symbols and iconography, the same national myths, but only the shell remains. The America we celebrate is an illusion. America, the country of my birth, the country that formed and shaped me, the country of my father, my father’s father, and his father’s father, stretching back to the generations of my family that were here for the country’s founding, is so diminished as to be unrecognizable. I do not know if this America will return, even as I pray and work and strive for its return. (It never will, never)
==Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (Chris Hedges)
Our culture’s adjustment to the epistemology of television is by now all but complete; we have so thoroughly accepted its definitions of truth, knowledge, and reality that irrelevance seems to us to be filled with import, and incoherence seems eminently sane.
Television’s conversations promote incoherence and triviality; that the phrase “serious television” is a contradiction in terms; and that television speaks in only one persistent voice—the voice of entertainment.
The result of all this is that Americans are the best entertained and quite likely the least well-informed people in the Western world.
Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information—misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information—information that creates the illusion of knowing something but which in fact leads one away from knowing.
Ignorance is always correctable. But what shall we do if we take ignorance to be knowledge?
==Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (Neil Postman and Andrew Postman)
“Plays, farces, spectacles, gladiators, strange beasts, medals, pictures, and other such opiates, these were for ancient peoples the bait toward slavery, the price of their liberty, the instruments of tyranny. By these practices and enticements the ancient dictators so successfully lulled their subjects under the yoke, that the stupefied peoples, fascinated by the pastimes and vain pleasures flashed before their eyes, learned subservience as naively, but not so creditably, as little children learn to read by looking at bright picture books.”—Etienne de La Boétie, “The Discourse on Voluntary Servitude: How Do Tyrants Secure Cooperation?” (1548)
Americans love their reality TV shows—the drama, the insults, the bullying, the callousness, the damaged relationships delivered through the lens of a surveillance camera—and there’s no shortage of such dehumanizing spectacles to be found on or off screen, whether it’s Cops, Real Housewives or the heavy-handed tactics of police officers who break down doors first and ask questions later.
Where things get tricky is when we start to lose our grasp on what is real vs. unreal and what is an entertainment spectacle that distracts us vs. a real-life drama that impacts us.
For example, do we tune into Bruce Jenner’s gender transformation as it unfolds on reality TV, follow the sniping over Navy sharpshooter Chris Kyle’s approach to war and killing, or chart the progress of the Keystone oil pipeline as it makes it work through Congress? Do we debate the merits of Katy Perry’s Superbowl XLIX halftime performance, or speculate on which politicians will face off in the 2016 presidential election?
Here’s a hint: it’s all spectacle.