Friday, January 30, 2009

America the Illiterate

By Chris Hedges

"American political campaigns, which have learned to speak in the comforting epistemology of images, eschew real ideas and policy for cheap slogans and reassuring personal narratives. Political propaganda now masquerades as ideology. Political campaigns have become an experience. They do not require cognitive or self-critical skills. They are designed to ignite pseudo-religious feelings of euphoria, empowerment and collective salvation. Campaigns that succeed are carefully constructed psychological instruments that manipulate fickle public moods, emotions and impulses, many of which are subliminal. They create a public ecstasy that annuls individuality and fosters a state of mindlessness. They thrust us into an eternal present. They cater to a nation that now lives in a state of permanent amnesia. It is style and story, not content or history or reality, which inform our politics and our lives. We prefer happy illusions. And it works because so much of the American electorate, including those who should know better, blindly cast ballots for slogans, smiles, the cheerful family tableaux, narratives and the perceived sincerity and the attractiveness of candidates. We confuse how we feel with knowledge."


As I read this article I became more and more impressed, but near its end it degenerated into an attack on the Christian Right. It seems that the author could not hold his insight and had to project evil onto something. By pulling the opposites together you approach the truth, but the mixture is highly combustible and usually explodes one back into the Manichean state of mind. Therein is the dilemma and why so few can approach the truth.

There is one magnificent delusion in the article. In the first paragraph he says "
We live in two Americas. One America, now the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world. It can cope with complexity and has the intellectual tools to separate illusion from truth." I would correct this and say that the minority that he describes thinks it can separate illusion from truth but in actuality is blinded by its Manichaen world view and chases shadows. This minority has one thing that the majority lacks: POWER.

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