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[VIDEO] Allan Gregg in conversation with Chris Hedges – author of “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy”

Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle was published in July 2009. An exposition of Hedges’s socialist[9] opinions, Empire of Illusion is heavily influenced by Marxist Critical theory: Hedges repeatedly references the ideas of Theodor Adorno and Karl Polanyi, and also refers to Karl Marx’s concepts of “superstructure” and an inevitable collapse of capitalism.

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books (July 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568584377
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568584379

“Remarkable, bracing and highly moral, Empire of Illusion is Hedges’ lament for his nation.”
— Maclean’s

“Each chapter of Empire of Illusion makes a strong case for how different illusions — of literacy, love, wisdom, happiness — taken together are destroying the American mind, culture and the nation itself.”
— National Post

“Each chapter torches one of our cultural illusions.”
— The Globe and Mail

“Hedges is a fan of big ideas, and in Empire of Illusion, he draws upon the culture of professional wrestling and pornography, the elite university, positive psychology and the financial crisis to fashion a social theory of everything.”
— Winnipeg Free Press

From the publisher:

“Pulitzer prize–winner Chris Hedges charts the dramatic and disturbing rise of a post-literate society that craves fantasy, ecstasy and illusion.
Chris Hedges argues that we now live in two societies: One, the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world, that can cope with complexity and can separate illusion from truth. The other, a growing majority, is retreating from a reality-based world into one of false certainty and magic. In this “other society,” serious film and theatre, as well as newspapers and books, are being pushed to the margins.
In the tradition of Christopher Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism and Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, Hedges navigates this culture — attending WWF contests as well as Ivy League graduation ceremonies — exposing an age of terrifying decline and heightened self-delusion.”

Christopher Lynn Hedges (born September 18, 1956 in St. Johnsbury, Vermont) is an American journalist, author, and war correspondent, specializing in American and Middle Eastern politics and societies.[1] His most recent book, which he discussed on CSPAN’s Booktv [2], is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (2009).[3]Hedges is also known as the best-selling author of War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2002), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. A quote from the book was used as the opening title quotation in the critically-acclaimed and Academy Award-winning 2009 film, The Hurt Locker. The quote reads: “The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.”[4][5][6]

Chris Hedges is currently a senior fellow at The Nation Institute in New York City.[7] He spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than fifty countries, and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News, and The New York Times, where he was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years.[1]

In 2002, Hedges was part of the team of reporters at The New York Times awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the paper’s coverage of global terrorism. He also received in 2002 the Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism. He has taught at Columbia University, New York University and Princeton University. He currently writes a column for Truthdig and is married to actress Eunice Wong. They have one son together and Hedges has two children from a previous marriage.

Biography

Christopher Lynn Hedges was born in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, the son of a Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Thomas Hedges. He grew up in upstate New York, graduated from the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Connecticut in 1975 and attended Colgate University where he received a B.A. in English Literature. He later obtained a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School, where he studied under James Luther Adams. He was awarded an honorary doctorate, along with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, in May 2009 from the Unitarian Universalist seminary, Starr King School for the Ministry, in Berkeley, California.[3]

In 1983, Hedges began his career reporting on the conflict in El Salvador. Following six years in Latin America, he took time off to study Arabic and then went to Jerusalem and later Cairo. He spent seven years in the Middle East, most of them as the Middle East Bureau Chief for The New York Times. During the first Gulf War he was taken prisoner by the Iraqi Republican Guard while covering the Shiite uprising in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. He was released after a week to the International Committee of the Red Cross. He left the Middle East in 1995 for Sarajevo to cover the war in Bosnia followed by the war in Kosovo. Later, he joined the investigative team of The New York Times, based in Paris, and covered terrorism.

He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University during the academic year of 1998-1999 where he studied classics. In addition to English, he speaks Arabic, French and Spanish and knows Latin and ancient Greek. He has written for numerous publications including The Nation, Foreign Affairs, Harper’s Magazine, The New York Review of Books, Granta, Mother Jones, New Humanist and Robert Scheer’s web magazine Truthdig where he publishes a column every Monday.

Hedges, an outspoken critic of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, was also an early and vocal critic of the Iraq War. He questioned the rationale for war by the Bush administration and was critical of the early press coverage, calling it “shameful cheerleading”. In May 2003, Hedges delivered a commencement address at Rockford College in Rockford, Illinois, saying:

“We are embarking on an occupation that, if history is any guide, will be as damaging to our souls as it will be to our prestige and power and security.”

Several hundred members of the audience booed and jeered his talk, although some applauded. Hedges’ microphone was cut twice and two young men rushed the stage to try to prevent him from speaking. Hedges had to cut short his address and was escorted off campus by security officials before the ceremony was over. An editorial in The Wall Street Journal denounced Hedges for his anti-war stance on May 24. His employer, The New York Times, criticized his statements and issued him a written reprimand for “public remarks that could undermine public trust in the paper’s impartiality.” Hedges, refusing to accept these restrictions, left The New York Times to become a senior fellow at The Nation Institute, write books and teach.

Hedges has stated that he is not a pacifist and supports humanitarian interventions, such as those in Bosnia and Kosovo, designed to stop campaigns of genocide. He nevertheless describes war as “the most potent narcotic invented by humankind.”

Hedges states that his outlook is influenced by moral writers and ethicists such as George Orwell, Samuel Johnson, Karl Popper, Hannah Arendt, Elias Canetti and theologians such as William Stringfellow, Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Abraham Heschel, and Reinhold Niebuhr.

In December 29, 2008 column for Truthdig, Hedges identified himself as a “socialist” in contrast to what he sees as “ruthless totalitarian capitalism.”[8]

Books:

War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2002)

Hedges’ bestselling War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (ISBN 1586480499) draws on his experiences in various conflicts to describe the patterns and behavior of nations and individuals in wartime. The book was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.

“War and conflict have marked most of my adult life. I began covering insurgencies in El Salvador, where I spent five years, then went on to Guatemala and Nicaragua and Colombia, through the first intifada in the West Bank and Gaza, the civil war in the Sudan and Yemen, the uprisings in Algeria and the Punjab, the fall of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, the Gulf War, the Kurdish rebellion in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq, the war in Bosnia, and finally Kosovo. I have been in ambushes on desolate stretches of Central American roads, shot at in the marshes of southern Iraq, imprisoned in the Sudan, beaten by Saudi military police, deported from Libya and Iran, captured and held for a week by the Iraqi Republican Guard during the Shiite rebellion following the Gulf War, strafed by Russian MIG-21s in Bosnia, fired upon by Serb snipers, and shelled for days in Sarajevo with deafening rounds of heavy artillery that threw out thousands of deadly bits of iron fragments. I have seen too much of violent death. I have tasted too much of my own fear. I have painful memories that lie buried and untouched most of the time. It is never easy when they surface.”[5][6]

What Every Person Should Know About War (2003)

Hedges is also the author of What Every Person Should Know About War (ISBN 1417721049), a book he worked on with several combat veterans.

From the publisher:

“Chris Hedges offers a critical — and fascinating — lesson in the dangerous realities of our age: a stark look at the effects of war on combatants. Utterly lacking in rhetoric or dogma, this manual relies instead on bare fact, frank description, and a spare question-and-answer format. Hedges allows U.S. military documentation of the brutalizing physical and psychological consequences of a combat to speak for itself.”

Losing Moses on the Freeway (2005)

Losing Moses on the Freeway: The 10 Commandments in America (ISBN 0743255135) was published in June 2005. The book was inspired by the Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieślowski and his ten-part film series The Decalogue. Hedges wrote about lives, including his own, which had been consumed by one of the violations or issues raised by a commandment.

American Fascists (2007)

American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America (ISBN 0743284437) was published in January 2007. In this book, Hedges argues that the Christian fundamentalist movement emerging today in the United States resembles the early fascist movements in Italy and Germany at the beginning of the last century, and therefore constitutes a gathering threat to American democracy.

I Don’t Believe in Atheists (2008)

I Don’t Believe in Atheists (ISBN 141656795X), published in March 2008, is a critique of what Hedges perceives as a radical mindset that rages against religion and faith. Hedges states the book was motivated by debates he had with atheist authors Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens whom Hedges feels excessively demonize religion, particularly Islam, in ways that Hedges believed were eerily similar to the thinking of Christian fundamentalists. The 2009 paperback edition (1416570780) was retitled When Atheism Becomes Religion: America’s New Fundamentalists.

Collateral Damage (2008)

Collateral Damage: America’s War Against Iraqi Civilians (ISBN 1568583737), with Laila Al-Arian.

From the publisher:

“In this devastating exposé of a military occupation gone awry, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Chris Hedges and journalist Laila Al-Arian reveal the terrifying reality of daily civilian life in Iraq at the hands of U.S. troops. Based on hundreds of hours of interviews with combat veterans, Collateral Damage represents the largest number of named eyewitnesses from within the U.S. military to have testified on the record. These veterans, many of whom have come to oppose the war, explain the tactics and operations that have turned many Iraqis against the U.S. military….”The soldiers and Marines interviewed in Collateral Damage describe the venality of a war fought largely out of view of journalists and television cameras. A stark and unflinching narrative, [it] exposes the true consequences of the war that the American government has unleashed in Iraq.

Empire of Illusion (2009)

Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (ISBN 9781568584379) was published in July 2009. An exposition of Hedges’s socialist[9] opinions, Empire of Illusion is heavily influenced by Marxist Critical theory: Hedges repeatedly references the ideas of Theodor Adorno and Karl Polanyi, and also refers to Karl Marx’s concepts of “superstructure” and an inevitable collapse of capitalism.

From the publisher:

“Pulitzer prize–winner Chris Hedges charts the dramatic and disturbing rise of a post-literate society that craves fantasy, ecstasy and illusion.Chris Hedges argues that we now live in two societies: One, the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world, that can cope with complexity and can separate illusion from truth. The other, a growing majority, is retreating from a reality-based world into one of false certainty and magic. In this “other society,” serious film and theatre, as well as newspapers and books, are being pushed to the margins.In the tradition of Christopher Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism and Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, Hedges navigates this culture — attending WWF contests as well as Ivy League graduation ceremonies — exposing an age of terrifying decline and heightened self-delusion.”


6 responses

  1. Wow. This man humbles me. Incredible analysis, incredible grasp of contemporary and historical realities, politics, ideas, and sociology. Truly inspiring. Truly depressing. Bravo.

    March 19, 2010 at 11:04 pm

  2. panem et circenses

    June 5, 2011 at 10:34 am

  3. Pingback: “The Elusive Big Idea” – Neal Gabler says we are living in a “post-idea world”–I disagree « rudhro's ruminatoria

  4. After Religion Fizzles, We’re Stuck With Nietzsche — By Chris Hedges

    CHRIS HEDGES: This Time We’re Taking the Whole Planet With Us

    [AUDIO] “OBAMA WAS NOTHING BUT A BRAND”: CHRIS HEDGES IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL ENRIGHT ON CBC RADIO’S SUNDAY EDITION

    [VIDEO] CBC’s Kevin O’Leary to NYT’s Chris Hedges: “You sound like a left wing nutbar”

    October 9, 2011 at 9:05 am

  5. Pingback: [AUDIO] “OBAMA WAS NOTHING BUT A BRAND”: CHRIS HEDGES IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL ENRIGHT ON CBC RADIO’S SUNDAY EDITION « rudhro's ruminatoria

  6. Pingback: [VIDEO] CBC’s Kevin O’Leary to NYT’s Chris Hedges: “You sound like a left wing nutbar” « rudhro's ruminatoria

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