The Triumph of Illusion and Spectacle: the Rise of Illiteracy in America

by on July 11, 2011 · 1 comment

in American Empire, Media

By John Lawrence / Will Blog for Food / July 09, 2011

While the nation is close to a catastrophe of global proportions, the mass media treats us to one spectacle after another. Instead of discussing the jobs crisis or the debt crisis or the worst recession since the Great Depression, we are treated first to the saga of Anthony Weiner’s weiner followed closely by a 24/7 immersion in the Casey Anthony case.

All cameras were on when Nancy Pelosi stepped before them to announce that she was not going to discuss Anthony Weiner but she was there that day to discuss jobs. Immediately, the mass media cut her off and went back to the studio to discuss Anthony Weiner. Jobs was not an important enough topic that we should want to hear what one of America’s leading politicians had to say about it.

No, far more important was to keep the spotlight on Weiner’s weiner. And in a stroke of genius the media created another spectacle out of the Casey Anthony case. Back to back spectacles; it doesn’t get any better than that! Without discussing the merits or the tragedy of the case, suffice it to say that it didn’t need to have been made into a media spectacle. The wheels of justice could have ground slowly on without the general American public knowing much of anything about it just as it knows little or nothing of the hundreds of other similar cases that go to court every year. This was totally a media created spectacle.

In his book, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle Chris Hedges explains what’s happening. The media are only interested in the bucks they can command from advertisers based on the number of eyeballs that are glued to the tube. Therefore, they are not interested in reporting or discussing the issues of the day that are affecting whether or not the US will default on its debt or have enough money to pay social security or what is the best way to create jobs. They are only interested in patching together one media spectacle after another because that is where the money is and their only interest is money not the issues of the day. I’m sure they’re working very hard right now to find a replacement for the Casey Anthony spectacle now that it is drawing to a close. What’ll be next?

The Anthony Weiner saga would have amounted to nothing if the media hadn’t gotten involved. There was no sex, consensual or otherwise, but there were pictures and the media loves pictures. And it loves appealing to the prurient interests of the general public. Weiner’s resignation was a heads up to the media to find another spectacle and they found Casey Anthony. Instead of people discussing issues of national importance, they are led to the trough of discussion of the many facets of the case, a case which had no significance whatsoever for the lives of American citizens and a case which is replicated over and over again, unfortunately, almost every day of the year so there was nothing even unique about it.

So the media had to create the illusion that this was the most important thing an American citizen should be concerned with, at least until it’s replaced by another spectacle. Instead of Nero fiddling while Rome burned, we are treated to the spectacle of corporate induced fiddling by the American public while America burns. The public is systematically dumbed down so that media corporations can maximize their profits.

Hedges points out that all this mind numbing television has reduced Americans to a nation of functional illiterates:

Functional illiteracy in North America is epidemic. There are 7 million illiterate Americans. Another 27 million are unable to read well enough to complete a job application, and 30 million can’t read a simple sentence. There are some 50 million who read at a fourth-or-fifth-grade level. Nearly a third of the nation’s population is illiterate or barely literate – a figure that is growing by more than 2 million a year. A third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives, and neither do 42 percent of college graduates. In 2007, 80 percent of families in the United States did not buy or read a book. …

For the remainder of the article, please go here.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

avatar ss July 11, 2011 at 4:34 pm

sad but true


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