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Reviews

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Chris Hedges, a former New York Times war correspondent, is not happy with the current state of American civilization, a view he makes crystal clear in Empire of Illusion.  Hedges is an independent man of the left and a cultural conservative.  Chronicles readers may recall the controversy over his commencement address in 2003 at Rockford College, covered by Scott P. Richert in The Rockford Files (August 2003).  In that speech, Hedges delivered a harsh, unpopular, and largely accurate assessment of the coming occupation in Iraq.  Empire of Illusion renders a similarly harsh assessment of the state of American culture in 2009.

Empire is a scattershot look at a variety of topics ranging from the porn industry to elite education.  Hedges believes that Americans have forsaken reality for a world of lies and empty entertainment.  Some of the more troubling results are plain—a series of disastrous foreign wars and a collapsing economy.  The major problems we currently face were avoidable, had people paid attention to calls for military restraint and to questions regarding the ability of the housing market to rise indefinitely.  In Hedges’ view, Americans are as distracted by fantasy as those who view the shadows on the wall of Plato’s cave:

those who manipulate the shadows that dominate our lives are the agents, publicists,...

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