Journalist Chris Hedges talks about EMPIRE OF ILLUSION: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle. He says Americans are in thrall to a culture of narcissism, revenge, and fake “happiness” that is destroying our democracy — and our power to connect genuinely with others. And former Army intelligence officer and constitutional scholar Chris Pyle says the Bush Administration is GETTING AWAY WITH TORTURE. He tells us about secret government, war crimes, and the rule of law.
Empire of Illusion
Are you pessimistic about the future? Are economic woes, climate chaos, the capture of Washington by special interests and a host of other nail-biting problems in the reality-based universe getting you down?
Well, rather than doing something about it, why don’t you just sit back and forgot your worries by watching World Wide Wrestling, Jerry Springer, a gonzo porn video, or, for that matter, a PBS marathon with Deepak Chopra on how we can all be happy if we just think happy thoughts?
Pulitzer prize-winner Chris Hedges examines America’s turn from reality to illusion in his new book, [amazon-product text=”EMPIRE OF ILLUSION: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” type=”text”]1568584377[/amazon-product]. He examines five areas of illusion: in literacy, love, wisdom, happiness and our idea of America. He says that the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are a dangerous pablum that’s sapping our ability to solve real problems. And, meanwhile, while “Brand” Obama exhorts us that “Yes, We Can”, American democracy is crumbling under our feet. Driven by corporate greed and domination, the spectacle society Hedges explores is, he says, creating a kind of “inverted totalitarianism” that exploits violence, pornography, and the anodyne nostrums of “positive psychology” to numb or lull us into passivity.
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Listen to the extended interview with Hedges on threat and hope here.
A former Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent and divinity school graduate, Hedges is also the author of numerous books, including the bestseller, [amazon-product text=”War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” type=”text”]1400034639[/amazon-product]. He is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and writes for Foreign Affairs, Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, and Mother Jones. He is also a columnist for Truthdig.com.
Getting Away With Torture
The U.S. used to be the refuge for people fleeing human rights threats from dictatorial regimes abroad. America held herself up as an example of respect for law and human rights. No more. Under the Bush Administration (although it started earlier) human rights crimes like kidnapping, torture, and imprisonment without charges spread their stain on American policy and reputation.
If you want to get a full picture of how the Bush torture policy was devised and executed, you need go no farther than Chris Pyle’s new book, [amazon-product text=”GETTING AWAY WITH TORTURE: Secret Government, War Crimes, and the Rule of Law” type=”text”]1597973874[/amazon-product]. From George Bush and Dick Cheney to George Tenet and Albert Gonzales, the torture policy was created and promoted with obsessive attention to detail. The “bad apples” of Abu Ghraib reached into the highest levels of the U.S. government. Not only that, it didn’t work to make us safer; quite the opposite.
“This was not something that went on out in the field by angry soldiers who had lost comrades. It was so closely supervised, the lawyers were consulted to justify techniques that under American law had always been considered absolutely forbidden…”
Pyle knows a lot about how the US government violates the rule of law. A former Army intelligence officer, in 1970 he blew the whistle on the military’s domestic spying on civilians in the civil rights and antiwar movements. He served as an investigator on the Church Committee investigating the spying. That led to laws limiting domestic military surveillance; laws that were undermined under the Bush administration.
Pyle is a constitutional scholar, whose previous books include [amazon-product text=”Extradition Politics & Human Rights” type=”text”]1566398231[/amazon-product]. We talked to him about the latter in 2006. He teaches constitutional law at Mount Holyoke College. In Getting Away With Torture, he brings all the evidence together to paint a fascinating portrait of how the war on terror — and the drive for revenge — has undermined our basic civil freedoms.