Chris Hedges argues in Death of the Liberal Class that the final phase of global corporate domination occurred during the Reagan Presidency and neoliberalism and its privatization and deregulation. He maintains the new global oligarchy resulted in increase in poverty and shrinking of the middle class.[i] Liberal groups that should have fought the power elite—academics, unions, journalists, the Democratic Party, and religious leaders—caved in. Consequently, Hedges has little hope of reversing that control. Corporations have 35,000 lobbyists in Washington and thousands more in state capitals.[ii] Most of us have been blinded by the magical thinking spun by the corporate-controlled entertainment industry. The power elite also uses permanent war to the tune of $1 trillion a year to stifle reform and instill “military values of hypermasculinity, blind obedience, and violence” as seen in reality TV, pornography, wrestling, etc.,[iii] The other side of this coin is the moral cancer—the attack on feminine values of compassion and tolerance. He concludes, “As our society begins to feel the disastrous ripple effects from the looting of our financial system, the unraveling of our empire, the effects of climate change and the accelerated impoverishment of the working and middle classes, hope will come only through direct contact with the destitute…”[iv] like Dorothy Day who founded the Catholic Worker movement to fight for justice.
In Empire of Illusion, Hedges observes that sadistic professional wrestling, pornography (annual sales of around $10 billion), reality TV, and talk shows “mirror the emotional wreckage of the fans”[i] who feel hopeless and angry about their economic decline. This reminds me of the Romans distracting the masses with cruel spectacles in the Coliseum in the days of Emperor Nero. “We are chained to the flickering shadows of celebrity culture, the spectacle of the arena and the airwaves, the lies of advertising, the endless personal dramas, many of them completely fictional, that have become the staple of news, celebrity gossip, New Age mysticism, and pop psychology.” He quotes Daniel Boorstein, who states in his book The Image: A guide to Pseudo-Events in America, that we live in a “world where fantasy is more real than reality. We are the most illusioned people on earth.”[ii] Hedges quotes Neal Gabler that celebrity culture is a hostile takeover of religion by consumer culture, defining how we live our lives, how to look young and glamorous like them, our desire to be famous—if only on social network sites. Celebrities become our gods[iii] and personality is valued over character in the “cult of the self.” Thus we ignore the destruction of the planet and growing inequality. He concludes that “cultures that cannot distinguish between illusion and reality die,” like many fallen empires who were taken over by a corrupt elite.[iv] He predicts a bleak future due to “those who sold us the perverted ideology of free-market capitalism and globalization. They have dynamited the foundations of our society.”
[i] Chris Hedges. Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle. Nation Books, 2009, p. 5
[ii] Ibid., p. 15.
[iii] Ibid, p. 16-17. Neal Gabler. Life: The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality.
[iv] Ibid., p. 143, 189.
[ii] Chris Hedges. Death of the Liberal Class. Nation Books, 2010, p. 24.
[iii] Ibid, p. 154.
[iv] Ibid, p. 158.
The documentary film Inside Job (2010) investigates the devastating global financial crisis that’s resulted in the US having the most inequality of any developed nation. In a nutshell, it says the US economy was healthy until Regan started deregulation. The outcome was unchecked greed and dishonesty of banks, rating agencies, and big financial companies like Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers. The architects of this disaster continued to be appointed to important positions like Secretary of the Treasury and head of the Federal Reserve Bank by Presidents Bush, Clinton and Obama. None of the criminals have been investigated or punished, but whistle blower Eliot Spitzer was outed for a life style typical of the upper echelons who used cocaine and prostitutes as part of their business dealings. It’s disheartening that Obama hasn’t advocated putting teeth in regulations despite what he advocated when he ran for office. See the study guide for the expose of the financial crisis. http://www.sonyclassics.com/insidejob