This book starts with a howl of anger and ends with a shriek of anguish. Chris Hedges, a former differentiated conflict correspondent for the New York Times and Pulitzer Prize winner doesn't drag any punches in this fevered attack on contemporary U.S. culture. Indeed, by the end of the book, this reader was feeling punch drunk (Chris, pp: 12).
The first chapter is an impressive tour de force, utilising professional wrestling as a metaphor to analyze what has happened to U.S. popular culture, which peddles a perverted morality in which the only thing that counts is winning by whatever entails necessary. Wrestlers, the author says, are minor figures in a society in which traditional religion has been replaced by the adoration of celebrities. That trend reaches its bathetic apotheosis in reality television - the morally worthless pursuit of celebrity by people with nothing to offer but their looks, if beautiful or grotesque.
The second chapter examines the U.S. pornography industry and is possibly even more powerful than the first. A consummate reporter, Hedges values all his powers of observation to take us into the heart of the pornographic movie industry - a world in which women are casually and cynically utilised, brutalized, routinely infected with HIV, vaginally and anally raped - and then thrown away like garbage. Like professional wrestling, Hedges says, pornography taps into the currency of torture. From pornography, he argues, it is but a short step to the indignities of Abu Ghraib. In fact, there was a striking similarity between the images of tortured Iraqi prisoners taken at Abu Ghraib and those peddled by pornographic movies (Chris, pp: 21).
The rest of the book is weaker - and Hedges more and more starts to indulge in political rants instead of relying on his talents as a reporter. In the final chapter, the author's political agenda discloses itself. “Our nation has been hijacked by oligarchs, corporations and a narrow, selfish, political and financial elite,” he states. “America has become a façade. It has become the greatest illusion in a culture of illusion. (Chris, pp: 66) The country's moral decay is manifested in its physical decay.” Soon, Hedges prognosticates, the downtrodden classes will rise up, and the United States could be plunged into “a long period of precarious social and political instability.”
It sound many like academic Marxism, blended by a deep nostalgia for a past age that may ...