Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
America the Illiterate
11-17-2008, 06:56 PM,
#1
America the Illiterate
America the Illiterate

By Chris Hedges

November 16, 2008 "Truthdig" -- - We live in two Americas. One America, now the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world. It can cope with complexity and has the intellectual tools to separate illusion from truth. The other America, which constitutes the majority, exists in a non-reality-based belief system. This America, dependent on skillfully manipulated images for information, has severed itself from the literate, print-based culture. It cannot differentiate between lies and truth. It is informed by simplistic, childish narratives and clichés. It is thrown into confusion by ambiguity, nuance and self-reflection. This divide, more than race, class or gender, more than rural or urban, believer or nonbeliever, red state or blue state, has split the country into radically distinct, unbridgeable and antagonistic entities.

There are over 42 million American adults, 20 percent of whom hold high school diplomas, who cannot read, as well as the 50 million who read at a fourth- or fifth-grade level. Nearly a third of the nation’s population is illiterate or barely literate. And their numbers are growing by an estimated 2 million a year. But even those who are supposedly literate retreat in huge numbers into this image-based existence. A third of high school graduates, along with 42 percent of college graduates, never read a book after they finish school. Eighty percent of the families in the United States last year did not buy a book.

The illiterate rarely vote, and when they do vote they do so without the ability to make decisions based on textual information. American political campaigns, which have learned to speak in the comforting epistemology of images, eschew real ideas and policy for cheap slogans and reassuring personal narratives. Political propaganda now masquerades as ideology. Political campaigns have become an experience. They do not require cognitive or self-critical skills. They are designed to ignite pseudo-religious feelings of euphoria, empowerment and collective salvation. Campaigns that succeed are carefully constructed psychological instruments that manipulate fickle public moods, emotions and impulses, many of which are subliminal. They create a public ecstasy that annuls individuality and fosters a state of mindlessness. They thrust us into an eternal present. They cater to a nation that now lives in a state of permanent amnesia. It is style and story, not content or history or reality, which inform our politics and our lives. We prefer happy illusions. And it works because so much of the American electorate, including those who should know better, blindly cast ballots for slogans, smiles, the cheerful family tableaux, narratives and the perceived sincerity and the attractiveness of candidates. We confuse how we feel with knowledge.

The illiterate and semi-literate, once the campaigns are over, remain powerless. They still cannot protect their children from dysfunctional public schools. They still cannot understand predatory loan deals, the intricacies of mortgage papers, credit card agreements and equity lines of credit that drive them into foreclosures and bankruptcies. They still struggle with the most basic chores of daily life from reading instructions on medicine bottles to filling out bank forms, car loan documents and unemployment benefit and insurance papers. They watch helplessly and without comprehension as hundreds of thousands of jobs are shed. They are hostages to brands. Brands come with images and slogans. Images and slogans are all they understand. Many eat at fast food restaurants not only because it is cheap but because they can order from pictures rather than menus. And those who serve them, also semi-literate or illiterate, punch in orders on cash registers whose keys are marked with symbols and pictures. This is our brave new world.

Political leaders in our post-literate society no longer need to be competent, sincere or honest. They only need to appear to have these qualities. Most of all they need a story, a narrative. The reality of the narrative is irrelevant. It can be completely at odds with the facts. The consistency and emotional appeal of the story are paramount. The most essential skill in political theater and the consumer culture is artifice. Those who are best at artifice succeed. Those who have not mastered the art of artifice fail. In an age of images and entertainment, in an age of instant emotional gratification, we do not seek or want honesty. We ask to be indulged and entertained by clichés, stereotypes and mythic narratives that tell us we can be whomever we want to be, that we live in the greatest country on Earth, that we are endowed with superior moral and physical qualities and that our glorious future is preordained, either because of our attributes as Americans or because we are blessed by God or both.

The ability to magnify these simple and childish lies, to repeat them and have surrogates repeat them in endless loops of news cycles, gives these lies the aura of an uncontested truth. We are repeatedly fed words or phrases like yes we can, maverick, change, pro-life, hope or war on terror. It feels good not to think. All we have to do is visualize what we want, believe in ourselves and summon those hidden inner resources, whether divine or national, that make the world conform to our desires. Reality is never an impediment to our advancement.

The Princeton Review analyzed the transcripts of the Gore-Bush debates, the Clinton-Bush-Perot debates of 1992, the Kennedy-Nixon debates of 1960 and the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858. It reviewed these transcripts using a standard vocabulary test that indicates the minimum educational standard needed for a reader to grasp the text. During the 2000 debates, George W. Bush spoke at a sixth-grade level (6.7) and Al Gore at a seventh-grade level (7.6). In the 1992 debates, Bill Clinton spoke at a seventh-grade level (7.6), while George H.W. Bush spoke at a sixth-grade level (6.8), as did H. Ross Perot (6.3). In the debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, the candidates spoke in language used by 10th-graders. In the debates of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas the scores were respectively 11.2 and 12.0. In short, today’s political rhetoric is designed to be comprehensible to a 10-year-old child or an adult with a sixth-grade reading level. It is fitted to this level of comprehension because most Americans speak, think and are entertained at this level. This is why serious film and theater and other serious artistic expression, as well as newspapers and books, are being pushed to the margins of American society. Voltaire was the most famous man of the 18th century. Today the most famous “person” is Mickey Mouse.

In our post-literate world, because ideas are inaccessible, there is a need for constant stimulus. News, political debate, theater, art and books are judged not on the power of their ideas but on their ability to entertain. Cultural products that force us to examine ourselves and our society are condemned as elitist and impenetrable. Hannah Arendt warned that the marketization of culture leads to its degradation, that this marketization creates a new celebrity class of intellectuals who, although well read and informed themselves, see their role in society as persuading the masses that “Hamlet” can be as entertaining as “The Lion King” and perhaps as educational. “Culture,” she wrote, “is being destroyed in order to yield entertainment.”

“There are many great authors of the past who have survived centuries of oblivion and neglect,” Arendt wrote, “but it is still an open question whether they will be able to survive an entertaining version of what they have to say.”

The change from a print-based to an image-based society has transformed our nation. Huge segments of our population, especially those who live in the embrace of the Christian right and the consumer culture, are completely unmoored from reality. They lack the capacity to search for truth and cope rationally with our mounting social and economic ills. They seek clarity, entertainment and order. They are willing to use force to impose this clarity on others, especially those who do not speak as they speak and think as they think. All the traditional tools of democracies, including dispassionate scientific and historical truth, facts, news and rational debate, are useless instruments in a world that lacks the capacity to use them.

As we descend into a devastating economic crisis, one that Barack Obama cannot halt, there will be tens of millions of Americans who will be ruthlessly thrust aside. As their houses are foreclosed, as their jobs are lost, as they are forced to declare bankruptcy and watch their communities collapse, they will retreat even further into irrational fantasy. They will be led toward glittering and self-destructive illusions by our modern Pied Pipers—our corporate advertisers, our charlatan preachers, our television news celebrities, our self-help gurus, our entertainment industry and our political demagogues—who will offer increasingly absurd forms of escapism.

The core values of our open society, the ability to think for oneself, to draw independent conclusions, to express dissent when judgment and common sense indicate something is wrong, to be self-critical, to challenge authority, to understand historical facts, to separate truth from lies, to advocate for change and to acknowledge that there are other views, different ways of being, that are morally and socially acceptable, are dying. Obama used hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign funds to appeal to and manipulate this illiteracy and irrationalism to his advantage, but these forces will prove to be his most deadly nemesis once they collide with the awful reality that awaits us.

link - http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21239.htm
Vitam Impendere Vero
Reply
11-17-2008, 07:48 PM,
#2
America the Illiterate
Who do you really think the political and media systems play to? The illiterates. They are the only ones that they can play to. If they tried to play to the educated and well informed they would be wasting their time and money.

Why do you think that McStupid's campaign ended up with the slogan "JOE SIXPACK"? It was another way of saying "Hey stupid idiots, this bullshit is for you". Look at the person they chose as the poster boy for "Joe Sixpack", he was a moron. He typified the face of the illiterate and stupid. And the morons came out in record numbers jumping up and down and celebrating their ignorance in tremendous numbers like the buffoons they are. Please.

The whole game is insulting and very tedious to have to deal with. Of course I didn't vote because I am not so insane that I would ever believe that there is a human being qualified to lead me anywhere.

Just my humble opinion mind you.:rolleyes:
Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats. H. L. Mencken




Reply
11-17-2008, 09:09 PM,
#3
America the Illiterate
depressing, ain't it?

of course it's not just the US, this is absolutely what's also happening in the UK and the rest of Europe - it's an established tactic, developed most specifically since WWII - 'dumbing down', appealing to guts and genitals above hearts and minds.

once, in my childhood, the BBC's remit was 'educating' (i'm not denying that was within a very narrow framework, directed by an elite, but), they used 'entertainment' programmes to lead into documentaries and 'how to' programmes, with the purpose of increasing knowledge.

we've come a long way since then, and it has been particularly noticeable over the last decade, but the result is documentaries etc. (when they even bother to include them in the schedule) are aimed at 10 - 12 year olds. in effect, virtually worthless.

'stupidity' is worth a watch

also on the tracker - http://tracker.conspiracycentral.net/torre...ils.php?id=3363

Vitam Impendere Vero
Reply
11-17-2008, 10:35 PM,
#4
America the Illiterate
I remember seeing the documentary a few years back. If we are thinking about the same one.
Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats. H. L. Mencken




Reply
11-17-2008, 10:38 PM,
#5
America the Illiterate
guess so, it's been out a few years
Vitam Impendere Vero
Reply
11-17-2008, 11:36 PM,
#6
America the Illiterate
If it is the one that I am thinking about it was called "Stupidity" and it was all I could do to sit through it without screaming at the computer screen "STOP IT! STUPID PEOPLE!!!!"
Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats. H. L. Mencken




Reply
11-18-2008, 12:05 AM,
#7
America the Illiterate
yeah, that's it. watched it with my son, found it quite amusing - in road accident sort of way
Vitam Impendere Vero
Reply
11-18-2008, 07:36 PM,
#8
America the Illiterate
Im downloading it now, the write up looks good
Reply


Possibly Related Threads...
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  Hitchhiker shot while researching 'Kindness of America': Sticks out thumb, catches le h3rm35 0 478 06-13-2012, 11:05 PM
Last Post: h3rm35
  "America never sad, Only go mad..." rockingtheboat 0 592 08-22-2011, 09:39 PM
Last Post: rockingtheboat
  50 Random Facts That Make You Wonder What In The World Has Happened To America hilly7 0 605 07-07-2010, 04:19 AM
Last Post: hilly7
  Fun with Coke in Latin America h3rm35 10 1,682 05-25-2010, 06:49 AM
Last Post: FastTadpole
Lightbulb Nice poem, for some reason reminds me of America, "IF ROME SHOULD FALL" joeblow 0 423 02-24-2010, 06:35 PM
Last Post: joeblow
  A write-up in ten parts on "The Fall of America and the Western World Weyland 0 456 12-24-2009, 05:04 AM
Last Post: Weyland
  Is it just me or others that holidays in America are more commercial then other parts jessicaabruno 4 583 09-15-2009, 01:45 AM
Last Post: hilly7
  The Real Criminals of America mexika 0 386 02-21-2009, 05:49 AM
Last Post: mexika
  The Best Kept Secret in America waxzy 0 408 10-04-2008, 03:33 PM
Last Post: waxzy
  So America do you want change? clark-kent 4 795 07-01-2008, 05:20 AM
Last Post: mexika

Forum Jump:


Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)