When the most valued skill is the ability to entertain

A public that can no longer distinguish between truth and fiction is left to interpret reality through illusion. Random facts or obscure bits of data and trivia are used either to bolster illusion and give it credibility, or discarded if they interfere with the message. The worse reality becomes—the more, for example, foreclosures and unemployment sky-rocket—the more people seek refuge and comfort in illusions. When opinions cannot be distinguished from facts, when there is no universal standard to determine truth in law, in science, in scholarship, or in reporting the events of the day, when the most valued skill is the ability to entertain, the world becomes a place where lies become true, where people can believe what they want to believe.”

Chris Hedges,
Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle

Hedges wrote this book in 2009. Allow that to sink in.

I don’t know what else to say about this. I’m not sure what else there is to say. You can look at current events and draw a through line, I hope. Conspiracy theories spread by memes on message boards. Lies on the sides of buses. Populist politicians who get over with snarky sound bites and typo-riddled tweets. Much as we have killed the climate, we’ve killed literacy and allowed critical thinking to whither on the vine. We did not value it, and took it for granted, and ignored it. Now we’re reaping what we’ve sown.

When the most valued skill is the ability to entertain…

Published by