The River

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Hologram Ripples with the Cry of a Thrush

The Simulacrum Republic

By Joe Bageant


The average American spends about one-third of his or her waking life watching television. The neurological implications of this are so profound that they cannot even be comprehended in words, much less described by them. Television creates our reality, regulates our national perceptions and our interior hallucinations of who we Americans are (the best and only important tribe on the planet.) It schedules our cultural illusions of choice, displays pre-selected candidates in our elections, or types of consumer goods. It regulates holiday marketing opportunities and the national neurological seasons, which are now governed by the electrons of the illusion. We live within a media generated belief system that functions as the operating instructions for society. Anything outside of its parameters represents fear and psychological freefall to the faceless legions within it.

Our civilization, our culture, in as much as it can be said to exist in any cohesive way, is based upon two things, television and petroleum. Whether you are a custodian or the President, your world depends upon an unbroken supply of both. So it is small wonder that we all watch a televised global war for oil. As in all produced illusions, everyone we see is an actor. There are the television actors portraying what passes for reality, and real people performing for television. Non-actors in Congress perform in front of the cameras, grappling over the feeding tube on Terri Schiavo; real actors portray non-actors in “reality shows.” Michael Jackson shows up for court in pajamas and Jeff Weise shows up for class with a gun. The demand for “newsmakers” is relentless as the empire’s corporate cultural machinery weaves the warp of consumer illusions that make up our notion of individualism, and the weft of democratic mythology that constitutes our political system. This is by no means a free country and given the intense luminosity of the hologram, we cannot even see freedom from here, and probably would not recognize it if we could. Moreover, though, we cannot tear our eyes away from the great flickering glow of the hologram.


Full disclosure: I had read this piece when it was published at the end of last year, but it was not top-of-mind when I wrote "What Do I Think?" It's just a coincidence that Joe Bageant's essay tracks strikingly close to my own, from TV consciousness to disconnect from the natural world to Jerry Mander references to a similar final sentence.

I just ran across it on the rigint board and didn't even realize I had read it before, until I found the whole thing at Dissident Voice and remembered the beginning.

Coincidence. That and similar experiences with hallucinigens and Jerry Mander books. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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