Strategies of Communication on Climate Change

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Empire of illusion: virtualizing reality

"Empire of Illusions," by Chris Hedges, is a long screed about how virtual reality is trumping real reality and how, in the process, it is destroying the entity we call sometimes "civilization". Surely worth reading even though, I must confess, I found it a bit too disheartening for my taste. Out of this book, I would like to propose to you a citation that compares two dystrophies: Huxley's "Brave New World" and Orwell's "1984". Of the two, Huxley seems to have been the one who better understood the future that would become our present.

From "Amusing Ourselves to Death" by Neil Postman (1952) as cited in "Empire of Illusion", by Chris Hedges, p. 39"

"What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared that the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared that we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy-porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions" in 1984, Huxley added, they are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us. "


  1. “ Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us. "...
    I would think that the truth lays some where in between those two points of view, inside all of us maybe it is in a different place. We should try to investigate and find out the truth, for our own personal and global benefit.

  2. First the love - then the hate...

  3. "Of the two, Huxley seems to have been the one who better understood the future that would become our present."

    Maybe..... but I would say that Orwell didn't do too badly either !?

    1) "Big Brother is watching you." (the NSA's surveillance and spying program of the entire world and automatic automobile license plate readers installed all over U.S. highways and linked to computer systems in police officers' cruisers) (currently being fought by the U.S.'s American Civil Liberties Union)

    2) The "Ministry of Truth" which Orwell said was responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism
    (A significant portion of today's mainstream corporate media?)

    3) "Doublethink, newspeak, and memory hole" (routine terms and practices of the mainstream media and parts of mainstream academia's "narratives" and "well framed and bounded" "proper" discourses ?)

    But Aldous Huxley was certainly no lightweight either as far as forecasting the future.

    Later, Marshall Mc Luhan came along and was a different kind of animal and also deliberately paradoxical at times but he too left us some pretty good things to think about: "The Medium is the Message"....(i.e. the process and the form of the media and the relationship of the receiver to it, are often the main content being transmitted) (i.e. whether you are watching Noam Chomsky or Bill O'Reilly on TV you are still watching TV and are probably not participating directly in anything) and also Mc Luhan's The Global Village. (it didn't quite happen but in some respects it did).

    And another guy who I think has made a great contribution in the general areas above (and that I think will be thought about for a long time to come eventually....since right now everybody is "too much into" Facebook, Twitter, and various other new "cool things" available on the Internet to pay much attention) is Evgeny Mozorov with his latest (and in my opinon "landmark") book "To Save Everything Click Here"

    Nasseeb Nicholas Talib put it nicely in his comment about the book on the Amazon web-page for the book
    ( (which I also would heartily recommend to anyone interested in any of the topics above) saying nice and succinctly: "A clear voice of reason and critical thinking in the middle of today's neomania.”

    The question I would also ask is this however: If we were all to read carefully Huxley, Orwell, Hedges, Mc Luhan and Mozorov and take on board all their messages would that automatically vaccinate us against the many mental lethal viral infections of various sources and types going around nowadays?

    We can think about and analyze the world we live in, but it's pretty hard to completely step out of it.

  4. Arthur C. Clarke (SF writer who first postulated satellite communication technology) many years ago suggested that universal access to pornography (saturated gratification) would become destructive of personal life and destroy societies. In part he seems to have been correct, (drugs and porn fuel criminality, and not least, porn, funds much of the internet), but there is much more than that going on and some of it could yet produce surprises and emergent phenomena. War, and as in the case of Clarke’s adopted home Sri Lanka, civil-war, seem all too likely.

    Past mass society especially in imperial metropoles, did mass schooling and stratified access to centrally pre-determined curricula. The inter-war totalitarian regimes of Europe used commercial techniques of persuasion via monopoly control of mass media. Our latter-day meme of commercially available 'choice' relies on saturation with subliminal (and not so subliminal) messages to channel status-seeking consumption and other fantasy lives. How brief a phenomenon will this be?

    Most of the world actually still lives within constraints of a semi-subsistence existence, or scrounges at the edge of 'our' super-imposition of mass culture (neo-imperial capitalism as an outgrowth of industrialisation?). This scrambled world surely is a passing phase and one guesses at a ‘peak urbanisation’? The atomised, 'independent', (read insecure), office worker with a smart phone and a loosely connected 'silo' culture on the internet seems very vulnerable? Even the young masses of factory workers in their long days and barrack-room nights cannot subsist on dreams alone.

    Reality tends to break in upon virtual dreams, and I predict all our futile arguments on the internet will be swept away leaving few cultural traces for future societies. A long time ago I had a vision of the London 'tube' filled with the whisper of salt water.

    There are of course better ways to live and die, even now, even if these ways are as vulnerable as dreams of lost ancient forests and equally risk having no descendents.