What I'm Reading These Days ...

It's Matt Taibbi's The Great Derangement. Here are some quotes from the section I just read this morning:

"Mainstream American society has never been designed to confront difficult or dangerous truths. in fact, our mass media has corrupted the idea of objective truth so badly in the past five or six decades that it is now hard to tell when anyone is being serious about anything — the news, the movies, commercials, anything...

"The weird thing was that the new post-Isuzu ironic ads coexisted with ads of the same-old-bullshit genre. You had Joe Isuzu talking about using his trucks to haul two-thousand-pound cheeseburgers alongside cola ads that showed ordinary people looking like they were about to have huge heaving orgasms at the sight of a cold Coke, or be magically transformed into swimwear models after a couple of Diet Pepsis. You had open lies that were celebrated as such, veiled lies meant to be taken seriously, and then the ads would end and the news would come on and you would be presented with President Ronald Reagan — as skilled and telegenic a liar as politics has ever seen, Joe Isuzu's perfect Dostoyevskian double — getting up on TV and on the one hand lying through his teeth about Iran-Contra, and then on the other hand comparing [Nicaraguan president] Daniel Ortega to 'that fellow from Isuzu.'

"Somehow, ordinary people were supposed to keep track of all this, make their own sense of it. Decades after Watergate, Vietnam, and the Kennedy assassination, Americans were forced to rummage for objective reality in a sea of the most confusing and diabolical web of bullshit ever created by human minds — a false media tableau created mainly as a medium to sell products, a medium in which even the content of the 'news' was affected by commercial considerations. I'll leave it to someone else to break down all the different species of lies that by the early twenty-first-century Americans swallowed as a matter of routine — the preposterous laugh tracks in sitcoms, the parade of perfect-looking models used to sell products to the obese, the endless soap operas about the rich and beautiful cruising the OC in Testarossas, marketed to a country in which 10 percent of the population lacks enough to eat...

"In the late Clinton years government ground to a halt for almost two years in an utterly ridiculous and interminable national debate over a blowjob. The national press then stood by and did nothing while the country elected to the most powerful office on earth a man barely capable of reading — and if you ask me it was that set of circumstances, the outrageous presidential election of 2000 between a dingbat and a bore that was sold to the American people as a heroic clash of serious and qualified ideological opposites, that more than anything trained the population to dismiss as unserious anything the national media subsequently had to say about 9/11...

"It is not a good sign when even your supporters don't even bother to take your cover story seriously. And yet that was the position the Bush administration was in by 2003-4. No one except his most dug-in Republican loyalists took anything his people said or did at face value ... America by the early years of this century was a confusing kaleidoscope of transparent, invidious bullshit, a place where politicians hired consultants to teach them to 'straight talk,' where debates were decided by inadvertent coughs and smiles and elections were resolved via competing smear campaigns, and where network news programs — subsidized by advertisements for bogus alchemist portions like Enzyte that supposedly made your dick grow by magic — could feature as a lead story newly released photos of the Tom Cruise love child, at a time when young American men and women were dying every day in the deserts of the Middle East.

"The message of all this was that Americans were now supposed to make their own sense of the world. There was no dependable authority left to turn to, no life raft in the increasingly perilous informational sea. This coincided with an age when Americans now needed to understand more of the world than ever before. A factory worker in suburban Ohio now needed to understand the cultures of places like Bangalore and Beijing if he wanted to know why he'd lost his job. Which, incidentally, he probably had..."

Yep, The Great Derangement is one hell of a book; I can't wait to finish it, and I highly recommend it to all of you.


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