The age of non-reality

Chris Hedges, the author of American Fascists, has just announced a new book. According to Publisher's Marketplace, it will be "a book on a divided America, an alarming look at thesignificant number of Americans, particularly the semi-literate and illiterate one-third of the population, who hold a non-reality-based worldview as shaped by modern tools of technology, mass communication, focus groups, advertising and sophisticated political organization."

Finally, smart journalists on the left like Hedges are acknowledging the dangers of the mass tools of new technology (or should I say the new tools of mass destruction) on democracy. In our increasingly ominous economic environment, the world-view of the "semi-literate or illiterate one-third of the population" (ie: the unemployed) will become increasingly unreal and surreal. Indeed, it will likely lead to a new form of fascism -- especially if Obama, in his blinkered wisdom, offers free broadband Internet access to the millions of American victims of the October economic crash.

It's not just Chris Hedges who is beginning to recognize the corrosive impact of modern technology on the world-view of the semi-literate. The notable environmental activist Goerge Monbiot, believes that cyberspace has buried its head in a cesspit of climate change gibberish. While Financial Times columnist, Gideon Rachman, finds himself covered in internet slime as a consequence of a provocative piece about the possibility of world government.

Nor is the problem just that of America and Western Europe. As Anatol Lieven suggests in yesterday's Financial Times, the impact of the crash on Eastern and Central Europe could be particularly distressing:

We cannot reckon on this, however. It is worth remembering that it took more than two years for the full effects of the US financial crash of 1929 to filter through to Europe and for the political results to make themselves felt. While Roosevelt’s policies prevented further decline in the US, the American economy remained severely depressed for the next six years, until the outbreak of the second world war renewed industrial growth.

The problem is that the viral tools of technology, mass communication, focus groups, advertising and sophisticated political organizations are almost as ubiquitous in East and Central Europe as they are in America. Nor does the United States have a monopoly on the semi-literate or illiterate. Indeed, in East and Central Europe, non-reality-based worldviews are further corroded by the mythology of ethnic identity, thereby heightening the danger of a virulently new outbreak of fascism in this historically most inflammable of neighborhoods.