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I have mixed feelings about this essay. I don’t agree about some of her examples. I find the story of Hunter Biden’s laptop too weird. It sounds like a conspiracy theory. It might be true, but I have trouble believing it. But I like the idea of society as a spectacle.

I have felt for years that it would be extremely difficult and expensive to change society in the ways that humanity needs. But it would be comparatively cheap and simple to distract people with media.

What is interesting right now is that we don’t have a dominant message, as we did — for example — in America in the red baiting era of the 1950s. What I remember — aside from as sense of darkness, as if it were always night — was fear of Communists and nuclear war, and the bright, white vision of suburban American that was on TV. Taken all in all, it was a simple spectacle.

Now we have a fragmented spectacle. A kaleidoscope of many conspiracies: QAnon; the stolen election; Hunter Biden’s laptop; weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; all the stories told about Covid 19, which is still with us and still killing people, especially older people… Seeing past this broken spectacle to reality is very hard.


There is tendency, I think, for progressives to try and change reality (which does exist behind the spectacle) by changing descriptions of reality. I don’t think this works. Social change requires working in and on reality.

And working in reality requires that we see and understand reality. We need a good analysis, as my political friends used to say.

One thought on “Spectacle”

  1. Yes, the Hunter Biden laptop story is a conspiracy theory based on a misunderstanding of how email works. Most of the claims about it by right-wing media have been debunked.

    I was a child during the Joseph McCarthy era and saw how it negatively impacted my family. It was a dark time because it had Americans reporting on each other to the government.

    I’m afraid that political polarization by spectacle is going to be difficult to avoid since spectacles are what attract attention and reader/listeners.

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