A Nation Gone Blind: America in an Age of Simplification and Deceit

Eric Larsen, Author
Eric Larsen, Author Shoemaker & Hoard $16 (291p) ISBN 978-1-59376-098-4
Reviewed on: 03/27/2006
Release date: 03/01/2006
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Here, novelist and former literature professor Larsen has crafted a good old-fashioned argument-the kind that deals in reason, logic and empirical evidence-that takes on virtually everything in the current political, cultural and intellectual landscape of America, in order to figure out how the democratic republic has morphed, before his eyes, into an unthinking, unquestioning Orwellian dystopia. In three lengthy essays, Larsen diagnoses with considerable wit, outrage and tenacity the mass ""blindness"" that allows politicians and newsmakers to get away with passing off lies and half-truths as fact, and academia unknowingly to embrace indoctrination over education. For Larsen, the trouble starts with television's explosion in the '50s and the consequent rise of corporate mass media, followed by the steady consolidation of government and corporate interests. While television provides an endless stream of distraction and ""don't worry about the government"" platitudes, academics have misdirected their sense of social conscience into replacing traditional, intellectually vigorous studies-such as the study of literature-with an empty discipline that Larsen (among others) has labeled Victim's Studies-Women's Studies, Gay Studies, Black Studies, etc. Examining ""issues"" rather than ideas and putting the group before the individual, Larsen argues that these departments teach students not how to think, but how to feel-not to question, but to accept. To be sure, Larsen's position, as well as his loud, self-righteous approach, will anger many in the government, media and university, but his theses are all backed up by clear-eyed observation, copious evidence and meticulous literary commentary. Though Larsen can be terminally repetitive (he'd probably call this ""being thorough""), and his grim prognosis for the country can overwhelm, his book is a rare intellectual page-turner: fascinating, convincing and consciousness-raising. It deserves to be read by anyone who thinks-or thinks they think-for a living.
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