How can I write an essay on "pseudo-events," with particular reference to the writings of Chris Hedges?  Why does Hedges argue that a culture oriented toward ‘pseudo-events’ and ‘celebrity...

How can I write an essay on "pseudo-events," with particular reference to the writings of Chris Hedges?  Why does Hedges argue that a culture oriented toward ‘pseudo-events’ and ‘celebrity worship’ is dangerous? Describe a ‘pseudo-event’ that you have experienced via the media (one not discussed by Hedges) and explain in what way Hedges’ analysis and critique would apply to this event. Similarly, choose a contemporary celebrity (e.g. Oprah Winfrey, Lady Gaga, Paris Hilton, Tiger Woods) and explain how Hedges’ more general analysis of celebrity worship helps us to understand what ideals, fantasies and desires this particular celebrity embodies, and what is the source of their popularity.

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In 1962, historian Daniel Boorstin objected to the increasing manipulation of American culture and politics by an industry dedicated to the construction of artificial images.  Rather than presenting facts and reasoned analysis, Boorstin argued, Americans were being sold images that rarely represented reality.  The public relations industry was influencing public policy and American culture through the manipulation of images that often had no basis in reality.  What he called “pseudo-events” were a “new kind of synthetic novelty which has flooded our experience . . .”  As described in The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, “pseudo-events” are planned events rather than spontaneous; are conjured up "for the purpose of being reported or reproduced, and its occurrence is arranged for the convenience of the reporting or reproducing media"; may or may not bear a resemblance to reality; and are "usually intended to be a self-fulfilling prophecy."

In his 2010 study Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, Chris Hedges similarly denounced the deceptive packaging that has subsumed American culture and shaped images of reality.  Like Boorstin, Hedges sees in these same phenomena a threat to democracy:

“The words ‘consent of the governed’ have become an empty phrase.  Our textbooks on political science and economics are obsolete.  Our nation has been hijacked by oligarchs, corporations, and a narrow, selfish, political, and economic elite . . .[W]e remained passive, mesmerized by the enticing shadows on the wall, assured our tickets to success, prosperity, and happiness were waiting around the corner.”

The role of the media in perpetuating this trend is problematic given its role in informing the public.  Politicians, for example, depend heavily upon the media’s thirst for spectacle, and shape their agendas accordingly.  Rather than covering history, the media respond to announcements manufactured by politicians and corporations designed to garner as much public attention as possible.  While working for the U.S. Congress, this educator witnessed many instances of politicians manipulating the media for political advantage.  Press conferences – a classic form of pseudo-events – are structured and timed to convey an inflated sense of importance regarding an issue and the role of the individual politicians in addressing that issue.

An example of a recent pseudo-event involved baseball player Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees.  Rodriguez’s representative made a point of informing reporters covering the story surrounding the athlete’s suspension for abuse of performance-enhancing substances of Rodriguez’s animated rejection of the recommendation of the officials tasked with determining his fate.  The ballplayer, so his representative stated, stood-up in anger and, pounding the table for emphasis, objected to the way he was being treated.  The likelihood that Rodriguez went into the meeting with a plan to make such a spectacle of himself was widely acknowledged.  Hedges' observation that "the moral nihilism of celebrity culture is played out on reality television shows, most of which encourage a dark voyeurism into other people's humiliation, pain, weakness and betrayal" is regularly displayed on shows about the Kardashians, "real housewives" of fill-in-the-blank, or the late singer Whitney Houston's troubled life.  What is staged for the camera is anybody's guess.

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