Has entertainment turned our minds into jello and our politicians into clowns? Vargas Llosa thinks so.

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Mario Vargas Llosa in NYC with interlocutor John King at right. (Photo: Zygmunt Malinowski)

We’ve written about Peruvian Nobelist Mario Vargas Llosa before (here and here and here). Now it’s The Guardian‘s turn. Vargas Llosa has just come out with a new collection of essays, Notes on the Death of Culture. (This isn’t a new article, but perhaps you also missed it when the book was published last year.)

From The Guardian:

llosa-bookVargas Llosa has long been known as a public intellectual as well as a novelist in the Spanish-speaking world – and indeed in the UK, where he lived in the 1980s. One-time contender for his country’s presidency, a cultural liberal who wants value in the arts, ideas and literature to rule over easy relativism, the register of price and the “civilisation of spectacle”, he worries over the dangers to democracy the latter group poses. He’s at home with the giants of French theory, from Guy Debord, inventor of situationism, to Jacques Derrida and his archival fever. Their impact, he notes, has hardly been salutary. Meanwhile, neither artists nor critics, journalists nor politicians value judgment or intelligence.

By succumbing to what Marshall McLuhan called an “image bath”, he writes, the 21st-century west has ushered in a time of “docile submission to emotions and sensations triggered by an unusual and at times very brilliant bombardment of images that capture our attention, though they dull our sensibilities and intelligence due to their primary and transitory nature”. A shallow levity has taken over. The ethics of Hello!, which he reminds us was originally a Spanish magazine, rule. Entertainment is all. Translated into the political sphere, this means our politicians increasingly become clowns, prepared to do anything to capture media attention. The press, whose freedom is crucial, is more symptom than outright cause of this regrettable phenomenon.

Read the whole thing here.


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