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Our Circuitous World View

The production of art and entertainment for commercial reasons is an old story; what may be new is the elevation of this practice into a principle, and the establishment of a system based on it. ...

In classical political theory, the marketplace was a forum in which anyone who had anything on his mind could express it. According to this theory, the chain of events by which the public found out about the world began with the individual person looking out upon the world and reflecting on what he saw; then, perhaps after much labor, the person brought the product of his thought to the marketplace, there to be displayed with the work of others; and then the public picked and chose what it liked.

But in the new system the ends of the chain have been joined to form a closed loop. The individual, instead of looking out upon the world, looks out upon public opinion, trying to find out what the public would like to hear. Then he tries his best to duplicate that, and brings his finished product into a marketplace in which others are competing to do the same. The public, turning to our culture to find out about the world, discovers there nothing but its own reflection. The unexamined world, meanwhile, drifts blind into the future.

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