Pepe, a toy fox terrier from New York, dressed as a ghost, poses for photographs on the runway after competing in the Annual Times Square Dog Day Masquerade, a canine costume contest, Sunday Oct. 22, 2006 in New York's Times Square. Pepe tied with another dog for the contest's title of Top Dog of Times Square 2006. The event was held to raise awareness for Animal Haven's Adopt-A-Pet program. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)

Truthdig Salon: Pop Culture, Politics and the Price of Mass Distraction

19th July 2009

Are our national obsessions with celebrity and consumerism undermining our most fundamental democratic and moral values? Are we living in an era dominated by trash culture and junk politics, as some critics contend, or does popular culture offer unique opportunities for progress and political engagement?

Chris Hedges, Sharon Waxman and Marc Cooper gathered for a debate about popular culture hosted by Robert Scheer, editor of Truthdig, and Zuade Kaufman, the Web site’s publisher. Truthdig associate editor Kasia Anderson moderated. 

People Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges, in his provocative new book "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle," argues: "A culture that cannot distinguish between reality and illusion dies. And we are dying now." Hedges, an award-winning Truthdig columnist and a former Mideast bureau chief for The New York Times, is also the author of "I Don't Believe in Atheists," "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning" and "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America."

Sharon Waxman

Sharon Waxman is the founder and CEO of, an online news source covering the entertainment industry, and has covered Hollywood for The New York Times and The Washington Post. She is the author of "Loot: The Battle Over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World" and "Rebels on the Backlot: Six Maverick Directors and How They Conquered the Hollywood Studio System."

Marc Cooper

Marc Cooper turned his fascination with Las Vegas into his 2004 book "The Last Honest Place in America: Paradise and Perdition in the New Las Vegas." Cooper, who has written for dozens of publications ranging from The Atlantic to Rolling Stone, is a Truthdig contributor, a contributing editor to The Nation magazine, and is the author of the L.A. Times bestseller

Kasia Anderson

Kasia Anderson, Truthdig's associate editor, will moderate the discussion. Anderson, previously an entertainment reporter for the New York Daily News, is now completing a doctoral dissertation on celebrity and politics.