White supremacists stockpiling heavy weaponry for the "zombie apocalypse" they believe is just around the bend; random acts of senseless violence like Jared Lee Loughner's 2011 assault on Representative Gabrielle Giffords and a crowd of constituents; the viral rumors and conspiracy theories that spread, like some postmodern pandemic, through social media and forwarded mails; our national love affair with guns, our religious fundamentalism, our fear-stricken willingness to sacrifice our freedoms to the War on Terror, the utopian promise of our Democratic Experiment corrupted by corporate influence and fractured by class war and ideological lunacies: in contemporary America, chaos is the new normal.
In his multimedia lecture "American Dread, American Dreams," cultural critic and cult author Mark Dery makes sense of the American madhouse, early in the 21st century. Using pop culture as his prism, Dery considers the zombie craze, our obsession with toy guns and movie violence, our frontier religiosity, and our homophobic machismo to refract the deeper meanings of who we are, as a nation, and how we got here.
Mark Dery is a cultural critic. His writings on media, technology, pop culture, and American society have appeared in Artforum, Cabinet, Elle, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Salon, Spin, and Wired, among others. He lectures frequently in the States and abroad. Dery’s books include The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink and Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century, which has been translated into eight languages. He edited the scholarly anthology Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture and wrote the monograph Culture Jamming: Hacking, Slashing, and Sniping in the Empire of Signs. His latest book is the essay collection I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts. He is writing a biography of the artist Edward Gorey for Little, Brown.