Amusing Ourselves to Death

Amusing Ourselves to Death

Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

Book - 2006
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In this book, Neil Postman examines the deep and broad effects of television culture on the manner in which we conduct our public affairs, and how "entertainment values" have corrupted the very way we think. As politics, news, religion, education, and commerce are given less and less expression in the form of the printed word, they are rapidly being reshaped to suit the requirements of television. And because television is a visual medium, whose images are most pleasurably apprehended when they are fast-moving and dynamic, discourse on television has little tolerance for argument, hypothesis, or explanation. Postman argues that public discourse--the advancing of arguments in logical order for the public good, once a hallmark of American culture--is being converted from exposition and explanation to entertainment.
Publisher: New York, N.Y., U.S.A. : Penguin Books, 2006
Edition: 20th anniversary ed
ISBN: 014303653X
9780143036531 (pbk.)
Branch Call Number: 302.23 POS 2006
Characteristics: xx, 184 p. ; 20 cm

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Maoisdead
Aug 11, 2017

In George Orwell's book '1984' (written in 1949) his anxiety was that books would be burnt to avoid 'heresies' being spread among the citizens; earlier (1931) Aldous Huxley had written his 'Brave New World', with its thesis that books would not need to be burnt, because no one would read them - we would be 'amusing ourselves to death'. In 2017 it looks as if Huxley made the better bet. Almost unheard of in the publishing of this sort of book, this ''20th anniversary edition'' of Neil Postman's enduring and far-sighted analysis was published in 2005. The original was written in 1985 when television was the 'enemy', but it is even more relevant today in the age of Twitter, Facebook and the others.

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1aa
May 27, 2017

A relatively short book, but it was coherent and concise, without losing any elegance. Its points are still valuable and can be implemented; sad to say, but much of the use of the web (aka internet) is not much different from that of TV, indeed, its largely replaced and improved (if thats the right word) upon TV, and smartphones are just a Gameboy, computer, telephone, and Walkman all in one and souped up on digital steroids. Some of the questions that it explicitly asks on page 84 and near the end of the book can be fruitfully adapted to lead an enquiry into these new types of communication.

n
nsystems
Jun 14, 2016

I don't know why I waited so long to read this. It is very well done. But maybe because I wasn't watching TV for many of the years since it was published, that might be why I felt I didn't need to read it. Recently, I have watched some TV, and really appreciate Postman's critique. We are not as literate these days as we used to be, in large part because of television. Turn it off. Reading is healthier.

j
john_doh17
Nov 14, 2014

Although written in the 80's this book is even more relevant now. Orwell was concerned about a totalitarian regime taking our liberties. Huxley was concerned about us just not paying attention as we get lost in hedonism. Postman agreed with Huxley and seems to have been proven right. TV has been made mobile with technology which has made the issues even worse. When everything (news, politics, education and religion) is entertainment is there ever a place for something that is important, but is not entertainment? As we move away from print media our ability to follow congruent thoughts is diminishing. This might be a skill we need given the challenges we are facing.

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