Chapter 4 Themes and Colors Key LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Amusing Ourselves to Death, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
The crisis is the gradual dumbing-down of our discourse since the dawn of the information age, and the treatment of the serious issues of our time as nothing more than fodder for entertainment.
Television is the biggest culprit, and those of us who grew up on television have been damaged in ways that are now so universally common that they go unnoticed. We have not become slaves to higher authority, but we have allowed our society to deteriorate into a spiritually and intellectually dead environment.
We may be discussing the same issue today that we were inbut we will be discussing it much differently now than we would have then. Today, show business dominates our culture, and the sophistication of our discourse has suffered as a result.
It is not what we talk about but the way in which we talk—even think—about the issues that has changed. The content of our culture has shifted from the written word with its inherent appeal to rationality, to the electronic medium of television which appeals almost exclusively to the passions.
This in itself would be harmless, and Postman is quick to point out that he is not condemning television in general or any of the countless trash programs that are designed purely for entertainment and are understood not to be taken seriously.
What concerns Postman are the programs that purport to seriously present things of significance, such as news, religious broadcasts, and educational programming. The inherent bias of television towards entertainment has turned all of these previously serious areas of our culture into branches of show business, and public life suffers dearly as a result.
Before going into the details of how and why this is, Postman takes us back to the 19th century and uses the debates between Lincoln and Douglas to illustrate the vast gaping chasm between discourse as it was then and how it is now. The famous debates between Lincoln and Douglass each lasted three hours long, each devoted to one issue, and divided between an hour of speech, an hour and a half of response, and a half-hour rebuttal.
What makes this even more striking is that these debates were actually shorter than most normal debates of the time! The 19th century mind was habituated to a literary form of oratory, which unlike pictures and film has propositional content—one can say of it that it is either true or false, which is not the case when it comes to images.
Even advertising was purely literary, designed to appeal to the understanding as opposed to desire. Prior to the invention of telegraphy, news was mostly local because the speed of information was only as fast as the fastest train.
But once information could be transmitted at the speed of light from one part of the country to another, the Age of Exposition began to crumble and give way to the Age of Show Business. A horrible accident that has taken place a thousand miles away may be interesting information but it has no effect on what a person will do that day.
The more information that one receives, the more irrelevant it all becomes. We now had access to scores of information, but it was all mostly useless information.
The addition of photographs to news stories only served to obscure this fact.
But if there is a photograph of the train attached to it, suddenly it seems that I have received actual information. While my mind has no context for the story, the picture gives it the illusion of context.
It is not just a train that crashed, but that train—the one in the picture. Indeed we are now so completely accustomed to our information being placed in a pseudo-context that we virtually no longer recognise its irrelevance at all.
The question of how television and the tsunami of information that comes to us through its airwaves affects our minds has never lost its importance, but it has receded into the background and become almost invisible. In Part II, Postman addresses the questions he feels we must be asking: What kinds of conversation does it permit?
What are the intellectual tendencies it encourages? What sort of culture does it produce? Because television must present its content through images, it is in the nature of the medium to suppress the content of ideas to accommodate the requirements of visual interest.
As a result, our entire worldview is hopelessly distorted. Naturally, the worst offenders are the news programs.Amusing Ourselves to Death study guide contains a biography of Neil Postman, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death opens by saying that Aldous Huxley’s vision of the future in his book, Brave New World, is one we ought to pay close attention to. Unlike another dystopian novelist, George Orwell, Huxley foresaw that we would eventually be destroyed by that which we.
Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman. New York: Viking, , pp. ISBN His central thesis is that television is not only entertaining, but insinuates that all presentions must be entertaining.
“Entertainment is the super-ideology of all. "Amusing Ourselves to Death" is a book for culture watchers and worriers. Author, educator and communications theorist Neil Postman embarks on an intriguing exploration of the ways in which entertainment values have corrupted essential public discourse, from education, science, religion, and the.
Amusing Ourselves to Death is a work that aims to both explore complicated ideas and market itself to the general public. Its basic thesis is that television has negatively affected the level of public discourse in contemporary America, and it considers media in a larger context to achieve that.
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman PENGUIN books AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH Neil Postman--critic, writer, educator, and communications theorist--is.