Amusing Ourselves to Death

Amusing Ourselves to Death

Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

by Neil Postman
Publisher: Penguin Putnam
208 pages
Price: $17.00

Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 describes a culture that has banned books: people can't read, or think for themselves. Bradbury feared totalitarianism and population control. Huxley's Brave New World depicts a different (equally chilling) vision, in which the population loves their oppression and adores the technology that reduces their capacity to think. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in irrelevance; that people would be reduced to passivity and egoism; that we would become trivial.

Both scenarios describe our culture well. We're immersed in images—especially disconnected, "entertaining" television images—that undermine our critical thinking and public discourse. (A 2006 "American Idol" contest drew more votes—over 63 million!—than any American President has ever gotten!) In this book, originally published in 1985, Postman critiques our TV culture and alerts us toits real dangers. His analysis is detailed, historical, and original.

Postman also offers compelling suggestions for with standing the media onslaught. Before we hand over politics, education, religion, and journalism to the show-business demands of the television age, we must recognize the ways in which the media shape our lives and the ways we can, in turn, shape them to serve our highest goals. Postman wasn't a Christian, but his sharp thinking and valid arguments are profound, useful, and chilling. A must-read.

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Informing Ourselves to Death (A speech by Neil Postman)

Exodus Rating:
FLAWS: Some humanistic assumptions
Summary: Postman shakes us awake with his sober warnings about the ways television is undermining our culture and collective intelligence.

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