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Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (1985) [audiobook]

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I read this book ages ago and still to this day recall much of what was in it. Must have been over 10 if not 15 years ago possibly. Stuff will stick with you.

Turn Off Your Television and Think For Yourself

If you want to understand our world, your kids, your life, and why things are so messed up, this is a good place to start. It will motivate you to make big changes in your life.

From the author of Teaching as a Subversive Activity comes a sustained, withering and thought-provoking attack on television and what it is doing to us. Postman's theme is the decline of the printed word and the ascendancy of the "tube" with its tendency to present everything - murder, mayhem, politics, weather - as entertainment. The ultimate effect, as Postman sees it, is the shrivelling of public discourse as TV degrades our conception of what constitutes news, political debate, art, even religious thought. Early chapters trace America's one-time love affair with the printed word, from colonial pamphlets to the publication of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. There's a biting analysis of TV commercials as a form of "instant therapy" based on the assumption that human problems are easily solvable. Postman goes further than other critics in demonstrating that television represents a hostile attack on literate culture.
Postman's powerful analysis of the metamorphosis of our society from a typographical-based culture to an image-based culture — a metamorphosis which has been driven for the last two hundred years by technology every step of the way — concludes that it has profoundly affected and in many ways impaired how fast and accurately we gather and utilize knowledge.

Postman's description of the Lincoln/Douglas debates:

The first of seven famous debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas took place on August 21, 1858, in Ottowa, Illinois. Their arrangement provided that Douglas would speak first, for one hour; Lincoln would take an hour and a half to reply; Douglas, a half hour to rebut Lincoln's reply. This debate was considerably shorter than those to which the two men were accustomed. In fact, they had tangled several times before, and all of their encounters had been much lengthier and more exhausting. For example, on October 16, 1854, in Peoria, Illinois, Douglas delivered a three-hour address to which Lincoln, by agreement, was to respond. When Lincoln's turn came, he reminded the audience that it was already 5 p.m., the he would probably require as much time as Douglas and that Douglas was still scheduled for a rebuttal. He proposed, therefore, that the audience go home, have dinner, and return refreshed for four more hours of talk. The audience amiably agreed, and matters proceeded as Lincoln had outlined.

What kind of audience was this? Who were these people who could so cheerfully accommodate themselves to seven hours of oratory?

Postman makes clear that our whole time sense has changed. How we perceive the world has changed. People in America used to speak more eloquently, write more eloquently — I see that now, I see evidence of it everywhere.

Have you ever noticed how films from the thirties and forties are more "talky" and dialogue laden than films of later periods? This is no coincidence. Sometimes I find these more literary movies almost indigestible to the modern ear. As language itself evolves and changes—as indeed it should, it must—truth itself changes too, or more correctly, the means of learning and knowing the truth.

The thrust of Postman's argument in this book is that public discourse, particularly discourse of a political nature, has been degraded because it is clothed more in images than in words. As the image has come forward as a primary means of communication, first in the photograph, and later in the form of film and television media, the meaning of truth itself has changed, been altered detrimentally.

Our attention spans become shorter; the average length of a sentence becomes shorter. Cogent discussion and deductive reasoning have given way to the sound byte. But one has to wonder: is the hyperlink the internet's answer to the sound byte? Because of bandwidth limitations, the internet is for the moment a medium more of words than of images; higher bandwidth will bring to the internet an environment in which people communicate more with images than with words.

"The concept of truth is intimately linked to the biases of forms of expression", Postman writes. "Truth does not, and never has, come unadorned. It must appear in its proper clothing or it is not acknowledged, which is a way of saying that the "truth" is a kind of cultural prejudice. Each culture conceives of it as being most authentically expressed in certain symbolic forms that another culture may regard as trivial or irrelevant."

Unabridged; by Neil Postman (Author), Jeff Riggenbach (Narrator)


BTW, this book was the inspiration for the Roger Waters album Amused To Death.

Nibs i was going to post a youtube link to Roger waters as the title made me think of the album!..LOL

Grape minds think alike!