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The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in…
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The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (1961)

by Daniel J. Boorstin

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1960s (121)

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5 stars This book should be mandatory reading.

Boorstin, Librarian of Congress emeritus, is an outstanding social historian who defines pseudo-events as events created to promote. Generally, these events have no intrinsic newsworthiness. They are not spontaneous, they are usually arranged for the convenience of the media, their relationship to reality is ambiguous and they are intended to be self-fulfilling.

The news media hungers for anything to put in its pages. We are besieged with radio, TV, 24-hour news, magazines, newspapers, books, each requiring "information."
Events are now planned to occur at the best time for news broadcasts. It has become terribly important that something always be happening. Pseudo-events help fill the vacuum.

Boorstin is like the little boy who shouts, "the emperor has no clothes." He helps us to peel away the veneer, the false fronts.
McCarthy was an expert at creating reportable events that had "an ambiguous relationship to the underlying reality." He invented the morning news conference that announced an afternoon press conference. At the afternoon conference he would proclaim that a witness was not ready or could not be found. The headlines would trumpet, "Mystery witness sought!" Reporters loved him for supplying so much material. Even those who hated him became his best allies.

News has become a dramatic presentation. The president speaking "off-the-cuff" is now more newsworthy than the original prepared speech. It has become difficult to distinguish between the actual and the pseudo event. Organizations manipulate the media to create events all the while castigating the press for opinions on the editorial page.
Boorstin argues we now confuse fame with greatness. It is very easy to become famous. By confusing heroes with celebrities "we deny ourselves the role-models of heroes, truly great individuals."
The way we travel has also changed. It used to be people traveled to experience a different culture or way of life or language. Rarely did it not affect a person's view of the world. Now more and more people travel, yet are influenced less. We seek to re-create an environment similar to the one we left.

Boorstin cites digests as an example of how forms have dissolved, "the shadow has become the substance." Originally conceived to lead the reader to the original, they now exist as an end product; another step away from the actual experience. Reader's Digest has perfected the form to the point where articles are "planted" in magazines so they can be digested in its publication. By 1943, 60% of all its articles were abridgements of full-length articles commissioned for original publication elsewhere by Reader's Digest. The demand for digested articles was so great it had forced the creation of articles to meet the demand: a literary pseudo-event.

We are now engaged in a competition to create more credible images. The images have become more real than reality. We can persuade ourselves of our image. But we have lost sight of the need to create ideals.

This book was originally published in 1961. Ah, the more things change.…

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1 vote ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Daniel J. Boorstinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Will, George F.Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Technology....the knack of so arranging the world that we don't have to experience it. - Max Frisch
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To The University of Chicago "a place of light, of liberty, and of learning"
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Introduction, Extravagant Expectations: In this book I describe the world of our making, how we have used our wealth, our literacy, our technology, and our progress, to create the ticket of unreality which stands between us and the facts of life.
I, The simplest of our extravagant expectations concerns the amount of novelty in the world.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679741801, Paperback)

First published in 1962, this wonderfully provocative book introduced the notion of “pseudo-events”—events such as press conferences and presidential debates, which are manufactured solely in order to be reported—and the contemporary definition of celebrity as “a person who is known for his well-knownness.” Since then Daniel J. Boorstin’s prophetic vision of an America inundated by its own illusions has become an essential resource for any reader who wants to distinguish the manifold deceptions of our culture from its few enduring truths.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:50 -0400)

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