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The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in…

The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (original 1961; edition 1992)

by Daniel J. Boorstin (Author)

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554326,622 (4.18)5
Title:The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America
Authors:Daniel J. Boorstin (Author)
Info:Vintage (1992), Edition: 1st Vintage Books Ed, 336 pages
Collections:Your library, Completed with Book Club, Completed

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The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America by Daniel J. Boorstin (1961)



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Sometimes it's interesting to read these books from the past, from a time when there were no women in the world - or at least, the only women were the ones who came around now and then to do something terribly frivolous to be mocked. Other than that, this is an interesting work, but at times it comes across more like the rant of a grouchy old man than a reasoned piece of work. It's difficult to have too much sympathy when he rails against literacy because people aren't reading the things he thinks they should read, or goes on an anti-modernism tirade, somehow believing that the pre-modern days were somehow superior. He is at his best when he talks about television and advertising; on those topics, there is a lot to agree with, though much of it has been rendered obsolete by our intensive use of social media; still, much of what he covers in here can be applied to social media, but only if you magnify it by several orders of magnitude. It is impossible to read this in 2017 without recognizing the trends that led to the election of a reality show television star who seems to believe that TV is more real than life itself. ( )
  Devil_llama | Dec 3, 2017 |
A great book - an accessible, down-home version of Jean Baudrillard and Guy Debord (whose key works it predates). Perhaps the best starting point for understanding modern American life. ( )
  PatrickMurtha | Feb 8, 2016 |
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.…

( )
1 vote ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Daniel J. Boorstinprimary authorall editionscalculated
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
To The University of Chicago "a place of light, of liberty, and of learning"
First words
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.
Every day seeing there and hearing there takes the place of being there.
One need not be a doctor to know he is sick, nor a shoemaker to feel the shoe pinch. I do not know what "reality" really is. But somehow I do know an illusion when I see one.
When we pick up our newspaper at breakfast, we expect—we even demand—that it bring us momentous events since the night before. We turn on the car radio as we drive to work and expect "news" to have occurred since the morning newspaper went to press. Returning in the evening, we expect our house not only to shelter us, to keep us warm in winter and cool in summer, but to relax us, to dignify us, to encompass us with soft music and interesting hobbies, to be a playground, a theater, and a bar. We expect our two-week vacation to be romantic, exotic, cheap, and effortless. We expect a faraway atmosphere if we go to a nearby place; and we expect everything to be relaxing, sanitary and Americanized if we go to a faraway place. We expect new heroes every season, a literary masterpiece every month, a dramatic spectacular every week, a rare sensation every night.
"The counsel on public relations," Mr. Bernays explains, "not only knows what news value is, but knowing it, he is in a position to make news happen. He is a creator of events."
All around the world we have revealed a shift in our thinking from ideals to images.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
The 1987 twenty-fifth anniversary edition (and later editions) includes a new "Foreword to the 25th Anniversary Edition" by the author and an afterword by George F. Will that the original 1961 edition does not have.
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:01 -0400)

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