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

by Neil Postman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,521771,916 (4.12)38
In this eloquent and persuasive book, Neil Postman examines the deep and broad effects of television culture on the manner in which we conduct our public affairs, and how "entertainment values" have corrupted the very way we think. As politics, news, religion, education, and commerce are given less and less expression in the form of the printed word, they are rapidly being reshaped to suit the requirements of television. And because television is a visual medium, whose images are most pleasurably apprehended when they are fast-moving and dynamic, discourse on television has little tolerance for argument, hypothesis, or explanation. Postman argues that public discourse-the advancing of arguments in logical order for the public good, once a hallmark of American culture-is being converted from exposition and explanation to entertainment.… (more)
  1. 40
    Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (jstamp26)
  2. 00
    The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom by Yochai Benkler (chiudrele)
    chiudrele: Explains how today's world of internet is different from the old world of television. Society is not merely consuming information and culture, it can also participate in creation of it.
  3. 00
    Anathem by Neal Stephenson (themulhern)
    themulhern: Stephenson himself remarked that Anathem was a book about how people don't read books anymore. Moreover, there is a delightfully satirical sequence in which the characters are discussing serious things over food at a rest stop, and the narrator is repeatedly distracted by images on the speelies that are incoherent yet commanding. Later, the protagonist realizes that one of these images was relevant, and there is another bit of satire.… (more)
  4. 11
    Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America by Scott Adams (themulhern)
    themulhern: There is a surprising amount of overlap between the views of the news that both books have.
  5. 00
    Hate Inc.: Why Today’s Media Makes Us Despise One Another by Matt Taibbi (themulhern)
    themulhern: Neil Postman's book is so much better, but Matt Taibibi's is so much more recent. Neil Postman is more interesting, more educated, and avoids the wierd cheap shots and obscenities directed at person's I've never heard of that Matt Taibibi enjoys. I guess Taibibi's is worth it for the supporting facts, which apparently he has the inside scoop on.… (more)
  6. 00
    The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr (MaskedMumbler)
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» See also 38 mentions

English (75)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (77)
Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
I enjoyed the ideas put forth by this book, though the writing was particularly pedantic. I'd love to see an updated version of this or a recent commentary. ( )
  LaPhenix | Jul 8, 2024 |
Part one is a brilliant exposition of the history of our media mediums. From print, and the early phenomenal strength of The American literary tradition, to our anti-intellectual rise starting with the “news” snippet culture of the telegraph ( “To the telegraph, intelligence meant knowing OF lots of things, not knowing ABOUT them.” P 70) and the contextless photographic image which culminates (in this book written in 1985) in the age of the television. Well, the thesis has been proven. We are a thoroughly unserious nation in 2022. Worse yet, we long for the days of 1985 television in which at least there was a shared cultural experience. Today in the computer age we are all separate disjointed individuated info consumers, whether that info be true or false matters not. It only matters how we feel about any factum. Huxley was the more prescient dystopian view and we are living in it.
  BookyMaven | Dec 6, 2023 |
I don't use the term "life changing" very much at all but this book opened my eyes. I highly recommend it to anyone. ( )
  everettroberts | Oct 20, 2023 |
I can't believe this was published almost 40 years ago. The introduction said it better than I could: "This is a 21st-century book published in the 20th century." Amusing Ourselves to Death is a clarion call to the inherent civic dangers when the written word is no longer the primary medium of expression. Postman argues that when we turn towards the segmented and corporate television set, not only is our society's conversational and debate ability suffer, it changes the literal makeup of thought. It's eerily prescient in a day of all-consuming social media and a sizable amount of the country addicted to TikTok, somehow an even more dystopian iteration of the moving image.

I didn't think this book would be as good as it was: it's coherently structured, based on strong historical reasoning, and generally very well-written. Not only that, but it's comfortable to read. While a bit dense, it feels like eating your grandmother's kitchen-sink stew: not always easy to get down, but so, so good for you. ( )
  Eavans | Aug 4, 2023 |
Postman scrive nel 1984, e partendo da Orwell si muove a dimostrare che la profezia più calzante è in realtà stata quella di Huxley. Su questa tesi si basa l'intero libro e la sua critica della TV come medium in grado di costruire un'epistemologia basata sull'apprendimento capace di influenzare l'intera società. Testo forse un po' "attempato", utile leggerlo oggi insieme a Televisione di Freccero, che ne rappresenta un aggiornamento e un adattamento allo specifico italiano. ( )
  d.v. | May 16, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
A lucid and very funny jeremiad about how public discourse has been degraded.
added by ArrowStead | editMother Jones
 
He starts where Marshall McLuhan left off, constructing his arguments with the resources of a scholar and the wit of a raconteur.
added by ArrowStead | editChristian Science Monitor
 
A brilliant, powerful and important book...This is a brutal indictment Postman has laid down and, so far as I can see, an irrefutable one.
added by ArrowStead | editWashington Post Book World, Jonathan Yardley
 

» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Neil Postmanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cherisey, Thérèsa deTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kaiser, ReinhardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rocard, MichelPréfacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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We were keeping our eye on 1984.
Quotations
You may get a sense of what is meant by context-free information by asking yourself the following question: How often does it occur that information provided you on morning radio or television, or in the morning newspaper, causes you to alter your plans for the day, or to take some action you would not otherwise have taken, or provides insight into some problem you are required to solve?
Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity, and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacity to think.
American businessmen discovered, long before the rest of us, that the quality and usefulness of their goods are subordinate to the artifice of their display; that, in fact, half the principles of capitalism as praised by Adam Smith or condemned by Karl Marx are irrelevant.
We are all, as Huxley says someplace, Great Abbreviators, meaning that none of us has the wit to know the whole truth, the time to tell it if we believed we did, or an audience so gullible as to accept it.
The news of the day is a figment of our technological imagination. It is, quite precisely, a media event.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

In this eloquent and persuasive book, Neil Postman examines the deep and broad effects of television culture on the manner in which we conduct our public affairs, and how "entertainment values" have corrupted the very way we think. As politics, news, religion, education, and commerce are given less and less expression in the form of the printed word, they are rapidly being reshaped to suit the requirements of television. And because television is a visual medium, whose images are most pleasurably apprehended when they are fast-moving and dynamic, discourse on television has little tolerance for argument, hypothesis, or explanation. Postman argues that public discourse-the advancing of arguments in logical order for the public good, once a hallmark of American culture-is being converted from exposition and explanation to entertainment.

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Book description
Neil Postman’s groundbreaking polemic about the corrosive effects of television on our politics and public discourse has been hailed as a twenty-first-century book published in the twentieth century. Now, with television joined by more sophisticated electronic media—from the Internet to cell phones to DVDs—it has taken on even greater significance. Amusing Ourselves to Death is a prophetic look at what happens when politics, journalism, education, and even religion become subject to the demands of entertainment. It is also a blueprint for regaining control of our media, so that they can serve our highest goals.
Haiku summary
Text to video
Willing self-suffocation
Politics? YouTube. (captainfez)

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