“Amusing Ourselves To Death” by Neil Postman

Reading doomsaying screeds from awhile ago is strangely comforting, because either a) things didn’t happen as the author direly predicted or 2) they DID happen, like 1000x worse than what the author predicted, but I guess we just deal.

File Neil Postman’s 1984 Amusing Ourselves to Death in category 2.

Postman’s book is worried about the rise of TV.  He holds out for special, extended, outraged scorn The Voyage of The Mimi, which is a pretty amazing thing to be mad about.

Towards the end, Postman wonders what we can do about the stupidity of TV:

The nonsensical answer is to create television programs whose intent would be, not to get people to stop watching television but to demonstrate how television ought to be viewed, to show how television recreates and degrades our conception of news, political debate, religious thought, etc.  I imagine such demonstrations would of necessity take the form of parodies, along the lines of “Saturday Night Live” and “Monty Python,” the idea being to induce a nationwide horse laugh over television’s control of public discourse.  But, naturally, television would have the last laugh. In order to command an audience large enough to make a difference, one would have to make the programs vastly amusing, in the television style.  Thus, the act of criticism itself would, in the end, be co-opted by television.  The parodists would become celebrities, would star in movies, and would end up making television commercials.

You called it, buddy.



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