Amusing Ourselves to Death

Amusing Ourselves to Death

Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

eBook - 1986
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Publisher: New York : Penguin Books, 1986, c1985
Characteristics: viii, 184 p. ; 20 cm

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b
Beyhnji
Sep 12, 2019

The examples are a little outdated, but the philosophy underlying his conclusions is extremely relevant. I felt more conscientious of what I consume and why after reading this book. I recommend any politically minded person give this a read.

c
carolwu96
Jun 15, 2019

As part of my recent interest in Marketing, I read this classic to understand some of the most valued insights in the related fields. First published in 1985, soon after the television became popular, Postman examines the way the TV had impacted the public’s access to information as well as “entertainment” mindset we have towards processing this information. He also makes a distinction between the outlooks presented in George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (the former of which I had read in high school and the latter of which I read a few weeks after I read this book) and noted that, rather than heading towards the direction of 1984 (where information is tightly controlled) we will be living in the Brave New World (where nobody will bother to critically process anything because we are too busy being entertained). Although this book is old and in hindsight may appear cliché, it is still surprisingly relevant today, given that (in my experience) the Internet has only aggravated the problems the Television introduced.

One thing that especially struck me as a teacher is the prevalence of the importance of being entertained. For instance, as a teacher who wishes to engage her students, sometimes I intentionally do things I wouldn’t have done otherwise to maintain their attention and stimulate classroom discussions. That, according to Postman, is a consequence of the necessity of entertainment even when there does not require any to reach the goal— inside the classroom. Another incident I thought of is the so-called “Trump Bump” for news outlets such as the New York Times when, during the pre-election period, more people subscribed than usual for pieces on Donald Trump. Because he is often seen as a comical figure, especially for people who are likely to read the New York Times, pieces on him increased the entertainment value of news-reading, which got him more exposure from media and which may have increased his popularity. These incidences are just two of the many contemporary examples I thought of while reading the book.

r
red_dog_14987
Nov 05, 2018

Only the brainwashed would vote for a reality tv star to be POTUS.

k
KatherineHere
Jul 30, 2018

Terribly outdated,1985, before personal computers and smartphones. And most of it you already know or suspect; i.e., that you can be a prisoner to your gadgets, brainwashed even, while life passes you by.

r
RyMac92
Jan 05, 2018

If you're interested to know how someone like Donald Trump can become President of the United States then this is the book for you. Plenty of thought provoking material within detailing all about how the television dictated American life throughout the 20th century. Short and sweet.

m
Maoisdead
Aug 11, 2017

In George Orwell's book '1984' (written in 1949) his anxiety was that books would be burnt to avoid 'heresies' being spread among the citizens; earlier (1931) Aldous Huxley had written his 'Brave New World', with its thesis that books would not need to be burnt, because no one would read them - we would be 'amusing ourselves to death'. In 2017 it looks as if Huxley made the better bet. Almost unheard of in the publishing of this sort of book, this ''20th anniversary edition'' of Neil Postman's enduring and far-sighted analysis was published in 2005. The original was written in 1985 when television was the 'enemy', but it is even more relevant today in the age of Twitter, Facebook and the others.

1
1aa
May 27, 2017

A relatively short book, but it was coherent and concise, without losing any elegance. Its points are still valuable and can be implemented; sad to say, but much of the use of the web (aka internet) is not much different from that of TV, indeed, its largely replaced and improved (if thats the right word) upon TV, and smartphones are just a Gameboy, computer, telephone, and Walkman all in one and souped up on digital steroids. Some of the questions that it explicitly asks on page 84 and near the end of the book can be fruitfully adapted to lead an enquiry into these new types of communication.

n
nsystems
Jun 14, 2016

I don't know why I waited so long to read this. It is very well done. But maybe because I wasn't watching TV for many of the years since it was published, that might be why I felt I didn't need to read it. Recently, I have watched some TV, and really appreciate Postman's critique. We are not as literate these days as we used to be, in large part because of television. Turn it off. Reading is healthier.

j
john_doh17
Nov 14, 2014

Although written in the 80's this book is even more relevant now. Orwell was concerned about a totalitarian regime taking our liberties. Huxley was concerned about us just not paying attention as we get lost in hedonism. Postman agreed with Huxley and seems to have been proven right. TV has been made mobile with technology which has made the issues even worse. When everything (news, politics, education and religion) is entertainment is there ever a place for something that is important, but is not entertainment? As we move away from print media our ability to follow congruent thoughts is diminishing. This might be a skill we need given the challenges we are facing.

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