Amusing Ourselves To Death
3 Pages 807 Words
In Amusing Ourselves to Death Neil Postman declares “we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death.” The decline of the Age of Typography and the ascendancy of the Age of Television have generated a great media metaphor shift in America, with the result that much of our public discourse has become dangerous nonsense. “Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice.”
The time period from the early-eighteenth century until the mid-nineteenth century is identified by Postman as the Age of Exposition. During this period the printing press governed discourse in America. As he believes the form in which ideas are expressed affects what those ideas will be, discourse was generally coherent, serious and rational; unlike the shriveled and absurd discourse generated by television. Postman argues that typography amplified many of the characteristics we associate with mature discourse: “a sophisticated ability to think conceptually, deductively and sequentially; a high valuation of reason and order; an abhorrence of contradiction; a large capacity for detachment and objectivity; and a tolerance for delayed response.”
Postman points to the middle years of the nineteenth century as the time when the telegraph and the photograph came together and laid the foundation for the Age of Show Business. The telegraph saw to it that space was no longer an inevitable constraint on the movement of information. It “erased state lines, collapsed regions, and, by wrapping the continent in an information grid, created the possibility of a unified American discourse.” Unfortunately, according to Postman, the telegraph also attacked typography’s definition of discourse, introducing on a large scale “irrelevance, impotence, and incoherence.” “To the telegraph, intelligence meant knowin...
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