Truth Exposed in Amusing Ourselves to Death Essay

1506 Words 7 Pages
Truth Exposed in Amusing Ourselves to Death

Neil Postman is deeply worried about what technology can do to a culture or, more importantly, what technology can undo in a culture. In the case of television, Postman believes that, by happily surrendering ourselves to it, Americans are losing the ability to conduct and participate in meaningful, rational public discourse and public affairs. Or, to put it another way, TV is undoing public discourse and, as the title of his book Amusing Ourselves to Death suggests, we are willing accomplices.

Postman bases his argument on the belief that public discourse in America, when governed by the epistemology of the printing press, was "generally coherent, serious, and rational" (16) because
…show more content…
Postman says that, as a result, "all public understanding of these subjects is shaped by the biases of television" (78) and that in the absence of rational discourse, cultural decay is sure to follow.

In an effort to expose the epistemology of television, which Postman believes has not been effectively addressed, he examines the effects of TV on several important American cultural institutions: news, religion, politics and education. All four institutions, Postman argues, have realized that they have to go on television in order to be noticed which, in turn, requires them to learn the language of TV if they are to reach the people. Therefore, they have joined the national conversation not on their own terms, but on TV's terms. Postman contends that this transformation of our major institutions has trivialized what is most important about them and turned our culture into "one vast arena for show business" (80). In the case of broadcast news, we see visually stimulating, disconnected stories about murder and mayhem along with a healthy dose of infotainment delivered by friendly and likeable anchors that remind us to "tune in tomorrow". In the case of politics, we have discourse through distorted paid TV commercials and "debates" in which the appearance of having said something important is
Open Document