Guest Blog: On the More Subtle Danger of Television and the Media
The following is a book review by Holmes Lybrand (18 year old High School Senior). The book should be required reading.
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
The title of this book does a very good job of explaining the premise and prophecy Neil Postman believes about America. This book attempts to help us see the immediate threat that Television/Show Business presents to every areas of our lives (especially the educational, religious, political). Postman’s main point, much like Aldous Huxley’s in A Brave New World is “…not that they were laughing instead of thinking, but that they did not know what they were laughing about and why they had stopped thinking,” that the influence Television has on us now is not only unproductive, but it is also very harmful.
Postman explains that even when television is used for educational purposes it is still quite harmful, and at the least is a waste of the student and teacher’s time, saying that they are not asking, “What is education good for?” but instead pondering what TV is can be used for. Television is good for drama & amusement, and America has figure out how to draw the public to this business so very well. Postman dives deeply into how and why TV sets the course for our culture, and makes very clear why this is a terrible, terrible thing.
I really have nothing bad to say about this book (except that people won’t read it ;-). It was short and direct, I didn’t ever feel preached to, more of just encouraged to see the uncompromising truth of things. I started out thinking, “Perhaps his views are a tad too extreme?” but by the end of this book, that thought now doesn’t even cross my mind. I think we as humans do need to see things for how they are, television is amusement (or drama, you might say), that is all. To ask, “Yeah, but can drama be used to help…like with the news?” is only to miss the point. Amusing news is still essentially amusement. Amusement, from a-muse simply means ‘not to think’…and so with the news as well.
I really enjoyed this book, although I still have things to think through concerning it. Neil Postman is surely right, and the last 27 years (since Amusing Ourselves to Death was published) has only proved his point with emphasis. Hopefully people might begin to realize it , especially in the area of the news. Television is amusement, and only when we fully understand that can we be masters over it, and not the other way around.