New PDF release: Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of

By Neil Postman

ISBN-10: 0140094385

ISBN-13: 9780140094381

A super strong and demanding book....This is a brutal indictment Postman has laid down and, as far as i will be able to see, an irrefutable one. --Jonathan Yardley, Washington publish booklet global.

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Additional resources for Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

Example text

By the turn of the century, advertisers no longer assumed rationality on the part of their potential customers. Advertising became one part depth psychology, one part aesthetic theory. Reason had to move itself to other arenas. To understand the role that the printed word played in pro-riding an earlier America with its assumptions about intelligence, truth and the nature of discourse, one must keep in view that the act of reading in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had an entirely different quality to it than the act of reading does today.

For all of the hoopla and socializing surrounding the event, the speakers had little to offer, and audiences little to expect, but language. And the language that was offered was clearly modeled on the style of the written word. To anyone who has read what Lincoln and Douglas said, this is obvious from beginning to end. the debates opened, in fact, with Douglas making the following introduction, highly characteristic of everything that was said afterward: Ladies and Gentlemen: I appear before you today for the purpose of discussing the leading political topics which now agitate the public mind.

Which brings us, of course, to the questions, What are the implications for public discourse of a written, or typographic, metaphor? What is the character of its content? What does it demand of the public? What uses of the mind does it favor? One must begin, I think, by pointing to the obvious fact that the written word, and an oratory based upon it, has a content: a semantic, paraphrasable, propositional content. This may sound odd, but since I shall be arguing soon enough that much of our discourse today has only a marginal propositional content, I must stress the point here.

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Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman


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