Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business Essay

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Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to death:

Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

The age of television began in the 1950's when the majority of Americans were finally able to have power brought directly to their houses and have a television set installed. Television, as is discussed in the book by Neil Postman, is not something that, by virtue of the technology, has a specific use or destination in the American life (83), but it does have a central place because of its use as a medium. Postman makes several arguments about how the medium is used, and how it has changed how people think and act. He also makes the case that this may not be the best course for Americans because it takes away their ability to have a true public discourse. In this paper, Chapter Six, in which Postman talks about television as a medium in America, is, in part, explained by the political illustrations used in Chapter Nine.

It must be interesting for people who remember an age when the television was not the primary source of entertainment and discourse to see what has happened to the political stage because of it. Prior to the election of 1860 (which probably no one alive has direct memory of), soon-to-be President Abraham Lincoln and Senator Stephen Douglas went to several destinations around the state of Illinois and had public debates. These were events where the entire countryside showed up to watch and discuss afterward.

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Both candidates were able to speak at length about the problems confronting the nation at the time and be heard by the populace. They were given time to speak, reflect, think. Flash forward to modern times and the state of public discourse regarding politics. Now the commercial is the real medium of political discourse, and there is no place for the actual voter there. The person involved is the politician saying whatever he or she wants without an attempt at confirmation for those beliefs. There is no counterpoint in politics now. Even the so-called debates largely turned into individual commercial moments.

In chapter six, Postman makes the argument that people are fed new information on television about once every 3.5 seconds (85) so as to keep the person completely engaged and entertained. He makes the argument in the politics chapter that this is so even in the political arena. One quote from Ronald Reagan (who should know) was that "Politics is just like show business" (125). This quote stems from the fact that "If politics is like show business, then the idea is not to pursue excellence, clarity or honesty but to appear as if you are" (126). What Postman is saying in chapter nine and chapter six is that "The television commercial is not at all about the character of products to be consumed. It is about the character of the consumers of products" (128). This can be said whether….....

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"Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves To Death Public Discourse In The Age Of Show Business" (2012, April 10) Retrieved September 17, 2021, from
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"Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves To Death Public Discourse In The Age Of Show Business", 10 April 2012, Accessed.17 September. 2021,
https://www.aceyourpaper.com/essays/neil-postman-amusing-ourselves-death-public-112960