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

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Penguin, Dec 27, 2005 - Social Science - 208 pages
What happens when media and politics become forms of entertainment? As our world begins to look more and more like Orwell's 1984, Neil's Postman's essential guide to the modern media is more relevant than ever.

"It's unlikely that Trump has ever read Amusing Ourselves to Death, but his ascent would not have surprised Postman.” -CNN

Originally published in 1985, Neil Postman’s groundbreaking polemic about the corrosive effects of television on our politics and public discourse has been hailed as a twenty-first-century book published in the twentieth century. Now, with television joined by more sophisticated electronic media—from the Internet to cell phones to DVDs—it has taken on even greater significance. Amusing Ourselves to Death is a prophetic look at what happens when politics, journalism, education, and even religion become subject to the demands of  entertainment. It is also a blueprint for regaining control of our media, so that they can serve our highest goals.

“A brilliant, powerful, and important book. This is an indictment that Postman has laid down and, so far as I can see, an irrefutable one.” –Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book World

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Extremely insightful
Masterfully written, extremely insightful, and even prophetic at times

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Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business provokes a contemplative argument against the effect that television has on our society and culture in the United States. Written in 1985, Postman argues that T.V is turning society into a culture of pure entertainment. Serious topics such as education, religion and news will be discussed or given through a vessel designed to entertain the “audience”.
It is amazing how Postman wrote this book over 25 years ago and yet it may be even more of a relevant read in today’s society. He explains how there is a shift in what our society and culture values over the course of history. The shift, he explains, shows how our society went from being a serious spoken culture that was interested in useful, significant knowledge and intellect then gradually to a print based culture and finally to a society whose image based culture is more interested in entertaining and being entertained. Postman gives an example of how in today’s society there would never be an overweight unattractive presidential candidate because of how much time he must be on television and in the spotlight of viewers across the United States. In today’s society we are so quick to watch T.V rather than pick up a book to learn about significant information. In summary Postman compares the societies described in George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Most cynics feared our society heading on a downward spiral toward the “big-brother” governed society described by Orwell. Postman more agreed with how Huxley described society: A society described as overly entertained to the point where one will disincline to pick up a book and read. In Orwell’s future society the reason people will not read is because the government has burned all the books. The Orwell version has society governed to the point of death, and the Huxley version has society entertained to the point of their downfall.
Amusing Ourselves to Death attacks the T.V as the major factor in society’s shift towards being a culture of show business and entertainment; however I would find it very interesting to read how Postman feels about the many technologies we have today, over 25 years later. Websites such as Facebook and YouTube allows for entertainment to be more frequent and readily available. This book is a must read and will have you pondering some of the same questions and situations as many others who have read this book and enjoyed it.
By: Robbie Wills Ca, USA

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About the author (2005)

Neil Postman (1931–2003) was chairman of the Department of Communication Arts at New York University and founder of its Media Ecology program. He wrote more than twenty books.

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