Steve Powers

Neil Postman

I wonder if anyone who reads my blog has any idea who Neil Postman was? He was what I, and wikipedia, will call a cultural critic.  His most well-known book is Amusing Ourselves to Death, the thesis of which is that the ignorance and destruction of the future will not come in the way Orwell prophesied in Nineteen Eighty-Four, but the way Huxley prophesied in Brave New World.  That is to say, the downfall of intelligence is not in the form of oppression or governmental control, but in the form of a change in media to one that is enjoyed and desired, but consequently requires no thought.  In other words, our entertainment is making us stupid.

Also in Amusing Ourselves to Death Postman describes what he calls the age of show business.  He says that in this age, entertainment has become the greatest virtue of all, and the things that go with it must be accepted, whether good or bad, merely because they are necessary.  (e.g. Choosing the attractive news anchor over the articulate one.)  He explains how the terse nature of visual media, particularly television news, has the effect of removing the importance from every issue.  He even discusses how TV-izaition has resulted within other media forms.  The result is magazines with virtually no articles and newspapers with extremely short stories.  Postman claims this has destroyed news. Keep in mind that he wrote this book in 1985, long before the internet

He also cowrote a book with Steve Powers called How to Watch TV News.  I will give you the takeaways from the book more or less, straight from chapter one.  1.)TV is an unsleeping money machine. 2.) Management, not journalists, make news decisions based on business considerations. 3.) Decisions of what is newsworthy are based on what keeps viewers watching so that they will see commercials.

Tomorrow.  Why Jon Stewart is the modern Neil Postman