Amusing Ourselves To Death

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  • #251148

    I picked up this book, Amusing Ourselves To Death, much earlier this year, back when we had a big snow storm and there was no leaving the house for a few days. Recently started rereading parts of it.

    Postaman’s argument is something like this: before television, the US was mostly literary in its discourse. People knew how to read, and they read seriously, and even things like political speeches were strongly influenced by writing. Newspapers, churches, and education were serious matters. Newspapers actually reported news that mattered to the readers. Church sermons were sober-minded and intelligent. Education was respected and valued.

    With television, something began to creep into these things: entertainment. And at the time of Postman writing his book, and maybe even more so since then, entertainment has become the main concern of news, the church, and education. TV news programs are about personalities, and are usually filled with brief snippets that are disconnected from each other and easily forgotten. The primary concern of a lot of churches is to put on a show to draw crowds. Education has to focus on entertainment in order to keep the attention of children raised on and raised by Big Bird.

    If I could phrase it this way: entertainment is everywhere, and entertainment is everything. Postman at one point in the book slightly modifies the title to a popular song from years ago: There’s No Business But Show Business.

    Postman wasn’t completely against television, but he did think that TV has taken previously sober and serious things and made them into cheap, inconsequential amusements.

    My main concern is with the church, and I think I can see how that has happened. A lot of pastors tell more jokes in their sermons than they read Bible verses. Sermons are mostly focused on helping people have a better life with maybe a bit about saving their souls tacked on at the end. Preachers are concerned about how they look, and churches now have stages that they will elaborately decorate for holidays seasons and the current sermon series. To try to sum things up, sermons are positive and affirming, pastors are young and handsome and funny, and the overall church experience is light and airy and not too serious and with bits of humor and not much mention of negative and uncomfortable stuff like sin and hell.

    This is a book that’s a few decades old, and it might be wondered what Postman would think of the internet and how it’s taken over, even coming close to replacing TV as we knew it not so very long ago. And I have some disagreements here and there.

    But I think I can recommend this book, and pretty highly, too. Postman does give the reader some things to ponder on.

    (edited to fix some spelling errors)

    • This topic was modified 9 months, 2 weeks ago by Audie.
    #251153
    comicsgate
    Premium

    Just watched some of a video on this very topic that says much of the same things you did. There is black and white footage of one guy talking about how TV included a lot of people who were not in the literary class. Many folks felt excluded by the literary class, according to the video. It’s a losing battle against entertainment, but it’s one that should be taught. If parents even have a TV, they will deny it, but part of the upbringing will be done by the image machine. A whole generation of “latchkey kids” grew up in front of the idiot box and learned all the propaganda techniques, which is why they are so effective at memes. I am grateful to what clergy are left, but charismatic and entertaining showmanship is ruling the day now. In the future, I see leaders emerging from the social media class. It will be people who have put out videos a day for decades. I’m thinking people like Styx or Mark Dice. Maybe another generation. The funny thing about the fallout is that the age of the TV may have come to an end with the rise of youtube. In the sermon below, the guy talks about how, for all the faults of the literary class, book readers are solitary, so they have their own point of view which is lost to the collective tribe that follow TV shows.

    Revival of the Tribal: Techno-Hive Mind, de-Individualism, and Historical Regression

    In this stream I discuss the idea that in the age of technology we are not so much progressing forward as we are reverting back to tribal society. As our world has become more and more interconnected, we have moved back to superstitious, magical, relativistic, and tribal thinking about the world. Make sure to check it out and let me know what you think.
    God bless

    #251170

    One thing needs to be kept in mind when some people offer utopians visions, such as the “global village”: the fall. If mankind were perfect, sinless, if we still lived in Eden, then something like a “global village” would well be a good thing. But we aren’t perfect, we are fallen, we are sinful, and that affects our societies, and if our small societies are often little better than nightmares, how bad would a great global society be?

    God’s wisdom at Babel, when he changed languages and divided mankind, should be pondered, especially since the idea of a “global village” seems like a return to Babel.

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