Amusing Ourselves To Death
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Examines the ways in which television has transformed public discourse--in politics, education, religion, science, and elsewhere--into a form of entertainment that undermines exposition, explanation and knowledge, in a special anniversary edition of the classic critique of the influence of the mass media on a democratic society. Reprint.
A brilliant powerful and important book....This is a brutal indictment Postman has laid down and, so far as I can see, an irrefutable one. --Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World
Seminar paper from the year 2005 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Culture and Applied Geography, grade: 1, Martin Luther University (Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik), course: Orality and Literacy, 17 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: The central topics of the works of the writer, educator, communication theorist, social critic and cultural commentator Neil Postman have always been the media, their different forms of communication and their meanings to people, society and culture. Any of his books was built around the McLuhan-question: “Does the form of any medium of communication affect our social relations, our political ideas, or psychic habits, and of course, as he [Marshall McLuhan] always emphasized, our sensorium” (Postman: 07/30/05)? Postman was aware of the fact that a new technology and therefore a new medium may have destructive as well as creative effects. During the history of mankind there have been tremendous changes in the forms, volume, speed and context of information and it is necessary to find out what these changes meant and mean to our cultures (Postman: 1985, 160). For him, it is a basic principle that “the clearest way to see through a culture is to attend to its tools for conversation” (Postman: 1985, 8). In the book “Amusing Ourselves to Death - Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business” Postman examines, from a 1980s viewpoint, the changes in the American culture caused by the shift from the Age of Reason with the printed word at its center to the Age of Show Business with television as the central medium - or in simplifying terms the shift from rationality to triviality. Twenty years later, the situation has changed again. This term paper will make an attempt to answer the question what the new media, especially the internet, did to the modern (American) culture and to its public discourse. Obviously, Postman’s provocative title “Amusing Ourselves to Death” was just the beginning of a fast moving development since nowadays the modern media world seems to shape our lives under the title “Informing Ourselves to Death” (Postman: 07/30/05) or to use one of the latest terms “Infotaining Ourselves to Death”. ..First of all, the following chapters will examine the line of Postman’s argumentation which led to the conclusion that television has significantly transformed the American society into an amusement and entertainment culture. What has happened and what was the role of the media? Was this the beginning of a “Brave New World”? As a matter of fact, Postman ́s theories and statements are not to be taken as unreflected truth. Subsequently,some critical remarks are to be made from a 21 st -century viewpoint. [...]
In this witty, often terrifying work of cultural criticism, the author of Amusing Ourselves to Death chronicles our transformation into a Technopoly: a society that no longer merely uses technology as a support system but instead is shaped by it—with radical consequences for the meanings of politics, art, education, intelligence, and truth.
A lavishly illustrated, witty, and original look at the awesome power of the political cartoon throughout history to enrage, provoke, and amuse. As a former editor of The New York Times Magazine and the longtime editor of The Nation, Victor S. Navasky knows just how transformative—and incendiary—cartoons can be. Here Navasky guides readers through some of the greatest cartoons ever created, including those by George Grosz, David Levine, Herblock, Honoré Daumier, and Ralph Steadman. He recounts how cartoonists and caricaturists have been censored, threatened, incarcerated, and even murdered for their art, and asks what makes this art form, too often dismissed as trivial, so uniquely poised to affect our minds and our hearts. Drawing on his own encounters with would-be censors, interviews with cartoonists, and historical archives from cartoon museums across the globe, Navasky examines the political cartoon as both art and polemic over the centuries. We see afresh images most celebrated for their artistic merit (Picasso's Guernica, Goya's "Duendecitos"), images that provoked outrage (the 2008 Barry Blitt New Yorker cover, which depicted the Obamas as a Muslim and a Black Power militant fist-bumping in the Oval Office), and those that have dictated public discourse (Herblock’s defining portraits of McCarthyism, the Nazi periodical Der Stürmer’s anti-Semitic caricatures). Navasky ties together these and other superlative genre examples to reveal how political cartoons have been not only capturing the zeitgeist throughout history but shaping it as well—and how the most powerful cartoons retain the ability to shock, gall, and inspire long after their creation. Here Victor S. Navasky brilliantly illuminates the true power of one of our most enduringly vital forms of artistic expression.