The form of communication created by the television is not only a part of how our modern society communicates, but is has changed public discourse to the point that it has completely redefined it, argued Neil Postman in his convincing book Amusing Ourselves to Death. He viewed this as very harmful, and additionally so because our society is ignorant of it as they quickly becomes engulfed in its epistemology. When faced with the question about whether the television shapes or reflects culture, Postman pointed out that it is no longer applicable because "television has gradually become our culture" (79). What kind of culture is this? Postman warned that it is one in which we are instructed and informed through the form of entertainment, and that through such a medium, we are becoming dulled, ignorant of real issues, and amused right into a very possible culture death. Today, sixteen years after the book's publication, he would probably have a similar message (though possibly more passionate) to say about our present culture, especially in the areas of education and the nightly news, which have grown progressively worse.
Taking two authors, George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, he compared their views about the future of information. Orwell's view was that we would be overcome by a controlling force and books would be banned, leaving us without proper information or instruction. Huxley, on the other hand, suggested that the squelching of information would not be the problem. Instead, it would be the voluminous mass flooding our culture that would make us ignorant. We would have so much to choose from, both useful and worthless, that we would become indifferent t...
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...information invades the living room, they wonder why they are being tricked and mislead. Or worse, they do not even realize it. We are not a culture known for its thinking. Perhaps we are best known for our entertainment. Only when we divide these two realms will we become more accurate informed. Neil Postman, comparing Orwell and Huxley's theories, said, "[Our threat of being deprived of proper information] does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours" (155). His point was that by our own choosing, we are being misinformed. In our "information age" we have intelligent books, newspapers, magazines, and other information sources that have not been greatly affected by the television culture. We just need to stop laughing and seek to be properly informed.
Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death. New York: Penguin Books, 1985.
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