Are we on the verge of culture-death?
"When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when a cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainment, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility."
This is the late Neil Postman"s contention. First published in 1985, Amusing Ourselves to Death has established itself as a key text in cultural and media studies. Television, Postman argued, has taken the place of the printed word at the centre of our culture, and in so doing has trivialised the once serious and coherent discussion of all public affairs. Even our political and religious leaders today depend more on camera angles and showmanship than on reason and rhetoric. Using examples from America"s past and present history, he makes convincing, often wittily argued case that we are moving not towards Orwell"s vision of the future but towards Huxley"s Brave New World in which people become addicted to the technologies that take away their capacity to think: their critical faculties are destroyed and their sense of history is lost.
Neil Postman is Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at New York University; his previous books include the acclaimed study The Disappearance of Childhood.
"A brilliant book...powerful, troubling and important" Washington Post