Are We Amused?

Neil Postman’s book “Amusing Ourselves To Death” explains to a large extent why we want our social media feeds to be full of puppies and entertaining bite-sized pieces of morality, theology, self-help, history, psychology, philosophy and news. Even more, it explains why we say the things we say, feel the things we feel, believe who we believe and do what we do.

Truthfully, I don’t believe technology is the root cause of our issues with truth. I think Kierkegaard pretty much nailed the root issue in the early 1800’s when he wrote…

“The world wants to be deceived; not only is it deceived—ah, then the matter would not be so dangerous!—but it wants to be deceived. Intensely, more intensely, more passionately perhaps than any witness to the truth has fought for the truth, the world fights to be deceived; it most gratefully rewards with applause, money, and prestige anyone who complies with its wish to be deceived. And perhaps the world has never needed to become sober as much as it does today.”
Søren Kierkegaard

In 1985, Neil Postman speaks to how television and now, how all current technologies have met that desire and what have been the results.

“Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice. The result is that we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death.”
― Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

This book is an easy read. I think it’s time we stopped scrolling and picked up and read a book that might help us to think.

“My point is that we are by now so thoroughly adjusted to the “Now . . . this” world of news—a world of fragments, where events stand alone, stripped of any connection to the past, or to the future, or to other events—that all assumptions of coherence have vanished. And so, perforce, has contradiction. In the context of no context, so to speak, it simply disappears. And in its absence, what possible interest could there be in a list of what the President says now and what he said then? It is merely a rehash of old news, and there is nothing interesting or entertaining in that.”
― Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

“Public figures were known largely by their written words, for example, not by their looks or even their oratory. It is quite likely that most of the first fifteen presidents of the United States would not have been recognized had they passed the average citizen in the street. This would have been the case as well of the great lawyers, ministers and scientists of that era. To think about those men was to think about what they had written, to judge them by their public positions, their arguments, their knowledge as codified in the printed word. You may get some sense of how we are separated from this kind of consciousness by thinking about any of our recent presidents; or even preachers, lawyers and scientists who are or who have recently been public figures. Think of Richard Nixon or Jimmy Carter or Billy Graham, or even Albert Einstein, and what will come to your mind is an image, a picture of a face, most likely a face on a television screen (in Einstein’s case, a photograph of a face). Of words, almost nothing will come to mind. This is the difference between thinking in a word-centered culture and thinking in an image-centered culture. It is also the difference between living in a culture that provides little opportunity for leisure, and one that provides much.”
― Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

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