Amusing Ourselves to Death

A Review of the Book by Neil Postman

Neil Postman certainly knew what he was talking about. Although he passed away several years ago, his ideas are as relevant today (and even more so with the advent of the internet) than they were when he penned his words a quarter of a century ago. A well-credentialed expert on the subject of communication in its sundry shapes and subtleties, Postman takes aim on the “dumbing down” effect that television has had upon society. In fact, the visual medium of TV has caused its watchers to unwittingly place style over substance, entertainment over education, and theatrics over thinking.

Artfully (and with a refreshing historic approach) Postman details the danger of uncontextualized information. Americans tend to want information now in spite of its relevance or accuracy—a trend which began quite interestingly with the invention of the telegraph. You’ll have to read the book to follow the logical timeline. And I promise that it will fascinate you.

The author is not an anti-television crusader; rather, he seeks to educate his readers as to the true nature of television (entertainment) and its appropriate place in our lives as an amusing diversion. Sadly, the invasion of television with its encroachment into the lives of virtually all Americans has left our people in a sad state of affairs indeed. In fact, the book brought to mind an observation Richard Nixon once made in his book entitled Leaders. In that book he asserted that leaders are always readers, and that reading is active while television watching is passive.

The book is not for the faint of heart, but it is a “must read” for those who think (or are willing to start!).

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