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Amusing Ourselves to Death

Amusing Ourselves to Death research paper due and don’t know how to start it? How about like this?

Television has recreated and degraded our concept of thinking and knowing. For example, what is more ludicrous than two people on screen rapidly juxtaposing the following stories, all the while smiling or keeping neutral faces:

  • the mayor died
  • The humane society had a successful open house
  • A brutal rape on the East side indicates a serial rapist is loose
  • Snow in the mountains
  • The King of Zimbabwe was released from house arrest
  • A kitten was saved by seven firemen after it got caught in a drain pipe
  • Local teachers march on the state capital to protest class sizes

Commercial break. Five minutes later the stories roll out once again. This is indeed a news ‘show.’

Amusing Ourselves to Death

Amusing Ourselves to Death - Television

Television has come to be not only the source of what people think they know; it actually is what they know. And what they know are images, crafted and marketed to appeal to viewers to keep them entertained.  One of the more perverted uses of television commercial space is using airtime for political advertisements. Careers are made and broken based on the images on the screen, rather than on personal qualifications. No one bothers to look at the resume! Governor Barry Goldwater’s candidacy for President went up in a mushroom cloud on television when his opponents aired a piece that showed a little blonde girl, a daisy and—a nuclear blast. The shock of the juxtaposed images and the suggestion that Goldwater was trigger-happy devastated his chances for office. Currently, the war in Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom, appears to be the most important event in the world, in our lives and in our living rooms. Why? Because television says it is. This is the degradation of coherent and relevant information in the hands of television. Of course, television has no hands and it isn’t an ‘it.’ Television is a phenomenon of influences, the most important of which are people, money and power.

Amusing Ourselves to Death - Print

Our friends on screen, however, report rape and murder stories along with bunny and ducky stories with equanimity and neutrality. They are our friends.  They promise they’ll be back tomorrow. The weatherman is kind enough to bring us our weather. God has nothing to do with it. Television is what people have come to accept as knowledge and information but it does not deliver knowledge, it delivers boluses of ‘stuff’ that are nearly always irrelevant to our lives.  If someone wants information, they read something appropriate, whether from the library, the Internet, or the local newspaper or they talk (have discourse) with others on the subject. But the print is fading, writes Postman. And very few people are using the illuminated screens of their televisions to read by

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