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The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America
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The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America

4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  577 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
First published in 1962, this wonderfully provocative book introduced the notion of “pseudo-events”—events such as press conferences and presidential debates, which are manufactured solely in order to be reported—and the contemporary definition of celebrity as “a person who is known for his well-knownness.” Since then Daniel J. Boorstin’s prophetic vision of an America inu ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published September 1st 1992 by Vintage (first published 1961)
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Jon Boorstin
Mar 05, 2014 Jon Boorstin rated it it was amazing
My dad wrote this book. I remember stamping the pages with a rubber number-stamper on our dining room table. He'd spent ten years on his latest volume of The Americans; this he wrote in three months. This endures.
Eric_W
Dec 09, 2008 Eric_W rated it it was amazing
Shelves: current-affairs
5+ stars This book should be mandatory reading.

Boorstin, Librarian of Congress emeritus, is an outstanding social historian who defines pseudo-events as events created to promote. Generally, these events have no intrinsic newsworthiness. They are not spontaneous, they are usually arranged for the convenience of the media, their relationship to reality is ambiguous and they are intended to be self-fulfilling.

The news media hungers for anything to put in its pages. We are besieged with radio, TV,
...more
Justin Mitchell
Dec 18, 2010 Justin Mitchell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who has struggled to untangle the writings of Karl Marx, Jacques Lacan, Guy Debord, Raoul Vaneigem or Jean Baudrillard, et al, will find this book, written years before The Society of the Spectacle, The Revolution of Everyday Life, and Simulacra and Simulation a god-send. Boorstin manages to one-up them by a radical new approach to social critique: just saying what you think. I know, this sounds daring and unheard-of, but somehow, somehow, it manages to work. What's more: he uses examples ...more
Ryan Holiday
Jul 05, 2012 Ryan Holiday rated it it was amazing
The central point of the book is so incisive that it not only survived the major technological and cultural shifts of the last 50 years but is made stronger by them: Most ofe take as important or news is image and artifice. Think aboutpress conferences to announce press conferences, awards, articles about how much money celebrities make, news leaks, news breaks, annual "Best of" list, press releases, "no comment", et al. None of it is real. As in, if it hadn't been known in advance that they'd g ...more
Owen
Jul 07, 2007 Owen rated it liked it
Shelves: 2007
"Always the play; never the thing"

A superbly titled and entirely prescient book, this one. As America's Graphic Revolution was spiraling with television, movies, and other 'images' created for easy consumption, Boorstin wrote about how there is simultaneously much more and much less to everything we see. This book was written in 1961, so many of the examples he uses seem so innocuous and quaint compared to what we're accustomed to today. Boorstin died in 2004, so how did he not go crazy through
...more
Clif
Jul 11, 2010 Clif rated it really liked it
Good thing Daniel Boorstin is deceased. Facebook would send him to despair - but it would not surprise him, as it is a logical extension of what this book is all about.

The root of the problem this book addresses is we demand and expect far more than real life can give, thanks to the illusions that the Graphic Revolution presents to us. The Graphic Revolution is the coming of media (print, sound, video) that allow the creation of the pseudo-world, the artificial world that implies that all things
...more
Missy
Aug 19, 2013 Missy rated it it was amazing
I loved reading it and have been enjoying talking about it. For a book that was published in the 60s, it was pretty compelling how relevant it is today. It puts under the magnifying glass themes such as hero vs. celebrity and how we allow daily, hourly, minute-to-minute information into our lives and try to paint it as meaningful. Over-saturation makes one common. Boorstin deconstructs how we travel these days - how often we seek to find, if not expect, the comfortable and familiar in places tha ...more
Darius
Mar 12, 2014 Darius rated it really liked it
"There was a time when the reader of an unexciting newspaper would remark, 'How dull is the world today!' Nowadays he says, 'What a dull newspaper!' " says the author. This book is Boorstin's diatribe against the promotion of "image" over reality. His denunciation is even more relevant today, 50 years after it was published (consider not just regular TV news, but the explicitly party-line hacks who pose as reporters and spend time on trivial issues; and, Jon Stewart who pretends to be a comedian ...more
G
Apr 23, 2014 G rated it really liked it
Shelves: high-caliber
Provocative though a little "get off my lawn!".
Megan
Feb 26, 2017 Megan rated it really liked it
As we Americans obsess over fake news and alternative facts in the wake of Trump's presidential election, Daniel Boorstin's 55 year-old reflection on the proliferation of "pseudo-events" in American life reminds us that "fake" is a spectrum, and we're very nearly blind to all but the most extreme end. Here, Boorstin awakens us to the artifice of press conferences, debates, opinion polls, leaks, etc. etc. which we now generally accept as "real" news.

If this book were written today, it would almo
...more
Peter Mcloughlin
Inciteful look at trends in media and modern life. Saw a lot in the early 1960s that would still be important shapers of life in the early twenty-first century. The deluge of media and pseudo events that now largely make up our screenspace these days.
Ross
Oct 30, 2009 Ross rated it liked it
Written by U.S. historian and writer Daniel Boorstin in 1961 this book focuses on what the author even back at the beginning of the Kennedy administration called the ‘pseudo events’ in our ( U.S. )society as opposed to the ‘real’ world which he sees them replacing. While I’m a fan of Boorstin ( see The Discoverers ) and I have a lot of sympathy with his view of particular areas of society , e.g. journalism or advertising , I’m not sure his overall criticism is warranted . His view is probably fa ...more
Graham
Dec 09, 2007 Graham rated it liked it
This is a curious book. Everyone reads this book when they take Media Studies classes in college. When in college, the student reading the book is usually on the good side of history. The problem is after graduation. In college, this book can help make a person a better anti-capitalist, but soon after graduation this book gets dusted off and packed away into the suitcase that the former idealist takes to countless job interviews at marketing firms.

This book is a lot like art school: it sounds li
...more
Kara
Jan 08, 2017 Kara rated it liked it
Originally published in 1962, this book was both an illuminating and a frustrating read. Parts of Boorstin's theories are still applicable to today, and as someone interested in marketing and journalism (and who lives outside the nation's capital), his discourses on advertising, news, and politics were relevant to my life. However, I found other parts of this book totally outdated, or otherwise completely disagreed with him. Also, I find it ironic that he implies that paperback "reprints" of har ...more
Sam Roach
Oct 21, 2016 Sam Roach rated it it was amazing
Boorstin introduces the idea of a "pseudo-event", the event created for the purpose of coverage. Interesting reflection on the dominance of imagery.
John-paul Pagano
Apr 11, 2012 John-paul Pagano rated it really liked it
Shelves: sociology
The seminal non-academic work on media studies. Along with Walter Lippmann's Public Opinion, it forms an indispensable diptych for understanding how politics and culture mediate our democracy.
Nicholas
Jan 02, 2011 Nicholas rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kevin Duvall
May 29, 2014 Kevin Duvall rated it it was amazing
Boorstin gets a little too cynical in parts, but even then, his words are incredibly profound.
Todd Martin
Jul 06, 2011 Todd Martin rated it did not like it
Today in entertainment Nicki Minaj tweeted that Taylor Swift parked in a handicapped spot and laughed while a 87 year old woman had to push her walker 3 blocks to her chemotherapy appointment. Swift quickly accused Minaj of bathing in the tears of infants upon whom she extinguishes her lit cigarettes.

In case you haven’t noticed, much of what passes for ‘news’ these days is anything but. It’s a mish-mash of public relations, opinion, trial balloons, 2nd hand stories, press conferences, spin, a
...more
Sean Goh
Mar 25, 2014 Sean Goh rated it it was amazing
You will never look at media, advertising, celebrity, and a great many other things the same way again after reading this.

News
The counsel on public relations not only knows what news value is, but knowing it, is in a position to make news happen. He is a creator of events.

Pseudo-events:
-are not spontaneous, but arise due to planning. e.g. interview VS earthquake.
-It is planted primarily for the purpose of being reported or reproduced. -Its success is measured by how widely it's reported. "Is it
...more
Alex
Jan 31, 2010 Alex rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book, which was apparently quite commonly read but is now fairly obscure.

Boorstin's book is about the cultural changes in America that have taken place since the Graphical Revolution in the mid-19th century, when "truth" started to become less important in people's minds than "representation." It is a history of technologically-produced dualisms: journalists shift from "gatherers" of news to "makers" of news; revered figures change from "heros" (distinguished by their time
...more
José María
Jan 09, 2017 José María rated it liked it
Some chapters are pretty good. In others he just sounds as an Old Man Yelling At Cloud. Interesting, nonetheless.
Kyle
Dec 11, 2016 Kyle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
One of the more prescient and important books I've had the pleasure of reading. Prescient, because the trends Boorstin reported on have exploded today with the advent of social media, live video chatting, etc. Important, because Boorstin includes ourselves as at least complicit, even integral, in the proliferation of the soporific, hypnotic proliferation of what he terms "the image"; it is not a matter of truth and lies, and we cannot blame the usual boogeymen (the Organization Man, the public r ...more
David Becker
Sep 17, 2015 David Becker rated it it was amazing
Although written 50 years ago, this is still a tremendously incisive and readable look at the cultural bubble America was constructing as a substitute for reality. Boorstin, one of the great American thinkers of the last century, is right on the mark and eerily predictive as examines celebrity culture, the waroing role of "hero," the homogenization of world culture and other aspects of his broad theme. I found myself pausing to wonder a few time every chapter how he possibly could have made sens ...more
Bob
Dec 26, 2007 Bob rated it really liked it
Published in 1961, at a point that now feels like it was the dawn of the age of fraud, though really it was already several decades underway even then. Falling chronogically and philosophically somewhere between Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" and Baudrillard's "America", Boorstin coined the phrase "pseudo-event" which has stuck around, and tried to coin "the Graphic Revolution" (by which he means mechanical reproduction) which didn't quite catch on.
The chapte
...more
Stephen
Oct 15, 2013 Stephen rated it it was amazing
This book was published in 1962, and reading it today, it was way ahead of its times. Boorstin definitely had his finger on the pulse of Amerikan culture and all its silliness, even back in 1962. The book introduces the concept of “pseudo-events: a press conference, a presidential debate, a best-selling novel, or a movie made from a novel, events which are manufactured solely in order to be reported by a willing media that is starving for "stuff" to print and/or report about. And this reporting ...more
Brian Ayres
Nov 12, 2009 Brian Ayres rated it really liked it
This book is a classic written in the 1950s, but every page of it drips with relevance to the media age we live in, that of a media environment ripe to distract from the real truth. Having been a member and student of the media, I understand the nature of image building through advertising and public relations as well as pseudo-reporting of events like press conferences and interviews. These days, with the glut of information coming in waves and waves, it is easy to see how individuals can latch ...more
Abner Rosenweig
Jul 27, 2015 Abner Rosenweig rated it it was amazing
A brilliant, stunningly prescient analysis of culture. It's thoroughly researched, comprehensively argued, and densely packed with proof of the bold notion that America is becoming a society of unreality that favors shadow over substance. Today we speak well of Baudrillard, Debord, Postman, Andy Warhol--all these men owe a great debt to this book, yet, in keeping with Boorstin's thesis, the book itself has been overshadowed by its imitators.

The Image has only become more relevant in modern soci
...more
Joel Bruns
Oct 15, 2013 Joel Bruns rated it really liked it
At first I rated it just three stars, but I really think it deserves the extra star. It's more the fault of my poor reading habits that I lost focus in the last two chapters although the penultimate chapter was, in my estimation, overlong and felt labored (is that the right word?). Nevertheless the arguments contained regarding the vacuousness of the American experience in the last half of the 20th century and continuing into this century are hard to argue with. The cynic in me felt, at times, t ...more
Rory
Jan 29, 2013 Rory rated it it was amazing
Absolutely, unequivocally recommend. To read this is, in large part, to understand America (and England, in as much as it and other cultures have emulated American idealism).

Everything he says about our obsession with ideas and pseudo-events over reality is as true now as it was then. What was particularly interesting was his talk of how we desire this pseudo-reality, how it is appealing, and how indulging it creates desire for even more. Makes me think of Randian concepts like pseudo-self-estee
...more
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Daniel Joseph Boorstin was a historian, professor, attorney, and writer. He was appointed twelfth Librarian of the United States Congress from 1975 until 1987.

He graduated from Tulsa's Central High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the age of 15. He graduated with highest honors from Harvard, studied at Balliol College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and earned his PhD at Yale University. He was a lawyer
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“They vie with one another in offering attractive, “informative” accounts and images of the world. They are free to speculate on the facts, to bring new facts into being, to demand answers to their own contrived questions.” 2 likes
“We have become so accustomed to our illusions that we mistake them for reality.” 1 likes
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