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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

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  396 ratings  ·  51 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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Eric_W
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,
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Jon Boorstin
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.
Owen
Dec 26, 2007 Owen rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
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Ryan Holiday
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
Justin Mitchell
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
Darius
"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
Clif
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.

What's the root of the problem this book addresses? It is that we demand and expect far more that real life can give, thanks to the illusions that the Graphic Revolution presents to us. The Graphic Revolution is the coming of the media (print, sound, video) that allow the creation of the pseudo-world, the artificial world that imp
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Ross
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
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
John-paul Pagano
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.
G
Provocative though a little "get off my lawn!".
Sean Goh
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
Stephen
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
Alex
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
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Missy
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
Bob
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
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Nicholas
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Brian Ayres
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
Joel Bruns
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
Paul Gier
"The Image" provides an interesting discussion about what is and is not really news and about the manipulation of information in popular media. The author suggests that much of what we consider news is merely manufactured information and has little or no relevance to our lives. I found much of the discussion in the book still relevant and applicable today. My only complaint is that the book seemed a bit overly verbose and could possibly have been better organized. It often felt repetitive and wa ...more
Rachel
This book may be one of the most important books written in the latter half of the 20th century. Boorstin, with characteristic insight, was prophetic about the influence of the image, particularly in America.

'Nowadays everybody tells us that what we need is more belief, a stronger and deeper and more encompassing faith. A faith in America and what we are doing. That may be true in the long run. What we need first is to disillusion ourselves. What ails us most is not what we have done with Ameri
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Rory
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
Ella
Incredibly relevant and important book. There were times when reading this book that I was shocked to remember it was written before the time of blogs and social media.

The language is academic and inaccessible, and that is the only reason I give it four stars instead of five. Read this book.

"We risk being the first people in history to have been able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so 'realistic' that they can live in them. We are the most illusioned people on earth. Yet we da
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Dan
Good, but reads as a little dated at this point, perhaps because we've become so immersed in the world he describes. The analysis is spot on.
Kevin Duvall
Boorstin gets a little too cynical in parts, but even then, his words are incredibly profound.
Kevin
Sep 03, 2010 Kevin is currently reading it
Shelves: set-aside
A classic Chicago School text on the rise of the Image in 20th century America. Written in the early 70s, followers of entertainment news and the tabloids would find Boorstin's observations even more valid nowadays. His definition of "celebrity": "Someone who is known for their well-knownness." Heidi Montag, anyone? The American obsession with image has led to an age of politics where candidates now orchestrate pseudo-events designed to appear spontaneous and revelatory but are in fact anything ...more
Bill
Dec 22, 2010 Bill added it
Awesome. A really sharp breakdown of a notion called Pseudo-events. Which is essentially like watching the news where everything is a story but nothing has context or any sort of logical progression. Something always seems to be happening but none of it seems to connect. This is not a new book and still has the measured straightforwardness that more contemporary books have lost. It doesn't have the heightened and fevered pitch or desperate tone.
Aileen
As someone who is familiar with most of the ideas presented in the text, I think this is a thought provoking read. I certainly didn't think it was the most organized in terms of connecting ideas and arguments, however, I still think the perspective is extremely valuable. It provides a glimpse at media and consumerism in American history.

It is amazing how much stays the same even as 50 years pass and technology changes.
Kassidy harris
This book is so pertinent NOW. Daniel Boorstin is able to entwine history with current issues seamlessly, making all of his books (i have now read them all) fascinating reads. Where one historian can write dry prose, Boorstin enlivens it by pulling the issues into the present so that you can relate to them easily. The Image gave me an illuminated view on this election madness, and is a book I'll read again for sure.
Gopi
Boorstin writes about the rise of the image as an accepted alternative and replacement for truth in modern and post-modern America. While his tone is sometimes curmudgeonly, his insights into what this crass substitution means for the modern day are stunningly clear.

Especially scary are his descriptions of politicians in the '60s, because of how much they apply to modern politics. Nothing ever changes.
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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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More about Daniel J. Boorstin...
The Discoverers: A History of Man's Search to Know His World and Himself The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination The Americans, Vol. 1: The Colonial Experience The Americans, Vol. 3: The Democratic Experience The Seekers: The Story of Man's Continuing Quest to Understand His World

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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.” 0 likes
“We hardly dare face our bewilderment, because our ambiguous experience is so pleasantly iridescent, and the solace of belief in contrived reality is so thoroughly real. We have become eager accessories to the great hoaxes of the age. These are the hoaxes we play on ourselves.” 0 likes
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