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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

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  897 ratings  ·  136 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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G Very good if you wanna learn real street smarts.

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Jon Boorstin
Mar 05, 2014 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 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
Ryan Holiday
Jul 05, 2012 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
Clif
Jul 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, philosophy
Good thing Daniel Boorstin is deceased. Facebook would send him into 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 he 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 are
...more
Owen
Jul 07, 2007 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
Cheryl
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Skimmed thoroughly. Would love to have an excuse, such as a book club discussion, to read carefully as it's well-written and still relevant. However, much info. is that which I've already encountered elsewhere, or figured out for myself, and given that I'm on a time crunch, I chose not to read every word. Recommended to anyone interested in sociology, advertising, popular media, politics.
Dalana Dailey
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was written in the 1960s, so it obviously doesn't resonate with me as strikingly as Chris Hedges' Empire of Illusion (2009) or Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985). However, Boorstin does point out trends that were beginning to take America by storm in the 50s and 60s and still persist today. These include the changing role of the news media from relaying spontaneous news (crime, accidents, governmental proceedings) to creating news to be reported (press releases, publicity ...more
Mehrsa
Mar 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was written a while ago and it still feels relevant and explanatory. Everything in American culture is about "the brand" and the celebrity for celebrity's sake. When he talks about people being famous just for being famous, it's hard to believe that he wasn't talking about the Kardashians and other reality TV stars.
Peter (Pete) 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.
Todd Martin
Jul 06, 2011 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,
...more
Lleu
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Image is a modern classic of sociology first published in 1961. Anyone reading it today will probably be struck by how Boorstin identifies trends that are so prevalent today -especially the way society is fixated on images rather than the underlying reality.

Some might call Boorstin prescient but it's more accurate to say that he was an astute observer of what was already happening in the mid-20th century as the era of television was making sweeping changes in society. The paperback copy I pi
...more
Missy
Aug 19, 2013 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 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
Graham
Dec 09, 2007 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
G
Apr 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: high-caliber
Provocative though a little "get off my lawn!".
Megan
Feb 26, 2017 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
Jameson
Aug 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2020
An incredible, prophetic piece of social criticism. So much of Boorstin's critiques of media, celebrity, advertising, consumerism, tourism, and politics have only proven more insightful with the passing of time. We really seem to be living out the logical extreme of the contrived, plastic, image-obsessed world Boostin describes. Even when I disagreed with his analysis, I found it compelling and readable. I'm not quite sure why this is overlooked while Debord and Baudrillard get all the glory, bu ...more
Robert Terrell
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reads like it was written in the last year rather than the 60s. Boorstin was prophetic in his description of American culture.
Nick Heer
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Cynical. Vital.
Tamhack
Jun 16, 2019 rated it liked it
At first I was not sure about this book and the message it was trying to convey; but it was intriguing and something to think about. It was eye-opening and made me look around the world and question what were the motives (not in a paranoia sense) behind the events on TV, radio, newspapers, people, politics, business, etc...

Summary:
The Image takes a bold look at the political, social, and psychological impacts of "pseudo-events", or those events that create a false sense of reality. Daniel Boorst
...more
Vince
Aug 07, 2018 rated it liked it
More like 3.5. Although somewhat dated (published 1961), his argument that the increase of "image making" since the onset of what he calls the Graphic Revolution (beginning with prolferation of print in the early 1800s, enhanced by advances in illustrative techniques, photograpy, etc. and promoted by advertising, tv and so on) is insightful and much of it is still relevant in the digital age. I have some quibbles with some of Boorstein reasonings in parts, but the history of these technological ...more
Ross
Oct 30, 2009 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
Kara
Jan 08, 2017 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
Jacob
Feb 02, 2019 rated it liked it
As someone who tries his best to avoid the news--whether on T.V. or otherwise--I'm a bit biased in my appreciation for this book's central message. That said the book is more than just a commentary on the falsification of the Entertainment News Industry. He goes into depth on a number of topics, some of which are only barely related to the title.

I would rate it higher, but I had to force myself to get through the last few chapters. The beginning, though, was wonderful.
Tom Quinn
A Sobering Scrutiny of Synthesized Sensationalism.

This book is integral to fostering present-day critical thinking, especially with regard to media analysis. The thesis is important but the presentation, though not dry, is a little scattered. It's a must-read for American citizens, as well as consumers and audiences everywhere.

3 stars out of 5.
John-paul Pagano
Apr 11, 2012 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.
Sam
Oct 21, 2016 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.
Nicholas
Jan 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kevin Duvall
May 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Boorstin gets a little too cynical in parts, but even then, his words are incredibly profound.
Joseph Stieb
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
An unusual book for sure, a mix of insight and snobbishness, but most importantly a fascinating look at a topic I've become increasingly interested in the last few years: the problem of unreality. Boorstin's main concept in this book is the pseudo-event. A pseudo event is an event that is planned or coordinated solely for the purpose of being reported and publicized. It is almost inherently a child of mass culture and mass media. Today, pseudo-events are so woven into our daily lives that it tak ...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
...more

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