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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

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  755 ratings  ·  110 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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4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  755 ratings  ·  110 reviews

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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.
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,
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
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
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.
Jul 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Apr 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: high-caliber
Provocative though a little "get off my lawn!".
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
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, a
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
Sep 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Boorstin is a good writer and has a good command of his sources (as evidenced by his thirty page supplemental essay on further reading). There is significant value in this book; the criticisms he levels against American culture are still stinging more than fifty years on. However, many of these criticisms are based on a historical argument that Boorstin draws.

I question this historical argument. Boorstin believes that America’s early embrace of ideals devolved into the acceptance and conveyance
May 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
To say that Boorstin is hyperbolic in his takedown of what modern media is doing to society would be, well, rather understating the truth. Boorstin is *instensely* hyperbolic at places as he makes his diagnosis of just what the "Graphic Revolution" is doing to America. What is worth noting, however, is that Boorstin's emotion and bombastic writing really does emerge from a deep-seated love and concern for American society, so perhaps he can't be faulted for this.

Originally published in 1962, The
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Is this written 50 years ago? I cannot believe it as this book is still so spot on.

It all starts with us. We want news, all the time. However there are simply not enough real news that are of interest to us. (Alright there will always be sports news which are real news, but otherwise there is a paucity of news). So media companies create pseudo-events. Those are the press releases of politicians and basically anyone of significance. They are planned in advance and are not real ‘news’. Pseudo-ev
John Newton
Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I picked up The Image after coming across references to it in Michiko Kakutani's The Death of Truth. She cited it for its influence on Baudrillard and other French philosophers, an early attempt to make sense of a world where representations had triumphed over reality. Boorstin explains how the "pseudo-event," that is a staged event—the political interview, the orchestrated for television convention, the advertisement, the adaptation—has come to be more important than the candidate, the issues, ...more
Chris Hart
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fake news! Or, if you prefer, Faux News! Ever think it's all contrived? You might just be right.

Professor Boorstin looks at how our world is presented to us, flaked, formed, and processed to fit an image--of our country, a politician, a best-seller, an actor, a product--of just about anything, actually. We have "progressed" to the point where pseudo-events are presented as news and covered as such. For example: an event happens. Say a senator passes away after battling cancer. This is a real eve
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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
“We have become so accustomed to our illusions that we mistake them for reality.” 8 likes
“Much of what we have been doing to improve the world's opinion of us has had the contrary effect. Audio-visual aids which we have sent over the world are primary aids to the belief in the irrelevance, the arrogance, the rigidity, and the conceit of America. Not because they are poorly made. On the contrary, because they are well made and vividly projected. Not because they are favorable images or unfavorable images, but because they are images.” 2 likes
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