Tim Casteel's Reviews > Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
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it was amazing

Written in 1985, Amusing could not be more relevant 34 years later re humankind’s endless appetite for distraction. I read two more Postman books in 2018 after reading Amusing because I was so taken by his ability to make sense of vast amounts of history- to explain how (and why) we got to now, especially as it relates to technology. I wish he were alive to explicate our modern iPhone epidemic.

Postman explains so much of our world- how technology affects our ability to think, and the resulting effects: anxiety and outrage (instead of reasoned discourse).

He puts into words what many of us feel - the glut of information causes anxiety, incoherence, and impotence. In the place of meaning, technology gives us amusement.

"In any communication environment input (what one is informed about) always exceeds output (possibilities of action based on information). [Technology] made the relationship between information & action both abstract & remote…What steps do you plan to take to reduce the conflict in the Middle East? Or the rates of inflation, crime and unemployment? You plan to do nothing about them.”

We have here a great loop of impotence: The news elicits from you a variety of opinions about which you can do nothing. The principal strength of the telegraph [much less the internet!] was its capacity to move information, not collect it, explain it or analyze it."

[We are a] "culture overwhelmed by irrelevance, incoherence, and impotence [that] offers fascination in place of complexity and coherence… a world that does not ask us, indeed, does not permit us to do anything; but is [always] endlessly entertaining."

What’s particularly interesting is his ability (as a secular Jew) to exhort Christians. Some have called Postman the secular CS Lewis. Postman’s critique of religion in the digital age is particularly poignant:
"There is no great religious leader —from Buddha to Moses to Jesus to Mohammed— who offered people what they want. Only what they need. But television [and the iPhone!] is not well suited to offering people what they need"
"It does not accommodate complex language or stringent demands. What is preached on television is not anything like the Sermon on the Mount. Religious programs are filled with good cheer. They celebrate affluence…I believe I am not mistaken in saying that Christianity is a demanding and serious religion. When it is delivered as easy and amusing, it is another kind of religion altogether.”
That’ll preach.
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Reading Progress

February 2, 2018 – Started Reading
February 2, 2018 – Shelved
February 9, 2018 – Finished Reading

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John Majors looking forward to your thoughts on this book


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