I’ve been reading. Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman is a brilliant book. Not since Lee Harris’ great Suicide of Reason, have I been so riveted by a book. Originally published in 1985, and recently re-released with a new introduction by the author’s son (Postman died in 2003) it is still essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the media. (Oh, look, there it is, over there in the left hand margin! Just click on the picture of it to buy a copy from Amazon… Gee, Suicide of Reason is there too!)
Of course a lot has changed since 1985 but Postman’s landmark book puts everything in context. Postman understood television exquisitely well and the seeds of our current dilemma were sown in the television age. He was the one who coined the term “infotainment” to describe the softened, cooled out non-news that evolved on television. Even though the hegemony of TV over our news consciousness is now passing into history, its effect on the way we experience the world is still very strong.
You can see the effect of it in multiculturalism and political correctness which have been bred in the hot-house environs of local and network news broadcasts where the only talk about “hot” subjects like race, or religion and the only mention hot terms like “terrorists” when they can’t avoid it and even then in apologetic and equivocal ways. The TV medium, Postman tells us cultivates such “cool” issue avoidance because the medium cultivates an audience that is stultifyingly passive and entertainment oriented. As he wrote in 1985 he described, with horror, a society sliding inexorably down into a “Huxleyan” totalitarian Brave New World. He was right about the slide but he did not see the crocodile waiting at the bottom of the slope.
Even though he did not see it, he perfectly described the ignorant arrogance and soporific inattention with which western populations have allowed the media to anesthetize them to the very real threat of Caliphate Islam and lull them into acquiescence to the creeping resurgence of the already failed ideology of world socialism. With every new “big story” we get closer to the waiting jaws.
A case could be made that in the age of television, and especially since 1967, there has not been a news event of major transformative effect that has not been presented to the public without serious distortions. Some have been outright lies. The seriousness of the effects of these distortions cannot be understated. Here are a variety of examples:
- In 1967 the world was given the impression that the great victory in The Six Day War had solved the Middle East problem and secured Israel’s existence. This distorted view has set the stage for the Arabs, who still vastly outnumber the Israelis, are far richer and have an undiminished desire to utterly destroy Israel, to claim the mantel of “underdog” and even “victim” in the eyes of a majority of Europeans and very large numbers of Americans.
- The defeat of the North Vietnamese Tet Offensive in 1968 was presented as proof that further support of freedom in Southeast Asia was futile. This perception turned allied victory into defeat and caused a substantial bloodbath in Viet Nam and contributed heavily to the cataclysm in neighboring Cambodia
- In 1987 the video of the Rodney King incident was shown over and over to the public on the evening news without the first segment of it which showed King attacking one of the officers. The public then could not understand the verdict when the jury (who, in court, had seen King’s aggressive attack) acquitted the police officers. The reverberations of the riots, in which 48 people died, that followed are still poisoning the “conversation about race” in the US today.
- The systematic demonization of the Serbs in the Balkans and the complete bestowal of “victim-hood” on the Moslems of Kosovo. Led to allied bombing of the Serbs and an overall tilt toward the Moslem side which gave prestige, courage and comfort to many foreign Islamist fighters who were active in the Balkans at the time. Many of those fighters, including Osama bin Laden himself, have gone on to terrorist activities against the west.
- The al Durah blood libel poured fuel on the fires of Islamist Jihad and the resulting wave of “retaliatory” violence that reference al Durah included the Ramallah lynchings, the beheading of Daniel Perl and 9/11. Even more damaging than the directly related violence, though, is that the wide acceptance of this particular fraud as truth has given credence to every other fraud, misrepresentation and slander since that time.
Postman saw no remedy for the distortions when he wrote his last edition of Amusing Ourselves to Death in 1987 but he could not have foreseen the sweeping changes of the last twenty years. The blind, soporific, hypnotizing blandness of the television screen has begun to yield to the computer screen with its infinite array of connections and (most importantly) its keyboard. This new medium gives hope that the endemic diseases of coolness and trivialized amusement” which contributed to Postman’s bleak outlook might find antidotes in the new millennium.
This is why I consider myself so fortunate to be working with Richard Landes to create Second Draft. Richard is uniquely qualified to understand and guide the process of finding these antidotes as this new and disruptive technology begins to correct the distorted old media. He is a specialist in millennial studies and the transformations wrought by new media of communication. He is able to put the changes we are experiencing now into a broad historical perspective. Our team at Second Draft is ready to build on the track record of success- to research and implement these antidotes.
One of the best antidotes we have in hand is the blog uprising. There is a major one, for instance, going on in Canada. Mark Steyn, my friend Blazing Cat Fur, Kathy at Five Feet of Fury, Kate at Small Dead Animals, WebElf Binky and so many other smart-mouths really seem to have begun a groundswell against the absurd neo-fascist CHRC. Many other blogs have tweaked the Religion of Pandemonium by running “ the cartoons, etc…, Maybe we at Second Draft need to set aside some resources to foster, manage and perpetuate Blog Swarming…
Stay tuned- Oh, by the way did I mention we are a 501 c 3 and are tax deductable?