Tuesday, July 31, 2007
After leaving this nugget of literature called “the most prophetic, thoughtful, necessary, and entertaining book about the media” strewn somewhere in my room to collect dust for a healthy period of time, it seemed prudent to mosey through this “piece of work”. As it turns out, Amusing Ourselves to Death is not riddled with false arguments. On the contrary, Neil Postman’s very distinct method of introducing the subject, laying out the information, making inferences based on said information and then deliberating in an unbiased fashion is what makes this book so readable to me. He relies on solid information and facts to make his conclusions and connections. Postman uses relatively little opinion. He may illustrate an idea by comparing it to the words of a famous historian or physicist, but then he also backs it up with several strong inferences and/or facts. For instance, Postman asserts the idea that photographs are snippets of time or ideas that need no introduction or explanation, because everything needed to explain them is there in the photograph (p. 73). He then goes on to explain his assertion, quoting Susan Sontag, who says, “All borders…seem arbitrary. Anything can be separated, can be made discontinuous, from anything else: All that is necessary is to frame the subject differently.” Postman then explains her quote and, assuming that this idea has been laid as a brick in the wall against entertainment without reason, moves on to build on the foundation of his argument, which is, I suppose, the mortar to seal the next brick to this one.
Some of the literary weapons that Postman has in his considerable rhetorical arsenal are simile and metaphor. The phrases, “On these shows, the preacher is tops. God comes out as second banana” (pg. 117), describing the world from the early 20th century on as a “peek-a-boo world”, and “But this was exposition’s nightingale song, most brilliant and sweet as the singer nears death” (both pg. 77), are fantastic examples of metaphor and simile. However neat these sentences are, it’s really the use that they’re put to that make them so powerful. In the first, Postman explains how televangelism actually against the second commandment before hand and sums it up with this quote. The next describing the 20th century world (namely the USA) as a “peek-a-boo world”, titles chapter five, and resounds with a sharp, "*clang*" in your mind after you read it. The last phrase speaks of how, just before the age of telegraphy and photography, the literary exploded with prose “delighting the ear and eye”, which signified the end of the typographic age. These quotes, especially number one and number two, are of extreme rhetorical importance to Postman’s book. They not only add strength to his rhetorical arguments, but also variety to a book that is based on fact without much expression.
After reading this book completely, I come back to my title and utter a small chuckle; would a casual observer even consider this book in this day in age without such a cover? While this book has been immensely informative and has persuaded me to look at television with a cautious eye, it has also shown me that entertainment shouldn’t be my only priority in life. Had I not read this book, I probably would’ve lived my life according to my own idea of what is entertaining. Postman has shown me that fun and entertainment aren’t the most important things in the world; that other things can make a happy person. It’s a badge of how filled with entertainment my previous years have been that I don’t know exactly what those things are. One thing is for sure though; I will never look to televised news for information again.
When I first started to read Amusing Ourselves to Death I wondered just how much of an influence the time difference from when the book was written to now would have on how the book and its contents applied to today's society. I was extremely surprised to discover the context and time period in which this book was written is still applicable to today's society. This book has, for the most part, accurately depicted the reasons for the decline of society as a whole.
In this book Neil Postman argues the age of show business, media, television, etc. have had a negative impact on society and their discourse and as a result has led to the decline of our culture as a whole. Within the pages he presents arguments, facts, statistics, and quotes all in a clear, concise and logical manner that clearly shows the use of logos in his writing but still allows the reader to quietly ponder his arguments without being overwhelmed.
You can see such an example of logos in this passage when he states, "The average length of a shot on network television in only 3.5 seconds, so that the eyes never rests...Moreover, television offers viewers a variety of subject matter, requires minimal skills to comprehend it, and is largely aimed at emotional gratification...American television, in other words, is devoted entirely to supplying its audience with entertainment (page 86)."
While the use of logos is rampant throughout the entire book other methods of rhetoric are also used. The use of similes and metaphors are very strong in statements such as, "And our languages are our media. Our media are our metaphors, Our metaphors create the content of our culture (page 15)." Neil Postman also uses causal analysis which examines the relationships between events or conditions and their consequences and can be seen in statements such as, "Telegraphy also made public discourse essentially incoherent. It brought into being a world of broken time and broken attention. The principal strength of the telegraph was its capacity to move information, not collect it, explain it or analyze it. In this respect, telegraphy was the exact opposite of typography (page 69)." He also uses antimetabole which is the reversing the order of repeated words or phrases to intensify the final formulation, to present alternatives, or to show contrast in statements such as, "The danger is not that religion has become the content of television shows but that television shows may become the content of religion (page 124)."
I believe this book, though written in 1985, still applies to our society today and that most of the arguments presented are valid in claims such as, "We Americans seem to know everything about the last twenty-four hours but very little of the last sixty centuries or the last sixty years." While I do not feel all of the arguments made apply to us in our world today I do believe his last statement is the most accurate and perhaps the most insightful into what our society today has become when he says, "It was not that they were laughing instead of thinking, but that they did not know what they were laughing about and why they had stopped thinking (page 163)."
Outstanding relevance plays a key role in the validity of Postman’s argumentative warning (outstanding because of when it was written). A lot has changed in America’s technological culture during the 22 years between now and the time that Postman wrote his prophecy. Logically, one would think that this time difference would cause the argument to lose accuracy and thus become irrelevant in comparison to more current information and arguments. Yet Postman has made it clear and obvious that "those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it" (or that if you study history and write a book you may be able to save a country or something along those lines). Postman understood how humans and culture reacted to technologies of the past and thus made a conclusion about what could be expected of of the future. This is how the book has kept it’s relevance until today. He may not address iPods and the advanced models of computers that are all to common these days – as well as the TV programs that are actually on the air – yet Postman has studied the psychology behind the minds in front of technology and with this information he was able to sustain a relevant argument that targets something larger than a specific model of technology. Postman has studied not only what television presents but also how television presents it and how television functions as the core for information in America. Yet more importantly, as I mentioned, he has scrutinized the aspects of the past and of matters other than television to truly argue why television has become so hazardous. With his overall perspective on the matter, Postman made the subject of television and it’s perilous effects a possible argument that would carry on through the years. Now all the relevant and exponentially demanding matter needed was an author with a persuasive writing style – and maybe some rhetorical devices.
Postman has a natural way of speaking with his audience and not at them. He informs his readers respectively and intelligently, never stooping down from his level yet never biting (too hard) at the fragile reader. With his writing full of antitheistic sentences supported by italics, he makes his point clear. The writing style supports itself yet is given a stronger foundation by the various sources and quotes within the novel. His included statistics and facts form the backbone of a logos environment and tend to only strike down the naïve thoughts that were once thought of about an overlooked matter. All of this and more create a formula for persuasion. Thus with a relevant subject and a solid, persuasive book in hand, Neil Postman brought to America’s attention what Huxley feared. I was no one to stand against this assault of persuasion and I agree with Postman about what he proposes overall.
A strategy that Postman uses thickly is logos. The most apparent use of logos is that the first part of the book is mostly a brief history of the media in America. He gives us this so that we have enough background information to understand and follow his argument. Drawing upon the work of others to support and demonstrate his point is another example of his use of logos. Though not as common or noticeable ethos are also utilized. The most clear use of ethos is that throughout the book Postman constantly uses pronouns like “you,” “us,” or “we.” Examples of this method are on page 100, “…we are presented not only with…” and on page 135, “Most of the rest of us…” These pronouns help to make the reader feel more included and connected to the issue.
Though he wrote Amusing Ourselves to Death in 1985 I found myself realizing how much of what Postman said actually applied to my life. Most of the news I hear about does not directly affect my life other than knowing it for some trivia game or other. That our other sources of information, newspapers and even our education system, are trying to copy the form of our entertainment is a scary thought to behold.
Neil Postman accurately saw that television would be a threat to our culture. Through his convincing argument he captured my attention. Questions that I never thought to ask I have now explored and more are now racing through my head. Postman’s well-fought argument has convinced me that television’s influence over our culture is more than I would have imagined.
AKA A Review of Amusing Ourselves To Death by Daniel S.
"...short, to the point..." I believe is how Mrs. Klassen described the book in the letter that she wrote to us all, and I could not agree with her more. And not only do I agree with Mrs. Klassen, I agree with Mr. Postman's well constructed arguments. Not only has he composed an eloquent series of expostulations, he has backed every single one of them with citations and references that further prove his point. In the span of 163 pages he has compiled enough resources to prove not only that we are "Amusing ourselves to death," but that we are doing it in such a way that when we "die" we won't even care, but rather we will be amused that the very thing that keeps us entertained is what has killed us. Postman's writing not only convinced me that television will not only "bite that hand that feeds it (as they say)," but it will eventually be the death of society.
Throughout AOTD Postman is always using rhetorical devices to illustrate his point. He uses logos - the rational principle that governs and develops the universe - more often then pathos - the quality or power in an actual life experience or in literature, music, speech, or other forms of expression, of evoking a feeling of pity or compassion - and ethos - the fundamental character or spirit of a culture; the underlying sentiment that informs the beliefs, customs, or practices of a group or society; dominant assumptions of a people or period. One of the most notable uses of logos, at least in my mind, is in the chapter of the book entitled "Now... This (p. 99)." Throughout this chapter, Postman uses logos to convince the reader that television news, however important, is quickly and unconsciously deemed unimportant by the fact that immediately following the news article, however serious, there is a commercial break. During that commercial break one's senses are so buffeted by jingles and images that anything happening in the world outside the television, be it politics, religion, business, etc., is not so important as the breath freshening capabilities of the leading brand mouthwash. Postman's arguments in this chapter and his reasoning behind the arguments provides you with evidence that such a thing is true. His example of the Iranian hostage crisis, for example, shows that even something covered by the news for so long hardly provides the viewers with information that is quickly forgotten. His use of anaphora - the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses or lines - when he repeatedly uses the word "or" at the beginning of each sentence boosts his already strong argument by adding more rhetorical devices to his assertion on television news (p. 107).
Postman uses more than just logos and anaphora in his book, and most are used amazingly, but some he could have used better. One that he could have used better is ethos, the fundamental character or spirit of a culture; the underlying sentiment that informs the beliefs, customs, or practices of a group or society; dominant assumptions of a people or period. Michelle Kennedy already pointed this out to everyone in her analysis, and I believe that she was right to do so. For me, I had no idea at all who Neil Postman was before reading this book, so when the only mention of his credentials was in the introduction written by Andrew Postman(p. vii - p. xvi) and then later in the book when the author mentions his being a member of the Commission on Theology, Education and the Electric Media of the National Council of the Churches of Christ (p. 124). About the only thing that I did know that would convince me to read the book was Andrew Postman mentioning that Roger Waters wrote an album based on the book (p. viii). However, despite this shortcoming, Postman beautifully explains his arguments and makes clear that he is an incredibly brilliant man, whose books should be read.
Regardless of the fact that ethos could have been used somewhat more consistently, Postman makes exceptional use of other rhetorical devices throughout the book. Postman uses irony - an objectively sardonic style of speech or writing - at the end of chapter six, when he says Irving Berlin should have his song, "There's No Business But Show Business (p. 98)." He also uses paradox - a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth - when he makes the statement, "telegraphy makes relevancy irrelevant (p. 67)." Postman also makes us of an ananaclassic pun - repetition of a word in two different sense - with the affirmation that, "This report is not so much a news story as a story about the news (p. 108)," as he tries to illustrate the idea that if it is not amusing, the people do not care that their leader lies to them.
In conclusion, Postman's writing of AOTD in 1985 is just as important to America today as it was when it was first published. Despite the fact that the Internet was relatively unknown and personal computers were just beginning to appear, Postman's message can easily be applied to the present. With things like Google News and podcasts, a person has almost unlimited access to information, but the amount of information that is relevant and/or retained is either the same as it was in 1985 or it is dropping, as I believe Postman predicted it would. After reading this book, I would like to say I now am completely skeptical of television news; knowing that what is being said is the truth, but always wondering, "IS THIS RELEVANT TO ME? WILL THIS AFFECT MY LIFE? HOW WILL I CHANGE WHAT I DO TODAY BECAUSE OF THIS?" I guess it is a good thing my parents decided to not have cable or satellite television in our house while I was growing up, because I think that at this point, I would be smashing my head against the wall struggling to find the meaning. Postman's work seems to me to be the archetype of arguments against television, being resourceful and relevant. After reading this, I have already made up my mind to read Postman's other works.
Monday, July 30, 2007
I found myself thinking "Is the Now this... effect really being used in the news?" and " Is politics really turning into a shameless media circus?". I think questions like these were what inspired Neil Postman to write this book. He knew that deep down every person who watched political debates was really thinking " Is that really what this man, who is running for office, is thinking or is that what he was told to say?" His analysis of the American culture was dead-on correct. We are a media nation and we will always will be because no one knows how to "use" a television correctly.
The arguement over media and public discorse was aided by the use of quotes from well known individuals. I believe this was the strongest rhetorical device used in this book. Two great individuals for the past that Neil used in his writings were Aristotle and Thomas Paine. The use of quotes by these two people made me belive in Neil's purpose that much more because they are from a time of no electronics. They only had the simplist media, the newspaper;if they were lucky enough to have that. Aristotle used science to prove things, he didn't go on facts. For instance, he thought that men had more teeth that women but in reality we all know that men and women have the same amount of teeth. In the days of Aristotle, he didn't have a Discovery Channel to turn on so he came up with this assumption all by himself, you don't need anything to help you think. Postman's use of quotes from all generations made him more reliable and his arguement go more in his favor.
The another rhetorical device that really stood out for me was hysteron proteron because alot of this book was about what was going to happen in the future because of what is happening now. For example, Postman's whole book is about life in the future and what it will be like if we don't stop depending on the media now. The quote in the book about people laughing and why they had stopped thinking is a perfect example of this. People have stopped thinking; purely because they think it's easier. What I am basically saying is that you can sit in front of the t.v. all day and not think about a single thing.
I however have proceeded to find another fantastic rhetorical device, hypophora. Hypophora is when you ask a question then answer it yourself.The whole book is basically a hypophora.The question was "Is the media going to be too much to handle?" and his end answer was "Yes." I agree with him.
In conclusion, I never thought I would actually like learning about the media and how it is effecting us but this book has peaked my interest. Neil's writing style makes me want to read more of his books! He is very openionated and very clear about what he believes. My favorite part of his style is that he like to include quotes and passages. I believe reading Amusing Ourselves To Death will really help me make better decisions in the future about whether I will trust the newsman and if the Seaseme Street is really an educational tool.
Postman leaves me with the impression that he believes people that use television as entertainment will not become as educated as those interacting with books and the written word. It is very obvious that Postman gives greater value to the written word as opposed to the spoken word. He wrote that, “In the academic world, the published word is investigated with greater prestige and authenticity than the spoken word.” (Page 21) He appears to be on his soap box giving a lengthy speech about something that he is completely passionate about, even when the people that most need to hear this probably will not read it.
I found it ironic that Postman used names to capture attention just as news reporters do. All summer long, news reporters have mentioned big stories involving celebrity tragedies such as Paris Hilton and now Lindsay Lohan. Reporters do this to get us to watch the news. How different is that from Postman’s use of famous author’s words? It was hard for me to be persuaded by him in the beginning when he used the same kinds of techniques he criticized others of using.
For being written in 1985, Postman had our society nailed. Like he said on page 68, “For most of us, news of the weather will sometimes have such consequences...” Most of us watch the news in the morning just to get a sense of what the day’s weather will be like, and how it will affect us. By watching the news it’s like we are only reading the headlines in the newspaper rather than being in a discussion of depth and hearing all of the details.
By the time I got to the end of the book, I believed Postman’s ultimate prediction of amusing ourselves to death. He made a really strong prediction for the future which surprised me because this was written around 22 years ago. While not all people are obsessed by entertainment, this could come true. His writing has caught me in the middle between denial and the truth. I’m in denial because I don’t want to be associated with the type of people who spend their time focused on entertainment and technology, but the truth is I do enjoy technology and entertainment. I believe that if we all aren’t careful, we will be obsessed with entertainment and technology because now it is even incorporated in schools. In our high school there are TV’s and computers in almost every classroom, and there are a couple of classrooms filled with computers.
Postman’s general approach is to use logos, appeal based on logic or reason, to persuade the audience. Instead of pushing his opinion on the readers, he is providing them with raw material. These raw statistics speak for themselves; Postman need not explain their significance. This technique is highly effective when accompanied by understatements. When presenting extreme data, he expresses it as if the idea is less important than it actually is, as if to create a welcoming environment that is accepting to perspectives other than his own.
Although logos are most commonly utilized, throughout the book, I often detect ethos hidden in the text. By giving his own view on the given topics, Postman is revealing his character in his voice. This voice is expressed in many subtle ways such as expletives, interrupting normal syntax to lend emphasis to specific words. Another common device is hypophora, asking a question and proceeding to answer it. I find this to be more successful than asking rhetorical questions because then Postman gets the chance to speak freely about the topic without sounding too opinionated. Procatalepsis plays a major role in this style of writing because it anticipates an objection and answers it, therefore permitting an argument to continue moving forward while taking into account the opposition.
I agree with Postman’s assertion that the media has indeed corrupted certain aspects of our society; as testimony, merely search through the cable channels or a flip through People Magazine. Are the tremendous breakthroughs of technology worth this corruption? Television controlling a major portion of our life is temporary just as books, newspapers and pictures once were. Recent technological discoveries have created paths for the betterment of mankind. It is mankind that is then over-obsessing and enabling it to control their lives. Ask yourself; “does the man make the media or does the media make the man?”
Neil Postman displays a very peculiar writing style in this book that is almost like a person standing in front of you telling you his opinions. This style makes him more believeable and more interesting to read. But even besides his style is his use of rhetorical stratagies. One of the main points that I find to be a metaphor is that the news that is delivered to us via television is actually entertainment, which seems so contradictory to me but is actually true. He uses reasons like the upbeat music, perfectly groomed people, and short presentation time for each story to explain his reasoning for the statement. I also found a similie when he told us that how humans communicate, which is now through technology, sets the basis for how we think. So when technology became such a huge part of our society, it affected our communication and thought process. This book was strewn with rhetorical stratagies the helped Neil Postman get his ideas across.
On the subject of validity, I find myself believing and agreeing with what he is saying. One way he persuades me is through the historical knowledge he displays about typography. He tells about literacy rates during the typographic period (being at a high point of 85-90 percent in men) and how all classes of people were literate and read newspapers constantly as a basis of information until the telegraph broke the reign of newspapers. The telegraph made it posssible to know nonsense news from places you didn't care about. The amount of historical information was really important in my persuasion. He also persuaded me by talking about how technology has physically affected every medium. Newspapers and magazines are running more ads, television news is a perfect environment (no matter how upsetting the story, they are always smiling), radio focuses more on music, and even such aspects as religion and schooling are all being affected; all for the reason to be more aesthetically pleasing or more entertaining. The physical aspects are all ones that I can see everyday.
When considering the projected audience for this book, I think it was written for the people of twenty years ago. As true as it might be of the current state of our society, it can't really change what's happened. It's like a mirror into out own technological and media world, but we're too far gone to change the reflection.
Overall, this book was far more amusing than I thought it would be, and I enjoyed learning about our society's technological developments. I do believe Neil Postman was trying to warn us about how so much technology would affect us, just no one took him serious enough to do anything about it.
Postman plainly states on page 16 that “It is my intention in this book to show that a great media metaphor shift has taken place in America, with the result that the content of much of our public discourse has become dangerous nonsense.” His intentions stayed true throughout the book. He used many diverse metaphors and similes, so that every person can relate to or understand at least one. My personal favorite metaphor occurs early in the book on page five. Postman explains how the Japanese, with their well built cars, have to compete with the exteriors of American cars, even though they are generally built better. This is a perfect metaphor for today’s modern society. The general public likes to watch people on TV and in movies that are appealing to the eye. He also mentions throughout the book how the news isn’t really about enlightening information anymore. The news is commonly focused around those who entertain us and their flaws.
Later on in the book, Postman goes on to explain how in the late 18th century and early 19th century telegraphy and photography have created a “peek-a-boo” world, where things pop into milieu for moments and then disappear from our lives completely. He also explains thoroughly about how you cannot take a picture of nature or the sea, only a fragment of the vast world outside. Pictures then went on to become a focal point of media frenzy. Pictures were used in newspapers and magazines to aid the reader while they read articles about uninformative news and stories.
In the 10th chapter, Postman chooses to talk about how the TV. “educates” us with programs such as sesame street. He goes into detail telling the reader about how we learn through entertainment, such as song and dance. He explains to us how students prefer to learn from the television because it is not biased and cannot judge what we say or do. Because of this fact, “educational” television is being incorporated into the average classroom to help students learn. Even though we can learn through reading (such as this book), it is much simpler for the teacher to place the TV to the right channel and expect their students to learn the exact same curriculum.
In conclusion, I believe that Neil Postman has made many convincing arguments toward technology and how it is becoming America’s culture. Even though I know that I will keep on watching television and using my cell phone, my mind will wander back to this book and I will consider ways to decrease my daily impact of technology. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I will try to keep reading more of Neil Postman’s other works of literature.
To begin, the thing I noticed most about how Postman wrote this was his habit in quoting many other famous philosophers and people of wisdom. He quoted numerous people such as Frye, McLuhan, Twain, Orwell, Huxley, and Plato. It seems that he uses these educated men of wisdom in making his entire argument even more accurate. They are his references, and when he wants to put extreme emphasis on one point, he brings up a quote made by an old historian of some sort from years ago. This form of writing at first seemed a little sketchy to me but in the end it made me believe every word he said.
When it comes to rhetorical devices, I believe Postman used an overwhelming amount of Logos. Logos, being the appeal to reason is almost self explanatory. His entire argument is based on logic whether it is about the evolution from an oral culture to a print culture, or how everything is based off of entertainment. Ethos, in my opinion is practically non-existent. Although his argument is persuasive, he provides no evidence that he has been well educated on the subjects at hand.
The purpose overall in this book, was completely unveiled in the last chapter. He wrote this book showing you his argument and backs it up with information and quotes but the reader doesn’t really know what to do with this information until the very end. It is in the last chapter where he provides his ideas in stopping the madness of entertaining ourselves to death. His purpose was to inform all audiences willing to read this book and attempt to give suggestions as to how to prevent what he has predicted.
Although written in 1985, it seems to me that Postman predicted accurately of what was happening in his generation, and what was to happen in the next generations to come. His writing and ideas completely changed the way I think of television and the media. It has inspired me to spend one day a month without any form of a television, computer, iPod, or cell phone. As was his intention, he opened my mind to how much the media controls me. In all honesty it scared me.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Postman told the effects of television on American society; American culture used to be typographically based, but turned into an imagery-based one. Everything became a form of entertainment, whether it is current events, education, politics, etc. Postman explained these topics, along with others while using rhetorical devices and modes of persuasion.
Postman tried to persuade his audience with great amounts of statistics throughout the book to support his ideas. The facts were presented in various forms, which included references, quotes from various sources, statistics, etc. The readers can assume that they are getting valid information, because they were cited; pages 165-184 show where he obtained all the data. Chapter 3, “Typographic America,” was about the history of the printed word in our country. One of the many specifics I read was, “The influence of the printed word in every arena of public discourse was insistent and powerful not merely because of the quantity of printed matter but because of its monopoly…from the seventeenth century to the late nineteenth century, printed material was all that was available.” The whole chapter had many statistics throughout.
There is frequent comma usage in the author’s writing. Most of his sentences are long, with or without conjunctions, but almost always contain commas. On page 100, anaphora was used in the comma-filled sentence, “In part because television sells its time in seconds and minutes, in part because television must use images rather than words, in part because its audience can movie freely to and from the television set…”
Anaphora was also used in the following series of rhetorical questions on page 160, “What is information? Or more precisely, what are information? What are its various forms? What conceptions of intelligence, wisdom and learning does each form insist upon? What conceptions does each form neglect or mock? What are the main psychic effects of each form? What is the relation between information and reason? What is the kind of information that best facilitates thinking?...” Postman asked many rhetorical questions throughout the book to get the audience thinking about the topic, but doesn’t expect an answer.
The point of Postman’s book was to teach the audience the effect of television on American society and culture. His statements were valid and accurate. For example, I agree that we were once a literary culture, and now we are an imagery-based one. When a politician is mentioned, most would think of their image of how television portrays them, not for what was written about them (their beliefs, what side they’re on for controversial issues, etc.). Long ago, it would have been the opposite. Citizens would know about the politician (through written means and what they said) and wouldn’t have recognized him or her if they passed each other on the street. I was ignorant about George Bush until I reached high school. I only knew what he looked like and that he was a republican who was leading us in a war. I didn’t know his moral standings and placement on issues because I wasn’t taught the difference between democrats and republicans in school.
Postman’s intended audience was for anyone who was interested how our country is changed because of media. The intended audience was also for people who probably would understand the author’s intellectual vocabulary, because he does use some higher-level words. Even though Postman's novel wasn't in "layman's term" as much I wish it was, I still understood his general message. Hopefully, more people will be aware that the media controls our lives.
Entertainment and television is a huge part of many Americans, and I don’t think that is going to change. As more technology is being invented, those items will become popular, like the iPod did. Hopefully, more people will be aware that the media does control our lives and will take action to prevent it before it gets totally out of control.
One of the most common rhetorical devices Postman uses is simile. The comparison between two seemingly unalike things or ideas is present throughout the book. For example, when he says “changes in the symbolic environment are like changes in the natural environment...” and then goes on to describe how the pollution of a river is similar to the way television pollutes public discourse, Postman is using simile. He also uses a metaphor by saying that television's fragmented, illogical, “anticommunication,” is known as Dadaism in art, nihilism in philosophy, schizophrenia in psychiatry, and vaudeville in theater. This comparison helps readers understand the random nature of TV.
Postman also uses rhetorical questions throughout the book in order to get his point across. For example, he asks “What steps do you plan to take to reduce the conflict in the Middle East? Or the rates of inflation, crime and unemployment? What are your plans for preserving the environment or reducing the risk of nuclear war?..” in order to show that the news provides people with various information, some of it entirely irrelevant, and about which they can do nothing.
The purpose of this book is to inform readers of the dangers associated with moving from a literary based society to a picture based society, and what the effect may be on our culture and society if television becomes the basis for news, politics, education, religion, etc. The book is mostly directed towards an audience who are critical of American culture and interested in Postman's take on the cons of television. By using a well-structured argument with many examples and comparisons, Postman is able to convey his opinions in a way that is easy to follow and makes sense.
The book definitely contains validity and accuracy, mainly through Postman's use of statistics and examples. Also, by describing how public discourse has changed throughout history, from oral, to typographical, then to telegraphic and photographic, the author was able to show the reality of how the way information is relayed changes the way we think and learn. For example, during the “Age of Exposition,” when people would think about others (politicians, scientists, lawyers, etc.), they would think about what that person had written, such as their arguments and beliefs, whereas nowadays, a picture of the person would come to most peoples' minds.
In conclusion, Amusing Ourselves to Death in a thoroughly convincing book on the dangers television presents by turning everything (even politics, education, and religion) into entertainment. By making the news into a joke, TV has caused information to become irrelevant and unimportant, which, as Neil Postman points out, is even more dangerous than if the government were censoring and controlling the media. Our only hope is for individuals to become aware of the dangers of treating important matters as if they were show business, which can only be done through education.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
A rhetorical strategy that Postman used was names of well known people. Throughout the book, there were some people that did things to enhance the technology and some to decrease it. The ones that did try to increase the technology are being successful in commercials and shows. For example, on page 114 Postman wrote "Pat Robertson is the master of ceremonies of the highly successful "700 Club," a television show and religious organization of sorts to which you can belong by paying fifteen dollars per month." That is one of the many people that he told about, and how media is now entertainment. Meanwhile on page 40, Alfred Bunn was taking a tour through America and was seeing the lecture halls in some villages and said how that is what should be happening instead of the media. By Postman using this type of strategy, I was able to see how little things were more affecting in the long run.
On the other hand, Postman cites many things in this book. I haven't seen very many authors do that, but it helps. This isn't formal citation, it tells you that he's going to stop talking about a subject and will continue later or he reflects to something he has already told. This strategy helped because he didn't just leave you hanging, but he told you that later you would find out more about that subject. Postman also cited sayings that used to be said in those times, for example, on page 33, "From public schools shall general knowledge flow, For 'tis the people's sacred right to know." He actually cited this quote and others to show what people thought about the same types of issues that he was dealing with in this book. Without knowing the people, I got a feel of what they were getting to.
Twenty-one years after Neil Postman wrote Amusing Ourselves to Death, sure thing, what he predicted in it, is what is happening in todays life. I fully agree to his argument that we do depend a lot on the media especially as entertainment and he was right about us, twenty-one years ago. Now I have been outside more than on technology. Postman used some rhetorical strategies that I hadn't seen that often , it was good that he did use them to present his argument.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
First of all, logos was widely used in the form of quotes and examples. Logos is the Greek term which means, “The appeal to reason.” Postman was trying to reason with the reader the entire time to get them to see what television has and will become. Even though Postman wrote this book to persuade the reader to agree with him, he reasoned with his readers for the most part. This is probably because he didn’t want to come off as pushy, but gentle. Ethos focuses on persuasive appeal, but Postman did it in a very subtle way. In writing this book, Postman refrained from using pathos, which refers to the fact that he excluded most of the emotion from his words. This made his argument more valid because it means that he used facts and didn’t try to guilt the reader or cause immense fear to what has or might happen to society.
Usually writers use schemes to add emphasis on a specific issue by building up emotion inside the writer, but the way Postman used these rhetorical devices made it so that nearly no emotion was included, only further examples or explanations. I read an example of anaphora on page 29: Typography fostered the modern idea of individuality, but it destroyed the medieval sense of community and integration. Typography created prose but made poetry into an exotic and elitist form of expression. Typography made modern science possible but transformed religious sensibility into mere superstition… Another rhetorical device I found was antimetabole (page 75), which is the repeating of words in reverse grammatical order in successive clauses. A different device used was alliteration where the initial or middle consonants in two or more successive words are repeated (page 54: These men were spectacularly successful preachers, whose appeal reached regions of consciousness far beyond where reason rules.). On many occasions, Postman used asyndeton which is where you pile up words without using conjunctions and only inserting commas.
In conclusion, Postman’s predictions of our society seem very accurate, and for the most part, I agree. I realized that yes, we do depend too much on television and entertainment now and it will only get worse in the future. Now I’m finding that I ask myself, “Do I really have to watch TV?” and instead, pick up a book or go outside.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Throughout the book, Postman uses mostly logos, the appeal to reason, and pathos, the appeal to emotion. He uses many examples that just about everyone is familiar with, including the news, Sesame Street, and politics, to help explain his point of view. He also uses emotion, both his and that he hopes we will feel, to help us understand.
However, he doesn’t use much pathos in the book. He never really explains what credentials he has or what experience he has in this subject. But as the book progresses Postman almost seems to become more credible because his arguments are very reasonable and believable. Like pathos, Postman doesn’t use many schemes or tropes. His writing may be a little more effective if used more rhetorical devices and fewer big words and confusing sentences.
Postman’s purpose for writing this book is clear from the beginning. He wants to inform people of the effects of media entertainment and how it has impacted our lives. The audience he is explaining this to is pretty much everyone because everyone has been affected by the rise of media entertainment, at least a little. However, to narrow that down, he is focusing mainly on the people who grew up in the media entertainment generation and who never experienced life before media entertainment took over.
The author’s ideas and predictions were, at least in my opinion, correct. Our lives are completely controlled by media entertainment, and it has only gotten worse, and in turn, the book more relevant, since the book was published. Until I read this book I had never really realized by the media was really in integral part of my life and everyone’s around me. Even reading Brave New World I never made the connection between that society and ours, but now after reading Amusing Ourselves to Death I not only understand Brave New World better now, I also understand that we need to do something about our lives and the way the media influences what we do and how we act. Postman’s writing and ideas were quit persuasive and informative and this book really brought to light one of the problems in our society that most people don’t acknowledge.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
One such technique that Postman makes use of in his work is diction. His choice of words throughout the book makes the reader believe that the book is credible even though the author makes no mention of his qualifications until page 124, on which he states that he belongs to the Commission on Theology, Education and the Electronic Media of the National Council of the Churches of Christ. Yet, even though Postman fails to mention the things about him that would make the reader believe that he was a qualified author on the topic, his word choice about the subject shows the reader that Postman is an intellectual man.
An additional strategy that Neil Postman uses is comparing and contrasting the oratorical era, the print era, and finally the radio/television era. He does this throughout most of chapter four by explaining that during the Lincoln-Douglas debate people were able to sit through seven hours of speech that today would seem like torture, yet people are able to watch seven hours of mindless T.V. today without any objection.
One final technique that is used in Amusing Ourselves to Death is the use of a reoccurring theme. The theme that runs throughout the story is that as technology evolved, so did the definition of entertainment. People gradually fell away from the idea that speech was entertaining and more towards sound and pictures.
The strategies that Neil Postman employs focus more on the logic and reason, a strategy known as logos, of his argument rather than how he could affect the emotions of his audience to win them over. All of this comes together to make Postman’s argument believable and also, by living in the time that he speaks about in the book, his argument is fairly valid as well. Postman’s argument convinced me once I started to look at the world around me and realize that most of what he had said either was or has come true. Sometimes I even found myself realizing that I had followed the trend that Postman had described. After reading this book I realized that I am guilty of occasionally expecting to be entertained. In conclusion, Amusing Ourselves to Death takes a logical approach to exploring the influence of entertainment on the way we live our daily lives.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Postman uses many rhetorical devices to capture his audience. He uses an anaphora on page 78 when he says, “There is no audience so young that it is barred from television. There is no poverty so abject that it must forgo television. There is no education so exalted that it is not modified by television. And most of all, there is no subject of public interest that does not find its way to television.”. . . . “We do not tell stories of its wonders. We do not confine our television sets to special rooms. We do not doubt the reality of what we see on television (page 79).”
The author also constantly uses personification when he discusses television. “I will try to demonstrate television’s way of knowing is uncompromisingly hostile to typography’s way of knowing; that television’s conversations promote incoherence and triviality; that the phrase “serious television” is a contradiction in terms; and television speaks in only one persistent voice- the voice of entertainment (page 80).” On page 128, when Neil Postman claims, “What the advertiser needs to know is not what is right about the product but what is wrong about the buyer,” he is using an antithesis.
As Neil Postman presents his argument, I found that he will often ask himself and the reader rhetorical questions. For instance, on page 153, he asks, “What is television good for? What is education good for?” I believe Postman does this often because he wants the reader to understand his thought process and continue to dwell on the issue, searching for an answer.
One major persuasive appeal Postman uses is logos, the appeal to reason. To fully grasp the subject of television, it is obvious that the author had to do much research, especially on the history of the media. Chapters 2-5 focus a lot on the history of the transformation from print to television. Many facts can be found to support his argument, such as back in the 19th century, speakers were able to have long, complex arguments without having to oversimplify them like nowadays.
I believe Neil Postman was very accurate in his predictions. I felt like he wrote the book in 2007 instead of 1985. Since 1985, there have been many new inventions (DVDs, Ipods, PDAs, etc.) that replicate television. Amusing Ourselves to Death definitely impacted the way I now look at television. It made me more aware of how much control the media has on my life. Before, I had no idea how powerful this invention was, and how easily it can manipulate the American culture. In the final paragraph, Postman states what the purpose of his book was. It wasn’t to convince the public to completely stop watching television (for that would be impossible), but for us to understand how and why our society has become so centered around the media.
Sunday, July 8, 2007
First and foremost, Neil Postman’s primary mode of persuasion was logos. Logos are ways of providing logical support for arguments using facts or appeal to reason. Clearly, this book was filled with facts, ranging from statistics (example on page 152), quotes (example on page 59), references to philosophers (example of Plato on page 6), and a clear description of historical events (example pages 66-67). Neil Postman clearly had the expertise to write intelligently, he was a professor and wrote an approximate 20 books in his lifetime.
Despite his obvious expertise of this cultural satire, he failed to inform the audience of his credentials, also referred to as ethos. In his 163 pages, the only mentioning of his credentials were found on page 124 where he referenced a group he was a part of, the Commission on Theology, Education and the Electric Media of the National Council of the Churches of Christ. Upon dissecting the name of the organization we can establish Neil Postman is an active Protestant man, which gives him the greatest right to expose the effects on TV on religion. However, despite his complete lack of ethos, he is still able to establish claims without a questioning of his authority.
Pathos is a device that calls out to the emotional senses of the audience. They are frequently used at the conclusion of persuasive pieces to move the audience to action. This book essentially doesn’t use pathos, based upon my analysis. However, it is of the up most importance to note that this book’s content revolves largely around human emotions and their reactions to the media.
Neil Postman was very aware of the rhetorical devices he uses. On page 74 he explains his deliberate choice of the word “assault.” Postman is very conscious of his word choice. Word choice may not be deemed an official scheme or trope, however it plays a huge role in the persuasion of audiences. In this satire, Postman doesn’t use excessive words; he uses words that say exactly what he means. This is something he should be applauded for, since his precision allows for better understanding. Postman also refers to hyperbole on page 105, which again demonstrates his apparent knowledge of rhetorical devices.
Imagery is another common literary technique Postman utilizes. Although imagery may often be associated with flowery and exquisite views, this book uses imagery in a different fashion. Imagery is used to convey his images with the audience, so they have a thorough comprehension of what he is explaining.
Antithesis is used on page 143 when Postman is exemplifying the difference between Sesame Street “learning” and school “education.” A sampling of this passage is as follows: “ Whereas in a classroom, one may ask a teacher questions, one can ask nothing of a television screen. Whereas school is centered on the development of language, television demands attention to images.”
As the audience can now clearly see, Neil Postman used a variety of rhetorical devices to convey his message. He used persuasive skills centered on logic, not emotion. His awareness of his techniques gave the reader a heightened understanding of his work. In sum, Postman’s book was filled with rhetorical devices to gently lead the readers through his complex and applicable exposition.