Friday, February 13, 2009

TV Togetherness

The cover from Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman, a modern classic from 1985. Turn off the TV (ipod, bluetooth, laptop, etc.) and read it, please.


Corbin said...

I love this book it is one of my favorites, a must read. I have read it several times and have also listened to its audio version. Too bad the cover has been changed. I buy several used copies at a time to hand out, because the newer copies have a picture of Ronald Reagan with a red clown nose! What`s with that?!
Speaking of audio books, sure would be nice if your books could be put on audio
, Doug. Audio books are a mighty big help for the disabled.

Unknown said...

A brilliant book, indeed. Very influential in my life. Technopoly is another wonderful Postman book, and dovetails nicely with Jacques Ellul's writings on similar subjects.

Anonymous said...


I can well imagine that audio books are indeed a big help to the disabled. Some of us are "disabled" in having, due to occupational requirements, to spend a great deal of time in the car and thus not able to read as frequently as one would like.

On one occasion I made an attempt to read a certain small book while occupied with driving...the outcome of this was not so good...hence your case is well made.

Doug's "Truth Decay," clearly his best book in my opinion, would certainly do considerable benefit to the Kingdom of God, should it be eventually put into audio form.

I wonder what is involved in making such a thing happen?

Steve Schuler said...

Roger Waters, of 'Pink Floyd' read Postman's book, and he was so taken with the message that one of the best CD's of this era was written. The song 'Amused To Death" tells us the story.

The little ones sit by their TV screens
No thoughts to think
No tears to cry
All sucked dry
Down to the very last breath
Bartender what is wrong with me
Why I am so out of breath
The captain said excuse me ma'am
This species has amused itself to death
Amused itself to death
Amused itself to death"

Daniel said...

This book was okay, not great in my opinion. I agree with him that people are zombies to TV much of the time. But in my experience there are still diamonds in the rough. NewsHour on PBS, Charlie Rose, and the late great Tim Russert on Meet the Press are/were substantive and exceptional programming.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

Daniel missed the point of this superb piece of social criticism. I hope he reads it again--with the TV off.

Postman looks at the nature of the medium, not whether things on TV are good or bad. That is the salient point: image over word, entertainment over education, discontinuity, and so on.

The book is written by a wordsmith a craftsman of words, who has a deft sense of humor, and who (despite being secular), was prophetic--more prophetic (in the sense of forth-telling unpopular but important truths) than the vast majority of Christians.

Steve Schuler said...

Daniel probably did not miss the point. I think you have, perhaps, missed a valid point that Daniel has to make. The value that audiovisual technology has and can contribute to human understanding should not be so completely dismissed. In the course of my life there has been much that I have been able to benefit from that has been conveyed by audiovisual technologies, TV and otherwise. While the written word has been displaced to a larger degree than you or I would think optimal, to condemn the entire technology of "TV" is to move mankind backward. As I have said previously, don't kill the messenger. You recently linked to a video of a brief conversation between Phil Donahue and Milton Friedman that was very interesting. Please note that this sort of thing would not available without the use of the technology of TV.

Daniel said...

Thanks Steve, I agree with you. Especially the comment about linking to YouTube videos that were once on TV. I knew that Doug wouldn't agree with me about the book. I'm not looking to change his mind, I know he's all about it. In my opinion though, it's overrated. And that's an opinion I'm entitled to, as is Doug.

As to the issue of TV and image, I hope Doug is flattered that I actually have been more influenced by HIS thinking about TV than Postman's book. I hope for Doug that can be seen not as a slam towards Postman, but rather a compliment towards Doug. Even though we disagree slightly on the matter. I think one can still find SOME diamonds in the rough using the TV as a medium of truth, like the ones I mentioned.