The Age of Show Business
Chapter 6, pp. 83-98.

Amusing Ourselves to Death, previous Postman Chapter



"These quixotic uses of television to ridicule the hope harbored by some that television can be used to support the literate tradition."

Four questions | What does TV do best? | Conclusion | next chapter




Exactly what Marshall Mcluhan called "rear-view mirror" thinking  


p. 83.

"Television does not extend or amplify literate culture.

It attacks it. If television is a continuation of anything,

it is of a tradition begun by the telegraph and the photograph in the mid-nineteenth century, not by printing press in the fifteenth.


p. 84.



Four questions posed  (for the rest of the book)

1       What is television?

2       What kinds of conversations does it permit?

3       What are the intellectual tendencies it encourages?

4       What sort of culture does it produce?


"making a distinction between a technology and a medium."


"technology is to a medium (media) as the

brain is to the mind"

physical      purpose, or function


media –"the use to which the physical apparatus is put"


technology "employs a a particular symbolic code."


"A medium is the social and intellectual environment a machine creates."


"like the brain itself, every technology has an inherent bias."

 "Each technology has an agenda of its own."



Newer tool is not an "amplification of an older one;"

         The automobile is not a "fast horse"

         The heat/light bulb is not "a powerful candle"

         The television not a talking book

You "misconstrue entirely how television redefines the meaning of public discourse."


What does TV do?

  1. First. the reformatting of experience
  2. Second. the viweing affect
  3. Third. the "lightness" of being or impressionism


"television has a bias."


"television will not have the same meaning or power as it does in America."


"its full potentiality as a technology of images"


G.B. Shaw "beautiful – if you cannot read."


Commercial medium "exquisitely crafted, always pleasing to the eye and accompanied by exciting music."

"the best of photography in the world is presently seen on television commercials."



banality of explaining and exploring the details of entertaining television


"Not that television is entertaining, but that it has made enetertainment itself

the natural format for the representation of all experience."



"Entertainment is the supra-ideology of all discourse on television."


"it is there for our pleasure and amusement."


"A news show, . . . is a format for entertainment."



Day After as "televangelical" discourse:

Shown on ABC, November 20, 1983

"here was television taking the most serious responsible stance."


"a critical test of television's capacity to depart from an entertainment mode."

Subject: nuclear holocaust

Attacked as subversive

Important to get the seriousness—gravitas—of the message right


"was not intended to be a debate, but a discussion."


the issue " nuclear arms reduction."   15 proposals, not seriously discussed!

"But it is not time constraints alone that produce such fragmented and discontinuous language."


"It tends to reveal people in the act of thinking."

"There is not much to see in it."


"political understanding being brought to heal by a medium that requires them to fashion performances rather than ideas."


Sagan –"the logical scientist speaking on behalf of the planet."

(Koppel, Kissinger, Scowcroft, McNamara – 15 proposals for arms reduction)


"that is to say applause, not reflection."


"use television as a carrier of coherent language or thought process."


"complex talk does not play well on television."



"The single most important fact about television is the people watch it."


"Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other."


"They do not exchange ideas, they exchange images."


Religion and Rock n/ Roll" Roman Catholic priest in Chicago on TV

"The Journey Inward, Father Greg Sakowicz

"You don't have to be boring in order to be holy"


A televised surgery – authentic—and more carefully done?


1984 curriculum idea where children had their "curriculum sung to them."


"Childern's Television Workshop, "Sesame Street" –"merely attempte to make learning to read a form of light entertainment."


"Hegel's dialectical method" and the gimmick of "running into walls."


"Amish are forbidden to see movies or to be photographed." Except 1984, Lancaster Pa. for the fiming of the movie: Witness.


How The Age of Show Business replaces the Age of Exposition,



"The Genesis project" of making the Bible into a movie. "on 225 hours of film"


Meryl Streep at Yale "out-applaused" Mother Theresa, 1983


1984 Presidential Elections:

                           President (Actor) Ron Reagan vs. Senator Fritz Mondale

Contrasted unfavorably with the Lincoln Douglas debates


"on several occasions syntax was abandoned entirely."


"giving off impressions, which television does best."


"Our culture has moved toward a new way of conducting its business – even important business.

Experts must answer not to the rigors of their disciplines, but to the bar of "good showmanship."



"There is no business, but show business."

p. 98



Chapter 7, Now .  .  . This.


"A conjunction that does not connect anything to anything but does the opposite: separates everything from everything."

p. 99


Can we survive if we take the measure of the world in twenty –two minutes?


Is the value of our news determined by the number of laughs it provides?

p. 113



Related concepts



Technology index learn landscape index learn words index learn map index learn photograph index