Reinforcing our social detachment

"Radio, is of course, the least likely medium to join in the descent into a Huxleyan world of technological narcotics. It is, after all, particularly suited to the transmission of rational, complex language."

Postman, p.112.

Postman's case about narcosis and Sontag's insistence that we are too out of touch to even realize what is important are characteristics of present day media where sensationalism and trivialization are the bad money that drives out good, effective bookdiscourse. *

• Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death.

• Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others.

These are ten important reasons that support or extend Postman's beliefs and arguments about the "death of discourse" in America.

Using media as a weapon.

1            Typographical mind was undermined by graphical revolution:  telegraph, wire services ending up in the triumph of image over substance.

2            Sontag: Photography was evocative but not always motivational in the same way is similar to Postman’s image revolution and images p.74-76--non-stop imagery” and habituation. Sontag, p. 22.

3            Advertising removed facticity** from assertions--leaving images and propositions detached from authenticity; but now we have even worse with “commercial ghoulishness.” Postman, pp. 126-130.

4            Yellow Journalism sensationalized alleged attacks on the nation (1890s) thereby reinforcing the widespread, but in Sontag’s idiom the unfounded ideal of American exceptionalism.

5            Radio as a commercial medium sold bandwidth to stations; networks then sold advertising based on audience size.

6            Magazines placed news and ad photographs side by side in smaller information chunks that often did not reinforce but –instead– fragmented one thread of conceptual thought from another. Context or background information was minimized. Sontag, p. 117.

7            As great abbreviators, the television created narcotic responses to sound and images that was inherent, but dormant in the new print, film and photographic media, but had a wider and more prevailing influence on our imaginations. Television viewing removed any need to be motivated into action based on the information we received to an extent and in a way that radio had not diminished our capacity to act in response to information. (diminished action value). Sontag says “to designate a hell is not to tell us anything about how to extract people from that hell.p. 114.

8          Confusion between trivial and important matters reinforced by advertising, deluge of informational snippets, distraction, editing to fit the demands of the medium, distance, and deliberate masking of causes; or a removal of causes from effects in presenting sensationalized and serious subjects. “The spread of news is everywhere.” Sontag, p. 116. Postman. pp. 105-113.

9           An ambiance of distraction (S, p. 121) remoteness – “every pictures is seen in some setting,” Sontag insists (p. 120.) that museums are now “vast educational emporiums.Postman.16-29, pp. 78-80.

10          Ambiguity of images (shock and cliche are embodied simultaneously) in all pictures can burden the viewer with choices. As such in selecting to respond we walk a fine line between sincerity and callousness. Sontag, p. 23.

"And it is not necessarily better to be moved. Sentimentality notoriously, is entirely compatible with a taste for brutality or worse."

"People don't become inured to what they are shown--if that's the right way to describe what happens--because of the quantity of the images dumped on them."

"It is passivity that dulls feeling."

Sontag, pp. 100-101.

Effective discourse described

internet as media analyzed

Ecojustice links to readings


* That "bad money drives out good," is called Gresham's law and it refers to the ability of the counterfiet, or the lowest standard and esisest to attain level of quality to drive out the highest or most difficult to attain level of performance.

** the quality or condition of being factual, exhibiting a fact or facts : the facticity of death.