Book: Amusing Ourselves To Death

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman

This book caused me to uninstall multiple apps from my phone. I suppose that is a strong recommendation. It also inspired Roger Waters album “Amused to Death”, which I am quite fond of. While some of the book is dated by its focus on television, the central ideas about how technology has shaped culture feel even more relevant today.

We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.

But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another – slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.


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