Disrupting the momentum

Something to think about before we get too carried away with the entertainment we’ve been getting from all these televised debates among the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates. We need to understand who they are and their possibilities or what they stand to offer in context, that is, against the backdrop of what this country has been through decades and decades in the past and at the same time of it’s present as well as it’s potential. The “public (must) know the difference between serious discourse and entertainment–and cares”.

no matter how grave any fragment of news may appear, it will shortly be followed by a series of commercials that will, in an instant, defuse the import of the news, in fact render it largely banal… We have become so accustomed to its discontinuities that we are no longer struck dumb, as any sane person would be, by a newscaster who having just reported that a nuclear war is inevitable goes on to say that he will be right back after this word from Burger King…

…embedded in the surrealistic frame of a television news show is a theory of anti-communication, featuring a type of discourse that abandons logic, reason, sequence and rules of contradiction… in psychiatry, schizophrenia. In the parlance of the theater, it is known as vaudeville.

For on television the politician does not so much offer the audience an image of himself, as offer himself as an image of the audience. And therein lies one of the most powerful influences of the television commercial on political discourse.

In the shift from party politics to television politics, the same goal is sought. We are not permitted to know who is best at being President…or Senator, but whose image is best in touching and soothing the deep reaches of our discontent. We look at the television screen and ask, in the same voracious way, as the Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?” We are inclined to vote for those whose personality, family life, and style, as imaged on the screen, give back a better answer than the Queen received.

…history can play no significant role in image politics… A mirror records only what you are wearing today. It is silent about yesterday.

…what we watch is a medium which presents information in a form that renders it simplistic, nonsubstantive, nonhistorical and noncontextual: that is to say, information packaged as entertainment.

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

 

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