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Communication: the Invisible Environment

A Culture of Imbeciles

January 22, 2015

 

In his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman — American media theorist, humanist and cultural critic — noted that “new technology can never substitute for human values.”

hqdefaultIllustration by Stuart McMillen

In American society today, our social amusements have come to occupy not only our pastimes, but everything about our lives, politics, values and beliefs. Even our most heartfelt emotions and concerns have been hijacked by the amusement industry, penetrating so deeply into our collective psyche, that we have become social robots.

huxleyorwellIllustration by Stuart McMillen

amusing ourselves to death7Illustration by Stuart McMillen

Capitalizing on this corrosion of civil society, Wall Street marketing agencies like Purpose and Avaaz — sponsors of campaigns to support “humanitarian war” and the “new economy” — have designed and exploited an advertising niche to make money from this social pathology.

conformity-is-unity-3Illustration by Mark Gould

While American faith about the truth in advertising might suffer as a result of these amusements, the deaths that result take place mostly in the Third and Fourth World. As Americans are herded into waving signs and marching around Manhattan wearing the color blue, millions around the world are dying from starvation, disease and murder resulting from American consumerism.

 

 

As a professor of Culture and Communication, Postman taught a course called Communication: the Invisible Environment. While he was concerned primarily with the decline in the ability of mass communications to share serious ideas, Postman was aware that the turning of complex ideas into superficial images — that become a form of entertainment — leads to a society where information is a commodity, bought and sold for entertainment, or to enhance one’s status. In contemporary society, mediated by technology, individuals will literally believe anything.

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