Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
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This is billed as an "epistemological" study of the effect of TV on discourse in America, reducing it to "dangerous nonsense." Yet, no reasoned argument is offered to support this thesis.

Instead, the reader is subjected to non sequiturs, exotic examples--"Puffs of smoke are insufficiently complex to express ideas on the nature of existence, and even if they were not, a Cherokee philosopher would run short of either wood or blankets long before he reached his second axiom"--and arcane references. The reader emerges more confused than "amused." Reading this is an act of self-punishment; worse, it yields up no new perceptions whatsoever. Postman cannot top McLuhan's discovery that the medium is the message. ("If all of this sounds suspiciously like Marshall McLuhan's aphorism. . . I will not disavow the association.") His point of View is also skewed by his membership on the Commission on Media Theology, Education and the Electronic Media sponsored by the National Council of the Churches of Christ. Attacks are hurled at such diffuse phenomena as broadcasters using hair driers, "now this" to introduce news items, pollsters, crossword puzzles, commercials, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Billy Graham, Sesame Street, photography, and USA Today. These attacks come off as vehicles for displaying knowledge of areas not relevant to what the book is supposedly about. Plaudits are reserved for William Howard Taft, Thomas Paine, the critic Northrup Frye, Bertrand Russell, Plato, and the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Only two regularly scheduled TV programs are discussed in any detail--"Ted Koppel's Nightline"--poor communication; MacNeil/Lehrer--"good television." MacNeil pays "the price" for rejecting "a show-business format": he is "confined" to public television. Repetitive language, pomposity and malapropisms abound, such as "oracity" or refering to the "last gasps of exposition" at the turn of the century by writers like Faulkner and Hemingway as a "Nightingale Song."

An incoherent, undisciplined, somewhat hysterical monologue. Better to brush up on McLuhan--or watch some amusing TV.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1985
ISBN: 978-0-14-303653-1
Page count: 184pp
Publisher: Viking