Amusing Ourselves to Death Comparison Essay Instructions
Write a 4-6 page paper in MLA format where you write an essay that connects what you’ve read in Postman’s book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, with another text (book, film, article, essay, TV show, song, etc).It could be one that you’ve read for this class or not. Basically examine that text through the lens of Postman’s ideas. This is a synthesis paper, which will require you to fit the two texts together and see where there is harmony or discord. You should have quotes or paraphrases from each text throughout your essay. Be sure to use specific examples and quotes in your analysis so that you really delve into each text.
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
While the media is fundamental to advancing socio-economic and political interaction and integration, its near-exclusive focus on entertainment has reduced it to a tool so powerful in distracting society to be wary of. The current media, especially TV and other social media platforms, have reduced serious societal issues to trivial matters through the integration of and extreme focus on entertainment. From music to film, acts and theatre, children shows to reality TV shows, and other features within the industry, the media’s excessive feature of entertainment has reduced the current society to an almost non-thinking, subjective, and nearly robotic community, making humanity a joke. Leisure and entertainment are critical recreational elements that play a significant role in promoting the health and wellbeing of the society. However, the extreme engagement in entertainment and its different aspects has a great impact on the society. Neil Postman and Aldous Huxley offers articulate and explicit discussion of the society, critical elements therein, and the media and entertainment while incorporating prophetic perspectives. Amusing Ourselves to Death and Brave New World compare and differ significantly.
The extensive adoption and use of the internet make it a major platform for the manipulation, conditioning, and indoctrination of masses. Huxley argues that people believe what they have been conditioned to believe. The author writes, “One believes what one has been conditioned to believe” and further argues for a possibility of a world that would halt into social conformity through conditioning (Huxley). Aldous Huxley features a society where exclusivity in friendship/love are vices due to extensive fetal conditioning and hypnopaedic training, which render uniqueness useless and uniformity bliss. The society seems to conform to the conditioning, portraying humanity as completely dependent on the ability to conform (Huxley). The sentiments presented in Brave New World are echoed in Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death. Postman predicted a society conditioned through the media and especially the TV making the influence evident in thinking, perspectives, and interactions. The conditioning demonstrated in Postman’s work shuns relevance and truth for irrelevance, and deny people the capability to question, making them conformists to the world and notions created by the media through entertainment (Postman).
The extensive technological advancement experienced in the recent decades has confirmed Aldous Huxley’s fears for the reduction of the human race into passivity and egotism (Huxley). The television and the internet have grown to become the most influential information platforms. People are exposed to more information than ever before. However, the overconsumption of false and subjective information has reduced the society to non-thinking elements, People who rely mostly on the information they are fed to even question or critically analyze it. According to Postman, “Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism” (Postman). Postman discusses the element of reduction of people to passivity by arguing that the television and the media continue to expose the society to junk information, which serves no critical role other than entertaining and conditioning.
According to Postman, critical matters in the society have become subject to the demands of entertainment. As TV stations strive to achieve better ratings through increased viewership, the trivialization of issues of great importance in the society has taken the center stage. Postman postulated this in his work by stating that the society faced a great uncertainty in the future where entertainment would influence politics, economic interactions, education, religion, and journalism (Postman). In the discussion of entertainment, Postman argues that while entertainment is important, changing everything and attaching an aspect of entertainment in it causes a major challenge. Endless entertainment is changing the society into a game, where amusement and entertainment control all aspects. About this, the author wrote, “Of course, there is nothing wrong with playing peek-a-boo. And there is nothing wrong with entertainment. As some psychiatrist once put it, we all build castles in the air. The problems come when we try to live in them” (Postman). The current society seems more inclined to entertainment to worrying proportions showing the concerns Postman depicted of living in “castles in the air.”
Postman and Huxley point out cultural disintegration in the society due to the influence of the media. According to Postman, the TV speaks in a persistent voice of entertainment and gives little regard to matters of concern to the society. It continues to feed people with junk information, which though Postman states that he has no problem with, eats the society to the core. The portrayal of the society through Las Vegas sums the breadth of entertainment in the media and the impact on the people. Postman writes, “For Las Vegas is a city entirely devoted to the idea of entertainment, and as such proclaims the spirit of a culture in which all public discourse increasingly takes the form of entertainment” (Postman). Major issues in the society are turned into entertainment making it difficult to develop discussions on ideas without, the depth of matters, and their significance. The author writes, “Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice. The result is that we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death” (Postman). On the same issue, Huxley “feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy” (Huxley). The authors agree that the television and a society that relies most on information from the media is bound to move backward in terms of social development, individuality, and thought.
The adoration directed towards new technologies in the
society and the extensive use with minimal integration of critical and creative
thinking have reduced the capacity of the society to think rationally. The predictions
given by Huxley and Postman are truths dominant in the society today. Huxley
cited the possibility of the truth to drown in a sea of irrelevance. Postman
supports the argument but cites the media as an integral tool in the society
that has reduced major issues to trivialities instead of serving other essential
roles such as offering truthful information and educating the masses. Postman argues
that the media has focused greater attention on the manipulation of the
audience and entertainment resulting in the trivialization of education,
politics, and religion among other important public discourse elements. The discussions
offered by Postman are discussed to a great degree in Huxley’s Brave New World. While in the Postman’s
book the author shows the manipulation of the media by politicians and
religious leaders with a purpose of indoctrinating and conditioning the audience,
Huxley predicted earlier the possibility of the use of the media to shape
perspectives and thinking through conditioning. Moreover, while the
trivialization occurs today, irrelevancies such as celebrity news and gossip, sexualized
programs, events, and advertisements, gambling, and Hollywood gossip among others
continue to ‘drown’ the truth and feed the audience with junk (Postman; Huxley).
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World Revisited. New York: HarperTorch, 2014.
Postman, Neil. Amusing ourselves to death: public discourse in the age of show business. New York: Penguin Books, 2006.