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Politicizing Ourselves to Death: Is the Culture War Over?

There wouldn’t be the amount of mass-mediated simulacra and pseudo-events today if not for the 24/7 television and digital news cycle which perpetuates an unrealistic hyper-reality. In his famous text Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman argues that our desire for distraction could very well be the end of us. This is what Aldous Huxley feared when he wrote Brave New World in 1931. Today, it appears that Huxley was right and there is no better proof than the current state of television. Today we can see how television news as well as fake comedy news poison the well of intelligent thought. In 1985, Postman wrote:

I should go so far as to say that embedded in the surrealistic frame of a television news show is a theory of anticommunication, featuring a type of discourse that abandons logic, reason, sequence and rules of contradiction. In aesthetics, I believe the name given to this theory is Dadaism; in philosophy, nihilism; in psychiatry, schizophrenia. In the parlance of the theater, it is known as vaudeville.

Ahead of its time, Postman’s book nailed how our news cycle works to influence us today. The flow of information through myriad filters makes the truth almost impossible to find. In addition, the influx of comedy news such as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report leaves ignorant viewers thinking they are actually informed. This, if it weren’t alarmingly true, would be the stuff of satire.