Saturday, March 19, 2011

Words From a Prophet

Like Oprah, I too have many Favorite Things. One of my favorites is setting down with my book and a good cup of coffee on Saturday mornings. This morning I searched in vain for the current book I am reading, The Neon Bible, and to this moment I remain unsuccessful. (I have been reading the book for a few weeks and have misplaced it more times than books I've owned for a decade or better.) Chagrined, I turned to my bookcase to look for an alternate, and I was drawn to a book that, perhaps more than any other book I have ever read, has held sway over my thinking and way of life (besides anything written by a deity). And my misplacement is your benefit, because I outlined the highlights of this book on the inside of the cover, so I quickly flipped open to pure gold. Read the following words from Neil Postman's "Amusing Ourselves to Death" and be reborn:

"To say it, then, as plainly as I can, this book is an inquiry into and a lamentation about the most significant American cultural fact of the second half of the twentieth century: the decline of the Age of Typography and the ascendancy of the Age of Television. This change-over has dramatically and irreversibly shifted the content and meaning of public discourse, since two media so vastly different cannot accommodate the same ideas. As the influence of print wanes, the content of politics, religion, education, and anything else that comprises public business must change and be recast in terms that are most suitable to television."

The book was written in 1985, and as I reflect on this passage one phrase comes to mind: "Sound bite." Indeed, here is the vindication of Postman's prophecy, taken from the Wikipedia entry on "Sound bite": "Politicians of the new generation are carefully coached by their spin doctors to produce on-demand sound bites which are clear and to the point."

 Is it possible that something is being lost in all of the words not being said in an effort to produce an acceptable sound bite? Of course the question is only rhetorical. Isn't that what makes a question rhetorical, when the answer is plainly obvious?

1 comment:

Jessica DesLongchamp said...
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