Is TV ROTTING OUR MINDS? Marshall McLuhan famously said “The medium is the message,” by which he meant that when we receive information, its effect on us is determined as much by the form of that information as by the actual content.
Neil Postman, in his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, ran with this idea, arguing that TV has conditioned us to expect that everything must be entertaining, and that this has had a disastrous effect on news, politics, education, and thinking in general.
This was originally intended to be a Pretty Much Pop episode, with Seth Paskin joining Mark and Brian while Erica was working on her cabaret. The book was rich enough that we decided to mine it for a full Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast episode, which means there’s a lot more name-dropping about philosophers like Plato, who argued in the Phaedrus against writing, which he said amounts to off-loading thought to this inert thing, when it should be lively in our minds and our direct conversations.
However, this should still be interesting to PMP listeners (particularly because you’re getting this without ads), and of course we spend a good amount of time thinking about how Postman’s complaints apply to the Internet Age, and in fact also looked at a widely read article from The Atlantic written by Nicholas Carr in 2008 called “Is Google Making Us Stupid.”
For a longer essay about this book, you can look at my post at partiallyexaminedlife.com.
All PMP episodes include bonus discussion you can access by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop, and this is no exception: We continued talking about this book for another hour, and while that Part Two is only available for Partially Examined Life supporters at the $5 level, Pretty Much Pop supporters can get it by supporting us at any level. Listen to a preview.
This podcast is curated by openculture.com, which just means that they let us put up posts there publicizing it.