Amusing Ourselves to Death

Penguin Books has reissued the late social critic Neil Postman’s influential Amusing Ourselves to Death in a 20th anniversary edition. The book, which has sold around the world in various translations, argues that the danger to society is less from the coercive tyranny of Orwell’s 1984 than from seductive pleasure, as in Huxley’s Brave New World. He believed that television as a passive and observable medium undercuts public debate and, because of its growing use in schools, education. Information is leavened with entertainment to make it palatable and marketable. People have become knowledgeable about many things, but our depth of knowledge about any of them is shallow. Should teachers, journalists and other sources of information give people what they need or what they want?