The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America

The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in AmericaThere was a time when the reader of an unexciting newspaper would remark, How dull is the world today Nowadays he says, What a dull newspaper says the author This book is Boorstin s diatribe against the promotion of image over reality His denunciation is evenrelevant today, 50 years after it was published consider not just regular TV news, but the explicitly party line hacks who pose as reporters and spend time on trivial issues and, Jon Stewart who pretends to be a comedian to comment on the news Boorstin s book is not a balanced presentation of both sides of the questions he ponders He s got a point to make, and by God he ll make it This undercuts the chapters where he tries to extend his argument against things like packaged tours Still, it is worth pushing through those curmudgeonly Luddite broadsides because every chapter will also question some aspect of modern life This is a must read for the questions it raises, even if it does not have the answers. Skimmed thoroughly Would love to have an excuse, such as a book club discussion, to read carefully as it s well written and still relevant However, much info is that which I ve already encountered elsewhere, or figured out for myself, and given that I m on a time crunch, I chose not to read every word Recommended to anyone interested in sociology, advertising, popular media, politics. 5 stars This book should be mandatory reading Boorstin, Librarian of Congress emeritus, is an outstanding social historian who defines pseudo events as events created to promote Generally, these events have no intrinsic newsworthiness They are not spontaneous, they are usually arranged for the convenience of the media, their relationship to reality is ambiguous and they are intended to be self fulfilling.The news media hungers for anything to put in its pages We are besieged with radio, TV, 24 hour news, magazines, newspapers, books, each requiring information Events are now planned to occur at the best time for news broadcasts It has become terribly important that something always be happening Pseudo events help fill the vacuum Boorstin is like the little boy who shouts, the emperor has no clothes He helps us to peel away the veneer, the false fronts.McCarthy was an expert at creating reportable events that had an ambiguous relationship to the underlying reality He invented the morning news conference that announced an afternoon press conference At the afternoon conference he would proclaim that a witness was not ready or could not be found The headlines would trumpet, Mystery witness sought Reporters loved him for supplying so much material Even those who hated him became his best allies.News has become a dramatic presentation The president speaking off the cuff is nownewsworthy than the original prepared speech It has become difficult to distinguish between the actual and the pseudo event Organizations manipulate the media to create events all the while castigating the press for opinions on the editorial page.Boorstin argues we now confuse fame with greatness It is very easy to become famous By confusing heroes with celebrities we deny ourselves the role models of heroes, truly great individuals The way we travel has also changed It used to be people traveled to experience a different culture or way of life or language Rarely did it not affect a person s view of the world Nowandpeople travel, yet are influenced less We seek to re create an environment similar to the one we left.Boorstin cites digests as an example of how forms have dissolved, the shadow has become the substance Originally conceived to lead the reader to the original, they now exist as an end product another step away from the actual experience Reader s Digest has perfected the form to the point where articles are planted in magazines so they can be digested in its publication By 1943, 60% of all its articles were abridgements of full length articles commissioned for original publication elsewhere by Reader s Digest The demand for digested articles was so great it had forced the creation of articles to meet the demand a literary pseudo event.We are now engaged in a competition to createcredible images The images have becomereal than reality We can persuade ourselves of our image But we have lost sight of the need to create ideals.This book was originally published in 1961 Ah, thethings change. Always the play never the thing A superbly titled and entirely prescient book, this one As America s Graphic Revolution was spiraling with television, movies, and other images created for easy consumption, Boorstin wrote about how there is simultaneously muchand much less to everything we see This book was written in 1961, so many of the examples he uses seem so innocuous and quaint compared to what we re accustomed to today Boorstin died in 2004, so how did he not go crazy through the Lewinsky scandal, Paris Hilton, reality television, the Colbert Report, the 24 hour news cycle, and internet news aggregates blogs I suppose each of the chapters presented in this book has spawned entire genres of image studies behind the scenes of the media, celebrity worship, digestible movie adaptations, etc Overall I recommend this book as a skimmer, as the scholastic, academic approach to the topic was a bit much Of course, my preference for an easier read only reinforces Boorstin s point, right This book was written in the 1960s, so it obviously doesn t resonate with me as strikingly as Chris Hedges Empire of Illusion 2009 or Neil Postman s Amusing Ourselves to Death 1985 However, Boorstin does point out trends that were beginning to take America by storm in the 50s and 60s and still persist today These include the changing role of the news media from relaying spontaneous news crime, accidents, governmental proceedings to creating news to be reported press releases, publicity stunts, interviews, etc the replacement of the hero with the celebrity the replacement of the traveler with the tourist the increasing ubiquity of different forms of art melding into one another books becoming movies becoming television shows, etc the rise of the importance of the public image to both companies and consumers and finally, the reliance on creating an image of America that is suitable for exportation to other countries and suitable for consumption by Americans themselves If I were to sum up the problem Boorstin describes, it would be one of secondhandness For some reason, we Americans tend to prefer contrived experiences over authentic ones, likely as an outgrowth of our love of control For example, Reader s Digests were extremely popular in Boorstin s time, despite the fact that they contained nothing of originality, only reprints of articles that appeared elsewhere But Americans liked the feeling of thinking they were reading only the best of the best and not wasting their time with subpar articles Additionally, traveling used to be inherently unpredictable and dangerous and thus adventurous and character building Tourism largely replaced traveling as as safe, predictable alternative, although the contrivance of the experience stripped it of most of its meaning and importance.I always try to extract lessons from the books that I read Many of the lessons are not exactly new to me They are familiar as vague, undefined discomforts which I have been unable to sufficiently explain, to others or myself, thus my interest in cultural criticism as a search for not only confirmation but understanding of my own discomfort For example, I don t travel often because the times in which I have, I have always felt that I came back unchanged Sure, I had a new experience to talk about, but I was by no meansinteresting as a person Boorstin has now explained that my traveling was nothingthan touring, thus why it felt so empty and meaningless Here are all of the lessons I would say are contained in this book 1 Especially today, one must be very wary of what news one consumes Chances are, much of it is pseudo news, of no real import or relevance to one s daily life While a knowledge of large scale issues can be considered a good thing, especially in a global economy, there is such a glut of news and information available that if one doesn t purposefully decide what is important, not because it matters but because it is relevant, it is too easy to drown in the overload and be rendered useless to do anything about it because all of one s time is spent learning of it.2 Pretty much just ignore celebrities Before you start hero worshipping them, ask yourself if they are not simply entertainers, and if they are truly worthy of the word hero Redefine what a hero looks like to you.3 Stop being a tourist Just go places Plan as little as possible if you want to get an authentic experience If you are too scared of the dangers that entails, you are not ready to be a traveler.4 Avoid reading secondhand things If you re gonna read a book, read the unabridged version If you re gonna read a magazine, pick one, not a compilation of the best articles of many Go to the source Elevate the source of something before you elevate the simulation of the source The book should always take precedence over the movie This is hard because so many movies being made today were books first My personal new vow is that I will not see a movie if it was first a book until I have read the book Oh boy 5 Beware brand loyalty or any decision based on the image of something Do not buy Apple products because Apple is a cool brand Likewise, do not buy the new Google phone just because Google is a cool anti Apple brand Look at product performance only and ignore brand image It doesn t mean anything.6 Do not let anyone tell you what America is supposed to look like America is only what it is, not what people think it should be If the people are not free, it is not the land of the free If the people are no longer primarily Christian, it is not a Christian nation See things for what they are, not what they are sold as.Interesting lessons from a very interesting book Good thing Daniel Boorstin is deceased Facebook would send him into despair but it would not surprise him, as it is a logical extension of what this book is all about.The root of the problem he addresses is we demand and expect farthan real life can give, thanks to the illusions that the Graphic Revolution presents to us The Graphic Revolution is the coming of media print, sound, video that allow the creation of the pseudo world, the artificial world that implies that all things are possible In our desire, we have come to prefer illusion to reality because reality can t possibly come up to our expectations.This book was written in 1961 and, though the celebrities mentioned are from the 1920 s to the 1950 s, Boorstin s thesis holds true today.We live in a self referential world of images, of pseudo news packaged news instead of spontaneous events , of celebrities that are known for being known, of adventure vacations that are packaged so that nothing unexpected will happen.Never bored, and never resentful of the illusions that make up our world, we are instead fascinated even by the process that creates them We love to watch how a movie is made, we are eager to hear about the ad campaigns that are designed to beguile us Reality TV is as far from reality as can be, but we watch.We are pleased and entertained yet uncomfortable and neverthan temporarily satisfied by living with illusion rather than reality The image that things and people convey has become what we deal with rather than the actual things and people themselves Boorstin is dead on when he speaks of businesses redesigning logos and ad campaigns in order to appear in a different way to the public while the actual nuts and bolts company and product changes not at all Think of BP as Beyond Petroleum with pleasing flowery green and yellow colors at the gas stations.Here is something right from the newspaper today in a story about South Africa During the past month, this country has shown its best side to the world Leaders from both government and business have declared that South Africa has successfully rebranded itself, recasting an image tarnished by AIDS, poverty and corruption, into one of geniality, prosperity and competence Boorstin would ask to the South African on the street what has rebranding meant Nothing.And so it goes with everything Go to Africa and stay in places that could just as well be the United States Take a safari in total safety with no unexpected encounters.In short, we do not live lives of real experience We are removed from the real and constantly exposed to reflections of our own expectations Taking pictures of the Grand Canyon with a new electronic gadget canthan equal the thrill of seeing the Grand Canyon itself The big picture window that allows others to see us in our living room has replaced the porch where we could talk with our neighbors Need I mention the common chandelier window on so many recently built houses that serves no purpose but image building Following others on Facebook has replaced seeing people in the flesh Things of no consequence on Twitter are considered news worth following.This guy Boorstin had the whole thing pegged 50 years ago.The author is of the generation that revered the spoken and written word he was Librarian of Congress so he could see how things were going from a vantage point that hardly remains in the 21st century.I give only 4 stars because I think early chapters in the book give too many examples The pervasiveness of what he is trying to illustrate is so familiar now that the examples are un necessary to the point of tedium, though they are interestingly quaint Skip to chapter five and the freight train of his idea rolls in at full speed.One leaves the book wondering how does one escape the world of illusion Boorstin s suggestions for doing so are hardly encouraging. The Image is a modern classic of sociology first published in 1961 Anyone reading it today will probably be struck by how Boorstin identifies trends that are so prevalent today especially the way society is fixated on images rather than the underlying reality.Some might call Boorstin prescient but it saccurate to say that he was an astute observer of what was already happening in the mid 20th century as the era of television was making sweeping changes in society The paperback copy I picked up is a 25th anniversary edition, with an introduction from the author and an afterword by conservative cultural critic George Will, written in 1987 So reading this today is like a time machine with multiple stops For in the 1980s, the internet was still a decade in the future but the MTV era was well underway This is one of two influential books from the 1960s that deals with a similar topic, the other being Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord The latter is still on my reading list and from browsing through it in used bookstores I expect it to be thechallenging of the two, as European philosophers can be rather abstract By contrast, Daniel Boorstin writes in the straightforward manner of an American traditionalist The subtitle of this book tells a great deal of the story A guide to pseudo events in America Boorstin is obsessed with the phrase pseudo event and it s used throughout the book A pseudo event is something that s contrived, such as a press conference or publicity shoot as opposed to a happening that occurs spontaneously Boorstin s main point is that society is increasingly made up of pseudo events When you think that he wrote this some half century before the advent of reality TV and social media, it s quite amazing The Image recounts trends that are so familiar now that we barely notice them but that was just getting underway in the mid 20th century, such as the staged quality of presidential campaigns and debates and celebrity product endorsements Speaking of celebrities, Boorstin may have been one of the first to thoroughly examine and critique the whole idea Celebrities, he notes, have largely supplanted heroes While heroes are known for their character and great feats, celebrities are famous for being famous As Boorstin puts it, a celebrity is a person who is known for his well knowness This is something that people started to note with the rise of the celebrities such as Paris Hilton and the Kardashians in the early 21st century Apparently, however, it dates back quite a bit before that Boorstin explores the case of Charles Lindbergh at length, seeing his story as one of the first truly modern celebrities Lindbergh was initially a hero in the traditional sense after making the first nonstop solo flight from New York to Paris However, he quickly turned into a mere celebrity whose every movement was reported When his baby was kidnapped, speculations and rumors filled the media for many months One of the most interesting chapters is From Traveler to Tourist the Lost Art of Travel, which describes the emergence of another major trend as modern mass tourism supplanted the age of leisurely travel Boorstin and other cultural critics look on with horror as cruise ships, commercial airlines, hotel chains, and the emerging American highway system do away with differences and bring about the modern, increasingly homogenized world Boorstin explains how tourism has created a whole new category of pseudo events, such as museums and other attractions set up solely to entertain tourists and native dances and rituals performed outside of their original context and reimagined as entertainment Of course, a lot of what Boorstin is analyzing here, especially in the chapter about travel but also throughout the book, is about a world that s increasingly populated, educated, and democratic He explicitly mentions that prior to the 20th century, long distance travel was mostly limited to the wealthy.He similarly complains about the phenomenon of bestsellers, which are books that are considered great because they sell well As with travel, however, there s also the underlying issue ofpeople reading and buying books than ever before The mass appeal of books began when mass printing became possible and literacy rates increased In all fields, there tends to be a trade off between quality and mass participation Aspeople than ever before read, travel, vote and participate in politics, watch TV and movies, and otherwise partake of culture, and at the same time technology accelerates,events and items take on a mass produced quality As Boorstin also laments, works of art were once all unique Now, anyone can buy a poster, postcard or other reproduction of any painting This is yet another example of where we have the advantage of widespread access versus the decline in quality and, perhaps, appreciation while it s nice to be able to get a refrigerator magnet featuring Van Gogh s Starry Night, the very ease of acquiring such things necessarily takes away some of their magic According to the bio at the conclusion of the book which was obviously added post 1987 , Boorstin died in 2004, just at the cusp of the next development of the image in culture For as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram have taken off, images have quickly come to dominate the internet Although Boorstin may never have seen a selfie, I doubt if he d be surprised as it s the next logical step in everything he was describing The Image is a kind of reactionary critique and rant on a single topic, albeit an important one Like many thinkers trying to prove a very broad point, Boorstin may take his argument too far in some cases He tries to draw sharp divisions between hero and celebrity, real events and pseudo events and images and ideals I m not sure it s quite so straightforward Plato s Socratic dialogues, writtenthan 2000 years ago, largely dealt with the difference between appearance and reality In fact, it s almost surprising that Boorstin doesn t mention Plato s Allegory of the Cave, which has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity recently Plato discusses how shadows, or images, are mistaken as reality by the ignorant masses Perhaps Boorstin doesn t reference this classic because it would have undercut his thesis, namely that The Image is a relatively modern phenomenon.While the forces Boorstin identifies in The Image may not be as starkly new as he supposes, they certainly accelerated greatly in his time and evenso in our current time I often find it instructive to read sociological viewpoints from earlier decades to see how modern trends got started In the case of The Image, we re dealing with one of the central issues of our time For even if images were an issue as far back as Plato s time, they certainly didn t dominate the everyday consciousness of people as they do now This is a complex issue and, as much as I enjoyed reading The Image, I don t think it really does much good to simply rail against cultural trends Today we have a host of anti internet critics who are telling us how current technology is dumbing everyone down While they have a point, there are other ways to look at it as well Images are only gettingcentral to our existence Does this mean we re sinking further into the realm of Plato s cave dwellers, the Maya of Buddhism or perhaps the complacent citizens of Aldous Huxley s Brave New World Perhaps However, there are always multiple ways to look at everything There can be truth and beauty in images as well Whatever your opinion, The Image is well worth reading for its insights and historical perspective. I loved reading it and have been enjoying talking about it For a book that was published in the 60s, it was pretty compelling how relevant it is today It puts under the magnifying glass themes such as hero vs celebrity and how we allow daily, hourly, minute to minute information into our lives and try to paint it as meaningful Over saturation makes one common Boorstin deconstructs how we travel these days how often we seek to find, if not expect, the comfortable and familiar in places that theoretically should be unfamiliar I can t say how it s 100% a bad thing, per se, but I see his point Thestrenuously and self consciously we work at enlarging our experience, thepervasive the tautology becomes Self consciousness destroys the experience I get that it can be a challenge to read and watch stuff that is self conscious But it s inherent in so much of what we do I suppose that detachment, that ability to reflect what one sees without tainting it with too much of an agenda makes the great creators great This book also made me think about all the images I am bombarded with in daily life Facebook posts, restaurant signs, Instagram photos, television programming It s up to me to buy into them, shut them out, or, perhaps observe from a safe distance. The central point of the book is so incisive that it not only survived the major technological and cultural shifts of the last 50 years but is made stronger by them Most ofe take as important or news is image and artifice Think aboutpress conferences to announce press conferences, awards, articles about how much money celebrities make, news leaks, news breaks, annual Best of list, press releases, no comment , et al None of it is real As in, if it hadn t been known in advance that they d generate press they wouldn t have occurred.A nice example is foreign policy A president might say he wants to increase our prestige abroad What does that even mean As far as I can tell it means nothing, except perhaps a naive desire to receive credit for something you re not taking any action to produce The rest of the book is on what he calls unreality , a place similar to the dream would where many bloggers live It remains in line with the central premise, that the prevalence of news and newspapers has given us the belief that we can change reality by altering what reporters tell us.There is the sense from the title that it was going to be about the media or PR but it is much deeper andpersonal than that This book is critical to understanding Western culture and its direction. First Published In , This Wonderfully Provocative Book Introduced The Notion Of Pseudo Events Events Such As Press Conferences And Presidential Debates, Which Are Manufactured Solely In Order To Be Reported And The Contemporary Definition Of Celebrity As A Person Who Is Known For His Well Knownness Since Then Daniel J Boorstin S Prophetic Vision Of An America Inundated By Its Own Illusions Has Become An Essential Resource For Any Reader Who Wants To Distinguish The Manifold Deceptions Of Our Culture From Its Few Enduring Truths

The Americans The Democratic Experience received the 1974 Pulitzer Prize in history.Within the discipline of social theory, Boorstin s 1961 book

[KINDLE] ✾ The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America Author Daniel J. Boorstin –
  • Paperback
  • 336 pages
  • The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America
  • Daniel J. Boorstin
  • English
  • 10 September 2019
  • 9780679741800

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