Chapter 6: The Age of Show Business
1. As he begins the second section of the book, Postman states the questions which the rest of the book will address. What are they (84)? Keep these questions in mind as you read.
2. What distinction does Postman make between technology and a medium (84)?
3. “It is possible,” Postman writes, “for a technology to be so used that its potentialities are prevented from developing and its social consequences kept to a minimum” (85). He then goes on to say, “But in America, this has not been the case. Television has found in liberal democracy and a relatively free market economy a nurturing climate in which its full potentialities as a technology of images could be exploited” (86). Assuming Postman’s point for the sake of argument, does this mean that the greater problem we face is “liberal democracy and a relatively free market”? If we reformed these problems, would television as a medium convey a different meaning?
4. “Entertainment is the supra-ideology of all discourse on television” (87). Agree or disagree? Two further thought questions. Is entertainment bound to be the ruling ideology of television, as such? Is entertainment bound to be the ruling ideology of television in America?
5. Would it be accurate to make this charge: “Entertainment is the supra-ideology of all discourse on radio”? Or, “Entertainment is the supra-ideology of all discourse in news magazines”?
6. Postman says, “I do not say categorically that it is impossible to use television as a carrier of coherent language or thought in process….After all, it is not unheard of that a format will occasionally go against the bias of its medium” (91). But he goes on to state, “But this is not television at its best, and it is not television that most people will choose to watch” (92). Does this mean that the greater problem we face is what most people want to watch?
7. “How television stages the world becomes the model for how the world is properly to be staged” (92). Would it be more accurate to say that how producers stage the world using television’s inherent qualities becomes the model for how the world is properly to be staged? Is this what Postman means? What difference does it make?
8. Most would agree that “our culture has moved toward a new way of conducting its business, especially its important business. The nature of its discourse is changing as the demarcation line between what is show business and what is not becomes harder to see with each passing day” (97-8). What would you suggest is the source of this shift in our society?
Chapter 7: “Now…This”
1. I think it is evident by now that this book forces us to meditate upon our human nature as much as it does upon the nature of television. What fundamental presuppositions do we as Christians bring to the table regarding human nature?
2. Does the format of the typical television newscast communicate that the world “has no order or meaning and is not to be taken seriously” (99)? Do the constant interruptions of commercials render the news “banal” (104)?
3. Is the following true in all forms of communication? “The perception of the truth of a report rests heavily on the acceptability of the newscaster” (101). Is it wrong for our perception of truth to be influenced by the messenger? Also, does television make us rely more heavily on this perception?
4. “What has music to do with the news? Why is it there?” (102).
5. How do we combat “disinformation” (107)?
6. Postman says that “television is the paradigm for our conception of public information” (111). Does the growing influence of the internet and devices such as the iPhone change this? If so, in what way?
7. What does the book of Ecclesiastes have to say about what Postman is wrestling with in this chapter?