Tuesday, December 13, 2016

News, "Fake News," & All the News that's fit to Print

In the post-truth world, and the rising era of "fake news," it's worth looking back at these prescient words from social critic Neil Postman in the essay "News" from his 1988 collection of essays Conscientious Objections:

The whole problem with news on television comes down to this: all the words uttered in an hour of television news coverage could be printed on one page of a newspaper. And the world cannot be understood in one page. Of course, there is compensation: television offers pictures, and the pictures move. It is often said that moving pictures are a kind of language in themselves, and there is a good deal of truth in this. But the language of pictures differs radically from oral and written language, and the differences are crucial for understanding television news. 

Imagine what he thought of the internet and social media.

Contemporary American society is in a somewhat precarious and certainly transitional phase in regards to what we "know" to be true. Or really just what we know. Period. The foundation of successful representative democracy is the presence of an active and educated electorate. Yet, the rising division of Americans in relation to what people "know to be true" has merged with an increasingly distracted society that is less than thoughtful about pertinent issues of economics, legislation, rights and responsibilities, and more. Basically, the massive overflow of information and the ever-expanding world of entertainment has begun to cloud out the collective ability to make sense of the world.

And, that puts American society at risk of cultural malaise, decline, and decay.

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