By Michael N. Nagler
This Commentary is Unpublished.
I often think back to Neil Postman's 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death when I watch the mainstream media spin their stories on critical events like the recent assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan. In that book, subtitled Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, Postman describes how technologies of communication, beginning with the telegraph in the 1840's, brought about the end of serious journalism because now people out on the Nebraska prairie, for example, were suddenly reading about faraway issues that did not concern them. That began a steady shift from news and democratic participation to 'entertainment' — and political manipulation — as the function of mainstream journalism.
We now live in the world of instant messaging and the internet, when distant events that do vitally concern us, like the death of Prime Minister Bhutto, are presented to us in a cloud of trivialization that the real nature of our connection to them ....
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Michael Nagler is the author of The Search for a Nonviolent Future. His UC, Berkeley course on nonviolence can be reached through www.mettacenter.org. He recently received the Jamnalal Bajaj International Award for Promoting Gandhian Values Outside India.
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