amused to death

I cannot not mention one of Neil Postman’s more famous books – Amusing Ourselves to Death – for at least three reasons. Three reasons which are my guidelines to how I’ll teach my kids in understanding media (TV programming specifically) and being aware of its effects.

1) TV programs aim to inflict either of these emotional responses, usually instant, always certain: manipulate, influence, entertain, inform, confuse, supply instant gratification, call for immediate emotional response, (re)direct what to think about.

2) because even though TV has some positive things about it, my kids should learn to question media messages, to learn about agenda setting, and to know that someone works for that media. If they know who – that’s even better – it’ll answer a lot more questions to where and why this type of content comes on this type of channel.

3) because Postman’s book also inspired Roger Waters to write his wonderful album, Amused to Death, whose eponymous song says exactly what I’d tell my kids about TV.

Doctor Doctor what is wrong with me
This supermarket life is getting long
What is the heart life of a colour TV
What is the shelf life of a teenage queen
Ooh western woman
Ooh western girl
News hound sniffs the air
When Jessica Hahn goes down
He latches on to that symbol
Of detachment
Attracted by the peeling away of feeling
The celebrity of the abused shell the belle
Ooh western woman
Ooh western girl
And the children of Melrose
Strut their stuff
Is absolute zero cold enough
And out in the valley warm and clean
The little ones sit by their TV screens
No thoughts to think
No tears to cry
All sucked dry
Down to the very last breath
Bartender what is wrong with me
Why am I so out of breath
The captain said excuse me ma’am
This species has amused itself to death
Amused itself to death
Amused itself to death
We watched the tragedy unfold
We did as we were told
We bought and sold
It was the greatest show on earth
But then it was over
We ohhed and aahed
We drove our racing cars
We ate our last few jars of caviar
And somewhere out there in the stars
A keen-eyed look-out
Spied a flickering light
Our last hurrah
And when they found our shadows
Grouped around the TV sets
They ran down every lead
They repeated every test
They checked out all the data on their lists
And then the alien anthropologists
Admitted they were still perplexed
But on eliminating every other reason
For our sad demise
They logged the only explanation left
This species has amused itself to death
No tears to cry no feelings left
This species has amused itself to death


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