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George Will's 'reading, Writing and Rationality

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English 1A

Rhetorical Analysis of Neil Postman's "Amusing Ourselves to Death"


George Will's 'Reading, Writing and Rationality

Neil Postman was a well educated scholar and writer who wrote 18 books and had more than 200 articles printed in magazines and news papers, such as The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Time Magazine, The New York Times, and Los Angeles Times. This keynote address of Postman's was delivered in 1984 at the Frankfurt Book Fair. The speech was translated into eight languages and it sold over 200,000 copies worldwide.

Postman seemed strongly against what he termed "America's love affair with the television" and throughout this speech he provided relevant evidence to support his argument. He mentioned a 1993 Nielsen Report which stated that 98% of all American homes had a television and 51% have more than one television. Postman felt that the television was actually more of an instrument for entertaining than informing, and because of that, society had been gradually straying away from reading since its invention. Once again, this speech was at a book fair, so one would assume that Postman did have the audience's undivided attention.

Postman felt television is not an effective way of providing education and turns serious issues into images of little importance, stating "The problem is not that TV represents the masses with entertaining subject matter, but that television presents all subject matter as entertaining." Some other rhetoric contained in Postman's speech includes his criticism of newscasters. "Our newscasters, sometimes referred to as "talking hair-dos," comprise the handsomest class of people in America. Their shows are always introduced and concluded with music", said Postman. He then goes on to talk about how the newscasters invite the viewers to join them the next day for more of what Postman considers entertainment, and how "we join them tomorrow because we know a good show when we see it."

As Postman goes on to mention the evolvement of televised courtroom trials and how entertaining television evangelists are, I can't help but wonder how he would feel today. Over 27 years since this speech and only a little more than 8 years after his death televisions are larger, smaller, and they contain a lot more technology along with the capability of receiving what seems like an endless amount of channels. Much of this speech make Postman seem like a disgruntled media executive, but some of it is very fitting, even for today. He mentions how American universities award honorary degrees to television and movie stars, often asking these celebrities to give graduation commencements on subjects that neither the celebrity



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