Why is the entertainment industry so bad

Summary of We are having fun to death

Hollywood in the White House

After the Watergate affair and the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974, the disaster in Vietnam and the economic crisis under President Jimmy Carter, American self-confidence was badly shaken in the early 1980s. In his inaugural address, the new President Ronald Reagan promised that this would change under his leadership: "We are too big a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams. The era of self-doubt is over." He drastically increased the budget for the military and led the arms race with the Soviet Union to a new high point, while at the same time lowering taxes and dismantling the bureaucratic apparatus. Through the established military supremacy of the USA and the economic upswing, he gave the American people back their self-confidence.

As with no president before, Ronald Reagan's reputation and success was based on his media presence: As a former actor, he knew all too well how television can be used to win over as many people as possible. Criticism of his political goals largely fizzled out, as Reagan's on-screen charm seemed to have a greater impact than his opponents' arguments. Those disadvantaged by his politics reacted with disinterest: When Reagan ran for re-election in 1984, the turnout fell to below 50%. Not least because of his tremendous impact on the undecided, Reagan was re-elected president.


The media scientist Neil Postman tirelessly warned against the "trivialization", "tabloidization" and "infantilization" of society by the modern media. We are having fun to death should be both an analysis of the problem and a warning for the future The age of printing and the dawn of the age of television. " The impetus for writing this work is on the one hand the passing of the key year 1984, for which George Orwell had prophesied in his book 1984 Darkness; In addition to Postman, various other thinkers felt compelled to examine the "future" of 1984, which has now become a reality. Second, the election of Ronald Reagan as President of the United States was an event that Postman found deeply symptomatic of the new age of entertainment: "As I write this, the United States is ruled by a former Hollywood actor."

Neil Postman made use of various treatises by earlier thinkers when writing the book and also pointed out their direct influence on his work on several occasions. In particular, Marshall McLuhan's Understanding Media (The Magic Channels, 1964) should be mentioned here. McLuhan's aphorism "The medium is the message" became Postman's "The medium is the metaphor". Despite some similarities, Postman firmly rejected McLuhan's approach that visual and written media are equally useful and that they only have different effects. In addition, Postman took up approaches by Theodor W. Adorno, Siegfried Kracauer and Max Horkheimer and processed them, sometimes methodologically imprecise, into a popular science media theory.

Impact history

Neil Postman's treatise attracted enormous attention in the 1980s and is still considered the standard work of media criticism today. There is hardly a recent book title that has become a household name so quickly. We amused ourselves to death came under criticism mainly because of the exaggerated preference for writing over images, which was often viewed as too drastic, unreflective and unscientific. In addition, Postman's focus on American conditions caused problems for European critics in the first place: on the one hand, many of the people mentioned were unknown in Europe, and on the other, entire subject areas (especially the criticism of television preachers) could not be transferred to European conditions.

Many of the disadvantages of image culture mentioned by Postman are now viewed in a more differentiated manner, also due to more recent scientific investigations. Nevertheless, the current television landscape in particular still offers sufficient target for Postman's appeal against "television that creates idiots" ("Television was not created for idiots - it creates them."). Postman is still used to this day when it comes to criticism of increasingly low-level television shows. And yet that's only half the story, since the same level of sophistication has long since found its way into the written culture, for example in the form of whole stacks of superfluous celebrity biographies. It is rather doubtful whether the current problems such as the educational misery or widespread political resignation can all be traced back to the negative influence of television.