Amusing ourselves to death

This is perhaps one of the most striking passages I have read for a while. It describes the modern world with startling accuracy. In our fear of an increasingly authoritarian rule, we have allowed a far more dangerous vision to come true: heedlessness

Below is the foreward of Neil Postman’s book “Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business“, accompanied by a comic illustration of the two ideas. It gives a concise comparison of the two authors views and what they foresaw society will become. But perhaps the remarkable part of this whole story passage lies beyond its lines with us:

Most of us will read this and continue living our life exactly the same way as before

…wake up


We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.

But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another – slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions”. In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right

[Neil Postman – Amusing ourselves to death]

[The comic is Stuart McMillen’s interpretation of media theorist Niel Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985), subtitled “Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business”]

35 thoughts on “Amusing ourselves to death

  1. C:\TAD\Text\BIBLE.TXT

    oseph; what he saith to you, do.

    41:56 And the famine was over all the face of the earth: and Joseph
    opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the
    famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt.

    41:57 And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn;
    because that the famine was so sore in all lands.

    42:1 Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto
    his sons, Why do ye look one upon another? 42:2 And he said, Behold,
    I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get

      • Like “Brave New World” and “1984”, the Bible is a series of stories that, when analyzed, provide insight on the human condition.

        The Bible may seem unfashionable to you but that doesn’t mean it isn’t relevant.

      • Haters goin to hate, eh dollstix? Stack that hate on “facts” which are in “fact” speculative fiction. Keep it up there winner.

  2. Pingback: Amusing ourselves to death | Enjoying The Moment

  3. Reblogged this on cidghana || techiev2 and commented:
    To quote from “The Doors of Perception”,
    “To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with survival or to a human being obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended, directly and unconditionally, by Mind at Large — this is an experience of inestimable value to everyone and especially to the intellectual”

    This is a real good view at Huxley’s perception.

  4. You’re telling people to wake up .. yet you are focusing on the problems. I read this and all I got was a bad feeling, like there was something wrong in the way we live, when this is far from the truth. We have freedom like never before, to break away from these chains that society tries to put us in, and we have so much more possibilities than before to express ourselves, through the Internet ..

    Better to focus on the solutions than the problems I say.

      • What do you mean, we do nothing ? There has been huge changes in the way we look at things during the past 2-3 years alone, not mentioning the past 10 years completely. At least for me personally, can’t speak for anybody else. I feel there has been a huge shift in whole human consciousness and the way things are being done and thought about.

  5. Pingback: Amusing ourselves to death | Oatmeal & Coffee

  6. One of my high school graduating mini-theses (from a conservative Christian academy) compared and contrasted Orwell and Huxley, and leaned heavily on Postman’s work. I’ll have to dig that paper up, if I can find it…

  7. I suggest you all go off and read ‘The Machine Stops’ a short story/novella by E M Forster first published in 1909 and again in 1929 long before Huxley’s Brave New World.

  8. Pingback: Amusing ourselves to death | These words are feral & wild

  9. Reblogged this on aMusing Spirit and commented:
    What is mindfulness? I believe it is the opposite of heedlessness. Here is a fantastic and jarring post about what a society of heedlessness cultivates. Are we amusing ourselves to death?

    Be here now.

  10. You should read Adorno abouth the Cultural Industry, Adorno is saying that the Cultural Industry (Hollywood, Entertainment and so on) is a much more efficient way to controll people than the totalitarianism (like fascism or stalinism) ever was.

  11. Thank you very much, I’am really glad that I’m following you. I’m still figuring out. Just wanted to say that you are an awesome blogger, Inspiring and May you inspire more readers essentially perfectly ok. greetings from Gede Prama 🙂

  12. Pingback: Amusing ourselves to death | A Reader's Retort ...

  13. Pingback: Orwell vs. Huxley: Stop numbing yourself dumb! | awakenlibrarian

  14. hi

    to some extend i do agree with you that the world is more like what huxley though would be, but that’s on the front end only, and orwell is fully functioning on the back-end.

    most govs apply both strategies.

    make it look nice on the front end, keep you busy, distracted and fully entertained, but at the same time there is a fence and a play ground you should play within, and if you try to jump out, you will get into the orwell world.

    • Yeah, you right. I think the message it´s the same but of course we have personalities and both of them tell us the story as their vision. Despite of that, below lines is the same message. A good one.

  15. One great thing about this mindless meandering around the internet is that a wider spectrum of people are exposed to different schools of thought. 15 years ago, it’s likely that only a certain type of high school student would be exposed to this line of thinking/this literary comparison (aside from those rare self-taught inquisitive types); now anybody can happen upon this blog via a facebook friend or some curious clicking. On the other hand, what would that person (and I) be doing if we weren’t spending all of this virtual time? It’s getting harder and harder to remember how I used to spend my evenings alone.

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  19. I think the blogger misses the point that there there are realism’s in both prophetic texts. It’s not a simple case case of one is right one is wrong, but look at some of the actualities that exist in both cases.

    Edward Snowdon showed us Governmental secrecy and spying on the public. We’re well aware of Public Relations and Advertising being created to sway public perceptions – the recent case with David Cameron and the housing right-to-buy PR disaster. Adorno’s thoughts on Hollywood and culture industries having more control than totalitarian structures – Zero Dark Thirty will be seen as a actuality to some (maybe it is – but I don’t trust it). Etc, etc…

    We’re never going to truly sure what the future holds, but it’s fun to prophesies, and by doing this helps us to be critical of the present.

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  22. Pingback: Blog like no one’s reading – because they aren’t – and who cares anyway! – nearlythere

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