Neil Postman, interviewed on the McNeil/Lehrer Hour in 1995:

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 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.

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Robert
August 14th, 2012 at 7:51 pm (#)

Wow, this is fascinating! Thanks for posting it. I’ve been acquainted with Neil Postman’s work but never ran across this before.

Patrick Lucas
August 15th, 2012 at 5:20 pm (#)

I believe that first appeared in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amusing_Ourselves_to_Death) — a great read!

Jonathan
August 16th, 2012 at 12:20 am (#)

Both of these are summaries of what is known as the “propaganda model” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_model), as explained in the main thesis on this, which is Noam Chomsky’s “Manufacturing Consent” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manufacturing_Consent:_The_Political_Economy_of_the_Mass_Media).

In essence, the idea here is that in totalitarian societies, the ruling class can can simply rely on violence to get people to do their bidding (eg Stalinist Russia, present day North Korea as far as we know). But in democratic societies, they have to use thought control instead. In America, this means the mass media exclude the proletariat from the political area by distracting them with things like sports, religion and celebrity gossip. Meanwhile, the middle classes are indoctrinated and dis-empowerd by the presentation of “news” that in fact limits and controls debate. For example, middle class support for a war in Afghanistan because it makes us all “safer”, without allowing anyone adequately to debate that idea without looking like a loon. People can’t ask whether the war in fact concentrates money and power into the hands of the military-industrial elite because that’s a commie-pinko nutcase thing to say. Chomsky notes that this isn’t a conspiracy theory though – he’s just making an institutional analysis. Just as General Motors exists to maximize profits, so news media exists to define and control the limits of political debate. Not doing so would threaten their viability as businesses in the free market.

As an Englishman, I can’t help pointing out that the BBC doesn’t operate as a commercial entity, yet for the most part appears to be just as crap as CNN. But then I’m not a political scientist.

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