Brian’s Column: New Leaf for a New Year

Or should I say new ‘old’ leaf
By Brian R. Wright

Many would say that we-the-human-race on the man-on-the-street level—especially with the escalating pervasiveness of television through the end of the 20th century and now with the Internet coming of age in the early decades of the 21st—have caved in to the Neil Postman Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985) scenario. [Sorry, I have to forgive the analysis here, because frankly the number of readers who a) ‘get it’ or b) care, are vanishingly small. Which is perhaps THE major reason for my turning over a new leaf… to be discussed shortly.]

A shortcut way to state the above is that most people have become comfortable with the perceptual-emotional or ‘see, hear, feel’ means of consciousness… with a corresponding loss of interest in the conceptual mode of same—reasoning things out thru reading, writing, and exercising independent logical judgment. Give you an example, turn on the mainstream nightly news, see the calming anchor, view the footage accompanying the anchor’s even assuring cadence announcing what meaning and solace you’re to take from the audio-visuals (or at least from the anchor’s voice-overs): “This is true and what all good people of society believe. Don’t worry, be happy, go to work as usual.”  [Then the ads for the broadcast interweave to give you the context and range of acceptable material choices. This is what Postman called the Age of Television.] And it may be our species’ undoing…

[Note also that ALL the major mainstream networks convey the exact same root news.]

Please read the following short essay from a collection of short stories by Jack Kline, Blowing Carbon (2010).[1] Continue reading

Book Review: Building a Bridge to the 18th Century (1999)

How the past can improve our future
by Neil Postman
1999, First Vintage Books, 193 pages

Building_a_BridgeNeil Postman, longtime professor and eventual chair of the department of culture and communication at New York University, sadly died in 2003 at the age of 72.  Bridge is his final book, and it deals with the same universal themes found in his earlier 20-odd works: language, reason, education, childhood, and the idea of progress. [I also want to state that this book, as so many others, I decided to read and review thanks to reference from my dear mother, who was always in her own orbit politically and managed, eventually, with works such as these, to liberate my literal cause-orientation from its familiar strait jackets.]

Despairing over post-modernists who claim words don’t stand for anything real, he makes a case for reading and writing. Indeed, he feels if we don’t come up with a meaningful narrative for our world, we’re toast.

It is no accident, Postman is a huge fan of the two Thomases: Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, particularly Paine.

Note: Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense and The CrisisCommon Sense sold as many as 600,000 copies, which would be equivalent to a run of 60 million copies in the United States today. Continue reading

Book Review: Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985)

Public discourse in the age of show business
by Neil Postman

AmusingIf humanity makes the grade in the next few years, a good share of the credit will be due to Professor Neil Postman and his timely insights into the decline of language (esp. with respect to reading and writing), logic, conceptual development, and common sense. In other words, thanks to his framework of astute observations, others may be able to (re)construct the building of our reasoning minds… without which we shall surely go the way of the dodo bird. Amusing Ourselves to Death is arguably the magnum opus of this cultural critic, writer, and communications theorist who was chair of the New York University department of communication arts.

Two of his other better known books I have reviewed are Technopoly (1991) and Building a Bridge to the 18th Century (1999)—which was his final, comprehensive, and most heartfelt appeal to the ‘better angels of our nature’… particularly the angels who want liberty and literate, benevolent civilization.  [A deeply personal note, Building a Bridge was the prize of all the books my dear mother, the accomplished Phyllis Anderson-Barlow-Wright, referred to me—the first to knock me off the ledge of ego where I liked to think “how could Mom know anything really important?”] Continue reading

Brian’s Column: The Truman Prophecy (2015), Excerpt #8

From Part 2: Toto, Chapter 6: Sliming Baby

vaccines[Excerpt from The Truman Prophecy, due for publication 12/25/15.]

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities — Voltaire

_________________ 4Q 2015

Sterling Heights, Michigan. What was it, wondered Trish, that turned normal, bright individuals (of means and standing in the community) into that Three Stooges’ routine—“slowly I turn, step by step, inch by inch…” then pummeling the person who says “Niagara Falls”—when anyone dared question the safety or efficacy of vaccines? Or allopathic[1] treatments and drugs? Or psychiatric drugs? Or psychiatry?

No idle question…

Because it leads to the deeper question:

Patrecia Bartlett (Patty B, Trish) was a serious student of epistemology.[2] She was particularly fascinated by how people’s mental functioning had been twisted and turned by Edward Bernays’ modern technology of mind control in conjunction—over the past 60 years—with what Professor Neil Postman referred to as TV Nation.

Those were the two primary drivers, as she saw it. Continue reading

Book Review: The Truman Prophecy (2015), Excerpt #1

From chapter ‘Curtain 1: Golden Rules’

Core_Process_Numbers[Excerpt from The Truman Prophecy,
due for publication 12/25/15.]

The three of them set up the second Monday in December, once more at the Indie Coffee Shop.

Chance noted, “How fitting that the name of this place matches a shortening of the name of our life form dawning: Independent?”

“I like the abbreviation ‘the I’s,’ better,” said Sean.

“The I’s have it… 🙂 ,” chided Katie.

“Good stuff,” remarked Chance. “We’re already going straight to the core of the Big Picture I’ve been striving for, and what I wanted to discuss today…

“… namely, my novel and all my related work presents the central idea of ‘the Independent’ as a new being rising from the ashes of the Collective, declaring its presence and withdrawing it from the old life form.”

“And by doing so, ending it [the old form],” furthered Katie. “Until now our liberty colleagues been more or less beating around the bush… so many grappling with the strings and chains… rather simply than casting them under foot and walking to the light.” Continue reading

Brian’s Column: Reality?

Power of NowOne of life’s many mysteries
is why libertarians who say
don’t trust the government on anything,
from jobs to school performance to how to pay for roads,
believe any government official story
when it comes to military or foreign policy,
from WMDs in Iraq to ISIS rebels’ funding
to nuke threat of Iran… to the attacks of 9/11.
Also, anyone who actually tries
to watch modern mainstream network news
takes part in the same mystery
of why to believe what’s induced via that deep trance. Continue reading

Book Review: The Age of American Unreason (2008)

Disturbing analysis of the roots of antithought in America (and elsewhere)
by Susan Jacoby

Random House , 318 pages
Reviewed by Brian Wright

“I raise no objections to television’s junk.  The best things on television are its junk, and no one and nothing is seriously threatened by it. Besides, we do not measure a culture by its output of undisguised trivialities but by what it claims as significant.  Therein is our problem, for television is at its most trivial and, therefore, most dangerous when its aspirations are high, when it presents itself as a carrier of important cultural conversations.” — Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985) Continue reading