The Sound Bite Society: Television and the American Mind

The Sound Bite Society: Television and the American Mind

The Sound Bite Society: Television and the American Mind

The Sound Bite Society: Television and the American Mind

Synopsis

In a timely look at the oppressive effect of television on American politics and society the past 20 years, journalist Scheuer asserts that a vibrant democracy is only possible with the sharing of conflicting and complex ideas.

Excerpt

We've got to face it. Politics have entered a new stage, the television
stage. Instead of long-winded public debates, the people want cap
sule slogans -- "Time for a change" -- "The mess in Washington" --
"More bang for a buck" -- punchlines and glamour.

-- General Haynesworth, the media mogul in the
Budd Schulberg film A Face in the Crowd, 1957

1 . The Sound Bite Society

Two great trends, among and perhaps above others, have shaped American politics over the past generation. Their relationship, if recognized at all, is seldom clearly understood. One has been the emergence of television, not just as an important element in the political process, but as its very framework. The other is the nearly complete collapse of American liberalism in the face of a resurgent New Right, beginning with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and continuing with the Republican takeover in the congressional elections of 1994 and subsequent conservative gains. These trends are connected, and the shaping of information by television affects the organization of political beliefs.

Needless to say, television is the dominant medium of a media- dominated age. Like the atom bomb, it arrived at midcentury and spawned intractable questions about technology and human values. Nuclear fission altered the nature of world power; television has likewise altered the nature of power but has had far greater impact on everyday life. Television doesn't just affect . . .

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