Books Insights Non-Fiction

Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman | Book Report


  • You want to be enlightened on the amount of unnecessary information you consume
  • You’re bothered with your short attention span
  • You want to appreciate reading more

This non-fiction book about the negative effects of television was published in 1985. It may seem irrelevant nowadays but not really. The reason why this book is still being read today is because it couldn’t be more relevant.

While reading the book, i-replace mo lang yung word na television with internet, pasok na pasok pa din ngayon yung mga sinasabi nya. I think eto yung isa sa mga striking quotes in the book:

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.

Although I haven’t read both Orwell and Huxley, I already had an idea based from this comparison. Kaya balak ko din basahin ‘tong dalwa na ‘to.

I would also like to mention that I appreciated reading more after ko basahin yung book. May part kasi na in-enumerate nya kung anong nangyayari while a person is reading and what is required of the reader. How learning from reading makes us more critical compared to learning from visual aids. Eto daw yung what is demanded of us when reading (particularly this book):

  • “You are required, first of all, to remain more or less immobile for a fairly long time.”

And for most people, hindi ‘to madaling ma-achieve. Admittedly noon, madali akong ma-bore pag nagbabasa. Or madali akong ma-tempt na silipin yung phone ko. In short, madali akong mawala sa focus. So etong seemingly simple requirement of staying put to read is nowadays, not so simple. Pero since nagbagong buhay na nga ko, hindi naman ako na-guilty dito. Guilty yung old self ko.

  • “You must be able to tell from the tone of the language what is the author’s attitude toward the subject and toward the reader. You must, in other words, know the difference between a joke and an argument.”

Since all we have are words when reading, kelangan as a reader, marunong tayong maka-distinguish nung tone of voice nung author (or nung character if it’s fiction).

  • “You must be able to do several things at once, including delaying a verdict until the entire argument is finished, holding in mind questions until you have determined where, when or if the text answers them…”

I guess having the patience to read everything through first before constructing judgments or jumping to conclusions.

  • “You must also be able to withhold those parts of your knowledge and experience which do not have a bearing on the argument.”

Focusing and comprehending on what is being said.

  • “And in preparing yourself to do all of this, you much have divested yourself of the belief that words are magical…”

Words are indeed magical. Kelan ba natin narinig na paulit-ulit yung phrase na, “Mas maganda yung book.” Imagine kung ilang milyong dolyares ang nagastos sa movie na Harry Potter with all its CGI glory, only to realize na sa totoo lang, mas maganda talaga yung book. Nothing is left out, it’s highly detailed, it’s just more… rich. At hindi lang sa Harry Potter. Sa madaming movies pa. Kaya I believe in the magic of words coupled with our imagination.

The reader must come armed, in a serious state of intellectual readiness.

To be confronted by the cold abstractions of printed sentences is to look upon language bare, without the assistance of either beauty or community. Thus, reading is by its nature a serious business.

Buti na lang na-rekindle ko yung love ko for reading. Thank you Pod Sibs Book Club and Jenn Im!

Eto naman talks about how technology slowly creeps in hanggang hindi na natin namalayan yung negative effects nya:

I find it useful to think of the situation in this way: Changes in the symbolic environment are like changes in the natural environment; they are both gradual and additive at first, and then, all at once, a critical mass is achieved, as the physicists say. A river that has slowly been polluted suddenly becomes toxic; most of the fish perish; swimming becomes a danger to health. But even then, the river may look the same and one may still take a boat ride on it. In other words, even when life has been taken from it, the river does not disappear, nor do all of its uses, but its value has been seriously diminished and its degraded condition will have harmful effects throughout the landscape. It is this way with our symbolic environment. We have reached, I believe, a critical mass in that electronic media have decisively and irreversibly changed the character of our symbolic environment.

Ang ganda nung analogy nya pero parang hindi naman ako agree na totally replaced na ng “television” ang books. Sobrang aware pa din naman ang schools about the importance of books. Siguro eto lang yung fear nung author pero don’t worry, ngayong 2020, books are still valuable. But honestly speaking, it is less appreciated, unfortunately.

Kasi I have a handful of friends naman pero wala akong friend na same yung appreciation namin sa books. Kaya nga kelangan ko pang mag-start ng book club para lang may ka-chikahan ako about books. So yun yung proof na hindi ganun kadali makahanap ng person na may love for reading. Kaya may pagka-valid pa din yung concern nya.

Although this book focuses on the negative effects of television, meron namang section that discusses its advantages:

I am arguing that a television-based epistemology pollutes public communication and its surrounding landscape, not that it pollutes everything. In the first place, I am constantly reminded of television’s value as a source of comfort and pleasure to the elderly, the infirm and, indeed, all people who find themselves alone in motel rooms. I am also aware of television’s potential for creating a theater for the masses (a subject which in my opinion has not been taken seriously enough). There are also claims that whatever power television might have to undermine rational discourse, its emotional power is so great that it could arouse sentiment against the Vietnam War or against more virulent forms of racism. These and other beneficial possibilities are not to be taken lightly.

The author is not against television or technology, ang beef nya with television is how it is used as a medium.

Anyone who is even slightly familiar with the history of communications knows that every new technology for thinking involves a trade-off. It giveth and taketh away, although not quite in equal measure. Media change does not necessarily result in equilibrium. It sometimes creates more than it destroys. Sometimes, it is the other way around. We must be careful in praising or condemning because the future may hold surprises for us.

Surprise! Ganun na nga ang nangyari. Watch Social Dilemma on Netflix please.

May chapter dun sa book na kwinento nya yung short history of newspapers. Nung boom na boom pa ang newspapers.

In 1786, Benjamin Franklin observed that Americans were so busy reading newspapers and pamphlets that they scarcely had time for books.

Na-imagine ko lang kung gano ka-amazing makabasa ng newspapers noon. Pero ngayon, wala na. Siguro yung pinakang exposure ko na sa dyaryo noon ay pag nakikita kong nagbabasa ang Daddy (lolo) ko nung bata ako. Tapos ako kukunin ko yung last part ng dyaryo kasi yun yung entertainment section. Babasahin ko yung horoscope ko tsaka yung mga comics. Or titingnan ko kung anong palabas sa sinehan. Hay kakamiss ‘yon.

Isa sa mga nag-stand out sakin na part nung book is yung debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. Hindi diniscuss kung anong pinagdedebatehan nila. Pero ang highlight dito ay yung audience nila. Na kaya nilang makinig sa isang debate na nagla-last for 4-7 hours!

What kind of audience was this? Who were these people who could so cheerfully accommodate themselves to seven hours of oratory? It should be noted, by the way, that Lincoln and Douglas were not presidential candidates; at the time of their encounter in Peoria they were not even candidates for the United States Senate. But their audiences were not especially concerned with their official status. These were people who regarded such events as essential to their political education, who took them to be an integral part of their social lives, and who were quite accustomed to extended oratorical performances.

For one thing, its attention span would obviously have been extraordinary by current standards. Is there any audience today who could endure seven hours of talk? or five? or three? Especially without pictures of any kind? Second, these audiences must have had an equally extraordinary capacity to comprehend lengthy and complex sentences aurally.

Nakakahiya sa attention span nila grabe. Kaya napa-search tuloy ako ngayon kung ano nang average attention span ng mga tao: 8 seconds. At dahil daw ‘to sa abundance of information kaya bumaba ng ganito kababa. Kaya sobrang nakakabilib yung mga tao noon. Sanaol. Sana makuha ko man lang yung kalahati ng ability nila to focus.

At dahil nga ang daming information being thrown at us and most of them are unsolicited, I think the book is also trying to promote minimalism sa mga information that we consume. Kasi nowadays daw, people tend to attach value to information only if it provides novelty or if it’s entertaining.

But most of our daily news is inert, consisting of information that gives us something to talk about but cannot lead to any meaningful action.

By generating an abundance of irrelevant information, it dramatically altered what may be called the “information-action ratio.

Everything became everyone’s business. For the first time, we were sent information which answered no question we had asked, and which, in any case, did not permit the right of reply.

Eto naman yung sinasabi ko kanina na problema ni author about television news. How news is being presented as 45-second segments and then move on na ulit sa isa pang news. Yung for example, after ibalita yung na-rape na babae, biglang sasabihin nung reporter, “At ngayon, punta naman tayo sa showbiz balita!”

Now … this” is commonly used on radio and television newscasts to indicate that what one has just heard or seen has no relevance to what one is about to hear or see, or possibly to anything one is ever likely to hear or see. The phrase is a means of acknowledging the fact that the world as mapped by the speeded-up electronic media has no order or meaning and is not to be taken seriously. There is no murder so brutal, no earthquake so devastating, no political blunder so costly—for that matter, no ball score so tantalizing or weather report so threatening—that it cannot be erased from our minds by a newscaster saying, “Now … this.” The newscaster means that you have thought long enough on the previous matter (approximately forty-five seconds), that you must not be morbidly preoccupied with it (let us say, for ninety seconds), and that you must now give your attention to another fragment of news or a commercial.

Gets ko yung point nya pero hindi ko maalala kung may solution ba syang prinesent about dito. Actually may in-offer syang suggestions sa huli like limiting the operational hours of television and may mga gusto syang i-ban na content pero sya na rin yung nagsabi na hindi sya optimistic na may mag-follow ng suggestions nya. And ngayon, useless na rin because of internet.

Television, as I have implied earlier, serves us most usefully when presenting junk-entertainment ; it serves us most ill when it co-opts serious modes of discourse—news, politics, science, education, commerce, religion—and turns them into entertainment packages.


Writing freezes speech.

People like ourselves may see nothing wondrous in writing, but our anthropologists know how strange and magical it appears to a purely oral people—a conversation with no one and yet with everyone.

Even such an instrument as the microscope, hardly a tool of everyday use, had embedded within it a quite astonishing idea, not about biology but about psychology. By revealing a world hitherto hidden from view, the microscope suggested a possibility about the structure of the mind.

If things are not what they seem, if microbes lurk, unseen, on and under our skin, if the invisible controls the visible, then is it not possible that ids and egos and superegos also lurk somewhere unseen? What else is psychoanalysis but a microscope of the mind?

The average length of a shot on network television is only 3.5 seconds, so that the eye never rests, always has something new to see. Moreover, television offers viewers a variety of subject matter, requires minimal skills to comprehend it, and is largely aimed at emotional gratification.

Ignorance is always correctable. But what shall we do if we take ignorance to be knowledge?

RATING [4 🌟]

So yun nga nga. We got used to being entertained all the time. So even if the information being presented is valuable or critical, it’s so easy to move on to the next thing if it’s not entertaining.

Although medyo tedious syang basahin (for me) kasi masyadong ginalingan nung author, nagustuhan ko pa din sya. Na-inspire ako to be more eloquent and yun nga, na-appreciate ko lalo ang pagbabasa. Mas lalo din akong naging aware sa mga information na ina-allow ko sa everyday life ko. And with that, I will end this review with this quote:

If this preoccupation with literacy and learning be a “form of insanity,” then let there be more of it.

Click to view my digital book shelf.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s