This is a great effort on the part of Neil Postman and Steve Powers. Postman is a media scholar who has written numerous books, and Powers is a journalist who knows first hand how media works. These two authors have the guts to take on the news media, a system made up of the biggest pack of liars outside of the Democratic Party. This book is a no-holds barred look at how news is manufactored and presented to the public. The book begins by defining news and then presents detailed accounts of how news is created. The book also looks at how commercials work in the scheme of things. There are also sections on television in the court room and an examination of how language and pictures can be used to distort news.
I found three items of particular interest in this book. The first was how the authors looked at commercials. As most know, the main aim of television is to sell. As cigarettes are a delivery device for nicotine, so television is for commercials. Since most of us have seen thousands of commercials, we have stopped viewing them objectively. This book has examined commercials, and it delivers a stinging indictment of them. Most effective is the view, presented by the authors, that commercials are a form of religious parable. A parable teaches people how to live the good life. The commercial, like a parable, has a beginning, a definition of a problem in the middle, and then a solution to the problem at the end. Unlike real life, the commercial teaches us that the answers to all problems are fast and easy, and are readily available at the local store. Hard work and patience mean nothing in the advertising world.
Secondly, the book also looks at how corporations have taken over televison and turned news programs into a source of profit. This profit comes, of course, at the expense of truth and responsibility. What is of particular interest is how much some of the anchors and others involved in the news media make millions of dollars in salaries. The authors find this a problem. They quote former CBS News president Fred Friendly (great name, wouldn't you say?) who believed that no one in news should be making more money than members of Congress or the President of the United States. Friendly called it, "unhealthy, unacceptable, and unethical". What's more, the corporate attitude of making profit at the expense of all else has led to the pooling of various media outlets. The authors see this as extremely dangerous, as it limits the sources of news made available to the public.
Finally, I was floored by the examination of the actual news programs given in the book. The authors point out that news teams are made of people who are meant to ape the structure of a family. The role of Mom and Dad are played by the anchors, who usually are a man and woman. The sportscaster and weatherman usually play the role of the silly kids. And even more sickening, this "family" is always presented as being happy. They all get along with each other and everyone knows their place. Most people probably wouldn't have a problem with this kind of arrangement. But remember, this is supposed to be news. It is how we form opinions of the events that shape our lives, and ultimately are descendent's lives. This shouldn't be some role playing game. It's serious business, and all of the little games that the media play seriously degrade our ability to make important decisions.
There are always a few downfalls with any book, and this one is no different. There are some annoying errors in the text which an editor should have caught. This might be nitpicky, but it is noticeable. Also, the book is too short for such an important topic. Still, I highly recommend this book to anyone who is concerned about getting the truth.