Television as a Machine of Social Regulation
Much if not most of the critical literature of the mass media in the 1960s dwells upon an alleged superimposition upon society of a world of illusion, an enforced unreality, at variance with the more solid world of ‘reality’, which television had finally — apparently — extirpated from the realm of cognition. Daniel Boorstin, who wrote in 1961, opens his influential essay ‘The Image’, which, if any text ever did, stuck the label upon the bottle of prevailing notions (the lees of which are just now in evidence), with a sentence designed to stun: ‘In this book I describe the world of our making, how we have used our wealth, our literacy, our technology, and our progress, to create the thicket of unreality which stands between us and the facts of life.’1 The decade was beckoning us into a world in which we could no longer know what things were ‘really’ like, because our emotions and our learning processes were now forever intermingled in that variety of experience which we imbibed from a contraption standing between all reality and all perception. After all, in the 1960s we had already passed through a full decade of such vicarious experience. The principal writers on the topic continually emphasised the fusion of ‘emotion’ with ‘cognition’ in the output of the electronic media.
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Notes and References
- 1.Daniel Boorstin, The Image: Whatever Happened to the American Dream? (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1961) p. 3.Google Scholar
- 2.Marshall McLuhan, ‘Candid Conversation’, Playboy March 1969, PP.71–2. Google Scholar
- 3.Harold Mendelsohn and Irving Crespi Polls, Television and the New Politics (Scranton, Pa.: Chandler, 1970).Google Scholar
- 4.Thomas Klapper, The Effects of Mass Communication (New York: Free Press, 1960) p. 8.Google Scholar
- 5.Published in Kurt Lang and Gladys Lang, Politics and Television ( Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1968 ).Google Scholar
- Robert MacNeil, The People Machine: The Influence of Television on American Politics (New York: Harper and Row, 1968) p. xvii.Google Scholar
- 7.Jean-François Revel, Without Marx or Jesus ( London: Paladin, 1972 ).Google Scholar