Neal Gabler has written a piece for the Los Angeles Times to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Daniel Boorstin‘s “The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America“.
What is impressive even now about “The Image” is its sweep. There is nothing timid about it. It is epic social history in which Boorstin hoped to provide a unified field theory of cultural decline. Where he led, almost every serious observer of popular culture has followed, from French philosopher Jean Baudrillard to American social critic Neil Postman, to the point where today almost everyone acknowledges what Boorstin so persuasively presented: the emptiness of much of our culture. Whether we share his anger or not, we all know we live in a world of images, a world where everything seems planned for effect rather than substance, and Boorstin no doubt would have had a field day dissecting “reality” shows that have nothing to do with reality beyond the description. They are practically designed to the specifications of Boorstin’s thesis.