Thanks to Lindsey I started reading The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America by historian Daniel J. Boorstin. It has been excellent and I have saved a few quotes from it to randomly post on the blog. It is amazing how predictive Boorstin was (the book was first published in 1962) and how much it has to say about the time we are currently living within.
Here’s one portion that struck me.
UNTIL RECENTLY we have been justified in believing Abraham Lincoln’s familiar maxim: “You may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all the time.” This has been the foundation‑belief of American democracy. Lincoln’s appealing slogan rests on two elementary assumptions. First, that there is a clear and visible distinction between sham and reality, between the lies a demagogue would have us believe and the truths which are there all the time. Second, that the people tend to prefer reality to sham, that if offered a choice between a simple truth and a contrived image, they will prefer the truth.
Neither of these any longer fits the facts. Not because people are less intelligent or more dishonest. Rather because great unforeseen changes — the great forward strides of American civilization — have blurred the edges of reality. The pseudo‑events which flood our consciousness are neither true nor false in the old familiar senses. The very same advances which have made them possible have also made the images — ‑however planned, contrived, or distorted — more vivid, more attractive, more, impressive, and more persuasive than reality itself.
Boorstin’s thought here reminds me of some of Jean Baudrillard‘s thought in his work Simulacra and Simulation. So much of what we consider “real” events and news aren’t real at all but merely simulations of real events and news, and the saddest thing of all is that we prefer the simulation to reality.