The Use of Language in Communication and Its Influence on People in the Book, Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman

Categories: Literature

In Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death, he goes into extensive detail on how language is used in communication and how it influences people. In chapter two “Media as Epistemology”, he discusses how certain information outlets often are the deciding factor for what information is deemed truth and what is labeled as opinion. I found that the determinacy of truth in different societies is measured by someone’s choice of medium, their use of appropriate rhetoric, and their ability to evoke resonance.

The medium we decide to use to convey our message is very important depending on the time period were in or the location we are presently at. Postman states “Our written statement would represent the “truth.” Our oral agreement would be only a rumor” (21). I believe he is explaining that speech has become an irrelevant medium to display the truth because the written word is more permanent and does not vanish after being expressed. The platform you choose must have present credibility (21).

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The truth in today’s world is represented through the medium of television in wealthy nations, but what about the undeveloped nations who still live in tribes? African tribes do not find truth in television, it has no cultural significance to them because they do not recognize its existence. They rely on “oral traditions” to discover truth (18).

Acceptable mediums in societies change over time and the only way to continue to be relevant is to adapt to using the particular medium of the society. In addition, there must be a specific arrangement of the information in order for it to be taken seriously.

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Postman states “Rhetoric… [is] a near indispensable means of organizing evidence and proofs, and therefore of communicating truth” (22). I believe he is expressing the importance of the way information is put together in this passage. Depending on the nature of the field someone works, there are specific methods used for displaying their process for reaching their results and the results themselves. When writing up an experiment in a scientific field, there are strict rules for what terms and techniques can be used for demonstrating statistical data (19).

Similarly, economic information must be presented in a suitable fashion to be given credibility. It has been deemed by Postman that “truth in economics… [is] best discovered and expressed in numbers” (23). There must be appropriate rhetoric used if language is to ever reach the pedestal of truth.

Lastly, information can only be viewed as truth if it evokes resonance among the people of the society. Postman states “”Through resonance,”…”a particular statement in a particular context acquires a universal significance”” (17). I believe his quote of Northrop Frye was used to describe how information only becomes truth if it has a lasting impact on people. Resonance creates an impression our “consciousness” (17). Only certain mediums of information create resonance among people depending on the situation. In dealings with the law, speech only creates resonance in the courtroom during the testimony and the jury’s decision, but only written law resonates with how the judge handles the proceedings in court (19). Similarly, in academia you must be able to orally explain your research, but the physical document creates more resonance than the oral component (20). Maintaining resonance is a tricky task, but is vital for information to be determined as truth.

In culmination, the conclusion of truth in information is reached through the type of medium, use of correct rhetoric, and the capability to produce resonance. When used correctly, these communication tactics sum up the definition of societal truth.

Works cited

  1. Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. 20th Anniversary ed. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Penguin, 2006. Print.

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The Use of Language in Communication and Its Influence on People in the Book, Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman. (2022, Apr 01). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-use-of-language-in-communication-and-its-influence-on-people-in-the-book-amusing-ourselves-to-death-by-neil-postman-essay

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