Sound Bite Society: Television and the American Mind

Sound Bite Society: Television and the American Mind

by Jeffrey Scheuer, James B. Lieber, Jeffrey Schever
     
 

Since the 1960s, American political life has undergone some major transformations: conservative politicians and values have proliferated, and television has become the main forum for public discourse. In The Sound Bite Society, Jeffrey Scheuer shows how these changes are directly connected and explains that the key to understanding these forces lies in the

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Overview

Since the 1960s, American political life has undergone some major transformations: conservative politicians and values have proliferated, and television has become the main forum for public discourse. In The Sound Bite Society, Jeffrey Scheuer shows how these changes are directly connected and explains that the key to understanding these forces lies in the nature of television and its relationship to ideology. Scheuer asserts that television is an inherently simplistic medium favoring sentimental and one-dimensional communication: visceral sound bites and photo ops. But a vibrant democracy is possible only if conflicting, complex ideas are exchanged. The Sound Bite Society asks if television has served democracy; Scheuer answers with a definitive No. Challenging Americans to resuscitate complexity as part of our public life, this book is crucial to anyone interested in understanding and changing our political landscape.

Editorial Reviews

Michael Walzer
Beautifully written and powerfully argued...social criticism of the best kind.
Linga Franca
Marie Winn
Brilliant....explores the various consequences of television's inherent propensity to simplify complex ideas.
Lingua Franca
Victor Navasky
Part polemic...part rainbow of dazzling insights, no student of the media can afford not to read this book.
Linga Franca
Chicago Tribune
Lively and invigorating...delicious writing style.
New York Times Book Review
Contends that television is inherently hospitable to right-leaning ideology.
Daniel Schorr
Scheuer emerges as not only a first-rank scholar of the media, but a philosopher of the media.
Linga Franca
Booknews
Social critic Scheuer argues that the superficial nature of television has greatly benefitted political conservatism, stifled healthy debate, and hurt democracy in the US. Complexity, he says, is the core of liberalism and the left, while the simplicity television thrives on is the nuclear idea of conservatism. He has not indexed his work. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
James Fallows
Stimulating and enjoyable...new insights...may provoke [a] useful self - examination by liberals.
—James Fallows, The Washington Monthly
Kirkus Reviews
Trying to prove that the right-wing of American politics actually controls the discourse on television and radio is a difficult task, and Scheuer's argument is too obscure to make the case convincingly, even to those who are versed in the intricacies of media studies. Scheuer, who has written about politics and media for a wide range of publications, starts out with a kind of sound bite of his own: Try to name corresponding television personalities on the left to Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson, and Ronald Reagan. Well, one could put forward George Stephanopolous, Jesse Jackson, and the pair of Clintons. But that hardly matters once Scheuer gets into his analysis. He quickly lets go of any concrete examples for weightier and more elusive ones. He first sets out to define what he means by left and right, which could get anyone bogged down in a book-length discussion without going anywhere at all. His notion is that the left views issues in a more complex manner than the right, which sees things in stark moral absolutes. He explains that this doesn't mean that the right is simple or simple-minded, just that it sees a clearer line through most of the topics that attract its attention: abortion, taxation, prayer in schools, etc. He says that these views play easier on television, which reduces everything to its simplest forms. What Scheuer never does, however, is link up this rubric with any concrete examples from mass media. He makes the claim that Limbaugh and Robertson stick out more than liberal commentators do, but he doesn't get into an analysis of audience sizes or specific content. So we know that right-leaning commentators can make sharp, clear statements, but we don't knowexactly who is listening to them or what kind of influence they have. Without enough concrete examples, Scheuer's point about the influence of the right on the minds of Americans sinks into a hole of dry, analytical prose.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781568581415
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
08/28/1999
Pages:
280
Product dimensions:
5.82(w) x 8.53(h) x 0.94(d)
Lexile:
1380L (what's this?)

What People are saying about this

Schorr
Scheuer emerges as a first rank scholar and philosopher of the media.

NPR

Meet the Author

Jeffrey Scheuer writes about politics and the media for publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. He lives in New York City.

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