Anyone who opens Neil Postman's 1985 bestseller "We Amuse Each Other" again cannot avoid finding the TV and Twitter President Donald Trump very well sketched in it. The leveling of the generic distinction between news and entertainment, the rise of infotainment, has had the disastrous consequences that Postman warned about 36 years ago. "The Donald" from the reality show and the President of the United States were de facto indistinguishable and fired consultants, press officers and lawyers not only in the same style, but also almost in the same rhythm. Until recently, Trump seemed to be on some kind of reality show.
And yet one could suspect or even hope that Postman's diagnosis was done with the digital revolution.
Television, which has recently been called “linear” and broadcasts at fixed times, still exists, but its importance is dwindling.
Citizens today consume their series, their news, their content with “time sovereignty”.
Television is no longer an “epistemological control center” according to which our communication world is organized.
The digital sphere with its very heterogeneous offerings was most likely to become a “meta-medium” in Postman's sense.
And the aesthetics of surfing, zooming in and out, clicking on and cross-referencing has long since spread to television.
Internet aesthetics have long been taken for granted
Postman's objection to infotainment remains illuminating, even under changed conditions. Mixing news and entertainment is not just a throwback to the imperatives of functional differentiation. A delimitation also takes place because the aesthetic forms are omnipresent. Even in podcasts about the crisis in Eastern Ukraine, the editors of German weekly newspapers giggle like schoolchildren.
Postman described the hidden co-presence of television as "background radiation"; it is "so familiar to us and so completely integrated into American culture that we can no longer hear the faint whistling in the background and no longer see the flickering light". This formulation is reminiscent of Edmund Husserl's concept of the lifeworld. Under this program title, the philosopher had summarized the sum of those non-thematized self-evident things that first allow us to perceive and describe his phenomenological method. That the theater is increasingly orienting itself towards the click and hopping aesthetics of Postman's “cuckoo world” of eventful importance, that films look like computer games, news like homepages, history books like Netflix series,is explained by the common foundation in a living environment: The Internet aesthetics have long been too natural to still attract our attention.
Infotainment as a living environment is not a naturally grown space. There are actors. Bild LIVE, the digital "news" portal, merges television and the digital world to create an amalgam of multimedia infotainment. Postman readers will have a hell of a pleasure predicting the long-term effects of such innovations on our political culture.Keywords: