The Image

In The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, Daniel Boorstin explained that the media and cultural beliefs led to the creation of pseudo-events in American society. With Americans’ assumption of “knowing what the world holds” and having “the power” to shape the world, Boorstin argued that these “extravagant expectations” brought rise to illusions (false realities) that Americans suffer from in society (3). In the book, he explained how pseudo-events began in America. Boorstin also identified the political, social and psychological influence of pseudo-events and explained how the media shaped these “illusions” in society (3).

Public relations “creates events and makes news happen” (11). As public relations rose in society, this led to a rise of pseudo-events. Pseudo-events changed the way journalists gathered and reported the news. Instead of journalists reporting the facts from “spontaneous” events in society, Boorstin believed, the news “lacked spontaneous events, contained the immediate purpose of being reported or reproduced, connected to the underlying reality of an ambiguous situation or intended to be a self-fulfilling prophecy” (11,12). The Graphic Revolution led to the creation of more pseudo-events in society. “The new power to report led newsmen to make probable images to prepare reports in advance” (14). Television news programs increased and incorporated the use of interviews. Thus, it became “necessary to keep the TV screen busy and pressures toward making pseudo-events became ever stronger” (14). Political figures, such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Joseph McCarthy, use of press conferences added to the list of pseudo events that “increased illusions in society” (44).

The Graphic Revolution changed Americans’ perception of “individual greatness” in society. “Two centuries ago when a great man appeared, people looked for God’s purpose in him; today we look for his press agent to make him look great” (45).  As more pseudo-events “flooded the Americans’ experience” and satisfied Americans’ expectations, these events changed the meaning of a hero (44). The “democratic beliefs and the rise of scientific insights into human behavior nibbled away at the heroes inherited from the past”(49). Thus, celebrities emerged as the new “heroes” of the age. “The celebrity is a person who is known for his well-knownness” (57). Celebrities needed pseudo-events to maintain their status. In the past, a hero “was born of time: his gestation required at least a generation” (62). The media created celebrities. Celebrities required publicity from the media, controlled the flow of publicity and managed the circulation of images to maintain their status. The rise of celebrities led to the downfall of real heroes.

Traveling also created pseudo-events in society. With Americans’ expectation for things to be “exotic” in nature, this led to the commoditization of things, giving Americans an exotic illusion (79). Early travelers started movements in thought, art and ways of living. As the Graphic Revolution made things accessible to the middle class, traveling changed to tourism. Traveling became a homogenized, American commodity. “The airline stewardess is a pretty symbol of the new homogenized blandness of the tourist’s world” (95). Instead of Americans experiencing spontaneous events while traveling, they came became tourists through pre-planned events and commodities that gave them a passive experience. Museums, attractions and tourism guides, “shared fictitious, pseudo-eventful quality” (101). Things of this nature gave Americans a false representation of a country.

“The “democratic revolution” and the “Graphic Revolution” created the abridgement and the mass production of art and literature in society. (119). The increase of printing presses allowed “weeklies to sell books as supplements and extras to secure a cheap postal rate” (122). Colored print presses, the industrialization of bookbinding and the creation of plaster and metallic led to mass production of devalued artwork. The “abridgement of literature” in digests, the rise of computers and paperback books tendency to reprint old instead of new material increased the decline of literature. Movies and Broadway shows provided “new influences on popular attitudes toward literature” (144). As Boorstin stated, these mediums provided “only images” of the original literary content (180).

Pseudo-events filtered society, and as Boorstin stated, “there was a shift from moral value to commercial value” of images” (181). While “God created man” in his own image, Boorstin stated, “images in society became synthetic, overshadowing to the original work, passive, vivid and simplified” (196). This led to the differences between “image-thinking” and “ideal-thinking” (197). The rise of advertising and its shift from “truth” to “credibility” increased Americans’ belief in image thinking and created more false realities in society.

As pseudo-events spread through all areas of society, Americans built a false reality of “prestige” (239). Instead of Americans “filling their lives” with the experience, they filled their lives with the images of experience” (250). Thus, society fell into a pattern of “social narcissism” (257). Boorstin stated, “individuals must “discover their illusions” before they can determine where “dreams end and illusions begin” (261).