Image and reality

11 Oct

I’m reading Daniel Boorstin’s The Image. In this, the author dissects the collusion between a celebrity-obsessed media and commercial public relations in staging ‘pseudo-events’ in order to create reality for the public.

When was the book written? Think Berlin Wall, JFK, Cuban Missile Crisis. It was first published in 1962 and to me has lasted better than Vance Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders (1957) which exposed the influence of advertising on American society.

We are now so attuned to advertising that we can filter it out and are no longer shocked at the attempt to influence our buying habits. But public relations? It may not always be persuasive, but it certainly is pervasive.

Some of my postgraduate students, coming new to the subject, seemed shocked when I gave them an example of just such a ‘pseudo-event’ succeeding spectacularly in generating media attention. I have already posted it here. Note this. When the Priory spokesperson was asked on radio whether they had treated anyone with a text messaging addiction, he said that they hadn’t but that it was an example of the type of condition they would expect to treat in future. Pseudo-news, but we’re no longer surprised by its capacity to make headlines.

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