The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America - Study Guide Chapter 1 - Section IV and V Summary & Analysis

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Section IV begins with Boorstin's assertion that the influx of pseudo-events has caused the confusion of participant and viewer roles and that both now exist simultaneously. He goes on to discuss the formation of the "leak" as a communication device for government officials. This practice, Boorstin states, leads almost invariably to the creation of more pseudo-events. He gives an example from the 1950s, in which a story about the imminent attack of the Chinese on a group of islands was printed and then retracted a few days later. The first story was a pseudo-event because was printed on the basis of one admiral's opinion, taken out of context, and which was not even generally shared. The second story was also a pseudo-event because its existence was based entirely on the presence of the previous story. Boorstin suggests that leaks come in as a form of testing, to see what the reaction might be from the general populace as well as foreign countries.

Boorstin makes a point of separating pseudo-events from propaganda. He suggests that there are similarities, but that in action and intent the two concepts behave more like opposites. He continues by stating, "While a pseudo-event is an ambiguous truth, propaganda is an appealing falsehood." Hitler made great use of propaganda and the effect was to mobilize millions of people around simple bite-size falsities that were convenient to believe in. Pseudo-events, on the other hand, create distortion through complication.

In section V, Boorstin discusses a change in the way people relate to truth and to image. He suggests that the advances made in American society have served to "blur the edges of reality". Pseudo-events that are now enhanced by technological advancements often make the pseudo reality appear more attractive or believable than reality itself. Walter Lippman, author of Public Opinion, defined the word stereotype and how it is used. According to Lippman, a stereotype is a way of giving rapid meaning to an external person or situation in order to help one orient to a world full of confusing and overwhelming experiences. Boorstin states that stereotypes, like propaganda, tend to narrow experience, while pseudo-events tend to embellish experience.

He posits eight distinct ways in which pseudo-events can "overshadow" real or "spontaneous" events. The first way is that pseudo-events tend to be more "dramatic". The second way is that because pseudo-events have some element of planning, they are easier to distribute. The third way is that they can be repeated and thus "reinforced". The fourth way is that since the production of the events has a cost, there is a desire to get a return on the investment and therefore the events are "magnified". The fifth way is that because of the planning process, pseudo-events tend to be more coherent and thus "reassuring". The sixth way is that planned events are more easily digested and regurgitated in social settings. The seventh way is that knowledge of the event becomes a kind of measure of "being informed". The eighth way is that "pseudo-events spawn other pseudo-events".

This section contains 516 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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