The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America - Chapter II Section I-III Summary & Analysis

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Section I begins by reiterating Boorstin's assertion that Americans have fooled themselves about how much "greatness" is contained in the world and indeed in individuals. He continues that part of this problem rests in the fact that we have so much capacity for creating fame and have erroneously equated fame with greatness. Boorstin connects the drive towards fame with the graphic revolution and the subsequent ability to create "well-knownness". He suggests that heroes can now be "mass-produced".

Boorstin suggests that the old heroic form has been eroded due to science, democratic beliefs, and a reaction to totalitarian leaders in the form of Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin. He continues that "critical history" and "critical biography" have reduced heroes to mere pawns of "social forces" and historical contexts without individual worth or attributes. Boorstin states that psychological analysis has effectively turned the actions of heroes into compensations for internal psychopathology. Finally, the heroic exploits encountered spontaneously are now being overwhelmed by the deluge of pseudo-events that Americans are exposed to.

In section II, Boorstin posits that in addition to destroying old heroes, leaps in technology have made it difficult to create and recognize new heroes. There are heroic events happening in the sciences; however, these innovations and deeds are occurring outside of most people's ability to grasp. He also makes a distinction between "folk" and "mass". The folk was able to express, ritualize, and able to create heroes. The mass is far more passive, waiting for the emergence of heroes.

In section III, Boorstin explores the roots of the word celebrity, which used to mean a state of being instead of referring to an actual person. He states of the condition of being a celebrity, "The celebrity is a person who is known for his well-knownness". Boorstin goes on to suggest that the celebrity is a kind of "human pseudo-event". Like the word celebrity, the person has been shifted from a state or being to a thing or doing. In order to maintain status as a celebrity, a person must create continuous pseudo-events and become even further disconnected from themselves and others as human beings. Boorstin concludes that unlike heroes, celebrities are unable to expand our experience because they are in essence reflections of us.

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