The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America Characters

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Charles Lindbergh

Daniel Boorstin examines the life achievements of Charles Lindbergh in some detail because he believes that he was a good example of a hero but was subsequently "degraded into a celebrity". Boorstin asserts that this degradation separated him from the values that were associated with his heroic feats and thus he became empty. Lindbergh made a historic flight across the Atlantic Ocean in a single propeller plane. Boorstin states that although this feat qualified as heroic, on a day-to-day basis, Lindbergh was "a commonplace person".

Knowing that his story would likely make the press, Lindbergh sold the rights to his story to the New York Times before his departure. Boorstin states that his news coverage was "unprecedented". In fact, his story was so popular that the presses had difficulty in keeping up with the printing. Boorstin describes the media coverage as the "biggest human pseudo-event in modern times". In other words, the actual facts and experiences of Lindbergh's journey were straightforward and simple. The most exciting part about his story was that he was being given so much attention.

Lindbergh's feat was now being eclipsed by his fame. He attempted to extricate himself from the continuous press, but his efforts were interpreted as an attempt to increase his publicity. His marriage and the kidnapping of his son led to renewed attention in the press pushing him even further into celebrity status and leaving behind the heroic nature of his flight. Boorstin states that the press hampered the investigation in several ways including the creation of false clues. Other "celebrities" including "Salvy" Spitale, Irving Blitz, and Al Capone increased their own publicity by becoming involved with the investigation.

Thomas Cook

Daniel Boorstin describes Thomas Cook as a "pioneer in the making and marketing of conducted tours". Cook's tours began in the mid 1800s and consisted of a discounted rate for a group of people taking a train between two cities in England. Eventually his tours expanded to Scotland and Ireland and he organized tours of the Crystal Palace Exposition. He continued to expand to more countries and cities and with his son organized tours in America, Switzerland, and the Holy Land.

Some of the English elite protested Cook's actions because they felt that he was degrading the act of traveling and marring the countryside with the endless miles of tracks that were required for the rail lines. There was a great deal of protest by Englishmen in Italy that now scores of people were flocking to the cities and moving around in large guided groups, ruining the experience of the city. This was the beginning of tourism. Cook defended the tours and proclaimed it a public service, giving lower classes access to the beautiful places of the world. Cook's remains today "the largest travel agency in the world".

Karl Baedeker

Karl Baedeker is described by Boorstin as the "pioneer" of guidebooks, in particular those that gave a kind of script to the locals on how to behave. In the early 1940s Baedeker guides were being purchased by the newly swelling middle class in Europe, eager to use newfound wealth to travel. Baedeker himself at first refused to put anything into the guides that he had not witnessed or experienced personally. This gave his guides a reputation for being incredibly accurate and therefore trustworthy.

Baedeker gave instructions for how to deal with local pests, purchasing food, interactions with locals, etiquette for tipping, and eventually how to comport oneself as if one was local. Baedeker gave instructions for how to be tourists without being annoying to the locals, how to tone down one's personal heritage and fit in to the culture of the country they were visiting. Baedeker had a method of rating sights to see with stars, in order to, like Cook, make it easier for more people to be "cultured". However, this practice led to people checking items off of a list instead of getting a true experience.

De Witt Wallace

DeWitt Wallace was the founder of the Reader's Digest, which he started in the basement office under a speakeasy in Greenwich Village. According to Boorstin, this magazine marked a turning point in the continued development of abridgment of texts. At one point it was speculated that this magazine was read by almost a quarter of all the adults in the nation. Boorstin attributes the popularity of this publication to the continued loss of form and direct experience. As Boorstin states, "The shadow has become the substance." He continues that the digest is the epitome of the manufacture of pseudo-events.

Wallace's technique was to use his own interpretation of articles in other magazines that he transcribed by hand from the New York Public Library. Almost all of the articles that he produced were two pages so that he could fill sixty-two pages with thirty-one articles. In effect, the design was to enable the reader to get a snapshot of lots of different articles, thus the focus was on the reader and not on the writer or editor of the article.

PT Barnum

Boorstin describes PT Barnum as being a "notorious pioneer" in advertising, a true expert in the creation of pseudo-events. Barnum himself boasted about his ability to turn every event towards his own personal gain through the use of advertising techniques. One of these was a kind of "compounding pseudo-events" in which he constructed a pseudo-event and then created a second pseudo-event that was based on the first one. He kept this creation going as long as he could in order to increase his publicity as much as possible.

In the early 1800s Barnum purchased Scudder's American Museum, which was failing at the time. He then added to the already available attractions jugglers, ventriloquists, giants, dwarves, etc. In order to advertise his newly fashioned museum, he devised the "brick man". Essentially a man kept a continual circuit of exchanging bricks at various locations and then entering the museum. Customers would pay the entrance fee to see what the point of the exercise was. Barnum also had great success advertising his "mermaid" using handbills. Boorstin states that, "Barnum's great discovery was not how easy it was to deceive the public, but rather, how much the public enjoyed being deceived."

Conrad Hilton

Conrad Hilton started the famous Hilton Hotel line by acquiring a hotel over the border in Mexico. He started it as a vacation destination with guided tours and activities to attract customers. This hotel eventually became the Chihuahua Hilton. He describes the stars that were gathered for the opening of the Istanbul Hilton and it becomes clear that it is a publicity event.

At the opening of his hotel in Istanbul he stated, "Each of our hotels is a little America." Boorstin comments on the fact that the experience of being in the Istanbul Hilton is so similar to being in any other Hilton that there is a sense of disorientation.

Donald O'Neill

Donald O'Neill, Muzak designer, suggested that his company was not so much in the business of music, more the business of "programming". The company developed particular kinds of music that seemed to go well with particular activities and times of day. He states of the desired intention for music, in particular in factories and offices, "the music must go counter to the industrial fatigue curve." O'Neill continues, "After all, this is basically music to hear, not to listen to."

The music was distributed and played in several different environments including supermarkets, bars, restaurants, airports, etc. Boorstin describes this phenomenon as "musical pseudo-events". Music thus becomes a medium for transmission of images to create moods and sell products.

Walter Lippman

Walter Lippman wrote the book Public Opinion, in which he works to differentiate between internal and external images. He defines the word "stereotype" as a kind of "simplified pattern" that helps people to orient themselves in the world and to give meaning to a vast array of confusing and overwhelming experiences. Boorstin asserts that stereotypes are a kind of pseudo-event, and further that they are a kind of "propaganda". He says that generally pseudo-events seek to embellish while stereotyping tends to narrow.

Joseph McCarthy

Joseph McCarthy was a United States Senator during the 1940s and '50s. Boorstin describes him as being skilled in creating pseudo-events that shared little with the "reality" they were supposedly based on. In particular, he perfected a technique of giving press conferences in the morning so that he could announce afternoon press conferences. In addition he was often able to give a press conference in which no information was transmitted to the public which served only to heighten the public tension. Boorstin states, "Newspapermen were his most potent allies for they were his co-manufacturers of pseudo-events."

Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler suggested that the purpose of propaganda is to sway the "masses". Due to the relative immobility of the masses, however, the best way to get them to respond is through the consistent repetition of "simple ideas". Thus, through repetition and simplicity, truth is made to appear as if it is simpler and more straightforward than it is. Hitler stated that propaganda is intentional skewing of the truth or the message in order to get people to act in a particular way.

This section contains 1,541 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America from BookRags. (c)2017 BookRags, Inc. All rights reserved.
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