Monday, February 13, 2006

"An Incitement to Postman" by Joel Zartman

The following article was written by Joel Zartman.



Neil Postman. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. Penguin: New York, 1985.

This book is one of the books nobody ought to neglect. It isn’t hard to read. It isn’t long either. It is twenty years old now and the only thing that has changed is that it rings more true than before. We have not listened very closely to Postman’s warning.

Postman is one of those chaps who sat around thinking about things. Unlike most people who sit around thinking about things and then perpetrate them on the public either by way of ink and paper or a blog, he was actually more successful at thinking about things than not. His books are worth reading. His trouble is that he’s a friendly critic of modernity. But for what he’s doing, that is no great trouble. Postman remembers the age of print and holds it up against the age of the image, the age when public events are being reported and even conducted on the television. His argument is that the age of the image is an inferior age, one that is antagonistic to serious discourse because the medium in which it is conducted has a bias against reasoned discourse.

What Postman argues is that the medium of film and television have a bias. Every medium has a bias. For example: he argues that the printing press, while capable of reproducing images, is biased against them. The printing press did not usher in books filled with illustrations. There were illustrations, there were even books full of illustrations, but in the main, the medium of print gave us books full of letters and words and sentences. This is its bias. The bias of television and film is toward images. In one chapter Postman lists the possible uses he has known that are made of a TV. It can be used as a lamp, as a table, as a bookshelf even or as a flat surface on which to project text. But its bias is revealed in that for which it is most successfully used. And this use, he argues, tends toward irrational associations that degrade serious discourse.

I should go so far as to say that embedded in the surrealistic frame of a television news show is a theory of anticommunication, featuring a type of discourse that abandons logic, reason, sequence and rules of contradiction. In aesthetics, I believe the name given to this theory is Dadaism; in philosophy, nihilism; in psychiatry, schizophrenia. In the parlance of the theater, it is known as vaudeville (105).

Want proof? Consider, Postman urges, how long anything takes on a TV news report. How long is an "in-depth" story? Look about the little pictures they flash beside the talking head and ask how much it really has to do with the story, how much it really adds, or why they keep showing that same tedious sequence. Ask yourself about the value of "live" reports, why they need to conjure up the air of immediacy with spontaneous comments from generals or civilians with nothing really useful to say. Just notice what the basis of the appeal is for most commercials. On what grounds do they expect you to get their product?

In the first half of the book Postman explains the basis for the evaluation he is making. Here is where he talks about mediums of communication and their bias. Here is where he contrasts the previous ages with the present age and where he gives you the explanations of the differences between language and image very thoroughly. I think anybody who engages in communication in our day ought to read this. I think people who put vaguely associated little pictures on their blogs ought to consider it. Seriously, the way he treats this whole matter applies to blogs and I think some with their fondness for clever and cute graphics and magazine illustration pretensions ought to regard what postman says. Postman convinces at least me when he points out the ways in which irrational behavior is less than harmless. And it says much of our age that we even need an argument to demonstrate that irrational things are harmful. But try putting that in the comments of a post with some very vaguely connected image. You will either receive fatuous derision and scorn, or a dismissal.

The second half of the book deals specifically with the degrading of serious discourse in four areas of life, then draws conclusions. First Postman deals with the degradation of current events that forms what we know as "the news." Then he lights into TV evangelists and the whole sordid world of religion on TV which he treats in such as way as would make a saint rejoice exceedingly. It is a very salutary bit of writing and if you need something to make your heart glad and to expose the folly of the unrighteous as it should be exposed, try this. Then he deals with politics specifically, showing how campaigning has deteriorated. He calls the chapter "Reach out and elect someone." The last chapter before the conclusion is the one that deals with so-called educational television. This chapter takes on Sesame Street and has the power to set you against the whole genre, if you aren’t already. One very thought-provoking suggestion that Postman makes at the end of the chapter on religion which ties in with the educational chapter is how the TV spreads outside of itself and starts fashioning the religious and educational endeavors of real life into its own degraded image. It is humiliating to think that the structure of our worship of the living God has so much in common and draws so many of the unquestioned assumptions on which it rests from a medium unsuited to anything but the most vulgar entertainment. But it is not surprising, for the thoughtlessness that is the bias of this media is the thoughtlessness that characterizes and permeates all our lives.

You might wonder if this is an overstatement. There has been thoughtlessness in ages quite devoid of cathode ray tubes, antennae or remote controls. I would answer that we have only increased our capacity for thoughtlessness (more precisely, we have decreased our capacity for thoughtfulness and live at a disadvantage). We are worse off.

Now the reason I was urged by Ryan to work on something out of Postman was to address his present attempts to challenge the assumption about the Gospel and film in the whole situation which we shall here designate Sharper Spear. Postman’s argument is that putting anything serious into the medium of the TV will inevitably degrade it. "Entertainment is the supra-ideology of all discourse on television" (87). Nobody who really cares about their message will do so. Perhaps you will ask if Postman distinguishes film and television. He does. Do you know what he says? It is in the context of telling us why TV is worse than other mass media such as radio or records or films. "No one goes to a movie to find out about government policy or the latest scientific advances" (92). His point is that we do expect serious things from TV. Isn’t it telling that Postman assumed that movies were only used for entertainment, not serious business? Isn’t it curious that the people who seem to think films can be used for talking about government policy and religion are Michael Moore and Jason Janz? Now it seems to me that what Postman says suggests two things: either those who want the Gospel put into a film are ignorant, or they are evil. They are ignorant if they neglect to consider the nature of the medium they employ. They are evil if they understand the nature of the medium they employ and use it to degrade the message given out. Charity suggests we chalk it up to ignorance. For that ignorance we recommend Postman’s book.

30 Comments:

Blogger Paul Weir said...

Are educational home satelite programs valid, in your opinion?

2/13/2006 11:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Joel said...

I've never used any. I'd be skeptical. I've been in graduate classes which were having good discussion till the teacher decided to show a video and all was lost. I was surprised how much an educational video trashed the conversation.

2/13/2006 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger filosofo said...

>> Isn't it curious that the people who seem to think films can be used for talking about government policy and religion are Michael Moore and Jason Janz?

Also curiously, the people who seem to think guilt by association makes for "thoughtfulness" are Ted Kennedy and Joel Zartman.

2/13/2006 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger Paul Weir said...

I am refering more to something like BJ LINC: teaching classes over satelite into classrooms, not nesecarily showing movies as such. Is it just the fact that it is being broadcast through a television that gives it an unhealthy bias?

Paul Weir
Whitewater, WI

2/13/2006 01:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

It is hard to say Paul. I'm guessing Postman would be able to find something. I'd leave it to him though. and remain skeptical.

2/13/2006 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger lilrabbi said...

filosofo-

But it IS curious, is it not? If men like Postman, Tozer, Augustine, etc., were against such a thing, isn't it curious that one of 'our own' would disagree with THEM and side with folks like Moore and Gibson and those who delight in hiring gay actors to portray Christ's martyrs?

2/13/2006 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger lilrabbi said...

Hey Joel,

Is it still okay to have the picture of me and my gorgeous fiance (110 days!) next to my name on blogs?

2/13/2006 03:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

Lilrabbi,

I'm not sure about premarital pictures. If the wedding were over, then I'd be less hesitant.

2/13/2006 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Anderson said...

Not that my opinion matters, but I think the comment about Janz & Moore is unnecessarily caustic. You can disagree with someone without that kind of rhetoric.

Also, Jesse, I'm not sure that it's fair to say that Jason has "sided" with Moore, Gibson & ETE. Yikes.

(Waiting for "fatuous derision and scorn, or a dismissal.")

2/13/2006 04:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

I don't agree with you Chris. It illustrates Postman's point about using such media for such ends rather well, if I do say so myself!

2/13/2006 04:34:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Anderson said...

I disagree. I think you're being unfair & imprecise.

First, you describe Janz & Moore as "the people who..." as though their opinions were unique to them. You could just as easily have chosen an institution like BJU (insert insult here) instead of Janz.

Also, you're not precise. Your statement is about as accurate as saying that Hugh Hefner & Mark Minnick are "the people who seem to think magazines can be used for promoting sensuality and religion."

I'm sure my ignorance is on display. Enlighten me. :-)

2/13/2006 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger filosofo said...

>>But it IS curious, is it not? If men like Postman, Tozer, Augustine, etc., were against such a thing, isn't it curious that one of 'our own' would disagree with THEM and side with folks like Moore and Gibson and those who delight in hiring gay actors to portray Christ's martyrs?

lilrabbi, it's only as curious as the fact that you and Hitler both wear pants. Zartman knows Janz and Moore don't have a common ideology, so his insinuation is either a wrongful slur or ignorance about what makes legitimate reasoning. Charity suggests we chalk it up to ignorance. For that ignorance I recommend any book discussing logical fallacies: see the index for "undistributed middle."

2/13/2006 05:56:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

In the interest of clarity in this discussion, I might kindly point out that the similarity Joel finds between Moore and Janz is not their ideology.

2/13/2006 07:06:00 PM  
Blogger lilrabbi said...

I'm guessing Joel guessed that we would know that he wasn't saying they had a similar ideology. Since we're talking about movies and so forth, Joel probably assumed we would take his comment as having to do with movies. It is a valid point. And he could have said 'bju' or whoever else and the point would still stand. Joel can speak for himself, but I assume that since Jason has been the 'other side' that has been on the front burner of late, he was the most obvious one to put in the illustration.

Now, if we were talking about pants and whether that was okay or not, then you would have a point, filosofo. As it is, we're not talking about pants.

You may be right about the undistributed middle. I have no idea at the moment.

2/13/2006 07:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

Clearly these opinions are not unique to the two persons in question. Substitute Steven Spielberg if you like. I don't think his Munich is taken so much as a statement on foreing policy as Moore's Farenheit 911 is. Should I put in Peter Jackson? I don't think he wants to really do anything serious. Maybe you know more film directors than I do and could find one more suitable as an instance of attempting a serious statement about foreign policy in a film?

Perhaps you're right, Chris, and I should apologize to Moore for being caustic. After all, he's only trifling with foreign policy.

As for filosofo, lilrabbi, let him be. To a man with a hammer . . .

2/13/2006 07:49:00 PM  
Blogger filosofo said...

Guilty as charged, Joel.

Now if only your thumbs weren't so bruised.

2/13/2006 08:21:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Anderson said...

Oh...I get it. We're talking about directors. That's why Janz was such an obvious choice to put as the religious counterpart to Moore. (?????)

Joel, I'm trying to figure out why you would defend the gospel from the film genre here (which, BTW, is a point on which we are closer than we appear), then (unless I'm mistaken) argue that Catholic universities are preferable to Bible colleges at my place. Mercy, which poses a greater threat?

(Note to self: don't ask apparently rhetorical questions which will probably be answered differently than you expect.)

I must be missing something. Ryan, I'll try to keep up with your articles on the issue. I may even give Postman a read. I'm just surprised that Janz's "Gospel" article, which I thought was very good, has made him a target.

2/13/2006 08:29:00 PM  
Blogger filosofo said...

Ryan and lilrabbi,
Clearly Zartman meant to say that because Janz and Moore have something in common--that they think films can be used for religion (I'm taking his word on this)--that there must be more in common. Otherwise, the remark would have no more relevance than the pants, and it would not be curious at all.

2/13/2006 08:34:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

filosofo, I know they have movies in common. They have two things in common, one of which is the fact they believe motion pictures can meaningfully address serious matters, the other which is not ideology.

2/13/2006 08:43:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Chris, Janz is not the target. Janz is advocating the position with which we have serious disagreements. He holds this position, and has advocating it recently and publically. I am interested in presenting another position. I believed that my article on entertainment had deficiencies, and so I asked Joel to supplement it with some Postman. The only reason Janz is of any consequence is because he is the one advocating that movies should have the gospel clearly presented in them. I do not want this position, or the assumptions undergirding it, to be acceptable among fundamentalists. Therefore I am offering some feeble attempts at a better way. As I said in my first article on this, Janz's piece had strengths, but the underlying premises were wrong--too wrong to leave them without comment. Again, because he is the one closest to us currently propagating the validity of movies and the gospel, he will come up from time to time in our comments.

2/13/2006 08:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

Chris,

Clearly the Bible College poses the greater threat. But still, reading Postman would help us to avoid other threats.

Postman says that the medium degrades the message.
Janz says he wants more of the message on that medium.
I say how is this different from Michael Moore?

Can you follow that?

2/14/2006 07:05:00 AM  
Blogger filosofo said...

>>Postman says that the medium degrades the message.
Janz says he wants more of the message on that medium.
I say how is this different from Michael Moore?


Do you seriously think this says something meaningful? 99.99% of the world thinks movies are good at conveying important messages. They may be wrong, and they may share, in this one respect, something with Michael Moore. But so what?

What else can we say? Can we say therefore they're all demagogues, too? Can we say they're all fat guys who make propaganda? No, not based on this one fact.

The problem is that either you are saying something trivial--Moore and Janz both think movies can convey important messages, just like almost everyone else--or you're saying something fallacious--because Moore and Janz have this one thing (or maybe 2+, Ryan) in common, therefore Janz is a demagogue, or a fat guy who makes propaganda, etc.

Which is it?

2/14/2006 08:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Joel said...

I am saying something trivial.

"Moore and Janz both think movies can convey important messages." + Postman doesn't.

And let us not kid ourselves by thinking that the percentage of people who agree with me is as high as 0.01. It is probably far lower.

2/14/2006 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Anderson said...

How I got on what probably appears to be the “pro-movie” side of this…um…discussion is beyond me. (BTW, Joel, the "Maybe you know more film directors than I do" was a nice dig. How's the view from the high road?) I do believe (as I may have mentioned?) that the criticism of Janz is unwarranted, especially the connection to Moore, whose name is certain to bring more heat than light to this or any other discussion.

That said, I do believe that the movie genre has done little to help the gospel and much to hurt it. And I believe that its use is indicative of the typical M.O. of evangelicalism. A week ago today :

“Sadly, this is another trend that is all too common among evangelicals: gospel messages that lack the gospel message. Preaching has too often been replaced by singing and filmmaking and novel-writing, and the gospel has been increasing muted in order to ‘gain a hearing.’ (A hearing for what, exactly?)” (emphasis new)

Don’t bother looking up the rest of the paragraph. You won’t like it.

I’m still not certain that drama is absolutely incapable or inappropriate as a means for gospel truth. Perhaps the problem is in the idea that drama=entertainment. Perhaps that is too simplistic. It seems that it could equally be applied to music or paintings or fiction. In fact, I wonder why you guys—fans of Narnia and writers of fiction—don’t have the same problem with that? Why are “still” pictures okay? Why is “fiction” okay? I’m genuinely interested in your answers. If you’ve given them before & I’ve missed them, I apologize.

2/14/2006 01:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

You really ought to read Postman. His book is an argument against using the media because the very nature of the media one uses shapes what comes out. I'll work on something about print, fiction etc.

It is a good question Chris. One we ought to be able to give you a good answer on. I should go back to the places where I found answers. I started reading this stuff 10 years ago when Trainer first gave me Amusing Ourselves to Death. I have the idea Hans Rookmaker also has helpful stuff about it in Modern Art and the Death of a Culture and I want to look there.

2/14/2006 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Anderson said...

Sorry about the formatting snafu.

FWIW, I've ordered the book...$6 delivered.

2/14/2006 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Chris, Joel said what I was going to, and will say better anything I could add.

Postman's point is that the medium shapes or impacts the message. Each medium has a different way that it impacts the message. We do not mean to say that books are equivalent with movies just as we would not make movies equivalent with sculpture.

These media are not all the same in the way they affect the message you are trying to communicate.

2/14/2006 11:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Ted Kennedy said...

One day Joel was sitting at the ETE headquarters trying to think of how to slam Janz.
"I know, I'll try to go one better on him than the whole Gospel deal, I'll knock movies!"
"That's all very well, here, you can use Postman for that," said one of the ETE minions.
"You've read Postman?"
"That's the basis for it all."

Several hours later . . .

"I've got this part where Postman says nobody would go to a movie to get something serious about foreign policy, and I can't think of anything that would contradict that." Joel mused.
Ryan Martin, the president ex-officio of ETE said, "How about Peter Jackson, or is that too low?"
There was a loud boom, and smoke and the smell of sulphur. Sauron entered.
"Master!" all the minions of ETE cried. Ryan and Joel looked uneasy (they were not minions you see, oh no!). Sauron was always curbing their ambitions.
"Peter Jackson!" Sauron said with scorn. "Try Michael Moore instead!"
Every face turned pale with horror and delight.
"Fiendishly cunning!" Ryan said.
"Michael Moore, he has the same ideology as Janz!" Joel said.
"Are you sure we should do that?" said the guy with the hotline to the
FBI. "I have misgivings about doing anything that low. I mean, that's caustic. Somebody is bound to notice that."
"MUHAHAHAHAHAHAH"
"What about the Philosophers? What if they send a representative to debunk us?" Ryan asked.
"We'll have to chance it," Sauron said. "This is our last opportunity to throw Janz under the bus."
"They'll throw logic at us, they have the book!" Ryan wailed.
"Yeah," Joel said, "What about the excluded middle, or the accusation of triviality?"
"We'd never stand up against it," Sauron said. "But we'll have to chance it."

2/15/2006 06:58:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

That's exactly how it happened. Did you know Sauron wears Nikes?

2/15/2006 09:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Joel said...

Check this:

http://catholica.pontifications.net/?p=1406

2/15/2006 10:12:00 AM  

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Immoderate: "An Incitement to Postman" by Joel Zartman

Monday, February 13, 2006

"An Incitement to Postman" by Joel Zartman

The following article was written by Joel Zartman.



Neil Postman. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. Penguin: New York, 1985.

This book is one of the books nobody ought to neglect. It isn’t hard to read. It isn’t long either. It is twenty years old now and the only thing that has changed is that it rings more true than before. We have not listened very closely to Postman’s warning.

Postman is one of those chaps who sat around thinking about things. Unlike most people who sit around thinking about things and then perpetrate them on the public either by way of ink and paper or a blog, he was actually more successful at thinking about things than not. His books are worth reading. His trouble is that he’s a friendly critic of modernity. But for what he’s doing, that is no great trouble. Postman remembers the age of print and holds it up against the age of the image, the age when public events are being reported and even conducted on the television. His argument is that the age of the image is an inferior age, one that is antagonistic to serious discourse because the medium in which it is conducted has a bias against reasoned discourse.

What Postman argues is that the medium of film and television have a bias. Every medium has a bias. For example: he argues that the printing press, while capable of reproducing images, is biased against them. The printing press did not usher in books filled with illustrations. There were illustrations, there were even books full of illustrations, but in the main, the medium of print gave us books full of letters and words and sentences. This is its bias. The bias of television and film is toward images. In one chapter Postman lists the possible uses he has known that are made of a TV. It can be used as a lamp, as a table, as a bookshelf even or as a flat surface on which to project text. But its bias is revealed in that for which it is most successfully used. And this use, he argues, tends toward irrational associations that degrade serious discourse.

I should go so far as to say that embedded in the surrealistic frame of a television news show is a theory of anticommunication, featuring a type of discourse that abandons logic, reason, sequence and rules of contradiction. In aesthetics, I believe the name given to this theory is Dadaism; in philosophy, nihilism; in psychiatry, schizophrenia. In the parlance of the theater, it is known as vaudeville (105).

Want proof? Consider, Postman urges, how long anything takes on a TV news report. How long is an "in-depth" story? Look about the little pictures they flash beside the talking head and ask how much it really has to do with the story, how much it really adds, or why they keep showing that same tedious sequence. Ask yourself about the value of "live" reports, why they need to conjure up the air of immediacy with spontaneous comments from generals or civilians with nothing really useful to say. Just notice what the basis of the appeal is for most commercials. On what grounds do they expect you to get their product?

In the first half of the book Postman explains the basis for the evaluation he is making. Here is where he talks about mediums of communication and their bias. Here is where he contrasts the previous ages with the present age and where he gives you the explanations of the differences between language and image very thoroughly. I think anybody who engages in communication in our day ought to read this. I think people who put vaguely associated little pictures on their blogs ought to consider it. Seriously, the way he treats this whole matter applies to blogs and I think some with their fondness for clever and cute graphics and magazine illustration pretensions ought to regard what postman says. Postman convinces at least me when he points out the ways in which irrational behavior is less than harmless. And it says much of our age that we even need an argument to demonstrate that irrational things are harmful. But try putting that in the comments of a post with some very vaguely connected image. You will either receive fatuous derision and scorn, or a dismissal.

The second half of the book deals specifically with the degrading of serious discourse in four areas of life, then draws conclusions. First Postman deals with the degradation of current events that forms what we know as "the news." Then he lights into TV evangelists and the whole sordid world of religion on TV which he treats in such as way as would make a saint rejoice exceedingly. It is a very salutary bit of writing and if you need something to make your heart glad and to expose the folly of the unrighteous as it should be exposed, try this. Then he deals with politics specifically, showing how campaigning has deteriorated. He calls the chapter "Reach out and elect someone." The last chapter before the conclusion is the one that deals with so-called educational television. This chapter takes on Sesame Street and has the power to set you against the whole genre, if you aren’t already. One very thought-provoking suggestion that Postman makes at the end of the chapter on religion which ties in with the educational chapter is how the TV spreads outside of itself and starts fashioning the religious and educational endeavors of real life into its own degraded image. It is humiliating to think that the structure of our worship of the living God has so much in common and draws so many of the unquestioned assumptions on which it rests from a medium unsuited to anything but the most vulgar entertainment. But it is not surprising, for the thoughtlessness that is the bias of this media is the thoughtlessness that characterizes and permeates all our lives.

You might wonder if this is an overstatement. There has been thoughtlessness in ages quite devoid of cathode ray tubes, antennae or remote controls. I would answer that we have only increased our capacity for thoughtlessness (more precisely, we have decreased our capacity for thoughtfulness and live at a disadvantage). We are worse off.

Now the reason I was urged by Ryan to work on something out of Postman was to address his present attempts to challenge the assumption about the Gospel and film in the whole situation which we shall here designate Sharper Spear. Postman’s argument is that putting anything serious into the medium of the TV will inevitably degrade it. "Entertainment is the supra-ideology of all discourse on television" (87). Nobody who really cares about their message will do so. Perhaps you will ask if Postman distinguishes film and television. He does. Do you know what he says? It is in the context of telling us why TV is worse than other mass media such as radio or records or films. "No one goes to a movie to find out about government policy or the latest scientific advances" (92). His point is that we do expect serious things from TV. Isn’t it telling that Postman assumed that movies were only used for entertainment, not serious business? Isn’t it curious that the people who seem to think films can be used for talking about government policy and religion are Michael Moore and Jason Janz? Now it seems to me that what Postman says suggests two things: either those who want the Gospel put into a film are ignorant, or they are evil. They are ignorant if they neglect to consider the nature of the medium they employ. They are evil if they understand the nature of the medium they employ and use it to degrade the message given out. Charity suggests we chalk it up to ignorance. For that ignorance we recommend Postman’s book.

30 Comments:

Blogger Paul Weir said...

Are educational home satelite programs valid, in your opinion?

2/13/2006 11:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Joel said...

I've never used any. I'd be skeptical. I've been in graduate classes which were having good discussion till the teacher decided to show a video and all was lost. I was surprised how much an educational video trashed the conversation.

2/13/2006 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger filosofo said...

>> Isn't it curious that the people who seem to think films can be used for talking about government policy and religion are Michael Moore and Jason Janz?

Also curiously, the people who seem to think guilt by association makes for "thoughtfulness" are Ted Kennedy and Joel Zartman.

2/13/2006 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger Paul Weir said...

I am refering more to something like BJ LINC: teaching classes over satelite into classrooms, not nesecarily showing movies as such. Is it just the fact that it is being broadcast through a television that gives it an unhealthy bias?

Paul Weir
Whitewater, WI

2/13/2006 01:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

It is hard to say Paul. I'm guessing Postman would be able to find something. I'd leave it to him though. and remain skeptical.

2/13/2006 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger lilrabbi said...

filosofo-

But it IS curious, is it not? If men like Postman, Tozer, Augustine, etc., were against such a thing, isn't it curious that one of 'our own' would disagree with THEM and side with folks like Moore and Gibson and those who delight in hiring gay actors to portray Christ's martyrs?

2/13/2006 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger lilrabbi said...

Hey Joel,

Is it still okay to have the picture of me and my gorgeous fiance (110 days!) next to my name on blogs?

2/13/2006 03:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

Lilrabbi,

I'm not sure about premarital pictures. If the wedding were over, then I'd be less hesitant.

2/13/2006 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Anderson said...

Not that my opinion matters, but I think the comment about Janz & Moore is unnecessarily caustic. You can disagree with someone without that kind of rhetoric.

Also, Jesse, I'm not sure that it's fair to say that Jason has "sided" with Moore, Gibson & ETE. Yikes.

(Waiting for "fatuous derision and scorn, or a dismissal.")

2/13/2006 04:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

I don't agree with you Chris. It illustrates Postman's point about using such media for such ends rather well, if I do say so myself!

2/13/2006 04:34:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Anderson said...

I disagree. I think you're being unfair & imprecise.

First, you describe Janz & Moore as "the people who..." as though their opinions were unique to them. You could just as easily have chosen an institution like BJU (insert insult here) instead of Janz.

Also, you're not precise. Your statement is about as accurate as saying that Hugh Hefner & Mark Minnick are "the people who seem to think magazines can be used for promoting sensuality and religion."

I'm sure my ignorance is on display. Enlighten me. :-)

2/13/2006 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger filosofo said...

>>But it IS curious, is it not? If men like Postman, Tozer, Augustine, etc., were against such a thing, isn't it curious that one of 'our own' would disagree with THEM and side with folks like Moore and Gibson and those who delight in hiring gay actors to portray Christ's martyrs?

lilrabbi, it's only as curious as the fact that you and Hitler both wear pants. Zartman knows Janz and Moore don't have a common ideology, so his insinuation is either a wrongful slur or ignorance about what makes legitimate reasoning. Charity suggests we chalk it up to ignorance. For that ignorance I recommend any book discussing logical fallacies: see the index for "undistributed middle."

2/13/2006 05:56:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

In the interest of clarity in this discussion, I might kindly point out that the similarity Joel finds between Moore and Janz is not their ideology.

2/13/2006 07:06:00 PM  
Blogger lilrabbi said...

I'm guessing Joel guessed that we would know that he wasn't saying they had a similar ideology. Since we're talking about movies and so forth, Joel probably assumed we would take his comment as having to do with movies. It is a valid point. And he could have said 'bju' or whoever else and the point would still stand. Joel can speak for himself, but I assume that since Jason has been the 'other side' that has been on the front burner of late, he was the most obvious one to put in the illustration.

Now, if we were talking about pants and whether that was okay or not, then you would have a point, filosofo. As it is, we're not talking about pants.

You may be right about the undistributed middle. I have no idea at the moment.

2/13/2006 07:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

Clearly these opinions are not unique to the two persons in question. Substitute Steven Spielberg if you like. I don't think his Munich is taken so much as a statement on foreing policy as Moore's Farenheit 911 is. Should I put in Peter Jackson? I don't think he wants to really do anything serious. Maybe you know more film directors than I do and could find one more suitable as an instance of attempting a serious statement about foreign policy in a film?

Perhaps you're right, Chris, and I should apologize to Moore for being caustic. After all, he's only trifling with foreign policy.

As for filosofo, lilrabbi, let him be. To a man with a hammer . . .

2/13/2006 07:49:00 PM  
Blogger filosofo said...

Guilty as charged, Joel.

Now if only your thumbs weren't so bruised.

2/13/2006 08:21:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Anderson said...

Oh...I get it. We're talking about directors. That's why Janz was such an obvious choice to put as the religious counterpart to Moore. (?????)

Joel, I'm trying to figure out why you would defend the gospel from the film genre here (which, BTW, is a point on which we are closer than we appear), then (unless I'm mistaken) argue that Catholic universities are preferable to Bible colleges at my place. Mercy, which poses a greater threat?

(Note to self: don't ask apparently rhetorical questions which will probably be answered differently than you expect.)

I must be missing something. Ryan, I'll try to keep up with your articles on the issue. I may even give Postman a read. I'm just surprised that Janz's "Gospel" article, which I thought was very good, has made him a target.

2/13/2006 08:29:00 PM  
Blogger filosofo said...

Ryan and lilrabbi,
Clearly Zartman meant to say that because Janz and Moore have something in common--that they think films can be used for religion (I'm taking his word on this)--that there must be more in common. Otherwise, the remark would have no more relevance than the pants, and it would not be curious at all.

2/13/2006 08:34:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

filosofo, I know they have movies in common. They have two things in common, one of which is the fact they believe motion pictures can meaningfully address serious matters, the other which is not ideology.

2/13/2006 08:43:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Chris, Janz is not the target. Janz is advocating the position with which we have serious disagreements. He holds this position, and has advocating it recently and publically. I am interested in presenting another position. I believed that my article on entertainment had deficiencies, and so I asked Joel to supplement it with some Postman. The only reason Janz is of any consequence is because he is the one advocating that movies should have the gospel clearly presented in them. I do not want this position, or the assumptions undergirding it, to be acceptable among fundamentalists. Therefore I am offering some feeble attempts at a better way. As I said in my first article on this, Janz's piece had strengths, but the underlying premises were wrong--too wrong to leave them without comment. Again, because he is the one closest to us currently propagating the validity of movies and the gospel, he will come up from time to time in our comments.

2/13/2006 08:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

Chris,

Clearly the Bible College poses the greater threat. But still, reading Postman would help us to avoid other threats.

Postman says that the medium degrades the message.
Janz says he wants more of the message on that medium.
I say how is this different from Michael Moore?

Can you follow that?

2/14/2006 07:05:00 AM  
Blogger filosofo said...

>>Postman says that the medium degrades the message.
Janz says he wants more of the message on that medium.
I say how is this different from Michael Moore?


Do you seriously think this says something meaningful? 99.99% of the world thinks movies are good at conveying important messages. They may be wrong, and they may share, in this one respect, something with Michael Moore. But so what?

What else can we say? Can we say therefore they're all demagogues, too? Can we say they're all fat guys who make propaganda? No, not based on this one fact.

The problem is that either you are saying something trivial--Moore and Janz both think movies can convey important messages, just like almost everyone else--or you're saying something fallacious--because Moore and Janz have this one thing (or maybe 2+, Ryan) in common, therefore Janz is a demagogue, or a fat guy who makes propaganda, etc.

Which is it?

2/14/2006 08:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Joel said...

I am saying something trivial.

"Moore and Janz both think movies can convey important messages." + Postman doesn't.

And let us not kid ourselves by thinking that the percentage of people who agree with me is as high as 0.01. It is probably far lower.

2/14/2006 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Anderson said...

How I got on what probably appears to be the “pro-movie” side of this…um…discussion is beyond me. (BTW, Joel, the "Maybe you know more film directors than I do" was a nice dig. How's the view from the high road?) I do believe (as I may have mentioned?) that the criticism of Janz is unwarranted, especially the connection to Moore, whose name is certain to bring more heat than light to this or any other discussion.

That said, I do believe that the movie genre has done little to help the gospel and much to hurt it. And I believe that its use is indicative of the typical M.O. of evangelicalism. A week ago today :

“Sadly, this is another trend that is all too common among evangelicals: gospel messages that lack the gospel message. Preaching has too often been replaced by singing and filmmaking and novel-writing, and the gospel has been increasing muted in order to ‘gain a hearing.’ (A hearing for what, exactly?)” (emphasis new)

Don’t bother looking up the rest of the paragraph. You won’t like it.

I’m still not certain that drama is absolutely incapable or inappropriate as a means for gospel truth. Perhaps the problem is in the idea that drama=entertainment. Perhaps that is too simplistic. It seems that it could equally be applied to music or paintings or fiction. In fact, I wonder why you guys—fans of Narnia and writers of fiction—don’t have the same problem with that? Why are “still” pictures okay? Why is “fiction” okay? I’m genuinely interested in your answers. If you’ve given them before & I’ve missed them, I apologize.

2/14/2006 01:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

You really ought to read Postman. His book is an argument against using the media because the very nature of the media one uses shapes what comes out. I'll work on something about print, fiction etc.

It is a good question Chris. One we ought to be able to give you a good answer on. I should go back to the places where I found answers. I started reading this stuff 10 years ago when Trainer first gave me Amusing Ourselves to Death. I have the idea Hans Rookmaker also has helpful stuff about it in Modern Art and the Death of a Culture and I want to look there.

2/14/2006 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Anderson said...

Sorry about the formatting snafu.

FWIW, I've ordered the book...$6 delivered.

2/14/2006 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Chris, Joel said what I was going to, and will say better anything I could add.

Postman's point is that the medium shapes or impacts the message. Each medium has a different way that it impacts the message. We do not mean to say that books are equivalent with movies just as we would not make movies equivalent with sculpture.

These media are not all the same in the way they affect the message you are trying to communicate.

2/14/2006 11:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Ted Kennedy said...

One day Joel was sitting at the ETE headquarters trying to think of how to slam Janz.
"I know, I'll try to go one better on him than the whole Gospel deal, I'll knock movies!"
"That's all very well, here, you can use Postman for that," said one of the ETE minions.
"You've read Postman?"
"That's the basis for it all."

Several hours later . . .

"I've got this part where Postman says nobody would go to a movie to get something serious about foreign policy, and I can't think of anything that would contradict that." Joel mused.
Ryan Martin, the president ex-officio of ETE said, "How about Peter Jackson, or is that too low?"
There was a loud boom, and smoke and the smell of sulphur. Sauron entered.
"Master!" all the minions of ETE cried. Ryan and Joel looked uneasy (they were not minions you see, oh no!). Sauron was always curbing their ambitions.
"Peter Jackson!" Sauron said with scorn. "Try Michael Moore instead!"
Every face turned pale with horror and delight.
"Fiendishly cunning!" Ryan said.
"Michael Moore, he has the same ideology as Janz!" Joel said.
"Are you sure we should do that?" said the guy with the hotline to the
FBI. "I have misgivings about doing anything that low. I mean, that's caustic. Somebody is bound to notice that."
"MUHAHAHAHAHAHAH"
"What about the Philosophers? What if they send a representative to debunk us?" Ryan asked.
"We'll have to chance it," Sauron said. "This is our last opportunity to throw Janz under the bus."
"They'll throw logic at us, they have the book!" Ryan wailed.
"Yeah," Joel said, "What about the excluded middle, or the accusation of triviality?"
"We'd never stand up against it," Sauron said. "But we'll have to chance it."

2/15/2006 06:58:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

That's exactly how it happened. Did you know Sauron wears Nikes?

2/15/2006 09:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Joel said...

Check this:

http://catholica.pontifications.net/?p=1406

2/15/2006 10:12:00 AM  

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