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Daniel Boorstin discuses his book "The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America"

BROADCAST: 1960 | DURATION: 00:00:01

Synopsis

Discussing the book "The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America" and interviewing the author Professor Daniel Boorstin.

Transcript

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Studs Terkel We're told often that we live in a world in which events are cataclysmic, but the events might be described as pseudo-events. Professor Daniel Boorstin of the history department University of Chicago has written a remarkable book several years ago but now available in paperback called The Image and the, the subtitle A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America. I'm delighted to have Dr. Boorstin as guest this morning, he also is the author of, oh a number of other works including the recent two volume edition of the American Primer, which could be the basis for another get-together, I trust, with Professor Boorstin. I was thinking, what is-- throughout this book, you-you speak of the pseudo-event in America. Perhaps your first thought about that, then we could hear a couple of voices that would dramatize y-your, your theory.

Daniel Boorstin Sure. Well, I might explain it by the incident that first gave me the idea, Studs. Some years ago, my wife and I-I were out in Colorado mountains with our family and into our rural mailbox, there came a brochure advertising the Chevrolet automobile, the new model Chevrolets. And the center spread was a beautiful color illustration of a man and his family who were vacationing on the-- at the Grand Canyon. And instead of all the people standing around the rim and looking am-amazed and entranced into the colorful deep canyon, they showed a picture of the wife and the two kids sitting in the front seat of the car and the husband standing with his back to the canyon and taking a photograph of his family. And that set me thinking and made me wonder whether this wasn't a kind of a parable of American life that we have all these, these natural beauties and all these spontaneous wonders, after all nobody made the Canyon, it's there, it's a product of geology and history. And instead of our enjoying that, why we make these machines in which we make little pictures that we could look at. Things that we make up, you see?

Studs Terkel Well, of course this is a-- it must have been a relevatory moment because this is the key to your book, and I imagine the key to so many of our lives that unfortunately may turn out to be pseudo-lives. The very beginning, talkin' about your friend and the Grand Canyon and the Koda-- not as good as the Kodachrome shot.

Daniel Boorstin Yes.

Studs Terkel You have a quote here about, "My that's a beautiful baby you have there" says a friend, and the mother says, "Oh that's nothing, you should see his photograph."

Daniel Boorstin Yes, well of course that is, a-a-again, it's just a sort of a, yeah, a parable, an example of a common phenomenon of which all public relations is another example. And I began to wonder whether the reason why this man was taking a picture of his family and paying attention to them and to his camera rather than to, to the spontaneous beauty there, wasn't that maybe he was more interested in something that was made up than he was in the spontaneous thing, you see? And then I began to wonder whether much of our life isn't peculiar. By contrast the lives of people in earlier times in that we're more interested in the artificial than we are in the real. We're into contrived rather than the spontaneous. And when we say that public relations men, when they think up events, you see, to celebrate occasions and so on, when we say that they're misleading us-- that may not be quite accurate. A more accurate way of putting it may be that they're exploiting our preference for the artificial, for the made up, over the spontaneous.

Studs Terkel Question is what has led to this preference? The very beginning you have the, the quote of Max Frisch, the Swiss playwright, the very beginning of your book "Technology, the knack of so arranging the world we don't have to experience it." So it seems as though the experience The pseudo-experience

Daniel Boorstin

Studs Terkel itself, Yes, The pseudo-experience to the actual one.

Daniel Boorstin Well, I think there might be a number of explanations for that. Of course, the explanations were-- are very deep and very long, stretched out over history. But I think one of the reasons [striking match] may be that what technology has accomplished has been to level out experience. That is, for example, the, the ma -- some of the main examples of the superiority of American technology over that of the Western European countries is that we don't experience winter here the way people do over there. In, in Italy, which is a highly civilized country but which doesn't have very much central heating, when winter comes, people are cold, indoors you know it. And when summer comes they're hot. Now in this country, the growth of central heating, which we've developed to a point never before seen in the history of man means that in the, in the winter sometimes we're hotter inside than we, than we, in, in the

Studs Terkel And also I suppose the two cities that might be metaphors for all America would be Los Angeles and Miami, in this matter of the one nice-

Daniel Boorstin Well, you have it all leveled out, that's ri-- we don't have seasons. That's right.

Studs Terkel Seasons,

Daniel Boorstin And people can afford to go there because of technology, you can fly there and, and so on. Well this means if, if experience gets flattened out, you see, if there's less and less difference between the, the wh-what we feel when, when summer comes or winter comes or if at night it's, it's lighter than it is in the daytime and so on, then we have to, to seek other ways of adding interest and variety to our environment.

Studs Terkel And so we come to the question-- it's a quote of yours, "Illusion is big business," it's the world of, in a sense, of illusion that we live and perhaps if we can hear the voice of an acquaintance of mine who is a copy chief of an advertising agency. One of his accounts is soap-- and he's talking. If we can just hear his voice for a moment, and I'm sure this will give you much material to talk about.

Unidentified Man If you're gonna write advertising copy, you simply gotta realize that some things are alike and it's up to you to decide what the difference is gonna be.

Studs Terkel So the audience, as far as the consumer is concerned, you can buy one or the other, it makes no difference. It's how use certain word that may [impel?] 'em to buy your product.

Unidentified Man Word, picture, whatever it happens to be. Let's call it by what-- in the advertising business they call, the dumb guys call an "image" and the smarter guys are becoming able to call a "unit of communication." Which is namely, you know, words and pictures together which is what Life magazine is, Time magazine is, more or less what the modern world of communications is. Call it television if you want to. You can also call it an ad. But it isn't-- you can't, you can't, you can't separate the picture from the word any longer.

Studs Terkel But this job is an interesting job it would seem, in which it doesn't matter as to the quality of the product as against another one of a similar degree of efficiency. It's how you sell it that counts.

Unidentified Man Yeah, once, yeah. Once you, once you make the distinction that the degree is similar then it becomes a product-- a problem of distinguishing yours from the, from the other guy who is, who is similar.

Studs Terkel How h-how do you feel about your job? How do you approach it?

Unidentified Man Cynically. [chuckles] The, the fact is that one of the clients we worked for puts three, at least three, products out in different boxes which are, the -- it's same stuff, it comes out of the same tube, the same vat, and it goes into different boxes with different labels on it. And one advertising agency has one name to sell and another one has another name to sell and a third one has another one. And Mrs. Housewife prefers one over all the others. And you know this is, this is, this th-this, if you want to approach it cynically as I do, at this point in time at least, is an amusing kind of a problem. Because it's amusing insofar it's part of the modern milieu. We're surrounded with amusing problems of like magnitude.

Studs Terkel Why do you approach it cynically?

Unidentified Man Firstly, because I know the pro-- the products are the same. I mean, [laughs] h-how can you help but approach it cynically once you know that? Secondly, because I know there's a guy, my counterpoint, somewhere else doing the same thing I'm doing, you know, tryna tryna come up with the very clever way of saying that his is better than mine, you know, that, that's amusing, too. One of the problems is that the reason a person is cynical is because they're able to stand outside of the environment he finds himself in, right? And look back at himself doing what he's doing, all right. That's known as objectivity, cynicism, and maybe sarca-- maybe, you know, it could be even sincerity. But if you can't stand outside and look back in, you have no point of view about what you're doing at all. You just do it. Okay. So I stand outside and I say cynically, "I'm doing what that guy is doing and isn't he funny man?" Then I have to say, "Ah gee, I'm a funny man, too."

Studs Terkel So my friend here then finds his work amusing. He says he's cynical, because he and his competitor are selling exactly the same product under a different name. And Mrs. Housewife, whom we see on TV so often says, "I prefer this to this," though they're both the same. And then he says, "I find that very amusing, and so I look at myself and I'm amusing."

Daniel Boorstin Yes, well I think that if we compare the situation of our friend whose voice we just heard with the situation of people, say who were living in a village in the, 17th century in England let's say, who, who had to choose between having two-- one of two different cobblers make their, their shoes for them. Now it might very well be that there would be no real difference between the pair of shoes made by one cobbler and that made by another cobbler. A person would prefer the work of his cobbler prehaps because he liked him or he-- the, the cobbler flattered him or that he'd had a long family relationship with him or something. Now I-I think that it may very well be that many of the distinctions that have interested people in the past have been not very important and perhaps not real even when you look at the object that they prefer or don't prefer. But what distinguishes the, the activity of the man whose voice we heard in that of the advertising business and the public relations business is that it's planned. That is, here you have people who, whose business it is to make things look-- seem different. And while while the, the consumer who went to his favorite shoemaker may have been deceiving himself and thinking that his shoes were better than another person's that was his-- he was deceiving himself. So we say nobody had tried to deceive him and he was enjoying certain aspects about the experience of ordering shoes which were perfectly real: the pleasantness of the shop and so on. But now when it has become an industry to persuade people that there is a difference when there isn't, then it plays-- then the, the man who does the, the job himself inevitably may has this kind of attitude and then the consumer is likely to be cynical and say, "Well they tell me that this cigarette is milder but is it, is it really?

Studs Terkel And what happens? What happens then? This is 'course is a question that is unanswerable. But what happens to people in a society where-- that practice is planned deception in almost all aspects of our lives?

Daniel Boorstin Well you spoke of, of-- you quoted a passage in which I said that "Illusion is big business." I was going to suggest [laughs] if you don't mind that one might also say it's big politics-

Studs Terkel Yes.

Daniel Boorstin And big education as well. That is that the, I think it's a mistake to, to pin it on the businessman. This is a-a part of our environment, we are all participating in-- if I may say so Studs, the -- I think we might even ask whether this program that you and I are making-

Studs Terkel The

Daniel Boorstin Is a pseudo-event-

Studs Terkel Indeed.

Daniel Boorstin Or not? Now I think that there, there may be a test here, though, and I would like to, to suggest that this particular-- I hope this program is not entirely a pseudo-event, but I hope also it's partly a pseudo-event. That

Studs Terkel The very fact that we're using radio, this means of mass communication, the very fact that you and I, even though we're talking to one another, are also aware that there are, I trust-

Daniel Boorstin Yeah, but that isn't the only thing. That wouldn't even be the main thing, I would say. And my definition of a studo-- pseudo-event at the beginning of the book, I, I distinguish a pseudo-event from other events by saying that a, a pseudo-event is an event that is planned primarily for the purpose of being reported. That is an interview is-- a newspaper man goes and, and, and sees a politician. He doesn't go to see him because he really wants to have his opinion, he goes to see him because he wants to have something to, to report, to put in the paper. Now that, that I think is the hallmark of pseudo-events, when you have Miss Rheingold or you have a, a particular-- any I don't know, Miss Miss Flashbulb or something-

Studs Terkel Man of the year-

Daniel Boorstin Or Man of the year. These are events that are planned so they'll be reported. Now there is another aspect to it, though, and you might say that people learn by reading reports. And if the event-- I would hope that, for example, our conversation here might have some other interest than simply that it would be reported as that both of us would learn something from it. Least I, I know-

Studs Terkel Well, I-I-I-I have indeed-

Daniel Boorstin I'm learning, I'm learning something from it I'm sure-

Studs Terkel May I just-

Daniel Boorstin And-- yes please.

Studs Terkel Just interject-

Daniel Boorstin Yes.

Studs Terkel A paranthetical comment -- our guest Professor Daniel Boorstin and the theme, by the way, the basis for this conversation, is his book reissued in paperback now Harper Colophon books, The Image colon A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, a most remarkable book, it is to me. This is on the -- answering your question am I, am I learning from you? Yes, indeed.

Daniel Boorstin Well, I know I'm certainly learning from this and insofar as I'm doing that, then this is not a pseudo-event. But it's true I think that the, that pseudo-events do perform many useful functions. That is for example, in the case of the ad man whose voice we heard, different advertising agencies, by thinking up ways of persuading consumers to consume objects in large quantities, make it possible to produce those objects more cheaply and then I think it is also true, probably, that in the long run, the objects which don't function or which function, which hardly function at all shall we say, lose out. Now I think it, it, it's important to probably to distinguish certain kinds of objects from others. That is, in the field say cigarettes and beer would be two categories of, of things where it's really very hard to prove objective differences. I mean you can have blindfold tests and so on, but, but really it's not like the -- say where you have like an automobile which which may not start. If an automobile doesn't start in cold weather, that's a fact, you see.

Studs Terkel Nonetheless in almost all of these products advertised, let us say we're seeing a TV commercial. The pseudo-event is the-- it seems to me is the boy will make-out with that girl if he uses that sort of hair tonic or that sort of cigarette.

Daniel Boorstin Yes,

Studs Terkel Or there'll be status achieved-

Daniel Boorstin Yes.

Studs Terkel If that sort of car is bought.

Daniel Boorstin Yes.

Studs Terkel And, at the same time, the theme itself "is this good or bad for you-"

Daniel Boorstin Yes.

Studs Terkel Physically in every way, is secondary.

Daniel Boorstin Well, now there's another aspect to this that just occurred to me which, that you suggested to me actually, and that is take a magazine, take the New Yorker magazine for example, which I think we probably both read and which I've read for years. Some years ago, I used to start New Yorker by reading the cartoons, and then I would read th-the, the short snippets at the front, the humorous things, and I would read the text, you see. And then after that I would look at the advertising. Now I find I proceed in the opposite direction. I start with the ads and then if I have time, which I usually don't because I've become so [laughs] I've got so engrossed by the advertising which I think is the most interesting part and the best composed part, really, I then turn to the text. Now why is that? I think one of the reasons may be that so many of the magazines we read really present us rather unattractive mirrors of ourselves. So much of the stuff in The New Yorker is an account of-- there'll be lon-- a long story telling about a housewife slicing a loaf of bread or a businessman who, who has problems commuting or something. These are experiences that we-- that are closely related to us but the, the romance, the, the fairytale, the, the sense of adventure you get when you read this advertisement for this, this, this trip you can take to the Galapagos Islands where Darwin was and, and all the,, the high adventure which you can get in an advertisement for a cigarette or a soft drink, you see. Now I think that in this sense, while our, our fiction has become le-- more and more realistic, you know I mean you have done a very im-important work of fiction in your Division Street, but nevertheless you're confined, I mean you've tried to confine yourself into the limits of reality, and there's a certain romance there for peculiar reasons but other reasons-

Studs Terkel Back to this attraction to the ads, isn't there another factor, too? Certainly I know this from my old time television experience and when I see now that the effort, the significance of that one-minute commercial is over and beyond that maybe of the feature film. The amount of dough spent on-- that that is the reason that program is [unintelligible] thus may apply to magazines, too, I don't know. The efforts, all the energy of our friend and a mom-- a moment ago whose voice we heard maybe even more in that than in the-

Daniel Boorstin Yeah.

Studs Terkel This matter concerning life and death.

Daniel Boorstin But I think there is an interesting question here about where we find our romance. And I think that it's true that one of the problems that has afflicted the modern fiction writer is that while in the, say in the, in Victorian times where there wouldn't have been books about the sexual behaviour of the American male or female, it would be possible still for a fiction writer to sort of deal in a gingerly but more explicit fashion with these works, these subjects. Now, however, wi-- the socio-- when sociology has covered the field and we can read real stories about real people and how they react, then what is there left for the, for the writer of prose? And it's possible, this is one explanation that these-- that the desperate experimentalism of, about prose writers who write accounts that, that are, that have very little connectedness to them and

Studs Terkel And now isn't it also that the events of the world today, this technological age in every way and what is happening, revolutions in the triple sense, you know, weaponry, cybernetics, and human rights all at one time make the real and the surreal. There's no line of demarcation, too, between them.

Daniel Boorstin Yes and I think there is a problem, a further problem which is suggested by something you just said and that is that when the romance was found in the text, that is when there was real romance, something we, we were, wouldn't expect you see, in say, in the television program itself or in the story in The New Yorker, then advertising could be more sober. And the earliest ads of course were very prosaic and in fact the earliest advertis-- the, and the earliest newspaper ads were printed in small type, agate type, smaller th-than than display. They weren't allowed to use display type. But gradually it seems to me the world of romance and fantasy has become, moved over into the ar-area of advertising. And this is one of the reasons why it's entrancing. And one of the things that puzzles me, and I've talked to some of my advertising friends about this, is that in recent years I noticed this change just when I came back to this country after having been, been abroad for over a year, I found that the commercials say on television when they presented a, a detergent or a soft drink or something, instead of present-- instead of, of putting, of offering a very attractive man or a very attractive woman, offer a kind of a clown or some dope, some person who, whom you would hope never to be like. And I, I've been trying to find an explanation for this, and my advertising friends can't really give me, give me one, but I think that it may be that advertising has gone full circle. It is reaching -- it's begone the way of sociology in the novel, you see. And I think that may be unfortunate. That is I would rather, if I'm going to be asked to to to buy detergent that I don't want to buy, [laughs] I'd rather be asked at least with a pleas-pleasant and attractive girl's figure

Studs Terkel Yeah, I'm surprised the advertising men haven't mentioned one other thing, 'cause I must admit, I'll confess my confession right now, publicly. Oh about ten years ago I went up to an advertising friend of mine, suggest that coffee commercials have elderly ladies and old Danish and Swedish-like, not the pretty girls, old women and [cool?] sipping hot coffee. We know that now since then elderly people, not mine, this is h-- it had to be eventually, that the fact is "Maybe somebody like me," says some lady who is not a, a starlet or some guy who is not Rock Hudson and "Someone like me," in a sense, you know?

Daniel Boorstin Yes.

Studs Terkel And maybe, therefore, it is more plausible, too.

Daniel Boorstin Yes, but it isn't. But I think that it may very well be, I-I'm sure ob-obviously advertising has to perform that-- has to have a certain kind of plausibility, but I think it may also play another role. That is I think it's probable that, that advertising also ought to be entirely, to be extremely successful, has to play another role. The role of romance. One of the-- I, I, it's bad enough to be me in reality [laughs] I don't want-- I would like to think of the possibility that I could be something else.

Studs Terkel Thus far Professor Boorst-- we've been talking about advertising, the illusion of big business. You mentioned earlier you've touched upon the fact that big politics is illusion. So we come to the aspect of the arranged arranged news. That's what -- my first knowledge as a kid when I first read of William Randolph Hearst and the Spanish-American War, what was the celebrated phrase he said to these journalists? "You make the news, I'll make the war." And so we come to what is a pseudo-- now it seems that all politics today is a pseudo-event whether it's a, a president speaking over TV or a mayor or the opposition. It's, it's news that is-- certain, certain pieces of news are handed out. The media accentuate one piece of the news in contrast to another.

Daniel Boorstin Well I think there are a number of-- we-we should remember that in, in the politics of democracy, it's inevitable that political events should have many of the characteristics of pseudo-events. That is when, when a president or a governor or a mayor makes a statement, he is not making it simply to his lieutenants telling them to carry out orders. He is making the statement for the purpose of it being reported, to persuade public opinion then, to, to be with him, to go along with him on some program. Now so that there is inevitably the, th-the taint, shall we say, or the suspicion of pseudo-event in every political statement in a democracy. On the other hand, there are other aspects to, to democracy that is th-the business of our, of, of a democracy is is conducted by legislators, by judges, by executives. And I think the, the differen-- one, one difference would be, for example, when there used to be a time, actually, when the debates in the Senate were primarily directed to the fellow senators and the Senate of the United States, for example. The great debate in 1850, for example, that preceded the Civil War was a debate among giants and Calhoun an-and Webster and Clay, these men were trying to persuade enough people who were sitting in that room to go with them to sell out one view or another. Now however as you know, an increasing number of speeches in the Senate are given to empty seats, and the speeches given over the heads of the people present to be reported back home. And often those speeches are not made to persuade anyone but to make an impression, to give you th-the idea that this man is a go-getter that he's really on the ball, that he's, he's bright and so on. So that there, there is a difference in the sam-- the same kind of speech can be given for both purposes. But more and more of, of American political life is being shaped in the direction of the pseudo expression, I would say, the pseudo-event. The, the utterance that is given for the purpose of being reported. Now there's one development which is extremely important, which I do touch on in The Image, but which I think is of, well all, of cataclysmic importance in transforming politics. And that is the growth of the concept of public opinion. You know until relatively recently, there wasn't such a notion of-of opin-- of public opinion as being something that you could measure something out there like a horse or something that you could d-delineate, you see. And with the rise of the concept of public opinion there developed the, the notion that you could test opinion. And then this led to the development of opinion-polling, which was a byproduct of market research actually, appropriately, too, and a result of this was that people were asked their opinion not-- in many instances where they didn't have any opinion or where they had never heard of the subject, but rather for the purpose of having something to be reported. And this, then, leads to another point which is something that I think is becomes critical in the present at the present moment in this country. The development of what you might almost call pseudo-opinion. That is, people having opinions that are uttered not because they re-really have any feeling about it, but because the person who is asking them expects them-

Studs Terkel Yes.

Daniel Boorstin To have an opinion and they'll look foolish-

Studs Terkel Yes, yes.

Daniel Boorstin If they don't have an opinion. And I think among the, the incentives to this, and I may say so, not this, this -- there are some, I think many discussion programs on television-

Studs Terkel Yes, of course.

Daniel Boorstin People are gathered together, experts in very different fields. Someone asks you what you think of-

Studs Terkel And some by their very presence on that show are automatically categorized as experts, though he could be a used car dealer, very good on used

Daniel Boorstin

Studs Terkel We're told often that we live in a world in which events are cataclysmic, but the events might be described as pseudo-events. Professor Daniel Boorstin of the history department University of Chicago has written a remarkable book several years ago but now available in paperback called The Image and the, the subtitle A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America. I'm delighted to have Dr. Boorstin as guest this morning, he also is the author of, oh a number of other works including the recent two volume edition of the American Primer, which could be the basis for another get-together, I trust, with Professor Boorstin. I was thinking, what is-- throughout this book, you-you speak of the pseudo-event in America. Perhaps your first thought about that, then we could hear a couple of voices that would dramatize y-your, your theory. Sure. Well, I might explain it by the incident that first gave me the idea, Studs. Some years ago, my wife and I-I were out in Colorado mountains with our family and into our rural mailbox, there came a brochure advertising the Chevrolet automobile, the new model Chevrolets. And the center spread was a beautiful color illustration of a man and his family who were vacationing on the-- at the Grand Canyon. And instead of all the people standing around the rim and looking am-amazed and entranced into the colorful deep canyon, they showed a picture of the wife and the two kids sitting in the front seat of the car and the husband standing with his back to the canyon and taking a photograph of his family. And that set me thinking and made me wonder whether this wasn't a kind of a parable of American life that we have all these, these natural beauties and all these spontaneous wonders, after all nobody made the Canyon, it's there, it's a product of geology and history. And instead of our enjoying that, why we make these machines in which we make little pictures that we could look at. Things that we make up, you see? Well, of course this is a-- it must have been a relevatory moment because this is the key to your book, and I imagine the key to so many of our lives that unfortunately may turn out to be pseudo-lives. The very beginning, talkin' about your friend and the Grand Canyon and the Koda-- not as good as the Kodachrome shot. Yes. You have a quote here about, "My that's a beautiful baby you have there" says a friend, and the mother says, "Oh that's nothing, you should see his photograph." Yes, well of course that is, a-a-again, it's just a sort of a, yeah, a parable, an example of a common phenomenon of which all public relations is another example. And I began to wonder whether the reason why this man was taking a picture of his family and paying attention to them and to his camera rather than to, to the spontaneous beauty there, wasn't that maybe he was more interested in something that was made up than he was in the spontaneous thing, you see? And then I began to wonder whether much of our life isn't peculiar. By contrast the lives of people in earlier times in that we're more interested in the artificial than we are in the real. We're into contrived rather than the spontaneous. And when we say that public relations men, when they think up events, you see, to celebrate occasions and so on, when we say that they're misleading us-- that may not be quite accurate. A more accurate way of putting it may be that they're exploiting our preference for the artificial, for the made up, over the spontaneous. Question is what has led to this preference? The very beginning you have the, the quote of Max Frisch, the Swiss playwright, the very beginning of your book "Technology, the knack of so arranging the world we don't have to experience it." So it seems as though the experience itself, Yes, The pseudo-experience to the actual one. Well, I think there might be a number of explanations for that. Of course, the explanations were-- are very deep and very long, stretched out over history. But I think one of the reasons [striking match] may be that what technology has accomplished has been to level out experience. That is, for example, the, the ma -- some of the main examples of the superiority of American technology over that of the Western European countries is that we don't experience winter here the way people do over there. In, in Italy, which is a highly civilized country but which doesn't have very much central heating, when winter comes, people are cold, indoors you know it. And when summer comes they're hot. Now in this country, the growth of central heating, which we've developed to a point never before seen in the history of man means that in the, in the winter sometimes we're hotter inside than we, than we, in, in the -- And also I suppose the two cities that might be metaphors for all America would be Los Angeles and Miami, in this matter of the one nice- Well, you have it all leveled out, that's ri-- we don't have seasons. That's right. Seasons, And people can afford to go there because of technology, you can fly there and, and so on. Well this means if, if experience gets flattened out, you see, if there's less and less difference between the, the wh-what we feel when, when summer comes or winter comes or if at night it's, it's lighter than it is in the daytime and so on, then we have to, to seek other ways of adding interest and variety to our environment. And so we come to the question-- it's a quote of yours, "Illusion is big business," it's the world of, in a sense, of illusion that we live and perhaps if we can hear the voice of an acquaintance of mine who is a copy chief of an advertising agency. One of his accounts is soap-- and he's talking. If we can just hear his voice for a moment, and I'm sure this will give you much material to talk about. If you're gonna write advertising copy, you simply gotta realize that some things are alike and it's up to you to decide what the difference is gonna be. So the audience, as far as the consumer is concerned, you can buy one or the other, it makes no difference. It's how use certain word that may [impel?] 'em to buy your product. Word, picture, whatever it happens to be. Let's call it by what-- in the advertising business they call, the dumb guys call an "image" and the smarter guys are becoming able to call a "unit of communication." Which is namely, you know, words and pictures together which is what Life magazine is, Time magazine is, more or less what the modern world of communications is. Call it television if you want to. You can also call it an ad. But it isn't-- you can't, you can't, you can't separate the picture from the word any longer. But this job is an interesting job it would seem, in which it doesn't matter as to the quality of the product as against another one of a similar degree of efficiency. It's how you sell it that counts. Yeah, once, yeah. Once you, once you make the distinction that the degree is similar then it becomes a product-- a problem of distinguishing yours from the, from the other guy who is, who is similar. How h-how do you feel about your job? How do you approach it? Cynically. [chuckles] The, the fact is that one of the clients we worked for puts three, at least three, products out in different boxes which are, the -- it's same stuff, it comes out of the same tube, the same vat, and it goes into different boxes with different labels on it. And one advertising agency has one name to sell and another one has another name to sell and a third one has another one. And Mrs. Housewife prefers one over all the others. And you know this is, this is, this th-this, if you want to approach it cynically as I do, at this point in time at least, is an amusing kind of a problem. Because it's amusing insofar it's part of the modern milieu. We're surrounded with amusing problems of like magnitude. Why do you approach it cynically? Firstly, because I know the pro-- the products are the same. I mean, [laughs] h-how can you help but approach it cynically once you know that? Secondly, because I know there's a guy, my counterpoint, somewhere else doing the same thing I'm doing, you know, tryna tryna come up with the very clever way of saying that his is better than mine, you know, that, that's amusing, too. One of the problems is that the reason a person is cynical is because they're able to stand outside of the environment he finds himself in, right? And look back at himself doing what he's doing, all right. That's known as objectivity, cynicism, and maybe sarca-- maybe, you know, it could be even sincerity. But if you can't stand outside and look back in, you have no point of view about what you're doing at all. You just do it. Okay. So I stand outside and I say cynically, "I'm doing what that guy is doing and isn't he funny man?" Then I have to say, "Ah gee, I'm a funny man, too." So my friend here then finds his work amusing. He says he's cynical, because he and his competitor are selling exactly the same product under a different name. And Mrs. Housewife, whom we see on TV so often says, "I prefer this to this," though they're both the same. And then he says, "I find that very amusing, and so I look at myself and I'm amusing." Yes, well I think that if we compare the situation of our friend whose voice we just heard with the situation of people, say who were living in a village in the, 17th century in England let's say, who, who had to choose between having two-- one of two different cobblers make their, their shoes for them. Now it might very well be that there would be no real difference between the pair of shoes made by one cobbler and that made by another cobbler. A person would prefer the work of his cobbler prehaps because he liked him or he-- the, the cobbler flattered him or that he'd had a long family relationship with him or something. Now I-I think that it may very well be that many of the distinctions that have interested people in the past have been not very important and perhaps not real even when you look at the object that they prefer or don't prefer. But what distinguishes the, the activity of the man whose voice we heard in that of the advertising business and the public relations business is that it's planned. That is, here you have people who, whose business it is to make things look-- seem different. And while while the, the consumer who went to his favorite shoemaker may have been deceiving himself and thinking that his shoes were better than another person's that was his-- he was deceiving himself. So we say nobody had tried to deceive him and he was enjoying certain aspects about the experience of ordering shoes which were perfectly real: the pleasantness of the shop and so on. But now when it has become an industry to persuade people that there is a difference when there isn't, then it plays-- then the, the man who does the, the job himself inevitably may has this kind of attitude and then the consumer is likely to be cynical and say, "Well they tell me that this cigarette is milder but is it, is it really? And what happens? What happens then? This is 'course is a question that is unanswerable. But what happens to people in a society where-- that practice is planned deception in almost all aspects of our lives? Well you spoke of, of-- you quoted a passage in which I said that "Illusion is big business." I was going to suggest [laughs] if you don't mind that one might also say it's big politics- Yes. And big education as well. That is that the, I think it's a mistake to, to pin it on the businessman. This is a-a part of our environment, we are all participating in-- if I may say so Studs, the -- I think we might even ask whether this program that you and I are making- The Is a pseudo-event- Indeed. Or not? Now I think that there, there may be a test here, though, and I would like to, to suggest that this particular-- I hope this program is not entirely a pseudo-event, but I hope also it's partly a pseudo-event. That is- The very fact that we're using radio, this means of mass communication, the very fact that you and I, even though we're talking to one another, are also aware that there are, I trust- Yeah, but that isn't the only thing. That wouldn't even be the main thing, I would say. And my definition of a studo-- pseudo-event at the beginning of the book, I, I distinguish a pseudo-event from other events by saying that a, a pseudo-event is an event that is planned primarily for the purpose of being reported. That is an interview is-- a newspaper man goes and, and, and sees a politician. He doesn't go to see him because he really wants to have his opinion, he goes to see him because he wants to have something to, to report, to put in the paper. Now that, that I think is the hallmark of pseudo-events, when you have Miss Rheingold or you have a, a particular-- any I don't know, Miss Miss Flashbulb or something- Man of the year- Or Man of the year. These are events that are planned so they'll be reported. Now there is another aspect to it, though, and you might say that people learn by reading reports. And if the event-- I would hope that, for example, our conversation here might have some other interest than simply that it would be reported as that both of us would learn something from it. Least I, I know- Well, I-I-I-I have indeed- I'm learning, I'm learning something from it I'm sure- May I just- And-- yes please. Just interject- Yes. A paranthetical comment -- our guest Professor Daniel Boorstin and the theme, by the way, the basis for this conversation, is his book reissued in paperback now Harper Colophon books, The Image colon A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, a most remarkable book, it is to me. This is on the -- answering your question am I, am I learning from you? Yes, indeed. Well, I know I'm certainly learning from this and insofar as I'm doing that, then this is not a pseudo-event. But it's true I think that the, that pseudo-events do perform many useful functions. That is for example, in the case of the ad man whose voice we heard, different advertising agencies, by thinking up ways of persuading consumers to consume objects in large quantities, make it possible to produce those objects more cheaply and then I think it is also true, probably, that in the long run, the objects which don't function or which function, which hardly function at all shall we say, lose out. Now I think it, it, it's important to probably to distinguish certain kinds of objects from others. That is, in the field say cigarettes and beer would be two categories of, of things where it's really very hard to prove objective differences. I mean you can have blindfold tests and so on, but, but really it's not like the -- say where you have like an automobile which which may not start. If an automobile doesn't start in cold weather, that's a fact, you see. Nonetheless in almost all of these products advertised, let us say we're seeing a TV commercial. The pseudo-event is the-- it seems to me is the boy will make-out with that girl if he uses that sort of hair tonic or that sort of cigarette. Yes, Or there'll be status achieved- Yes. If that sort of car is bought. Yes. And, at the same time, the theme itself "is this good or bad for you-" Yes. Physically in every way, is secondary. Well, now there's another aspect to this that just occurred to me which, that you suggested to me actually, and that is take a magazine, take the New Yorker magazine for example, which I think we probably both read and which I've read for years. Some years ago, I used to start New Yorker by reading the cartoons, and then I would read th-the, the short snippets at the front, the humorous things, and I would read the text, you see. And then after that I would look at the advertising. Now I find I proceed in the opposite direction. I start with the ads and then if I have time, which I usually don't because I've become so [laughs] I've got so engrossed by the advertising which I think is the most interesting part and the best composed part, really, I then turn to the text. Now why is that? I think one of the reasons may be that so many of the magazines we read really present us rather unattractive mirrors of ourselves. So much of the stuff in The New Yorker is an account of-- there'll be lon-- a long story telling about a housewife slicing a loaf of bread or a businessman who, who has problems commuting or something. These are experiences that we-- that are closely related to us but the, the romance, the, the fairytale, the, the sense of adventure you get when you read this advertisement for this, this, this trip you can take to the Galapagos Islands where Darwin was and, and all the,, the high adventure which you can get in an advertisement for a cigarette or a soft drink, you see. Now I think that in this sense, while our, our fiction has become le-- more and more realistic, you know I mean you have done a very im-important work of fiction in your Division Street, but nevertheless you're confined, I mean you've tried to confine yourself into the limits of reality, and there's a certain romance there for peculiar reasons but other reasons- Back to this attraction to the ads, isn't there another factor, too? Certainly I know this from my old time television experience and when I see now that the effort, the significance of that one-minute commercial is over and beyond that maybe of the feature film. The amount of dough spent on-- that that is the reason that program is [unintelligible] thus may apply to magazines, too, I don't know. The efforts, all the energy of our friend and a mom-- a moment ago whose voice we heard maybe even more in that than in the- Yeah. This matter concerning life and death. But I think there is an interesting question here about where we find our romance. And I think that it's true that one of the problems that has afflicted the modern fiction writer is that while in the, say in the, in Victorian times where there wouldn't have been books about the sexual behaviour of the American male or female, it would be possible still for a fiction writer to sort of deal in a gingerly but more explicit fashion with these works, these subjects. Now, however, wi-- the socio-- when sociology has covered the field and we can read real stories about real people and how they react, then what is there left for the, for the writer of prose? And it's possible, this is one explanation that these-- that the desperate experimentalism of, about prose writers who write accounts that, that are, that have very little connectedness to them and their And now isn't it also that the events of the world today, this technological age in every way and what is happening, revolutions in the triple sense, you know, weaponry, cybernetics, and human rights all at one time make the real and the surreal. There's no line of demarcation, too, between them. Yes and I think there is a problem, a further problem which is suggested by something you just said and that is that when the romance was found in the text, that is when there was real romance, something we, we were, wouldn't expect you see, in say, in the television program itself or in the story in The New Yorker, then advertising could be more sober. And the earliest ads of course were very prosaic and in fact the earliest advertis-- the, and the earliest newspaper ads were printed in small type, agate type, smaller th-than than display. They weren't allowed to use display type. But gradually it seems to me the world of romance and fantasy has become, moved over into the ar-area of advertising. And this is one of the reasons why it's entrancing. And one of the things that puzzles me, and I've talked to some of my advertising friends about this, is that in recent years I noticed this change just when I came back to this country after having been, been abroad for over a year, I found that the commercials say on television when they presented a, a detergent or a soft drink or something, instead of present-- instead of, of putting, of offering a very attractive man or a very attractive woman, offer a kind of a clown or some dope, some person who, whom you would hope never to be like. And I, I've been trying to find an explanation for this, and my advertising friends can't really give me, give me one, but I think that it may be that advertising has gone full circle. It is reaching -- it's begone the way of sociology in the novel, you see. And I think that may be unfortunate. That is I would rather, if I'm going to be asked to to to buy detergent that I don't want to buy, [laughs] I'd rather be asked at least with a pleas-pleasant and attractive girl's figure being Yeah, I'm surprised the advertising men haven't mentioned one other thing, 'cause I must admit, I'll confess my confession right now, publicly. Oh about ten years ago I went up to an advertising friend of mine, suggest that coffee commercials have elderly ladies and old Danish and Swedish-like, not the pretty girls, old women and [cool?] sipping hot coffee. We know that now since then elderly people, not mine, this is h-- it had to be eventually, that the fact is "Maybe somebody like me," says some lady who is not a, a starlet or some guy who is not Rock Hudson and "Someone like me," in a sense, you know? Yes. And maybe, therefore, it is more plausible, too. Yes, but it isn't. But I think that it may very well be, I-I'm sure ob-obviously advertising has to perform that-- has to have a certain kind of plausibility, but I think it may also play another role. That is I think it's probable that, that advertising also ought to be entirely, to be extremely successful, has to play another role. The role of romance. One of the-- I, I, it's bad enough to be me in reality [laughs] I don't want-- I would like to think of the possibility that I could be something else. Thus far Professor Boorst-- we've been talking about advertising, the illusion of big business. You mentioned earlier you've touched upon the fact that big politics is illusion. So we come to the aspect of the arranged arranged news. That's what -- my first knowledge as a kid when I first read of William Randolph Hearst and the Spanish-American War, what was the celebrated phrase he said to these journalists? "You make the news, I'll make the war." And so we come to what is a pseudo-- now it seems that all politics today is a pseudo-event whether it's a, a president speaking over TV or a mayor or the opposition. It's, it's news that is-- certain, certain pieces of news are handed out. The media accentuate one piece of the news in contrast to another. Well I think there are a number of-- we-we should remember that in, in the politics of democracy, it's inevitable that political events should have many of the characteristics of pseudo-events. That is when, when a president or a governor or a mayor makes a statement, he is not making it simply to his lieutenants telling them to carry out orders. He is making the statement for the purpose of it being reported, to persuade public opinion then, to, to be with him, to go along with him on some program. Now so that there is inevitably the, th-the taint, shall we say, or the suspicion of pseudo-event in every political statement in a democracy. On the other hand, there are other aspects to, to democracy that is th-the business of our, of, of a democracy is is conducted by legislators, by judges, by executives. And I think the, the differen-- one, one difference would be, for example, when there used to be a time, actually, when the debates in the Senate were primarily directed to the fellow senators and the Senate of the United States, for example. The great debate in 1850, for example, that preceded the Civil War was a debate among giants and Calhoun an-and Webster and Clay, these men were trying to persuade enough people who were sitting in that room to go with them to sell out one view or another. Now however as you know, an increasing number of speeches in the Senate are given to empty seats, and the speeches given over the heads of the people present to be reported back home. And often those speeches are not made to persuade anyone but to make an impression, to give you th-the idea that this man is a go-getter that he's really on the ball, that he's, he's bright and so on. So that there, there is a difference in the sam-- the same kind of speech can be given for both purposes. But more and more of, of American political life is being shaped in the direction of the pseudo expression, I would say, the pseudo-event. The, the utterance that is given for the purpose of being reported. Now there's one development which is extremely important, which I do touch on in The Image, but which I think is of, well all, of cataclysmic importance in transforming politics. And that is the growth of the concept of public opinion. You know until relatively recently, there wasn't such a notion of-of opin-- of public opinion as being something that you could measure something out there like a horse or something that you could d-delineate, you see. And with the rise of the concept of public opinion there developed the, the notion that you could test opinion. And then this led to the development of opinion-polling, which was a byproduct of market research actually, appropriately, too, and a result of this was that people were asked their opinion not-- in many instances where they didn't have any opinion or where they had never heard of the subject, but rather for the purpose of having something to be reported. And this, then, leads to another point which is something that I think is becomes critical in the present at the present moment in this country. The development of what you might almost call pseudo-opinion. That is, people having opinions that are uttered not because they re-really have any feeling about it, but because the person who is asking them expects them- Yes. To have an opinion and they'll look foolish- Yes, yes. If they don't have an opinion. And I think among the, the incentives to this, and I may say so, not this, this -- there are some, I think many discussion programs on television- Yes, of course. People are gathered together, experts in very different fields. Someone asks you what you think of- And some by their very presence on that show are automatically categorized as experts, though he could be a used car dealer, very good on used cars- Of And

Daniel Boorstin And they ask you your opinion on something. Well are you going to say-- are you going to be a conversation drop out? Or are you

Studs Terkel But not only that, this man-- we can come to this in a moment the matter of the celebrity or the opinion-molder, the fact that he was on this mass medium. The fact that he, no matter who he is, was on television and itself, that very presence made him an authority in the eyes of many. No matter if he if he's-

Daniel Boorstin Sure.

Studs Terkel What you gotta-- but you mention public opinion and I notice here in, in, on page 37 of your book, Professor Boorstin, our guest, the book The Image. And there's a chapter called "A Flood of Pseudo-Events." Walt Lippmann's early book in nineteen twen -- called Public Opinion, and he says -- quoting, you're quoting Lippmann, "the world outside and the picture in our heads may be different" stereotype and how today, at this very moment, the horror of stereotype when it comes to different peoples and different societies. Lippmann was pointing this out back in '22.

Daniel Boorstin Yes. Well I, of course, I, I think that was a very, that was a momentous book, and that was a very profound insight, but it was also a description of the way things were going. And, of course, it was that, it was an art which Hitler, for example, was a master of, and which he describes in fact. There is all-- his-- in Mein Kampf, there's, there's very practical instructions on how to develop stereotypes and how to use history and misuse fact-facts and to use fictions and so on. But I think there's a, there's, there is another aspect to this in, in a political life and that is when you have lots of media constantly inciting people to express opinions on things which they may have no feelings about, [background noise] you always are inclined to accentuate dissent, disagreement, the feeling that one person feeling apart from another, in order to have something to report, you see. It's not news if everybody agrees, and there's no headline saying the people of Detroit are agreed-

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Daniel Boorstin Of the importance of law and order.

Studs Terkel Isn't there such a thing, though, as pseudo-controversy? We come to that. That basic controversy, a basic dissent is not really offered th-that often in mass media. That is basic dissent about who and what we are-- but whereas what I cal-- w-what I call pseudo-controversy.

Daniel Boorstin Yes, that is, this is something, well it's tha-that's another way of saying that much of what's reported has controversy is a pseudo-event-

Studs Terkel Yeah,

Daniel Boorstin It is something which is, is forced into being. You get two people to express opposite opinions on something that neither of 'em care much about.

Studs Terkel That or is-- is basically trivial.

Daniel Boorstin Or something that's trivial and then you've got something to report.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Daniel Boorstin And that's a, that is a pseudo-event. But I think that the question then that comes back to each of us, which is a very deep and a very important question and not one easy to answer for all of us, is, is what, what we really have an opinion about. Is there is su-such a thing as, as a spontaneous opinion an-anymore? I mean to what extent-- h-how is it possible? Isn't it-- it surely is much more difficult to have a spontaneous opinion on anything.

Studs Terkel You know as you say this, Professor Boorstin, now this-- if I could just remind the audience of this book that is now out in paperback, The Image. And it's a very revealing one, indeed, it's looking in a mirror as it were-- seeing ourselves and thoughts, not-- what is an opinion? There's a comment made by Algren recently of his experiences. He was touring campuses talking about literature, but somehow he got on the subject of Vietnam. And he's violently opposed to our policy in Vietnam, think we should withdraw. And on the platform with him as a Chinese man of Chiang Kai-shek's persuasion and both are debating the same audience. When Algren finishes saying, "Let us withdraw at once," the audience applauds him fervently. When the Chiang Kai-shek man finishes after saying, "Let us bomb Hanoi," the same audience applauds fervently.

Daniel Boorstin Yes.

Studs Terkel And so here we are.

Daniel Boorstin With that cannewd applause. [laughs]

Studs Terkel Now, it's all the same live, flesh and blood, audience and so we have an interesting-

Daniel Boorstin Yes, yes.

Studs Terkel Phenomenon here of what do we think? Is it because both these men are celebrities on that stage?

Daniel Boorstin Well I think that it's-- I do think that that's a very good example of the problem of discovering what people have opinions about when they are deciding what's important to them and to their country and not when they're making a, a statement for publication. Now a person will, will pretend to an opinion on something or will, will formulate an opinion in order to have it widely reported. I think there is a difference, though, and that I think much of the effort to f-- to create these pseudo-events in the area of opinion is dangerous. That is I think it, it, when it comes to areas like race relations or religious disagreements or any of the deep deeper issues of our time, that when you have lots of people going around asking people if they do or don't agree or disagree with that, I'm not sure that's, that's a useful service. That is I think it is obviously useful to have a wide forum and let everybody make his proposal of a program or a plan. That's admirable, that's what a liberal society really is, where-- a society that listens to alternative programs. But to have it widely publicized that 25 percent of the people have a certain kind of hatred and then to make explicit their hatred and quote individuals and what they

Studs Terkel And the question is, do they? This-- then we come to something else-- now if we can consider this debate for a moment, and the same people applauding opposite points of view with equal fervor, hasn't something happened to the person, whoever he is, whether he's watching the TV set, whoever this man is, all of us, to his own sense of personal worth. Isn't something happened to him? Where he says, "I am re--" in a sense he's not saying it, but he is nothing, and therefore he goes-- well if you can use the phrase outward directed, you know, rather than once upon a time he may have been-- or are we romanticizing the past? I don't know.

Daniel Boorstin Well, I think you're right. I think that what it becomes is a performance and not a, a, a clash of opinion,

Studs Terkel I'm not thinking now of the performers, I'm thinking now-

Daniel Boorstin Oh,

Studs Terkel Of the audience. Yeah.

Daniel Boorstin But everybody becomes a performer, including the audience-

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Daniel Boorstin In that situation the audience were performers. Isn't that correct?

Studs Terkel Yes.

Daniel Boorstin Because their applause is being reported. And this is what, this is one of the things that makes -- but there are other aspects to this, too, which are rather curious. If you have television or radio which goes into people's private residences and their automobiles, where they watch or hear the program, not in the presence of other people, they, they, they don't have a, a clue as to their reaction from the way other people react. And I think this creates-- one of the things that I think is interesting is the growth on radio. Lately I think it's a, it's, it's a gargantuan growth which astonishes and sometimes

Studs Terkel Talk shows you mean?

Daniel Boorstin The talk shows. Well I mean the tel-- phone, telephoning-in shows especially, where you have an open line, someone phones in, and the person, half the time I'd say a considerable part of the time, the person expresses admiration or disgust with the, with the interviewer. The rest the time opinion, violent opinions are aired which must raise everybody's blood pressure and then the, the person, the, the, the moderator or the person who runs the show usually tries to calm the person down, almost never succeeds, and then cuts him off and says "I'm sorry [laughs] our time is up." Well the result of that surely is not to do anybody any good.

Studs Terkel By the w-- when did pseud-- on the subject of pseud-- when, you have a theory, when pseudo-events themselves came into play, into being, this is a result of technology I take it, you, you go back to the telegraph here as sort of a, a, a vague beginning.

Daniel Boorstin Well, I would, I would say, Studs, that there, that if by pseudo-event we mean, we, we use the definition that for that, we use the definition I've suggested which is that events that are, are plan-planned for the purpose of, primarily for the purpose of being reported, [page being turned] that goes back to the earliest times in history. It must have been the case that weddings, for example, among primitive peoples were very elaborate and very very fancy and and in or-- partly so that people could tell their grandchildren or their children, "See that was a great wedding we had," and regale them with the episodes of it, so that the wedding wasn't held simply to perform the ritual right, but in part so it could be reported. And surely in the, in the Middle Ages, the, the development of the papacy was included, the agencies that were concerned with sending out reports of things and so on. That this is not, the, the phenomenon of contriving an event so that people would talk about it is surely not new. What is new is the universality of the, this phenomenon. The fact that the phenomenon becomes so universal that it reaches out into all aspects of our life. That is more and more people go to church so that it will be known that they go to church. They, they join in, in the consumption of articles, they, they buy certain kind of automobile so that the part, when it's parked outside in fron-front of their house people will see it being there and it will give them a certain status. That is much of what we call status symbols- Mhmm.

Studs Terkel Mhmm.

Daniel Boorstin Is an example of a person buying something for the purpose of having it reported and noted, you see. So that it's-- and this is -- becomes possible when we have a mass production and mass media society, so that I would say that what is distinctive is the, the elaboration of the facilities for reporting objects for making pictures and, and, and stories and so on that can

Studs Terkel Thus mass communications themselves.

Daniel Boorstin Yes. For, for and, and also-

Studs Terkel Instant.

Daniel Boorstin The-- yes. And the par-- of the reaching of this into almost every aspect of our daily life: from the cigar we smoke to the, the kind

Studs Terkel Now we've been talking about events as events. News gathering, politics, business. But now I come to the human pseudo-event, the new development from hero to celebrity. As you say the man's on a panel show or the girl and may have really-- very shallow indeed, yet being on this mass media or being mentioned often enough in columns, that person entering, say a cocktail party, become somewhat quite important. And no matter what the subject may be-- if we could hear the voice of a friend of mine. His activities can be described as, an acquaintance of mine, his - see this guy was sort of a quasi-legal, let's say. He's worked on what he calls a semi mus-- talkin' about his brother who was, he was accused of being a juice man and so it was on TV. If we could hear his voice for a moment, a new kind of celebrity.

Kid Pharoh My brother was in trouble recently, I'll give ya a good example. All the newspapers had him on the front page. He was on television. He was scared. I says, "You fool, you'll go out and raise all the money in the world." He came back in a week he's "You know, I raised 14,000." I says, "You can make it 28! Why 14? Double it. People want to help people. Expecially tough guys. They need you! They believe what they read. We know you're innocent. But let's take it from them," and we did!

Studs Terkel Isn't there something else, your brother appearing on television. Or you being talked about in the paper-

Kid Pharoah Yes.

Studs Terkel Became a celebrity.

Kid Pharoah 'Course a celebrity!

Studs Terkel At that point they worship

Kid Pharoah Of course they do! Tom the Tough Guy and Pistol Pete. This is the giant of their society. Who else, who else is the giant? Some faggot movie star that puts powder on his face? What's qualifies him?

Studs Terkel And so there we have my friend [Kid Pharaoh?], I call him [Kid Pharaoh?], who saying, isn't it remarkable? He was on TV, this man of the half-world and the respectable world. He says, "They need us, they admire us." So we have, here we have a celebrity. A new

Daniel Boorstin Yes, yes. Well, and as, as I -- I defined a celebrity, you may recall, in, in this little book as a, a person who is known for his well-knownness and people are-- replace the respect which they-- which formerly was reserved for people who had performed great feats whether they be feats of politics or military feats or perhaps great astonishing feats of crime even. They replace that with, with a respect for a person simply because his name has been widely reported. And it doesn't i-it's unnecessary then for the person to-- for there to be any substance behind the [chuckles] the public shadow. Very little of it. And this, this then creates the the celebrity.

Studs Terkel I think at the expense of sounding ungallant, at this moment you know, recent-- perhaps one of the most dramatic events or comical events in recent months has been Jacqueline Kennedy's sister, Lee Bouvier, as an actress. And now we know she's not an actress, you know, this is accepted and she accepts it. Nonetheless, not only did she appear in a play here and broke house records but the Italian producer-- I think they established, had offered her a quarter million dollars to appear in a film. And so did David Susskind, who himself may be a pseudo-event, ya see. So here she is not-- there are some marvelous actresses, yet this in a sense is 'cause she is a celebrity.

Daniel Boorstin Yes, oh sure. Well, I think Zsa Zsa Gabor is another example of a person who was a celebrity before she'd ever been in a in, a movie or had any part in play-

Studs Terkel And thus just like the commercial that says, "This cigarette is better than that cigarette," and you buy it because of a-a pseudo-event. The actual commercial itself. So a-a-a performer who was not a performer and are acting-- being seen because we become part of the pseudo-

Daniel Boorstin Yeah.

Studs Terkel Associate. Andy Warhol's-

Daniel Boorstin Yes. Well another example of this would be the guy-- if you look at the news quizzes, you know, magazines like Time and other news magazines, I think Newsweek also has a, a quiz which they give you periodically in order to see how-- whether you're-- how well-informed you are. Well, if you look at the list of the persons they ask you about, a considerable proportion of the people on the list "Do you know, who is so-and-so? Is he a baseball player or an actor or a politician or what?" A considerable portion of these people are, are noteworthy simply because they have been in quotes in the news.

Studs Terkel Yes.

Daniel Boorstin And the fact that a person is in the news is enough to make him a celebrity. But i-it may not be enough to make it worth, worth your knowing about him or make your knowledge of him any test of your,

Studs Terkel I think there's a quote of yours here, Professor Boorstin, in the book on page six-- I noticed--- I made a note, "A hero created himself" and I put down in parentheses "Big Man." Celebrity created by media. Big name.

Daniel Boorstin Yes.

Studs Terkel And this is even-- So basically this is it then, someone created from the outside a synthetic product and a pseudo-product

Daniel Boorstin Yes,

Studs Terkel Whereas the hero, whoever he might have been, a hero might have been somewhat antisocial or a, a tremendous reformer. He was someone who came out of a certain impulse of his own.

Daniel Boorstin Sure, Billy the Kid or Jesse James or Bluebeard, these were people who-

Studs Terkel [Bob

Daniel Boorstin Who committed-- well I'm thinking of criminals, too--

Studs Terkel Yeah even criminals or both either way, yeah.

Daniel Boorstin Who committed acts acts that were very widely reported.

Studs Terkel Yeah,

Daniel Boorstin Those people were, well they were heroes in a sense. They did, did something on a grand-- did something on a grand scale even though it may have been-

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Daniel Boorstin Something we wouldn't admire. But it becomes increasingly important to, to be up on the people who, who are in the news because that's, that becomes the subject of conversation.

Studs Terkel There's another note here just concerning the same subject. I have it 'cause in your book "no tragedy and celebrities fall." I mean, when a hero fell, he fell from a height. But s-since there was nothing there with a celebrity then each year there's a new one or each week the phrase, let me-- how am I use the phrase "Kid of the year." "Kid of the Week."

Daniel Boorstin That's right. That's right. He just fades away. And that's to be expected, he is not surprised. That's, that's normal because people get bored, of course, that's one, one reason why we have new celebrity, they get bored with

Studs Terkel the- Bored.

Daniel Boorstin The whole

Studs Terkel He becomes the fad. Fad.

Daniel Boorstin Yes.

Studs Terkel And and you know this is interesting, if we can return to our friend whose voice we heard a moment ago, the Kid. Then his, his brother, who might be considered antisocial, was seen on the television screen and someone saw him, says "Wow!". You know it's a celebrated face eve-- so if Momo Giancana came into a cocktail party and says-- and "That's Momo Giancana!" And he's-- you know he says about race relations? You know what he says about foreign policy? "Let's bomb on--" y'know what Momo

Daniel Boorstin Yeah.

Studs Terkel "Let's bomb on--" oh, therefore, he becomes an authority, too.

Daniel Boorstin Sure, sure.

Studs Terkel But where does this leave us? This is the question throughout-- that was annoying me throughout your book, which is a remarkable one. What happens to the man? It's not a question of moralizing here better off or worse off than free technicalog-- technologized world, man. Is, is he a-a fuller person or, this is a difficult question to answer, of course, he's a different man.

Daniel Boorstin Well I would suggest or I would even insist that there is no flight from the pseudo-event. That is I have friends in, in New, in New England who, who try to avoid the modern world by not owning automobiles, by not owning television sets. I even have a friend who refuses to have a telephone because he says he's waiting to-- until it's perfected. [laughs] But that-that's silly, I mean

Studs Terkel Does that become a pseudo-event?

Daniel Boorstin Yeah, that's well he does this partly so people talk about it.

Studs Terkel Yeah,

Daniel Boorstin But actually I think there is no escape from modern times. The question then is how we handle it. And I think that there ar-- that and I'm careful in this book to evade the question of, of remedies and so on. I would say that the first step toward, toward freedom, and I think this is all-- this has been the case in many aspects of man's life, is to be aware of your imprisonment. That is this is what Pascal said that, that man is a thinking reed and if the whole universe breaks him, he knows that the universe is doing it to him. The universe doesn't. So man-- this is the superiority of man. It-It's awareness, it's consciousness. And I think that if that merely to d-- to to become aware, that so much of our environment is not spontaneous is the first step toward our liberation. Then I think it is important to try to, to, to make a distinction or make distinctions in our experience between those parts of our experience that are spontaneous and those that are not. And I think that it-it's if we don't do that, we become terribly confused and, and don't know who we are or what we think. We're always looking to what -- to well, we can always turn to the polls and say, "Well, 75 percent of the people like me, college professors from

Studs Terkel the- Consensus.

Daniel Boorstin In the middle West believe this," so if I'm uncertain about something, well that's what I ought to believe. That is, I think that's dangerous. And I think that, that we have to try to reserve some areas for spontaneity and to discover what, what those areas can be and, and to protect them.

Studs Terkel So we come back to this matter of awareness, come to it really, awareness of who we are, what we are, what is authentic, and what is phony? What is pseudo?

Daniel Boorstin It-it-it's awareness and also it's, it's try to trying to, to, to clarify. That is to to avoid the confusion. I think that if we take the whole area of public relations, for example, I think there, that there are different kinds of activities in public relations, some of which are more confusing than others. But I think that the worst thin-- the the worst consequence of this development is, as one of the things I suggest in some place in the book, is when people begin to believe their own advertising. When a person begins to, to believe that because a certain percentage of people have a certain opinion, according to the report, therefore you are likely to have that opinion. And what disti-- what makes a person alive is that you can't predict what

Studs Terkel So we come back to r-- I guess the deep, the bone deep question here raised by Professor Boortsin is the mass m-mass media technology is certainly here to stay. We're not Luddites or Chartists, you know, not gonna destroy-- here 'course for what purpose is it used? Is it-- tha-tha-that's the thing. Toward what ends are these used? You know we come to an interesting, another part we haven't touched-- there's so much in your book, obviously, we, we are not even reached this marvelous sequence have on the lost art of travel from traveler to tourist. Again we come to pseudo-events and the man traveling around the world and yet not traveling, you could just as soon stood in bed.

Daniel Boorstin Yes, well I think a good example of th-that this whole area of travel is an illustration of the roots of the problem. That is when sanitation and running water and all the conveniences are universal, say in the United States. If you go to, if you get in your automobile and, and you go, get on a superhighway and go anywhere and stay in a motel, it's almost certain to be indistinguishable from a hotel anyw-- motel anywhere else. Well, you're taking the trip partly to get some other place and the, when you arrive there and there's no difference, the food is the same, it probably comes as, as bought pr-pre-frozen from the same factories and so on. There are no local vintages of wines and very few local beers and so on. In that sense-

Studs Terkel All part of a package you put

Daniel Boorstin That's right. So you, you are, you're disappointed. Well this-- the inevitable result is that people desperately try to create some atmosphere and th-that's an explanation of it. But I think that a better-- and that I think this is pretty hopeless because I think that kind of prefabricated [page being turned] local color, the oldie kind of thing is, doesn't go down very well. And I think the the-the sooner or later we see through it. I think that it may very well be that the age when we ha-- were to take our delight in the variations in environment may be past. And that, well for example, when I go -- I, I go, I lecture at at various colleges and outside of Chicago, and when I arrive in a place where I'm to lecture, I am often taken to a motel. Now if, if that had been a-- say if I had been lecturing 75 years ago, there would have been an innkeeper and there would have been some local color. I would have been given probably some local, a cut of local meat or some peculiar local dish. And if when I met my host we would probably talk about that in part. But now, because the environment is erased shall we say, then what I meet my, my hosts, well we have to talk about us. That is I'm me there-- it's in a sense it may be easier to reach that inner core which is another person,

Studs Terkel And it seems as though as you're talking, Professor Boorstin, those all synthesize in something quite frightening. Funny, comical, farcical, yet frightening. The opening, Conrad Hilton, describing the open the Istanbul Hilton, you know, in in Turkey and we flew-- and this has, this has everything. This has the pseudo-person, the celebrity. This has mass media and travel, you have chapters rolled into one thanks to Conrad Hilton. Says, "When we flew into Istanbul, the opening with our guest [Marika?] Carol Channing, Irene Dunne, her husband, Dr. Francis Griffin, Mona Freeman, Sonja Henie, Diana Lynn, Merle Oberon, Ann Miller, representatin' the American press John Cameron Swayze, Bob Considine, [Horace?] Sutton, Louella Parsons, Hedda Hopper, Cobina Wright, not to mention my very old friend Leo Carillo who once owned a deer named [Sequoia?], there's no question we all felt the antiquity, romance, and mystery of this ancient [chuckles] city. But I felt the city of the Golden Horn was a tremendous place to plant a little bit of America." And then he ends "each of our hotels is a little America." I think that Hilton really has the essence of it. He got everything rolled into one here, hasn't he?

Daniel Boorstin Yes, yes. And they tried desperately. Have you ever been to Istanbul Hilton?

Studs Terkel No. [chuckles] I'd like to go to Istanbul, but I think I'll avoid the Istanbul Hilton. [laughs]

Daniel Boorstin Well, it's very much like the, the Hilton Hotel in-- the Caribbean Hilton down in Puerto Rico. In fact it's, if you, it's very, it's almost impossible to, to tell the difference except for, for the language which is spoken by-

Studs Terkel Well I suppose isn't this, isn't this the, the comical aspect and horror that it's like the Hilton Hilton Hilton anywhere, as you said earlier, in the world and everything is like home. So we come back to the question of the-- with all the diverse aspects of life at our hand, figuratively, the, what would seem to be the end of diversity.

Daniel Boorstin Well except then I think what it means is that we must reach for those areas of spontaneity and diversity. That's what you're asking, for isn't it?

Studs Terkel Yeah, yeah.

Daniel Boorstin What are they? Then I suggest there are a couple of them that remain. One is, is sports. If it's not crooked, I mean, if we have honest sports we-- that is one area where you can't, you really can't predict where it isn't really planned. Another area is crime. And I think that's the reason why both these, these areas appeal to us so much in that both of these are areas of the spontaneous. But then when we come to the environment, there are other areas, and that is n-- one of them is nature. It seems to me that it-- well if you go out into the woods, you can't tell whether that you're going to see a moose or a deer. Th-This is part of the appeal of fishing and hunting. There is some-- still some area of the unpredictable here and there's something that's not contrived. I mean the Grand Canyon still is the Grand Canyon-

Studs Terkel Even though someone says you ought to see it on my Kodachrome.

Daniel Boorstin Well exactly, but what I mean there at least when you, when we look for what might be the, the ways of of, of producing spontaneity and variety, these would be among them. And of course another area which remains is, is the area of our own society. A -- it, it remains possible for the ingenious architect or city planner to introduce variety into our environment so that it really is, there really something to see.

Studs Terkel 'Course, you know, I, I hate to accentuate the negative but just as you're talking about nature itself, you know, that indeed there's-- that isn't, aren't we doing something there, too? Naturally the battles, as you know, going on throughout the country by conservationists and 'course Rachel Carson's book of the dangers and-- throughout we have this here too an area as being more and more limited it would seem. Although the battle must go on, obviously.

Daniel Boorstin Well I'm very strongly with conservationists I-

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Daniel Boorstin Must say because I do-

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Daniel Boorstin Feel that that is, is an area where-- well if you just have a bird feeding station, now that's one thing which is, which is marvelous if you ever-- if you've ever had one-- you put some food on that and you can't, on that little platform, and you can't tell who's going to come next, you see? [chuckles] Whereas if you turn on your television set, you have a program, you know exactly what's going to follow it and it's very likely nowadays, if it's a movie, that you've seen it [chuckles] once or twice-

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Daniel Boorstin Before so you know how it's going to turn out and you know the, the framework of the experience. But even that kind of, of-- and the unpredictable-- that's another reason also, I think, Studs, why the Americans of all people on earth, this is one thing that has astonished me, and it astonished me especially when I came back from England recently. We are not a farming people anymore. Ver-- a very small proportion of Americans raise crops for a living. But this country is obsessed with the weather. It's all-- this also the country where of all places on earth, the weather makes the least difference to how comfortable we are. You see, we sit in air conditioned houses or centrally heated houses and we can control the temperature by the thermostat. And peop-- yet people are constantly at every hour on the hour, on the half hour, and in between and the-- people talk about the weather. I think that one reason is that is one of the few areas of spontaneity that remains.

Studs Terkel That reminds-- and you speak of-- it's strange how paradox works. Somewhere here on page 111, I have another note marked "auto cheap insulating agency." Just as you're talk-- following-- Frisch the Swiss playwright's comments on travel. Just talk about weather being one of the few areas spontaneity left and yet [laughs] we're tryin' to-- not that controling would be wrong depending how's-- the automobile, the affect of the auto-- I suppose there, in it, everything. Not only is it air conditioned, but you also-

Daniel Boorstin Yes.

Studs Terkel On a highway-- the man going home to a suburb doesn't see the r-- he doesn't see how the other half lives.

Daniel Boorstin Yes. Well I, I agree

Studs Terkel The city, how the other four fifths

Daniel Boorstin Well that was very well-- when I was out in California recently and, of course, there a person who doesn't have an automobile is a cripple. I mean you-you simply can't, can't move. And I remember one of my friends there said that I said, "Well don't you people ever walk anywhere out here?" He said "Well, if God had intended man to walk, he would have given him wheels." And this is the, this is the way we begin to, to think about it. That is the, the, the na-- the normal thing becomes the contrived and the other becomes abnormal.

Studs Terkel As we're talking now I-I realize that we probably way passed the hour. Maybe we just keep going for a little while. You know, it occurs to me that there are so many aspects you talk about the best seller, another pseudo-event. Even the phrase, the description, merchandising-- the Bible described as a world's best seller.

Daniel Boorstin Yes, yes. Well, and of course the, the, the perils of this way of of speaking about things are revealed in the fakery involved in many of the lists of best sellers. [page bring turned] And I've studied this a little lately and it's, it is appalling how unreliable is the best seller list and the, the way in which publishers and booksellers, inevitably they're just human, like to, to publicize books as best sellers even before they're sold in order to persuade people to, to buy something that everybody is gonna be talking about.

Studs Terkel There's this remarkable story here. The nature of Reader's Digest, how the planning of a story that appears in Reader's Digest later from something original and yet Reader's Digest planned the original, to have it in Reader's Digest.

Daniel Boorstin Yes. Well, this is, this has become true of the hardcover publishing, too. New American library, for example, who publish many excellent sort of books in paperback recently bought publishing hou-- a hardcover publishing house in order to have a company in which they could publish books in hardcover that could later be put into paperback. So that this is, this is the counterpart of the-

Studs Terkel And so we have best seller's, stars, fan clubs. All this and more. [laughs] This is not pseudo-selling this I-I trust is authentic. Mentioning, letting the audience know about a remarkable book, because it, it has the subject of awards. Of course the Man of the Year Awards are dime a dozen, quite-- become more and more humorous as are the Emmy and the Oscars and you can name any first name you want. The use of transistors, Hi-5, Muzak. The question is who listens, everywhere it is-- but we come back to the beginning, don't we? The first comment you had at the very beginning this, the knack of so arranging the world we don't have to experience it. Then isn't the great, perhaps in at least for now, Professor Boorstin, something happens to feeling. Do we find eventually we lose feeling? This becomes the question, doesn't it?

Daniel Boorstin Well I think that is, that's part of the problem. The word I would use for the effect of this on experience is the, the word "attenuation." I think all the, the differences be-become leveled out. I think we lose our s-- the, the, this, this, the sense of the poignancy of experience. There is less and less difference between here and there. In fact with television we're, we're more there when we're here than when we're there. And th-the problem is how to, how to retain the se-- feeling for nuance and variety in

Studs Terkel I think this perhaps is the challenge 'cause that's the purpose of a book: to challenge. The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, Daniel J. Boorstin, University of Chicago, the author of this remarkable reissued book. Now available Harper Colophon books. I trust this will be the first of a number of sessions with you Professor Boorstin. All we've done really is just touch upon this remarkable book lightly. Thank you very much indeed.

Daniel Boorstin Well thank you, I enjoyed it.