This book was not what I expected - an examination of how the media in all its forms, and especially advertising, has shaped current social norms, behaviour and values. This should be a fairly straight-forward subject that can be presented in clearly understandable language. The expected subject matter is more or less addressed but the language, although pleasantly conversational in tone, is dense, esoteric and opaque. One can read a paragraph several times and still have only a vague idea of what the author is saying. Perhaps the problem lies with me – I have no experience with this kind of writing and am not a member of the intended audience. I have the feeling that this is a book written by a professor to impress other professors. The author often assumes a knowledge of the works of philosophers such as Nietzsche, John Locke and Descartes (a knowledge I currently do not possess). My simple and straight-forward thought processes can’t comprehend some of the rather convoluted concepts presented – or are they simple concepts presented in a convoluted way? Perhaps my difficulty with the writing is simply an indication of some intellectual laziness on my part but I haven’t encountered the problem with any other books I have read. The premise of the book implied by the title and sub-title is that many, if not most, aspects of our lives today are controlled and moulded by the media. The connections to this idea in much of the book are tenuous at best. Perhaps the book should be re-titled. I found the book to be more of a commentary on modern life in general, and how it came to be, than on the effects of the media in particular. The connections might be more obvious if more clearly presented. There are some lucid moments of analysis in the book that are quite intelligible, especially in the latter half. The chapter on “busyness”, for example, is insightful and interesting. Much of the book is a confirmation of Shakespeare’s observation that “All the world’s a stage And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.” This is not new; it was ever thus. The subject of the role of the media, and our unawareness of its effects, is extremely important and should be addressed by a book accessible to anyone of reasonable intelligence. Unfortunately this is not, for me, that book. It probably contains many interesting insights and ideas but most are buried in indecipherable language. A shame!
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