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Las Vegas: “A Metaphor for America’s National Character”?

Does Las Vegas represent an accurate depiction of America’s national character?

Las Vegas has been referred to as: “metaphor of America’s national character”.  Not only Las Vegas but many of America’s major cities seem to encapsulate the significant images, the mindsets, the major goals and qualities that Americans expect, revere and aspire toward. 

Cities are a condensed version of the countries major influences; the commerce, the desires of the rich and the needs of the poor.  Cities are an ant-farm vision of the fast pace at which America likes to drive, eat and interact with one another.  Even when we watch the news, intending to learn about current events and to become more aware of the happenings in the lives of others, the news itself is intent on moving at the same city-like lightening speed. 

As Neil Postman reveals in his book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death”, “Now….this.” The Newscaster means that you have thought long enough on the previous matter (approximately forty-five seconds)…” (pg. 99).

In his book, Postman also discusses the fact that America is truly “misinformed”.  “It man’s misleading information – information that creates the illusion of knowing something but which in fact leads one away from knowing.” (pg. 107) In the same way that Americans spend their busy days bustling through subway stations, scanning the headlines of a few articles, flipping through magazines, closing pop-up ads as they surf the net, and listening to the television, they feel as if they are knowledgeable.  However, in reality they have saturated the peripheral of their minds with advertisements and insignificant details. 

Just as the daily interactions between people and the media in cities represent the American character as a whole, Postman points out that television is a visual representation of this character.  “….television has gradually become our culture” (pg. 79).  Beyond dictating the social behaviors of society through television shows, Postman also points out the major affects of commercials on political front:  “The television commercial has been the chief instrument in creating the modern methods of presenting political ideas.” (pg.129). Before such media outlets as television and internet, it was a large feat for politicians to find a way to reach the ears of voters. In the age of television, in a world where people can see live coverage of an event occurring on the other side of the world while sitting in a bar, a hotel or their own living room.  Politicians no longer focus on how to reach their public, they must instead think about what must reach their public.  Postman states, “television also frees politicians from the limited field of their own expertise” (pg 131).  Politicians, knowing that they will be broadcasted to voters of all races, ethical values and nationalities, must cover topics of interest that will gain them votes across the board.  As mentioned above, this is yet another situation in which the wide spread of topics of interest lead to a lessening of in-depth knowledge. 

Advertisements, news stations, and political campaigns are all driven by the need for fast and easy availability, and in response to the fulfillment of this need, society then responds by creating even more brief (supposedly efficient) bits of “misinformation”.  This is an ever spinning cycle of “amusements” which may just lead to a social downfall (“death”)?  

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