Cover image for The sound bite society : television and the American mind
The sound bite society : television and the American mind
Scheuer, Jeffrey, 1953-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Four Walls Eight Windows, [1999]

Physical Description:
230 pages ; 22 cm
Reading Level:
1380 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HE8700.76.U6 S34 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Since the 1960s, American political life has undergone some major transformations: conservative politicians and values have proliferated, and television has become the main forum for public discourse. In The Sound Bite Society, Jeffrey Scheuer shows how these changes are directly connected and explains that the key to understanding these forces lies in the nature of television and its relationship to ideology. Scheuer asserts that television is an inherently simplistic medium favoring sentimental and one-dimensional communication: visceral sound bites and photo ops. But a vibrant democracy is possible only if conflicting, complex ideas are exchanged. The Sound Bite Society asks if television has served democracy; Scheuer answers with a definitive No. Challenging Americans to resuscitate complexity as part of our public life, this book is crucial to anyone interested in understanding and changing our political landscape.

Author Notes

Jeffrey Scheuer writes about politics and the media for publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. He lives in New York City.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Scheuer's unusual, provocative analysis goes beyond the usual description of TV's shortcomings as infotainment, probing its effect on the ongoing political debate that is the essence of democracy. Taking as his thesis that the inherent propensity of TV to simplify ideas and events, to eschew complexity, and to reduce civic discussion to the level of emotional response to images of the moment reinforces a conservative view of politics, Scheuer argues that the very grammar of TV makes it a perfect vehicle for the values of the far Right. The sound-bite form rules out reasoned debate, compromise, and faith in progressive democracy and instead rewards simplistic and emotional communication--the very stuff that makes ultra conservatives the darlings of TV talk shows. Where are the spokespeople on the liberal side of the spectrum? Scheuer asks. They are excluded, according to the author, because the complex, long-range solutions proposed by those at the center and left of the political spectrum are anathema to TV's sound-bite format. Not all will agree with Scheuer's theory about the ultimate effects of TV on US political performance, but few can disagree with his brilliant analysis of TV grammar and how it prohibits complex discourse. Required reading for all communication and political science collections, all levels. R. Cathcart; CUNY Queens College

Table of Contents

Acknowledgementsp. ix
Introduction The Politics of Electronic Informationp. 1
The Ascent of the Electronic Rightp. 25
Shouting Heads: the Language of Televisionp. 61
Vitdeo Games: Television and Realityp. 91
Complexity and Ideologyp. 121
Critical Vision Television and the Attentive Societyp. 161
Notesp. 193
Selected Bibliographyp. 225