We Are Not Amused

“All that has happened is that the public has adjusted to incoherence and been amused into indifference.”

I’ve been reading through Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. I’ve seen it quoted a few times here and there. One passage stood out to me, so far, and I want to quote it here.

…The reporters who cover the White House are ready and able to expose lies, and thus create the grounds for informed and indignant opinion. But apparently the public declines to take an interest. To press reports of White House dissembling, the public has replied with Queen Victoria’s famous line: “We are not amused.” However, here the words mean something the Queen did not have in mind. They mean that what is not amusing does not compel their attention. Perhaps if the President’s lies could be demonstrated by pictures and accompanied by music the public would raise a curious eyebrow. If a movie, like All the President’s Men, could be made from his misleading accounts of government policy, if there were a break-in of some sort or sinister characters laundering money, attention would quite likely be paid. We do well to remember that President Nixon did not begin to come undone until his lies were given a theatrical setting at the Watergate hearings. But we do not have anything like that here. Apparently, all President Reagan does is say things that are not entirely true. And there is nothing entertaining in that.

Surprised that it is Reagan being referenced and not a figure of more recent infamy?

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