Postman believes that the wide circulation of Thomas Paine’s famous 1776 pamphlet (an argument for American freedom from the British monarchy) is a symbol of the strength of print culture in America’s foundational period. The popularity of Common Sense indicated a desire to know things through reason and to engage in meaningful, lengthy discourses about issues most relevant to the American public. This also demonstrated that America was enjoying a true age of reason and enlightenment. For Postman, Common Sense is most potent as a symbol when we consider the impossibility of an argumentative pamphlet having such an impact in 20th century society. Thus Common Sense is an aptly titled stand-in for what we used to have, and for what we’ve lost in the rise of the Age of Show Business.
Amusing Ourselves to Death
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The timeline below shows where the symbol Thomas Paine’s Common Sense appears in Amusing Ourselves to Death. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.