Seducing America by Roderick P. Hart
How Television Charms the Modern Voter

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Synopsis

In our television age, we may believe that politics has become more immediate, even more personal. After all, the drama of debates, Congressional hearings, and summit meetings unfolds before us as we lounge comfortably in our living rooms. And with call-in shows where the "average citizen" can offer opinions as Al Gore and Ross Perot slug it out over NAFTA, we may even think that we are more a part of the political process than ever before. But as Roderick P. Hart reveals in this fascinating new book, while television may make us feel informed and clever about contemporary politics, it is actually distracting us from the realities of political power in American life.
In Seducing America, Hart offers a strikingly new interpretation of how television has changed us as citizens and as voters. While other researchers have examined the ways in which television has influenced politics--as in the use of negative campaigning--this book focuses on the changes television has made in how we feel toward the whole process. Despite ubiquitous political talk shows, Ross Perot's infomercials, and Jerry Brown's 800 number, voter turnout decreases at an alarming rate and studies show that Americans are more disillusioned with politics than ever before. Hart shows that television's seeming empowerment of viewers is spurious, and it is from this false sense of intimacy that our distrust and disillusionment spring. Television flatters viewers by making us feel close to our leaders, when we are, in fact, far removed. It makes us feel informed (when we are not), feel busy (when we are politically inactive), and feel clever (when we adopt the cool cynicism of political insiders). Most of all, it makes us feel important by substituting symbolic victories and media access for real, substantive power. While television stirs in us strong emotional responses to political issues, we remain unsatisfied. Why? And, more important, what can we do to stem voter apathy and dissatisfaction?
With its fresh and incisive examination of television's role in American politics, this book offers some important--and often surprising--answers to these questions. What we need, argues Hart, is a New Puritanism. As an antidote to the disillusioning electronic world we now inhabit, Hart advocates a return to the values of our ancestors, a rediscovered understanding that duty, community, and hope--not television's wry uncertainties--offer the keys to political wisdom.
A penetrating and witty analysis that shifts the focus from the public arena to the private home, Seducing America shows that much of the blame for our political dissatisfaction rests not with the spin doctors, journalists, and politicians, but with ourselves. It is a book that all Americans should read before the next election year begins.
 

About Roderick P. Hart

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Roderick P. Hart is the Liddell Professor of Communication and Professor of Government at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of several books and has contributed dozens of articles to other books and academic journals. He is a Research Fellow of the International Communication Association and received the Distinguished Scholar Award from the National Communication Association in 1993. He has recently released a new book entitled, Campaign Talk: Why Elections Are Good for Us.
 
Published July 27, 1998 by SAGE Publications, Inc. 224 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

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Although he does neglect to examine instances where television has led to wider participation in political life (e.g., coverage of the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement), his point is well taken: TV cannot supply us with a political life.

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In this stimulating meditation, Hart, who teaches government and communications at the University of Texas, contends that more important than hand-wringing over TV's superficiality is the recognition that the medium has revolutionized politics by altering how we relate to events, encouraging view...

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