Richard laughed good-naturally. ”Must I choose sides?”
Joshua took a step toward the center of the room and spoke a bit too loudly. “Mr. Boren … in any civil war, sooner or later you have to choose sides.”
Richard’s smile faded a little. “I’m not sure I understand you.”
“It’s a war between Words and Pictures.”
Joshua’s strange vehemence silenced everyone in the room…. Richard laughed, a good sport. ”You’re way ahead of this old man, Joshua.”
“Okay. Think of it like this: Imagine America as a boxing match. Words are the skinny lightweight with the glasses, spouting off logical propositions and complex thoughts, even after the round starts, when he should be swinging. Mr. Word can’t stop himself, because that’s his nature: Sentences propose ideas, paragraphs develop them. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident,’ ‘When, in the course of human events…’ Now, wading toward him you’ve got Pictures: big, beefy, good-looking. Seeing is believing. Feeling is believing. Pure sensation. And in a knock-down drag-out between logic and sensation, guess who goes down?”
Richard went quiet for a moment, then answered. ”Well, I think you’re not being entirely fair to pictures, there, Joshua. Television news is a fantastic tool for informing people—”
Joshua interrupted him. ”No, on the contrary, Mr. Boren! On the contrary: It’s a fantastic tool for giving people the illusion they’re informed! People watch a thirty-second news spot and actually think they know the story. But it’s only pictures, because that’s what makes good TV. Not numbers, not complicated relationships. Just gut-level sensation. Little ideas on a big canvas. It engages people’s emotions, not their minds.”….
“The last time I checked, Joshua, words hadn’t disappeared! There’s magazines, newspapers, journals, novels. Publishing is a multibillion dollar business.”
“That’s true, but they’re losing. Pictures shape everything. Seventy percent of Americans use television as their primary news source. Look at any major political speech of the last ten years: It’s crafted to the television mind, with Freedom this, and Liberty that. It’s show biz, not thought.”….
“Come off it, Josh! You can’t blame pictures!”….
“I’m just saying that in our country, in a democracy that depends on a well-informed public, it comes down to this: The Constitution was written words. Debilitate the written word, and all you have left is America: The Movie.”
– From “The Army of the Republic,” by Stuart Archer Cohen (pp 101-102).