Daniel J. Boorstin quotes:

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  • The traveler was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. He goes 'sight-seeing.'

  • The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance - it is the illusion of knowledge.

  • As individuals and as a nation, we now suffer from social narcissism. The beloved Echo of our ancestors, the virgin America, has been abandoned. We have fallen in love with our own image, with images of our making, which turn out to be images of ourselves.

  • An image is not simply a trademark, a design, a slogan or an easily remembered picture. It is a studiously crafted personality profile of an individual, institution, corporation, product or service.

  • Knowledge is not simply another commodity. On the contrary. Knowledge is never used up. It increases by diffusion and grows by dispersion.

  • We suffer primarily not from our vices or our weaknesses, but from our illusions. We are haunted, not by reality, but by those images we have put in their place.

  • Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire PR officers.

  • Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire public relations officers.

  • As you make your bed, so you must lie in it.

  • The force of the advertising word and image dwarfs the power of other literature in the 20th century.

  • The courage to imagine the otherwise is our greatest resource, adding color and suspense to all our life.

  • Human models are more vivid and more persuasive than explicit moral commands.

  • I've learned any fool can write a bad ad, but it takes a real genius to keep his hands off a good one.

  • The traditional novel form continues to enlarge our experience in those very areas where the wide-angle lens and the Cinema screen tend to narrow it.

  • We read advertisements... to discover and enlarge our desires. We are always ready - even eager - to discover, from the announcement of a new product, what we have all along wanted without really knowing it.

  • The Christian test was a willingness to believe in the one Jesus Christ and His Message of salvation. What was demanded was not criticism but credulity. The Church Fathers observed that in the realm of thought only heresy had a history.

  • Celebrity-worship and hero-worship should not be confused. Yet we confuse them every day, and by doing so we come dangerously close to depriving ourselves of all real models. We lose sight of the men and women who do not simply seem great because they are famous but are famous because they are great. We come closer and closer to degrading all fame into notoriety.

  • A wonderful thing about a book, in contrast to a computer screen, is that you can take it to bed with you.

  • Planning for the future without a sense of history is like planting cut flowers.

  • Reading is like the sex act - done privately, and often in bed.

  • The world of crime is a last refuge of the authentic, uncorrupted, spontaneous event.

  • A sign of celebrity is that his name is often worth more than his services.

  • It is only a short step from exaggerating what we can find in the world to exaggerating our power to remake the world.

  • It is only a short step from exaggerating what we can find in the world to exaggerating our power to remake the world. Expecting more novelty than there is, more greatness than there is, and more strangeness than there is, we imagine ourselves masters of a plastic universe. But a world we can shape to our will is a shapeless world.

  • I have observed that the world has suffered far less from ignorance than from pretensions to knowledge. It is not skeptics or explorers but fanatics and ideologues who menace decency and progress. No agnostic ever burned anyone at the stake or tortured a pagan, a heretic, or an unbeliever.

  • A best-seller was a book which somehow sold well because it was selling well.

  • We read advertisements ... to discover and enlarge our desires.

  • The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents, and the oceans was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge.

  • The most important American addition to the World Experience was the simple surprising fact of America. We have helped prepare mankind for all its later surprises.

  • Creators, makers of the new, can never become obsolete, for in the arts there is no correct answer. The story of discoverers could be told in simple chronological order, since the latest science replaces what went before. But the arts are another story- a story of infinite addition. We must find order in the random flexings of the imagination.

  • In our world of big names, curiously, our true heroes tend to be anonymous. In this life of illusion and quasi-illusion, the person of solid virtues who can be admired for something more substantial than his well-knownness often proves to be the unsung hero: the teacher, the nurse, the mother, the honest cop, the hard worker at lonely, underpaid, unglamorous, unpublicized jobs.

  • Education is learning what you didn't even know you didn't know.

  • Jeffersonian isolationism expressed an essentially cosmopolitan spirit. The Jeffersonian was determined - even at the expense of separating himself from the rest of the globe, and even though he be charged with provincial selfishness - to preserve America as an uncontaminated laboratory.

  • The star is the ultimate American verification of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Emile. His mere existence proves the perfectability of any man or woman. Oh wonderful pliability of human nature, in a society where anyone can become a celebrity! And where any celebrity . . . may become a star!

  • In fast-moving, progress-conscious America, the consumer expects to be dizzied by progress. If he could completely understand advertising jargon he would be badly disappointed. The half-intelligibility which we expect, or even hope, to find in the latest product language personally reassures each of us that progress is being made: that the pace exceeds our ability to follow.

  • . . . the messiness of experience, that may be what we mean by life.

  • [The Library of Congress] is a multimedia encyclopedia. These are the tentacles of a nation. [Referring to the diverse holdings of the library, including motion pictures, photographs, recordings, posters and other historic objects which collectively far outnumber the books]

  • [The Library of Congress] is a multimedia encyclopedia. These are the tentacles of a nation.

  • Until now when we have started to talk about the uniqueness of America we have almost always ended by comparing ourselves to Europe. Toward her we have felt all the attraction and repulsions of Oedipus

  • Freedom means the opportunity to be what we never thought we would be.

  • The modern American tourist now fills his experience with pseudo-events. He has come to expect both more strangeness and more familiarity than the world naturally offers. He has come to believe that he can have a lifetime of adventure in two weeks and all the thrills of risking his life without any real risk at all.

  • While the focus in the landscape of Old World cities was commonly government structures, churches, or the residences of rulers, the landscape and the skyline of American cities have boasted their hotels, department stores, office buildings, apartments, and skyscrapers. In this grandeur, Americans have expressed their Booster Pride, their hopes for visitors and new settlers, and customers, for thriving commerce and industry.

  • A celebrity is a person known for his well-knownness. Celebrities intensify their celebrity images simply by being well known for relations among themselves. By a kind of symbiosis, celebrities live off each other.

  • Modern tourist guides have helped raised tourist expectations. And they have provided the natives- from Kaiser Wilhelm down to the villagers of Chichacestenango - with a detailed and itemized list of what is expected of them and when. These are the up-to-date scripts for actors on the tourists' stage.

  • The hero was distinguished by his achievement; the celebrity by his name or trademark.

  • The mind is a vagrant thing.... Thinking is not analogous to a person working in a laboratory who invents something on company time.

  • We need not be theologians to see that we have shifted responsibility for making the world interesting from God to the newspaperman.

  • Technology is so much fun but we can drown in our technology. The fog of information can drive out knowledge.

  • The American citizen lives in a world where fantasy is more real than reality, where the image has more dignity than its original. We hardly dare face our bewilderment, because our ambiguous experience is so pleasantly irridescent, and the solace of belief in contrived reality is so thoroughly real. We have become eager accessories to the great hoaxes of the age. These are the hoaxes we play on ourselves.

  • Our attitude toward our own culture has recently been characterized by two qualities, braggadocio and petulance. Braggadocio - empty boasting of American power, American virtue, American know-how - has dominated our foreign relations now for some decades. Here at home - within the family, so to speak - our attitude to our culture expresses a superficially different spirit, the spirit of petulance. Never before, perhaps, has a culture been so fragmented into groups, each full of its own virtue, each annoyed and irritated at the others.

  • The hero is known for achievements; the celebrity for well-knowns. The hero reveals the possibilities of human nature. The celebrity reveals the possibilities of the press and media. Celebrities are people who make news, but heroes are people who make history. Time makes heroes but dissolves celebrities.

  • America has been a land of dreams. A land where the aspirations of people from countries cluttered with rich, cumbersome, aristocratic, ideological pasts can reach for what once seemed unattainable. Here they have tried to make dreams come true. Yet now... we are threatened by a new and particularly American menace. It is not the menace of class war, of ideology, of poverty, of disease, of illiteracy, or demagoguery, or of tyranny, though these now plague most of the world. It is the menace of unreality.

  • Beware of charisma . . . Representative Men; was Ralph Waldo Emerson's 1850 phrase for the great men in a democracy . . . Is there some common quality among these Representative Men who have been most successful as our leaders? I call it the need to be authentic-or, as our dictionaries tell us, conforming to fact and therefore worthy of trust, reliance or belief. While the charismatic has an uncanny outside source of strength, the authentic is strong because he is what he seems to be.

  • Our discontent begins by finding false villains whom we can accuse of deceiving us. Next we find false heroes whom we expect to liberate us. The hardest, most discomfiting discovery is that each of us must emancipate himself.

  • I write to discover what I think

  • What preoccupies us, then, is not God as a fact of nature, but as a fabrication useful for a God-fearing society. God himself becomes not a power but an image.

  • Any government which made the welfare of men depend on the character of their governors was an illusion.

  • The improved American highway system isolated the American-in-transit. On his speedway he had no contact with the towns which he by-passed. If he stopped for food or gas, he was served no local fare or local fuel, but had one of Howard Johnson's nationally branded ice cream flavors, and so many gallons of Exxon. This vast ocean of superhighways was nearly as free of culture as the sea traversed by the Mayflower Pilgrims.

  • In the small town each citizen had done something in his own way to build the community. The town booster had a vision of the future which he tried to fulfill. The suburb dweller by contrast started with the future

  • Jefferson refused to pin his hopes on the occasional success of honest and unambitious men; on the contrary, the great danger was that philosophers would be lulled into complacence by the accidental rise of a Franklin or a Washington. Any government which made the welfare of men depend on the character of their governors was an illusion.

  • Of all the nations in the world, the United States was built in nobody's image. It was the land of the unexpected, of unbounded hope, of ideals, of quest for an unknown perfection. It is all the more unfitting that we should offer ourselves in images. And all the more fitting that the images which we make wittingly or unwittingly to sell America to the world should come back to haunt and curse us.

  • The hero was distinguished by his achievement; the celebrity by his image or trademark. The hero created himself; the celebrity is created by the media. The hero was a big man; the celebrity is a big name.

  • Formerly, a public man needed a private secretary for a barrier between himself and the public. Nowadays he has a press secretary, to keep him properly in the public eye.

  • If our knowledge is, as I believe, only an island in an infinite sea of ignorance, how can we in our short lifetime find satisfaction in exploring our little island? How can we persuade ourselves to be exhilarated by our meager knowledge and yet not be discouraged by the ocean vistas?

  • The image is made to order, tailored to us. An ideal, on the hand, has a claim on us. It does not serve us, we serve it. If we have trouble striding toward it, we assume the matter is with us, and not the ideal.

  • There is no disinfectant like success.

  • While the easiest way in metaphysics is to condemn all metaphysics as nonsense, the easiest way in morals is to elevate the common practice of the community into a moral absolute.

  • I write to discover what I think. After all, the bars aren't open that early.

  • The Republic of Technology where we will be living is a feedback world.

  • The history of Western science confirms the aphorism that the great menace to progress is not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge.

  • While the Jeffersonian did not flatly deny the Creator's power to perform miracles, he admired His refusal to do so.

  • The variety of minds served the economy of nature in many ways. The Creator, who designed the human brain for activity, had insured the restlessness of all minds by enabling no single one to envisage all the qualities of the creation. Since no one by himself could aspire to a serene knowledge of the whole truth, all men had been drawn into an active, exploratory and cooperative attitude.

  • The institutional scene in which American man has developed has lacked that accumulation from intervening stages which has been so dominant a feature of the European landscape.

  • Dispersed as the Jews are, they still form one nation, foreign to the land they live in.

  • There is no known device for artistic contraception.

  • The fog of information can drive out knowledge.

  • In the twentieth century our highest praise is to call the Bible 'The World's Best Seller.' And it has come to be more and more difficult to say whether we think it is a best seller because it is great, or vice versa.

  • Standing, standing, standing - why do I have to stand all the time? That is the main characteristic of social Washington.

  • Since the Creator had made the facts of the after-life inaccessible to man, He must not have required that man understand death in order to live fruitfully.

  • The cities of Italy are now deluged with droves of these creatures [tour groups], for they never separate, and you see them, forty in number, pouring along a street with their director - now in front, now at the rear, circling them like a sheep dog - and really the process is as like herding as may be.

  • It is very unlikely that the computer will displace the books, except in areas where we need information speedily.

  • American civilization, from its beginnings, had combined a dogmatic confidence in the future with a naive puzzlement over what the future might bring.

  • Books are messengers of freedom. They can be hidden under a mattress or smuggled into slave nations.

  • The most important lesson of American history is the promise of the unexpected. None of our ancestors would have imagined settling way over here on this unknown continent. So we must continue to have society that is hospitable to the unexpected, which allows possibilities to develop beyond our own imaginings.

  • Disagreement produces debate but dissent produces dissension.

  • Where ruts have not yet been worn, it requires less effort to stay out of them.

  • The hero created himself; the celebrity is created by the media.

  • The hero was a big man; the celebrity is a big name.

  • In America, communities existed before governments. There were many groups of people with a common sense of purpose and a feeling of duty to one another before there were political institutions.

  • Our American past always speaks to us with two voices: the voice of the past, and the voice of the present. We are always asking two quite different questions. Historians reading the words of John Winthrop usually ask, What did they mean to him? Citizens ask, What do they mean to us? Historians are trained to seek the original meaning; all of us want to know the present meaning.

  • destruction is easy for humans but creation is too difficult.

  • A pseudo-event ... comes about because someone has planned it, planted, or incited it. Typically, it is not a train wreck or an earthquake, but an interview.

  • Historians will not fail to note that a people who could spend $300 billion on defense refused to spend a tiny fraction of that total to keep their libraries open in the evening.

  • The problem for us is less to discover the way it really is than to see the meaning of the way.

  • While knowledge is orderly and cumulative, information is random and miscellaneous.

  • The celebrity is a person who is known for his well-knownness.

  • The most refined skills of color printing, the intricate techniques of wide-angle photography, provide us pictures of trivia bigger and more real than life. We forget that we see trivia and notice only that the reproduction is so good. Man fulfils his dream and by photographic magic produces a precise image of the Grand Canyon. The result is not that he adores nature or beauty the more. Instead he adores his camera - and himself.

  • Climaxing a movement for calendar reform which had been developing for at least a century, in 1582 Pope Gregory ordained that October 4 was to be followed by October 15.

  • When the necessary eleven days were added, George Washington‚??s birthday, which fell on February 11, 1731, Old Style, became February 22, 1732, New Style.

  • The most promising words ever written on the maps of human knowledge are terra incognita, unknown territory.

  • More appealing than knowledge itself is the feeling of knowledge.

  • Reading is like the sex act - done privately, and often in bed

  • Not so many years ago there was no simpler or more intelligible notion than that of going on a journey. Travel -movement through space -provided the universal metaphor for change. One of the subtle confusions -perhaps one of the secret terrors -of modern life is that we have lost this refuge. No longer do we move through space as we once did.

  • We must abandon the prevalent belief in the superior wisdom of the ignorant.

  • No agnostic ever burned anyone at the stake or tortured a pagan, a heretic, or an unbeliever.

  • Water, that wonderful, flowing medium, the luck of the planet - which would serve humankind in so many ways, and which would give our planet a special character.

  • God is the celebrity author of the world's best seller. We have made god into the biggest celebrity of all, to contain our own emptiness.

  • The mind is a vagrant thing ... Thinking is not analogous to a person working in a laboratory who invents something on company time. Answering criticism that the book for which he won a Pulitzer Prize was written in the years he had been employed at the Smithsonian. He specified that did not write on the premises there, but only at home outside of working hours.

  • Nothing is really real unless it happens on television.

  • There was a time when the reader of an unexciting newspaper would remark, 'How dull is the world today!' Nowadays he says, 'What a dull newspaper!'

  • Americans expect to eat and stay thin, to be constantly on the move and ever more neighborly ... to revere God and be God.

  • Never have people been more the masters of their environment. Yet never has a people felt more deceived and disappointed. For never has a people expected so much more than the world could offer.

  • Best-sellerism is the star system of the book world. A "best seller" is a celebrity among books. It is a book known primarily (sometimes exclusively) for its well-knownness.

  • Each living art object, taken out of its native habitat so we can conveniently gaze at it, is like an animal in a zoo. Something about it has died in the removal.

  • The traveler used to go about the world to encounter the natives. A function of travel agencies now is to prevent this encounter.

  • When I was living in England I found that the more I lived abroad, the more American I discovered I was.

  • What is more natural in a democratic age than that we should begin to measure the stature of a work of art-especially of a painting-by how widely and how well it is reproduced?

  • There's something beautifully soothing about a fact ‚?? even (or perhaps especially) if we're not sure what it means.

  • The computer can help us find what we know is there. But the book remains our symbol and our resource for the unimagined question and the unwelcome answer.

  • History had been man's effort to accomodate himself to what he could not do. Amereican history in the 20th century would, more than ever before, test man's ability to accomodate himself to all the new things he could do.

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