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How WWE Should Book Survivor Series 2020
MY SURVIVOR SERIES PPV POSTS OF PREVIOUS YEARS:
- 2015: https://www.reddit.com/SquaredCircle/comments/3tvgbj/how_wwe_should_book_survivor_series_2015/
- 2016: https://www.reddit.com/SquaredCircle/comments/5e0f4s/how_wwe_should_book_survivor_series_2016/
- 2017: https://www.reddit.com/SquaredCircle/comments/7e246z/how_wwe_should_book_survivor_series_2017/
- 2018: https://www.reddit.com/WWE/comments/9xyxshow_wwe_should_book_survivor_series_2018/
- 2019: Didn’t do one.
- We get the usual kickoff panel of Charly Caruso, JBL, Booker T and everybody’s favorite person, Peter Rosenberg. Throughout the hour, the panel runs down the match card giving their predictions, hyping up the matches and showing us video packages. About 25 minutes into the hour, we get our kickoff match.
- Everybody gets a jobber entrance except for The Hurt Business guys, Dominik and Rey, and Jeff Hardy. The match gets about 20 minutes. R-Truth eliminates himself first after everyone tries to go after him, in pursuit of the 24/7 Title. Since this match was A, made last minute, B, has no stakes, and C, we still don’t know what the winner gets, let’s just fast-forward to the important parts. Jeff eliminates Elias but Elias slides back in, throws Jeff over, and they brawl through the crowd area. The final group of superstars are Cedric, MVP, Shelton, Dominik and Rey, Lars Sullivan and Murphy. Lars eliminates The Hurt Business guys 3-on-1. The final 4 are The Mysterios, Murphy and Lars. There’s dissension between The Mysterios and Murphy still as Rey is still not having it that Murphy is with Alliyah. Drama ensues. Lars eliminates Murphy. It’s down to The Mysterios and Lars. Rey and Dom double team Lars but Lars does the RAWR spot and they both go flying. Rey is eliminated by Lars. Long story short we get a Benoit/Big Show moment and Dominik goes over big by eliminating Lars. Post-match, Lars tries to get revenge but Lars eats a Double 619 and retreats up the ramp as The Mysterios stand tall. This would boost Dominik HUGE, winning a match with so many big names in it, but even if you think it’s too much, it is just a kickoff match that doesn’t really mean anything. But still, Dom continues to build his credibility.
- The panel give their final predictions for the main event elimination matches, and share their memories of Undertaker’s career, maybe we even get a run-in and chase spot with R-Truth and the 24/7 crew, and then we get to the main show.
- RAW vs. SmackDown, the BEST OF THE BEST. What does the brand that wins the night get in victory? IS IT THE #30 SPOT IN THE RUMBLE? No! IS IT THE RIGHT FOR THE SUPERSTARS TO CONTROL THEIR BRAND FOR A MONTH? No! IS IT THE RIGHT FOR THE SUPERSTARS OF THE BRAND TO FORM A UNION? No chance in hell, pal! IS IT… BRAGGING RIGHTS? Erm…. yeah. Oh. Well that’s unfortunate. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s the Thanksgiving week tradition, the 4th biggest show of the year, and the home of the Gobbledy Gooker, welcome to Survivor Series. As always, this isn’t what I think WILL happen, this is what I think SHOULD happen. Now, let’s distract ourselves from the real world with some pro wrestling.
- New Day are out first followed by Street Profits. The match gets about 15 minutes. This match is SO exciting to me. It’s fresh, it’s new, we’ve never seen it before, it’s two younger generation tag teams trying to make their mark. There’s no reason this couldn’t steal the show, so it’s a PERFECT opener. The two teams do their thing for the time they’re given and the match ends when Xavier and Dawkins are legal, and Woods tags Kofi in for the Daybreak. Kofi goes up top and Dawkins is on Woods shoulder, and just when it looks like The New Day have this one in the bag, Montez runs up out of nowhere, leaps onto the top rope, and nails Kofi with a superplex. Dawkins squirms off of Woods shoulders and then nails him with a Spear. Woods rolls out and Dawkins makes the tag to Montez, who hits a Frogsplash for the win. The Street Profits have defeated New Day. The New Day are the New Day. They are already established as one of WWE’s best factions. They’ve been dominant in the division for nearly 6 years now. Profits getting the win here would boost their stock huge, and let them prove that they’re on New Day’s level. I shouldn’t have to explain this, but I am. Profits are newer and would benefit so much more from this win than New Day would. Street Profits are now that much bigger because of it. Post-match, both teams shake hands and hug as a sign of mutual respect, but on this night, The Street Profits have shown their superiority.
- We get an ad for WWEShop, followed by a throw to the commentators, who thank AC/DC for the official theme song of the PPV.
- Sami Zayn is out first, being wonderfully obnoxious as he is, jumping down the ramp like a child. Hurt Business with Lashley out next, completely night and day, as they walk down in suits, in one swift motion, looking like they all hate their lives. The match gets about 11 minutes and as soon as the bell rings, Sami is trash-talking Lashley. He mentions the segment with his sister and that brings back such severe PTSD for Bobby that he rushes Zayn and rams him into the corner, then ragdolls him across the ring. Sami tries to escape and runs around the ring before being leveled by MVP with a clothesline as Bobby distracts the ref. Bobby is on offense most of the match, but Sami gets the hope spot in there with a Blue Thunderbomb and a top-rope crossbody, both for near falls. The match ends when Zayn hits the corner exploder suplex on Lashley, then charges for the Helluva Kick, but Lashley scoops him and powers him up for a gorilla press Dominator. Hopefully this is a much higher quality match than the mess that was MITB ‘18, where Zayn got vertigo for some reason. Zayn has been a great IC champ, and it’s not like he’s newly-debuted on the main roster 2016 Zayn who was still very vulnerable to bad booking at the time. He could easily bounce back. In this scenario, Lashley is the much bigger man, and The Business of Hurt is booming, so it seems the better decision for Lashley to go over. Zayn argues with the ref on the outside about how this is a conspiracy against him as The Hurt Business stand tall in the ring.
- We get an ad for NXT Takeover: WarGames IV on December 6th.
- Team RAW make their entrances first, followed by Team SmackDown. The match gets about 24 minutes, and Bayley and Shayna Baszler start off in the ring. You can see the order of eliminations, and how everyone gets eliminated in the table below, but I’ll just get into the last moments. Nia Jax and Lana remain on Team RAW, and Bianca Belair on SmackDown. Nia has had just about enough of Lana and WAFFLES her. The ref rules that Lana cannot continue, and so she is disqualified. It’s down to Nia Jax for RAW, and Bianca Belair for SmackDown. Nia starts to dominate Bianca but Bianca starts to come back, showcasing her power and athleticism. After about 5 minutes of back and forth, Lana starts to come to. Bianca clotheslines Nia to the outside, Bianca hits a KOD on the outside of the ring and then steps aside as she notices Lana creeping up. Lana dismantles the announce table. Lana tries to lift Nia up by herself, and obviously can’t do it. She calls on Bianca and the both of them lift Nia up, with a Samoan Drop through the announce table. The count is at around 8 now and Bianca rolls back in, as Nia fails to beat the count. I did think about Bianca just pinning Nia, but then it would be difficult to fit the Lana payback spot in there, and if Bianca pinned her that would probably have to build to a rematch which we couldn’t get anyways since they’re on different brands. Ultimately, the Nia/Lana nonsense would conclude at TLC, where the two would meet in, appropriately, a tables match. I’ll have my full card for TLC at the end of this post, as always. Bianca Belair is the sole survivor, NOW PUSH HER TO THE MOON AS SHE DESERVES. THE WORD STAR IS WRITTEN ALL OVER HER.
|Elimination Order||Wrestlers||Brand||Eliminated By||Elimination Method|
|1||Natalya||SmackDown||Lana||Eliminated immediately after roll-up by Lana|
|2||Peyton Royce||RAW||Ruby Riott||Eliminated after a double-team by The Riott Squad|
|3||Ruby Riott||SmackDown||Shayna Baszler||Eliminated after being choked out by Shayna|
|4||Liv Morgan||SmackDown||Shayna Baszler||Eliminated after being choked out by Shayna|
|5||Lacey Evans||RAW||Bayley||Eliminated after a Roseplant by Bayley|
|6||Shayna Baszler||RAW||Bianca Belair||Eliminated after a KOD by Belair|
|7||Bayley||SmackDown||Nia Jax||Eliminated after a flurry of legdrops by Nia Jax|
|8||Lana||RAW||Nia Jax||Eliminated after K.O. by Nia Jax|
|9||Nia Jax||RAW||Eliminated by count-out after assisting Lana in putting Nia Jax through the announce table|
- We get an ad for Cyberpunk 77 (or whatever it’s called.) Followed by a video package for our next match...
- Asuka is out first followed by Mandalorian star, Sasha Banks. The match gets about 20 minutes. These are two of the best women’s wrestlers on the planet right now, but because they’ve fought so much on PPV already this year, and since the build for their match this time around has been unspectacular to say the least, it’s hard to get too excited. After what is sure to be another solid showing between these two, the match ends when the two are trading submission attempts, but it ends with Sasha winning the struggle after she sidesteps an Asuka Lock and winds behind Asuka, nailing the backstabber and locking in the Bank Statement. Asuka is resilient and nearly gets to the rope but Sasha pulls her back to the center of the ring and that’s when Asuka knows she’s done for, and subsequently taps out. Asuka has been one of the highlights of the shitty year that has been 2020 in wrestling and the world as a whole, but Sasha Banks gets the win simply because she’s the more relevant one at this very moment. She’s fresh off her feud with Bayley, and her title win at HIAC, just the last PPV. Plus, with all the Mandalorian-related press she’s been getting, a win in her column would only boost her stock even more, and flock more eyes to the product as a result. The Boss brings the score up for SmackDown.
- We get a backstage interview with Paul Heyman, who walks out of Reigns locker room after Kayla Braxton knocks on the door.
- Team SmackDown are out first with individual entrances, followed by RAW, where AJ Styles makes his entrance first, and then Braun, Sheamus and Keith interrupt each other’s music with their entrances, furthering the tension that has been mounting between the three. The match gets about 32 minutes, and Styles and Rollins start off in the ring. Like I said in the Women’s elimination match and with my Survivor Series posts of the past, I find it easier to have a table, detailing all the eliminations, and methods of elimination, etc. You can find that below this match. I’ll skip to the end, with Keith Lee and Seth Rollins the last remaining on each other’s teams. Moments before that, though, Jey Uso is still in, but Bryan runs in with a Knee and Keith capitalizes for the pin. Jey lasted to the final 2 on his team and didn’t go away easy so he doesn’t take much damage from this at all, but I feel Keith last eliminating Rollins to win the match would make a bigger impact and feel like a bigger impact, and a way to send Rollins off proper since he’s reported to go on break after this show. Last year, Keith survived to the final two but ultimately got pinned by Reigns, and now, one year later, Keith survives to the final two, and gets the win by pinning Seth Rollins, another Shield member. It’s like poetry.
|Elimination Order||Wrestlers||Brand||Eliminated By||Elimination Method|
|1||Otis||SmackDown||Braun Strowman||Eliminated after a running Powerslam|
|2||Riddle||RAW||Jey Uso||Eliminated after an Uso Splash from Jey|
|3||King Corbin||SmackDown||Braun Strowman||Eliminated after a running Powerslam|
|4||Sheamus||RAW||Kevin Owens||Eliminated after a Pop-Up Powerbomb from KO|
|5||Kevin Owens||SmackDown||AJ Styles||Eliminated after tapping out to the Calf Crusher after having his leg targeted by AJ|
|6||AJ Styles||RAW||Jey Uso||Eliminated after Strowman turns on AJ, hits a Powerslam, then Jey hits an Uso Splash|
|7||Braun Strowman||RAW||Seth Rollins||Eliminated after Keith Lee and Braun brawl outside the ring, Braun tries to ram Lee through the barricade but Keith sidesteps, then Rollins hits a Pedigree and a Curb Stomp|
|8||Jey Uso||SmackDown||Keith Lee||Eliminated after Daniel Bryan runs in when the ref is down, nails a Running Knee, then Keith Lee hits a Spirit Bomb for the pin|
|9||Seth Rollins||SmackDown||Keith Lee||Eliminated after Keith catches Rollins off a springboard knee, then hits a BBC|
- We get an ad for the Tables, Ladders and Chairs PPV next month, and a video package for our main event match coming up next.
- The Tribal Chief, who sits at the head of the table and is the Big Dog of the World Wrestling Federation, is out first accompanied by Paul Heyman. Drew McIntyre is out first with his MASSIVE FUCKING SWORD. Not pictured is the other sword he brings to the ring, and holds up in the air. We get a big staredown before the bell rings, and the match gets about 18 minutes. This is a money match. Let’s just cut to the chase here… The match ends after Reigns is speeding like a bullet running the ropes, hits a Superman Punch which knocks Drew wobbly into the ropes, then Reigns comes back attempting a Spear to finish it, both men off the ropes, charging at each other like two speeding trains, but Drew is just one step faster, and nails Claymore kick for the pin. This is a tricky match. One of those matches where neither guy can lose. Your two top stars in the company right now. But like Profits beating New Day earlier, McIntyre should win this match for the one reason that it would ultimately, once and for all, no questions asked, SOLIDIFY him as the newest top face that WWE has. We all know Roman can beat Drew. He has before. But now that Drew McIntyre has beaten Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania in 4 minutes, now that he’s beaten Randy Orton 3 times, most recently to win back the WWE Championship, and now that he’s beaten Roman Reigns, Drew McIntyre is now LEGIT. LEGIT as LEGIT can be. Signed, sealed and delivered. But wait a minute… it’s now tied between red and blue.. What could that possibly mean?
- Roman in the ring, flipping his lid after losing, on the outside, celebrating on the announce table, holding up title. Heyman runs and grabs a mic for Reigns, Reigns says to cut Drew’s music. Reigns congratulates Drew, says he got the best of him tonight, but there’s just one problem, RAW and SmackDown are now tied 3 for 3, and there are no other scheduled matches tonight. Reigns suggests for a tiebreaker, “how bout you have another match RIGHT NOW.” Notice how Roman didn’t say “Let’s have a rematch” right now. Drew is hesitant at first, but looks around and sees the fans in the Thunderdome going wild, and accepts the challenge. Drew puts his title down and goes to get in the ring, hops up on the apron, and they are now face to face. Roman stops him as he’s about to get in the ring, and then says “Whoa whoa whoa… I didn’t say the match was gonna be against me…” All of a sudden, Jey Uso appears next to Roman, Drew points at Jey and is sure that it’s him now and is still onboard with another match, Drew even laughs it off, pointing out that he already beat Jey a few weeks ago on SmackDown. It seems that Jey has been the one appointed by the Tribal Chief to go up against McIntyre in a tiebreaker match, but Reigns, Jey and Heyman smirk and slowly direct their gaze behind Drew… we hear, but don’t see, a commentator’s headset drop to the ground.. all of a sudden, Drew is picked off the apron as SAMOA JOE sneaks up from behind and drags Drew to the ground, locking him in the Coquina Clutch. Drew slowly loses consciousness, to the point even where he begins drooling everywhere. Joe lets it go and then rolls McIntyre’s limp body into the ring. This now even greater Samoan alliance of Reigns, Jey Uso and Samoa Joe begin a vicious beatdown of McIntyre, stomping and pounding away. We cut to backstage and we see Adam Pearce in a frenzy, scrambling through the backstage area trying to find 2 RAW superstars brave enough to even the odds against Reigns, Jey and Joe out in the arena. As fate would have it, it just so happens that none other than The Miz and John Morrison are on-hand and happen to know exactly what is going on in the ring. Pearce, not even thinking, sends the two out to handle the situation. Miz is hiding the MITB briefcase behind his back during this exchange. Pearce sends them out and they make a break for it. Back to the ring now and the triple beatdown on McIntyre is still ongoing. Miz and Morrison are shown running down the ramp, and the team of Reigns, Jey and Joe is too much for them at first. The beatdown switches to Miz and Morrison now, but here is DANIEL BRYAN to even the odds. Bryan flies out of nowhere with a Running Knee to Reigns, and knocks him out of the ring. Bryan is back for revenge on Reigns for the attack that he brainwashed Jey Uso to carry out on him, and the two brawl to the back. It’s a two on two affair now and Joe and Jey target Miz, but he capitalizes by blasting them both in the skull with the MITB briefcase. It is at this point that Miz’s true motives are revealed… they aren’t out here to help Drew against the Samoan Dynasty… they’re here to pick the bones of McIntyre once he’s isolated, so that Miz can fulfill his fortune. On November 22nd, 2010 on RAW, The Miz cashed-in his MITB contract against Randy Orton to win his first WWE Championship. Now, on November 22nd 2020, a decade to the day, at Survivor Series, The Miz is about to cash-in his MITB contract against Drew McIntyre to win his second. The Samoans are all out cold, McIntyre is as good as dead, and Miz sees his opportunity clear as day. Miz calls a referee out and hands the over the briefcase. We get the announcement from Mike Rome.. “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE MIZ IS CASHING-IN HIS MONEY IN THE BANK CONTRACT, THEREFORE DREW MCINTYRE MUST NOW DEFEND HIS WWE CHAMPIONSHIP”. As the ref is distracted, handing the case off to the timekeeper’s area, THE MIZ COMES DOWN HARD AS A RESULT OF AN RKO OUT OF NOWHERE. Orton is here to try to stop Miz from cashing-in now, because he wants to win the title back from MCINTYRE, not Miz. Miz is down, McIntyre is just now starting to stumble to his feet, and Orton sets up for the Punt Kick. As Orton begins to charge towards Drew, the lights go out, row by row, and The Fiend sounds begin playing. Orton is looking all around, but the one place he doesn’t look is right under his feet, AS THE FIEND COMES OUT FROM UNDER THE RING AND CHOKES ORTON OUT WITH A MANDIBLE CLAW. Fiend then drags Orton to hell under the ring. Finally, all that remain at this point are Miz and McIntyre. Both men are struggling to their feet, the referee asks Miz if he still wants the match, Miz insists and insists and insists. The bell rings.
- Both men charge towards each other. Miz eats a Claymore kick. 1. 2. 3. McIntyre retains the championship. McIntyre has his second win of the night. McIntyre is RAW superstar. A RAW superstar has just won. RAW takes Survivor Series and breaks the tie, leading at 4-3, on a technicality.
- Was that an overbooked mess? Possibly. But it would damn sure be exciting. It ties up lots of loose ends. It sets up lots of matches. Fiend vs. Orton. Fiend vs. Drew. Maybe a triple threat between those 3. Orton vs. Miz. Bryan vs. Reigns. Bryan vs. Joe could happen this week on SD to build up for a Bryan/Reigns double header at TLC and Rumble. Also, why not do something different this year? Why not go the unexpected route, and nearly end the night on a tie for the first time, before giving a tiebreaker? Plus a shock return to physical action for Joe. Really, I just got all of these men in mind, (Drew, Reigns, Jey, Joe, Miz, Bryan, Fiend, Orton) and challenged myself to find even a semi-logical way to intertwine all of them in one segment, and I think I found a way. It’s an all-out, car-crash, eyes in the back of your head brawl with a new face coming in to vanquish the last in some way. It sounds crazy on paper, but I think in execution, that it could really work and make for something super exciting to watch on TV.
SEGMENT: The Undertaker’s Final Farewell
- Undertaker comes out, all his greatest rivals come out, they all talk about how great they are for half an hour, and since you know WWE is gonna do it, send Retribution out there as they threaten to crash the fun, give them some exposure from being in the same segment as all the legends out there, but of course we get a Brothers of Destruction double chokeslam and double tombstone on the Retribution members to send the crowd home happy. I mean, I’m not gonna attempt to book this segment any further. I don’t know if Sting is there or not, if he’s all elite or not, but I suppose you can have this as the beginning to a Sting/Taker cinematic match at Mania, where both men retire FOR GOOD. Taker and friends are just gonna take the lead for this one. You can’t “book” or script this. You can’t script emotion. You can’t script REAL. Whatever happens, will happen. So I guess I’ll just close out by saying thank you Undertaker, for giving 30 years of your life to us. The wrestling world will be a darker place with no Undertaker. But then again, that’s just what a deadman would really want.
|Pre-show||Dominik Mysterio won by last eliminating Lars Sullivan||20-man RAW vs. SmackDown Dual-Brand Battle Royal||20 minutes|
|1||The Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford) (SmackDown Tag Team Champions) defeated The New Day (Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods) (RAW Tag Team Champions) by Pinfall||Interbrand Champions vs. Champions match||15 minutes|
|2||Bobby Lashley (RAW United States Champion) (w/ The Hurt Business) defeated Sami Zayn (SmackDown Intercontinental Champion) by Pinfall||Interbrand Champion vs. Champion match||11 minutes|
|3||Team SmackDown (Bayley, Bianca Belair, Liv Morgan, Natalya and Ruby Riott) defeated Team RAW (Lacey Evans, Lana, Nia Jax, Peyton Royce and Shayna Baszler) by Count-Out||5-on-5 Women’s Traditional Survivor Series Elimination match||24 minutes|
|4||Sasha Banks (SmackDown Women’s Champion) defeated Asuka (RAW Women’s Champion) by Submission||Interbrand Champion vs. Champion match||20 minutes|
|5||Team RAW (AJ Styles, Braun Strowman, Keith Lee, Sheamus and Riddle) defeated Team SmackDown (Jey Uso, Kevin Owens, King Corbin, Otis and Seth Rollins) by Pinfall||5-on-5 Men’s Traditional Survivor Series Elimination match||32 minutes|
|6||Drew McIntyre (RAW WWE Champion) defeated Roman Reigns (SmackDown Universal Champion) (w/ Paul Heyman) by Pinfall||Interbrand Champion vs. Champion match||18 minutes|
|N/A||ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE (read the post you fool)||N/A||N\A|
|7||Drew McIntyre (c) vs. The Miz (MITB)||Singles match for the WWE Championship; The Miz’s MITB Cash-in match; RAW vs. SmackDown Tiebreaker||10 seconds|
|SEGMENT||Undertaker’s Final Farewell Segment||N/A||N/A|
MY CARD FOR WWE TABLES, LADDERS AND CHAIRS 2020 (December ??, 2020, Orlando, FL, WWE Thunderdome)
|1||Drew McIntyre (c) vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt (w/ Alexa Bliss) vs. Randy Orton||Triple Threat TLC match for the WWE Championship|
|2||Roman Reigns (c) vs. Daniel Bryan||Singles match for the WWE Universal Championship|
|3||Sasha Banks (c) vs. Carmella||Singles match for the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship|
|4||Sami Zayn (c) vs. Kevin Owens||Chairs match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship|
|5||The New Day (Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods) (c) vs. The Hurt Business (Bobby Lashley and Shelton Benjamin) (w/ Cedric Alexander and MVP)||Tag Team match for the WWE RAW Tag Team Championships|
|6||The Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford) (c) vs. The Usos (Jey and Jimmy Uso)||Ladder match for the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championships|
|7||Lana vs. Nia Jax (w/ Shayna Baszler)||Tables match|
Amusing Ourselves To Death Review, Part 3 (Postman's Future: Silicon Valley and Internet Culture)
Part 1: Postman's Past: Boston and Typographic Culture"A central thesis of computer technology—that the principal difficulty we have in solving problems stems from insufficient data—will go unexamined. Until, years from now, when it will be noticed that the massive collection and speed-of-light retrieval of data have been of great value to large-scale organizations but have solved very little of importance to most people and have created at least as many problems for them as they may have solved." -Neil Postman
Part 2: Postman's Present: Las Vegas and Show Business
What do you remember from yesterday?
I'll get more specific: I assume, since you're reading this, you spent some time online yesterday. What did you see? What did you do? What did you read, or hear, or laugh at?
Okay, how about two days ago?
Just how much information do you process, scan over, and discard without a second thought in any given day?
I got curious, so I checked my browsing history from yesterday. More than 500 different pages visited, which doesn't do much to track just how far I scrolled down on Twitter or reddit at any given moment, and as far as I noticed didn't include mobile. I can tell you broad themes, and of course I could jump into a few specifics, but the sheer amount of disconnected bits of information that passed by my eyes in a flurry of "Now... this" was surely enough to make Postman's ghost scream.
It would be easy, in other words, to write this third section in six words:
We are living in Postman's nightmare.
Easy, yes, but correct? I think there remains useful room for discussion. I'll build a case for the obvious negative view, but I'm inclined to finish in a way Postman didn't: with a hint of hope.
1.But first, listen to an obscure bit of Chinese rap. The song, as a delightfully thorough single-purpose blog emphasizes, "incorporates western and eastern style of music in order to create a unique mood that is pleasing to both western and eastern audience". More to the point, as I was fascinated to learn when I noticed it a few years back, it explores a strikingly similar tension to the one Postman drives in. Its central image is a twenty-hour play from 1598, and in a section rapped quickly enough to put Eminem to shame, the artist provides a line that stuck with me: "When do children have time to sit and watch The Peony Pavilion, spend 19 hours, singing until the entire audience has grown old?"
Something in life has gone to a breakneck pace. Postman, in 1985, joked about the possibility of an award for best investigative sentence as he lamented candidates in the presidential debate getting only five minutes to give their remarks. Today, five minutes has shrunk to one or two, and Twitter has sprung up as the premier journalist resource, with investigative sentences galore. Postman spoke of how commercials, including political ones, shifted from making concrete propositions to offering thirty-second dramas aimed solely at conveying a feeling. Imagine what he would say about the flood of memes in the past decade, a motif for every emotion, with perfectly catchy fragments of thought forged constantly in the fires of public opinion. And, of course, the natural next step for video from 22-minute programs full of jump cuts was first YouTube, then the ephemeral microstories of Snapchat, Vine, and TikTok.
I watched footage of the devastating explosion in Beirut today. A few seconds after seeing it, I scrolled down and smirked when someone posted a photograph and encouraged people to notice the ship sleeping in the top right corner. Then I scrolled down another comment to be reminded that the "sleeping" ship capsized and killed two crew members onboard, which sobered me up. A bit later, still going over footage, I learned what a gimbal is and watched an expensive camera rig fail catastrophically, which in turn led me to discover and glance at a bunch of the top posts on a subreddit to document expensive destruction.
That's just how modern discourse goes, you know? A bunch of superstimuli yanking our emotions one way, then another, sending rapid-fire micro-bursts of humor, tribal vindication, intrigue, outrage, validation. It's a precisely tuned machine designed to provide us exactly what we never knew we wanted to see and could never hope to remember or even care within a few minutes. Sometimes, enough people unite around one meme or another that a microculture forms out of the muck and takes on a life of its own.
"What if there are no cries of anguish to be heard?" Postman asks. "Who is prepared to take arms against a sea of amusements? To whom do we complain, and when, and in what tone of voice, when serious discourse dissolves into giggles? What is the antidote to a culture's being drained by laughter?" p.156
Postman didn't know the half of it.
2.That's the other thing to note about modern discourse, by the way: its fragmentation. This is perhaps the most dramatic change from Postman's time. When he was writing about the way TV ushered in a destructive entertainment culture, he was at least writing in a country where a shared culture could be said, somewhat, to persist. Centralizing things, for example, around a few major news channels meant that you could get a general idea of what sort of ideas everyone was exposed to. With phones but not internet, the gap between places was bridgeable, but not quite so trivial.
Now? I mean, look at this place. We've managed to siphon ourselves off so spectacularly well that I can write an uncomfortably personal profile of, like, 90% of the people reading this. Whatever niche ideology or bizarre demographic preference you care for, as long as there are even a handful of likeminded people in the world, you can tailor a perfectly comfortable microculture of your very own. One way or another, some ideas percolate around the whole, but inside jokes pile on obscure references and local language until groups become almost unknowable from the outside, and individuals can hop from one to the next to the next, digesting and regurgitating weltanschauungs as they go.
In that miasma, truth and falsehood become mingled or, perhaps worse, simply irrelevant in service of the narrative. When you have the whole world to hunt for examples, you don't even need to lie to tell a thousand different stories that confirm everyone's worst fears at once. It's just a matter of selecting the right truths. And, of course, there is the elephant in the room. Postman remarked on just how perfect a symbol a former movie star as President was for his moment in the age of show business. Now, his son hardly needs to remind us, we have a president tailored just for this moment, a shining reflection of our collective will, or more appropriately, our remarkable lack of a collective will.
3.Postman was a pessimistic prophet. Even as he warned that we could suffer culture-death, not as the result of any articulated ideology but by the way of life imposed by one technology or another, he shrugged off the possibility of people listening. Technology, he drove home again and again, is not a neutral tool, and it is not always a friend to culture. Introduce the alphabet, you shape the cognition and social relations of the world. Introduce movable type, you set off a war. Set a bunch of geeks loose in Silicon Valley, and you wake up in a dramatically changed world. All this, Postman sighs, "without a vote. Without polemics. Without guerrilla resistance.... Here is ideology without words." p.158
He laughs at how often he was told he "must appear on television to promote a book that warns people against television." p.159 I laugh, too, as I lament internet culture as one who can hardly imagine anything else, while I take advantage of it to transfer his warning to yet another medium, to a long-suffering group of friends and acquaintances who I would never have cause or occasion to address without these tools.
And that is one reason I'm convinced there is more cause for hope than Postman allows.
4.Let's go back a moment, to the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Surely, in this day and age, you couldn't get people to sit down for three hours straight of in-depth conversation without interruptions or distractions. In a "Now... this" culture, nobody will care to sit for a long, in-depth lecture series. or watch involved math tutorials. And imagine the unlikelihood of a place where people write interminable walls of text exploring various facets of modern culture, inspired by somewhere with even longer walls of text on an awe-inspiring range of topics.
Even in entertainment, while things like Twitter and TikTok offer ever faster bursts of microemotion, streaming has provided opportunities for long, involved stories spanning dozens of episodes, while people will pour thousands of hours into mastering the obscurities of a given video game. Or, indeed, in just watching someone else play for hours on end. Others write millions of words in sprawling stories, and even find readers. I want to emphasize here that I'm not saying any of these examples is inherently a good choice. I only intend to say that they resist Postman's trend. They indicate ways in which new structures can rise to give expression once more to old, deeply felt needs. The medium remains the message, but in the various fractures and folds of new media, new messages become possible.
Typographic culture has quieted, but it hasn't died out. Television culture, too, is hanging gamely on, but it's not the only game in town. And while our new internet culture has brought an array of problems broad and spectacular enough to fuel an entire genre of Postman-esque doomsaying, I can hardly pretend it's all bad or act like I haven't benefited. Postman makes a strong case that we have lost something, and I can't disagree. But something, too, has been gained.
5.As one final illustration, once more hammering home the McLuhanian point that the medium is the message, consider Postman's three commandments of television as education:
Thou shalt have no prerequisites
Thou shalt induce no perplexity
Thou shalt avoid exposition like the ten plagues visited upon EgyptNow, ask yourself: which of these three remains true with gamelike systems?
I'll be the first to cop to the point that new technology has long been heralded as a savior in schools, only to fade and fail to live up to the hype. There's an enormous amount of empty technology for technology's sake directed at classrooms, similar to The Voyage of the Mimi in the way they aim to ask not "What is education good for?" but "What is this technology good for?" But—there's always a but—just as the medium of television shapes things in a way unavoidably in tension with education, you can examine other media and ask how or if the same shaping applies.
Even casually, most games are built on towers of steadily increasing prerequisites. Leveling up is the core of gaming, whether it comes in the form of reaching the end of a Mario level and being rewarded with a tougher next step, or spending four hours gathering rhinoceros ink to get a piece of armour with a single point of extra defense in a MMO.
And perplexity? Dark Souls 3 sold millions on the promise of grinding players down with a series of brutal encounters. Game designers do well to consider how well they're leading to flow states at any given point in their process. There's always a careful balance of perplexity and simple fun that goes into good games, but it's a welcome ingredient in those endeavors.
Exposition, to be fair, is still a rough ask in games. It's hard to get people to slow down and care about all the fiddly details. I could point to extensive guides people painstakingly create for any given game, poring through to find what is optimal in everything, but those are outside the games themselves and I don't intend to strain the comparison here.
My point is that the underlying assumptions of games are suited to learning in a way the underlying assumptions of TV never were. It's not perfect, and more than a few have created rubbish heaps under the guise of implementing game-like tools in education, but some designers have taken these tools and run with them, creating some of the best tools in all of education.
Having been granted the map, and given the cautionary tales from Huxley and Postman alike, we have a clear view of just how easy it is to build the tools that let us laugh our lives away. I'm no stranger to technological pessimism, and I think there's serious cause for concern in both Huxleyan and Orwellian ways in the world we're building for ourselves, but there's no need to let pessimism have the last word. If we want something better, our task is to build, refine, and defend mediums that dampen our lowest urges while inspiring our best.
To the credit of the Socrateses and Postmans of the world, we can look back and notice the real damages our innovations bring in their wake. But we can learn from Socrates's warning because Plato wrote it down anyway, and I can share Postman's warning because people built the internet anyway. Step by step, we muddle forward.
Until next time.