Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World portrays a populace subjugated not through force, but instead through sensuous, mindless pleasure and entertainment. Unlike Orwell’s vision in 1984 of book-banning committees and the like, Huxley portrays a society overrun by trivial “information” which crowds out any would-be subversive material—including the humanities, and of course the Bible. Ultimately, unrest in the population is controlled through a highly structured delivery of entertainment and a drug called “soma,” which creates a mood of complete indifference. Writing in 1985, Neil Postman quoted Robert MacNeil’s observation that “Television is the soma of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World,” to which Postman adds “Big brother turns out to be Howdy Doody.” (Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business [New York: Penguin Books, 1985], 111.
Though not concerned with totalitarian rule, T. David Gordon’s book Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers provides further evidence that Huxley’s vision of the West’s future is correct. The sheer weight of triviality in modern American discourse—from so-called news programs to the vapid yet ubiquitous “reality” shows—has crushed the ability to address the deeper, more important questions of life. Unlike other books which simply present the problem, Gordon offers constructive advice for ministers hoping to speak a word of hope in a culture of indifference.