30 April 2008

Weird McLuhan Citing #26 and #934: "Medium is the Message" double-header

McLuhan is a hot name to drop in politics, especially six months before a major national election. In an April 29th post at Huffington Post, Andrew Foster Altschul has this to say "Of Sharks in the Water, Superdelegates, and Hannah Montana's Breasts":

If Marshall McLuhan was right when he wrote, "The medium is the message," then the message is clearly the following: We are the stupidest species ever to walk the earth.

What other conclusion can be drawn after two weeks which saw the ABC Presidential Debacle, in which Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos raced to the bottom of the manure heap; cable news's overblown, but predictable, reversal of the Obama-Clinton storyline after Hillary's Pennsylvania victory; and the Return of the Rabid Reverend, yet another non-event transformed into a Major Crisis simply by the fact that the media won't shut up about it?
I'm not sure what "the medium is the message" has to do with George Stephanopolous, or even what "medium" Altshul is talking about here. But I guess it kinda makes him sound smart. Which hides how mindnumbingly boring the rest of the article is.

Decidedly weirder is this editorial by Manika Gupta from The Times of India, "Films should not glamorise alcoholism." The article begins:

Union health minister Anbumani Ramadoss said on Tuesday that scenes depicting alcohol consumption in films need to stop immediately.

He has said that alcohol consumption poses a grave threat to India which has the largest number of young people in the world.

His take on Bollywood for promoting alcoholism is not off the mark. He is not alone in his mistrust of films.

Messages sent out through media have a significant impact on the young as well as on children. Youth and children tend to emulate screen heroes, so films with heroes indulging in alcoholism can have a negative impact on society as a whole.

Marshall McLuhan used the phrase "the medium is the message" to explain how the medium through which the message is disseminated can often be more important than the message itself.
Wait -- . . . what? Was the notorious technological determinist Marshall McLuhan just cited in an argument premised on the importance of media content? The phrase is not "the content is the message", or "the message impacts consumers" -- it's "the medium is the message." What does that have to do with images of young people drinking? Isn't McLuhan conveying precisely the opposite view of media's impact? That those messages don't matter -- that it's the way media forms alter social patterns that matters?

Hint: he is. But don't let that keep you from dropping "the medium is the message" whenever you're discussing either a medium, or its message. I do it too -- it's fun!

You can even use "the medium is the message" to pun up your article's title in a way that's never been done before. Seriously.

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