Marshall McLuhan in the New Millenium
By pcr on Dhj 03, 2004
There is just way too much to cover today. My laptop croaked itself Sunday and I just got it back yesterday. Makes it tough to be productive...those that live by the laptop fail when the laptop fails (to paraphrase the Gospels.) First up is todays Op-Ed analysis of the Ron Artest dust up and its continuing fall out. Danniel Henninger has this analysis on-line in the Opinion Journal of the Wall Street journal (proudly powered by Sun according to the ad on the page.) A few salient extracts follow:
"... Marshall McLuhan was laughed at in 1967 with the publication of "The Medium Is the Massage," his aphoristic summary of what electronic media were going to do to us. 'All media works us over completely,' McLuhan said. The book's subtitle was "An inventory of effects." It's a good time for another inventory, because no one's laughing now.
Much of the "culture" we consume is graphic and electronic. Most of us have watched more screens of entertainment--on TV, in movies, videogames and computers--than any other activity not required to sustain life. A cable company like Time Warner now offers about 500 channels. This is relatively new. It must have an effect. But what is 'it'?
It is mostly entertainment. As with movies, TV from the first days was primarily a performance medium. That means it is a medium of exaggeration. It exists to go over the top. Professionals will tell you that like any staged performance, TV requires exaggeration, or sharpened behavior, to succeed. On a TV screen or the silver screen, normal "performance" doesn't "come across." To compensate for the screen's odd, deadening effect, all actors ham it up. Actors from Jackie Gleason to Telly Savalas to John Belushi have all painted their characters in broad, "unreal" strokes--to put them across.
Violence is also one of the medium's most basic tools. Since the slapstick figures of Europe's old Commedia dell'Arte, violence has been a staple of exaggerated effects--the Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers and today "South Park." But of course no one in the 17th century watched such stuff every night.
...McLuhan said media would change us. He was right. There are simple words to describe what we are seeing lots of now: vanity, anger, impatience, envy, egocentrism, arrogance. Oh yes, vices are not crimes. But standing under a constant electronic shower of them will wash away what might be called the smaller, quieter virtues, such as humility, restraint, modesty, respect, tact, patience, generosity, prudence, piety--that stuff.
Does it matter? Two years after "The Medium Is the Massage," Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black issued a famous dissent in the Tinker case, which elevated the speech rights of very young students and lowered the inclination of teachers to civilize their students. Justice Black warned this would make the schools vulnerable "to the whims and caprices of their loudest-mouthed, but maybe not their brightest, students." So what? They're all stars now. "
To which I can only raise my voice and say, "Amen, brother. Preach it!" Please read the entire article since I have only excerpted from it here.
Image courtesy of Sports Illustrated/CNN...click image for article on the whackiness of Ron Artest.