Monday, July 18, 2011
The Medium is the Message
On the weekend the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Marshall McLuhan was celebrated. Do you remember McLuhan? Of course some of you are too young to recall this Canadian philosopher's explorations of popular culture in the 50's, 60's and 70's but he was an influential guy, even though people were often perplexed by what some of his catch phrases actually meant. He coined "The Global Village" and he also told us that "the medium is the message." We're still trying to figure that one out, but McLuhan was trying to help us see that in the rapidly changing world of communication, media aren't just the vehicles for sharing information, they shape and define it and even become more important than the message itself.
What an interesting coincidence between McLuhan's birthday and the media scandal in Britain. This is an unfolding story of gross abuse of any means to create sensational stories. The now-defunct News of the World newspaper tapped and hacked the phones of grieving families of a murdered teen, and of soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Politicians and celebrities were also targets. It has become obvious that there were no moral boundaries, no integrity or conscience on the part of the perpetrators. This was illegal activity which knew no bounds. In this case "the medium is the monster." Today the owner of the News of the World, Rupert Murdoch (above), will give testimony in Britain and we can hope that the truth will eventually emerge.
I wonder what our reaction should be as people of faith? I suppose we would all agree that this is reprehensible behaviour. But we see how the media are manipulated by religious groups and leaders to create public spectacles, everything from bizarre entertainment style worship on TV to crazies burning copies of the Koran. Wouldn't you like to hear McLuhan's comments on all this stuff!