The Medium is the Massage.
Marshall McLuhan’s prescient book on how information is received is alive and well in the age where tweets replace news articles, emojis conversation. Social media defines our current culture of interactive and interconnected communication. When the book was published more than fifty years ago, television rapidly replaced radio as our means of ingesting news and entertainment. Media outlets grew with New York as the international news capital establishing a mainstream press. Advertising and Public Relations firms flexed their biceps. Between Hollywood’s output of images strengthened through New York’s media muscle, America’s mirror to the world was a glamorous glare of strong white faces dominating America. Even in cartoons. It was a decade’s long cohesive system of “massaging” (as the original title read due to a typo the author himself thought provocative if not ironic) our collective messages of opinion, society, and humanity. It barely included color.
When it did, BIPOC were glimpsed through a cunning romanticized lens of them or us, cowboys or Indians, coons and spics; a distorted justification for discrimination through one-dimensional characters spun in stories, literature, films, minstrels, blackface, even bible references branded onto the American psyche.
The medium is still the message and that message is crystal clear the moment you stepped off a boat then or disembark from a plane now — America has only two colors, white and not white. The more nonwhite you are, the fewer benefits you receive, the less that life is worth. You don’t have to understand English to understand this.
If real change is to occur, we need an ongoing national conversation that confronts this history, that begins to shift the narrative, the mindset, and the society towards inclusion into one human race of many colors and cultures. Not just lip service like what was done when children were gunned down and their lives traded by the NRA for more bullets in schools. Real inclusion springs from enforceable laws, legislature, mandates, — from the reboot of an obsolete educational system to the redistribution of today’s corporate-owned media.
As a media professional I’ve witnessed it in both newsrooms and creative sessions.