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The Medium is the Message

Interesting article today popped up on Drudge that linked to The Holly Reporter. The article gave information as to how Hollywood helped Hitler and the Nazis after the Nazis rise to power in 1933

The “little story” is how for business purposes Hollywood caved to Nazi pressure to show Nazism (and Germany) in a favorable and sanitized light. Hollywood did so in a weird form of political correctness to make a buck. Nothing surprising about that.

Reichsluftschutzbund personnel march past near...

Reichsluftschutzbund personnel march past near the Nuremberg Frauenkirche in the 1934 Nuremberg Rally-Screenshot from Triumph of the Will. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The bigger story in my opinion has to do with the Nazis realizing the power of the medium to sway public opinion one way or the other.

It reminded me of a class I had in High School (1971), the name of which escapes me. Whatever the name of the class I distinctly remember the teacher frequently reminding us that the “medium is the message” a phrase coined by Marshall McLuhan and from his book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. I do not remember reading the book but could have since the teacher seemed to be in love with it. I do remember the phrase, “the medium is the message” because it was pounded into our young heads filled with mush.

The meaning of the phrase is that the content of a message is secondary to the medium that presents the message.

For example, back in the eighties an American televangelist by the name of Jimmy Swaggert tearfully admitted on television to cavorting with hookers after he was irrefutably outed. The content of his TV message, “I’ve sinned against God” was secondary to the image of an extremely tearful Jimmy on the medium of television. Why?

Well, Swaggert had a lot of followers and a lot of followers meant a cash cow and tears meant genuine repentance, at least to some. Swaggert’s “repentance” became suspect a bit later as he refused to submit to his denomination’s discipline and started his own church away from the accountability of his former denomination. The people who bought the tearful TV repentance followed him to his new church thus making the point, the medium is the  message when it’s crafted well.

The Nazi’s were expert at understanding the principle.

For example, Leni Riefenstahl, was a Hitler favorite, an actress, dancer and filmmaker. She produced the 1934 movie the Triumph of the Will an amazing visual achievement designed to give the German people (and the world) the idea that the Nazis were unstoppable and that every good German was behind them. The speeches that were filmed and the massive parades caught on the film all served to present an image of power, national enthusiasm, and the rise of a new Germany from the ashes of WW1. It worked and Reifenstahl would go on to make other films under the guidance of Goebbels who was also the master of image and propaganda.

Riefenstahl with Joseph Goebbels (1937)

Riefenstahl with Joseph Goebbels (1937) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Few people realize the power of the medium. Especially vulnerable are the so-called “low information voters” of today who more often than not vote based on image rather than content.

How else can you explain the rise of an inexperienced, no name politician with zero achievements to his name? No, not Hitler, but President Obama. His administration understands that the medium is the message and the outcome is that the content of what he says escapes the kind of scrutiny the press, the controllers of the medium, gave George Bush.

The Greek temple at Obama's coronation was designed to project a particular image, the image of a type of savior. Grandiose to those with eyes to see, but effective to those who saw Obama as a savior.

The Greek temple at Obama’s coronation was designed to project a particular image, the image of a type of savior. Grandiose to those with eyes to see, but effective to those who saw Obama as a savior.

Closing scene from Triumph of the Will. The visual triumphs over content.

Footage from the mainstream media calling Obama’s election in 2008. In order to win Obama had to first overcome Hilary Clinton in the party’s nomination process. Whatever else one can say about Hilary she certainly was more qualified than a no name inexperienced Senator with nothing to his credit to assume the office of President.

Then Obama had to overcome another Senator, this time a war hero and a very moderate Republican. Whatever else you can say about McCain he was certainly more qualified than Obama to assume the office of President. Historic, certainly, but the message is the medium and the medium was decisive and still is.

And that’s the way I see it.

One comment on “The Medium is the Message

  1. Reblogged this on Church, State, Faith and Culture and commented:

    Reblog from my history blog.

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