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Part 3 “Media” and the Loss of the Hero

March 30, 2020

Many often blame “the media” for almost everything that’s “wrong”. By definition the word media is simply plural for the word medium. For example written text on paper is a medium, chalk on a sidewalk can be a medium, radio broadcast is a medium, tires on a car and a glove on a hand are media. You and I can be the medium by which COVID-19 can exist and spread. Today however, what many attribute to “the media” is actually just news or the press in general and, more specifically, any information that doesn’t align with one’s personal convictions. Blaming “the media” is kind of like blaming your mistakes, poor choices, or unfortunate circumstances on a hair dryer, a snow shovel, or a piece of wallpaper.

What’s more interesting culturally is our apparent attraction and fascination with individuals who appear to have narcissistic personalities. They actually thrive in this environment. And strangely, large numbers of seemingly intelligent, otherwise kind people can so easily rally around an individual then excuse, and even defend the most rude and vile behaviors and expressions, without rational thought or serious consideration. And it’s not just with the current president. It’s also sports and entertainment celebrities, politicians and preachers. We complain, yet we reward. How diametrically different from 20 years ago when a “hero” had to earn or accomplish something meaningful before becoming a celebrity. We often support our favorite celebrities with the same blind and fervent loyalty as a local football team, regardless of whether they are successful at winning or accomplishing anything notable or selfless. Any actual accomplishment of the hero becomes questionable and is eclipsed by the continuous over-exposure or “fake it till you make it approach” of the celebrity.

The radical advance and speed of electronic technologies have contributed to the replacement of “hero” with “celebrity”. It seems narcissists thrive in our culture today because developing a brand and loyalty is the only way to acquire broad appeal in a short amount of time. Facts and content are no longer primary influences and thus no longer automatically serve as a substantially effective means of persuasion. Often facts and information are irrelevant. Fabricating controversy and dismissing all external thought as “hoax” or “fake news” seems to be the emotional currency of the day. And social media provides a powerful global platform to foster that process. It’s ironic that as our historically unprecedented, widely and equally accessible level of “free speech” gets pushed more to it’s over saturated limits, much content becomes suspect, and all thought and ideas get randomly mixed together to create one pot of overwhelmingly irrelevant noise …resulting in, well, less free speech. Such is the post modern era.

How diametrically different from 20 years ago when a “hero” had to earn or accomplish something meaningful before becoming a celebrity.

It seems that so much of the perplexing and seemingly obscure ideas that Philosipher Marshall McLuhan wrote about in the 60s and 70s regarding media theory, communications, and technologies is literally unfolding in this decade and started becoming visible around 2005. Why?

Now thru the lens of history we can get a glimpse of what he was getting at when he coined the phrase:

“The medium is the message”. For a more in depth look at media and effects from McLuhan’s 1964 writings.

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