The Media are the messages, Part 1

It’s hard to believe but, even though Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore’s influential book https://smile.amazon.com/Medium-Massage-Marshall-McLuhan/dp/1584230703/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=marshall+mcluhan&qid=1591467817&s=books&sr=1-3 was published in 1969 when I was still in high school, I’ve been getting its name wrong all this time! I thought it was The Medium is the Message, but it’s actually The Medium is the Massage. I guess I should break down and get around to reading it.

In any case, it has been very influential by planting the concept that how we receive information affects us and changes how we perceive and understand that information. And, as someone who studied Latin in school, it continually irks me when I see someone say that “the media is the message.”

So, of course it came back to me when one of my Facebook friends shared a meme about “Anybody notice how fast the Covid conversation disappeared when the nation’s attention was turned elsewhere? Notice how media controls (sic) you “.

Memes are everywhere and it’s a losing battle to try to refute them all. But I’ve started writing this blog because I think I have a bit more to say than can be expressed in a simple meme.

Nevertheless, it planted an idea and I thought I would start a series of examples of various media that I found particularly interesting and that I personally read or watched (if perhaps not in the current week).

So here is my first list.

Books

A couple years ago we celebrated the centenary of the end of the First World War. I have recently been learning about some of my relatives who served in the American Expeditionary Force in 1918. So, I decided to do some serious research and started reading The First World War by John Keegan. https://smile.amazon.com/The-First-World-War-John-Keegan-audiobook/dp/B07SLKPV3M/ref=sr_1_5?dchild=1&keywords=John+Keegan&qid=1591469179&s=books&sr=1-5

The war began with what was essentially a domestic incident in a country (the Austro-Hungarian Empire) that was led by a minority of Germans and Magyars. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned as our country which once had a majority of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs) is looking at a future where Caucasians will be less than 50% of the population?

Magazines

The National Geographic is one of the oldest American magazines and has been greatly influential in shaping our view of our world and ourselves. So I found this article about racism and the coronavirus to be particularly interesting.

<blockquote>George Floyd’s death is no different from that of Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Ahmaud Arbery, or Mike Brown. And their deaths are no different from Emmett Till’s. The years change, but nothing else does. The conversations I hear at protests are full of anger and frustration, but they lack substance and history. I understand the rage and that it needs a release. The rage eventually dies. The fire is put out. What are we left with then? (Related: Read how the violent history of lynching reflects a brutal American legacy.)</blockquote>

I barely remember Emmet Till. He was lynched as a 14 year old boy just before I started kindergarten. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmett_Till

But he was mentioned by one of the people interviewed by the New York Times last week about why they had decided to protest the death of George Floyd.

Newspapers

Many of my Facebook friends decry the liberal bent of our leading national newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post. As a former newspaper boy, I still have a fondness for this medium which is hanging on mainly through a blending of the World Wide Web internet sites with local print publication. So, I decided to subscribe to the Dallas Morning News, which published this article a few days ago.

https://www.dallasnews.com/news/crime/2020/06/02/dallas-police-chief-renee-hall-says-demonstrators-broke-law-when-they-walked-onto-margaret-hunt-hill-bridge/

I frequently drive across that bridge working the local gig economy. I wasn’t working Monday night when this happened but I thought about it a few days later when I did drive downtown.

Fortunately, the decision was made not to prosecute the demonstrators. So, I was able to discuss it more calmly with a black man I met while jogging this morning in Kiest Park. I even kidded that perhaps the police were trying to keep the protesters from getting into Oak Cliff (the area south of the Trinity River) which has large Hispanic and Black neighborhoods.

But there has been a lot of discussion about how police can allow protesters to exercise their right to assemble and freedom of speech in a peaceful manner. And the technique of kettling is one of several ways in which police tactics can escalate rather than calm a situation.

New Media

There are a lot of sources of information that have arisen in the last 20 years since the dawning of the information age. Some of them like the Huffington Post aspire to newspaper status. Others like Breitbart are little more than a cover for one-sided political advocacy. But since it has a lot of useful information about my home state, I tend to follow the New Mexico Political Report.

They recently posted an article titled Health officials: Data shows masks, social distancing works.

<blockquote>While cloth masks aren’t suitable for use in healthcare settings, Scrase said they are still useful at preventing the spread of the illness among the general public. A review published in May that analyzed 21 studies found that mask use provided a “significant protective effect,” and reduced the risk of infection significantly, ranging from 80 percent among healthcare workers to 47 percent among the general public.  </blockquote>

Podcasts

I started downloading and viewing or listening to audio and video podcasts about 14 years ago after my sons talked me into helping them build a new computer and we got direct (not dial-up) internet that would support web browsing.

Since my gig work gives a lot of time to listen while I drive around, I have returned to following some old favorites and learned about some new ones. microbe.tv has several good ones, but my personal favorite is This Week in Virology (TWiV). It has been enormously informative as the new coronavirus spreads around the world.

And this interview with Peter Daszak of the Eco Health Alliance is particularly interesting. He was working with the Chinese to identify potentially hazardous viruses in bat populations until the NIH cut his funding.

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/04/nih-s-axing-bat-coronavirus-grant-horrible-precedent-and-might-break-rules-critics-say

So, perhaps you’ll also find this podcast informative.

YouTube

YouTube has exploded from just people sharing their home movies to become the medium for sharing anything video or audio. I stumbled across this blast from the past the other night.

Many of the top hits of the 1960’s and 70’s were recorded in studios in Los Angeles. And a group of highly skilled session musicians informally known as the Wrecking Crew performed backing up Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound recordings and many others.

Movies

It’s been a few years since I watched it, but since today is the anniversary of D-Day, I have to mention Saving Private Ryan. It’s still one of the best war movies of all time.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120815/

Music

Since I also like Lady Gaga, I’ll defer to my son Eric’s recommendation for this and wish you all some Fun Tonight.

I should definitely add a television section and perhaps some others, but I think this will do for now.

Wishing you all a good wake and hoping you stay safe and healthy.

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