Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The mass media versus religion: a neo-McLuhanite analysis


Each medium is a message: the mass medium - the whole thing - is a message.

The whole thing includes print media (books, newspapers, magazines), broadcast media (radio, TV, movies) and the internet media (blogs, social media, interpersonal communications and messaging media) - all form a single vast web of engagement...

that stands in opposition to religion, that occupies the same ground as religion.


And that ground is the social, public, shared system of evaluation.

The mass media occupies the ground of religion and displaces religion as the primary social, public system of evaluation for all transcendental Goods: the Goods of truth, beauty and virtue.


The 'message' of the mass media is that it is the mass media in which transcendental evaluations are made (and therefore not religion)


The medium is the message: There is a sense in which the form of communication is the meaning of a communication - or, the nature of the communication system is the primary property of the system.

Or... behind the fluctuating diversity of individual stimuli, behind the contrasting depictions and urgings, the inter-media competition, the fashions and trends... the mass media has a constant tendency.

The tendency is a mass effect: the bigger the mass media, the more powerful this tendency (regardless, again I emphasize, of the specific content of the media).


The meaning of the mass media is what is constant and unified about the function of the medium - and not whatever is intermittent and changeable and diverse.

So, the fundamental nature of the mass media can be seen in its net effect on the human condition.


The mass medias tendency is by now far advanced and readily observable...

The mass media 'wants' from humans not just wholesale passive consumption, but active participation in media processing, in the evaluations, which participation itself enlarges and expands the mass media.

So, the near-perfection of mass media would be when humans were plugged-nto the system of communications and receiving inputs, processing them and generating outputs the tendency of which was to generate more inputs...


The perfection of the mass media is not to have passive consumers, but to to use the sensory apparatus and brains of active consumers as information processors to generate more and ever-more mass media.

In other words, the tendency of the mass media is to co-opt the human mind to increase the communication network that is the mass media. 

It is happening at this moment, to me and to you...

A blogger reads other blogs, and draws on the experience of the mass media and of his life and experience to make blog posts which grab attention and tend to stimulate the writing of further communications such as comments and postings on other blogs - which are then read by the blogger and stimulate further blogging and so on.

The blog network operates to co-opt more and more human brains, and serves as the system of evaluation for... anything and potentially everything.

The blogosphere can become and has become for some the centre of life; such that the rest of life becomes implicitly subordinated to sustaining engagement with the blogosphere - earning money to feed oneself, so as to blog, read comment, blog some more...


But of course blogs are only a tiny part of the mass media - and the diversity of the mass media serves to disguise what is going so - so that we feel that reading a newspaper is different from attending a musical concert is different from visiting a place or having a human relationship - yet in the mass media world all these are merely grist to the mill.

We need to multiply the above scenarios for blogs by several orders of magnitude.


The media world is one in which religion and holidays and other people (and everything else) is primarily something to contribute to the mass media; in which peoples' primary motivation in doing anything other then consume the mass media is that they have something 'interesting' to contribute to the mass media.

In which the evaluations that people make concerning truth, beauty and virtue are themselves calibrated to promote engagement with the mass media.

So what people do apart from the mass media is done on the basis of evaluations from the mass media, since these things are being done (implicitly) in order that they may be contributed to the mass media.


(You think I exaggerate? Recall that the main link to the mass media for many people is the mobile phone. How much of what people do now is done in order that they have things suitable to contribute to the other mobile phone users. Modern life is subdivided into tweetable-units.)


This (here, now, you, me!) is a world in which religion is just grist to the mass media mill, marriage and family are grist to the media mill, our surface opinions and deepest convictions are grist...

We are all hack journalists now; thinking the thoughts and living the lives of hacks.