The Thinker: Rich Galen


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Marshall McLuhan was Wrong

Rich Galen

Monday October 24, 2016

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  • In the 1960's a Canadian media guru named Marshall McLuhan co-authored a book entitled "The Medium is the Message."

  • It might have made sense under the influence of pot or LSD, but it was incomprehensible to me.

  • Here's an example from the text:
    "This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium - that is, of any extension of ourselves - result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology."

  • In spite of that crisp prose, it developed a cult, Age-of-Aquarius, following. Millions of people of my generation claimed to have read it - almost all of them said they had read it while they were at Woodstock - but few ever did, because few were at Woodstock.

  • The reason I bring this up is because I said, on Rev. Al Sharpton's Sunday program on MSNBC that the Marshall McLuhan was wrong and proof of the medium not being the message is one Donald John Trump.

  • I said this on Friday when the show was pre-taped. I bring that up because Peggy Noonan, in her Saturday Wall Street Journal column ("Imagine a Sane Donald Trump") beat me to publication of our shared theory, but I want it noted I said it before I read her column.

  • It does not take a sociological genius to recognize that Donald Trump touched something in a significant segment of the American population. I don't know that he thought this through before coming down that escalator at Trump Tower on June 15, 2015 (can you believe it?). But, once he recognized that there was an exposed nerve to be plucked, he set about strumming away.

  • Maybe it was never real, but there has been a shared expectation in America that with skill, hard work and maybe a little luck anyone could be anything. A mixed-race young man who was raised on at least two different continents for some time by his grandmother could, and did, become President of the United States.

  • That's not the working definition of "The American Dream" because most of us don't have any plans to become President. Or the chairman of General Motors. Or starting pitcher for the Chicago Cubs.

  • Most of us want to own a car, a house, have some good kids that we can afford to send to college, and to be able to retire some time before we expire.

  • But we found out the hard way in the Fall of 2008 that none of those things were likely to happen for many - if not most - Americans. Housing prices collapsed bringing down with them everything from two of the three major car companies, to major banks, to just about every business in the nation.

  • About 8.7 million jobs were lost. Over nine million people lost their homes. According to CBS "Trillions of dollars have evaporated" from 401(k) retirement accounts.

  • One person interviewed by CBS said he had been planning to retire in his 60s "but now it looks like I'll have to work until I'm 70." I'm about to turn 70. It will be just another Wednesday.

  • As Ms. Noonan wrote in her essay, "People have been battered since the crash, in many ways, and nothing feels stable now."

  • Donald Trump said aloud what almost everyone was thinking: The system is rigged. Leyman Brothers went broke in September 2008 triggering the collapse. Not only did no one go to jail for rigging the financial system, but many got huge bonuses.

  • Go figure.

  • The election will be over two weeks from tomorrow night. I don't care if Donald Trump concedes his loss (and it will be a loss) or not. Hillary Clinton will be declared the winner by the Associated Press about 10 seconds after she gets to 270 electoral votes no matter how many states' polling places are still open.

  • Then it will fall to the new leaders of the Republican Party to pick up the pieces a plot a way to repair the damage that has been done by the previous leadership and exacerbated by Donald Trump.

  • The message has been clear. The medium has been deeply flawed. Marshall McLuhan was wrong.

  • It must be fixed. Quickly.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring Page today: Links to McLuhan's theories, to Peggy Noonan's column (possibly behind a pay wall), to Woodstock, and to the RealClearPolitics polling page.

    The Mullfoto was a confounding thing I saw at Reagan National Airport recently.

    -- END --

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