Category Archives: Culture

Marshall McLuhan: Still prescient, 49 years later

Back when esnl was a budding journalist, no name was better known in media theory than Marshall McLuhan of the University of Toronto School of Communication Theory.

McLuhan’s theories about the role of mass media in shaping the consciousness of the 20th Century sparked endless hours of coffee house conversation.

But McLuhan has largely dropped out of sight, enduring mainly on DVD’s of Annie Hall, in one of most memorable movie cameos ever:

But McLuhan’s theories prove remarkably resilient, most notably his prescient understanding of the computer-enabled panopticon and the power of television to shape and mobilize emotions on behalf of corporate agendas.

He also grasped that the dramatic first-person journalistic reports and prime network coverage by the free-roving reporters of the Vietnam War would lead to draconian restrictions liked the “embedded reporters” who covered the two Bush Wars in the Middle East and North Africa.

Indeed, he even foreshadowed the rise of the presidential candidacy of a creature such as Donald Trump.

And that brings us to today’s video, a remarkably documentary aired on NBC 19 March 1967:


And now for the video. . .

Aired 49 years ago, yet remarkably timely, it comes from from Marshall McLuhan Speaks:

This is Marshall McLuhan: The Medium is the Massage

Program note:

Featuring Marshall McLuhan, and narrated by Edward Binns.

Another Trump legacy: Overt fascism empowered

Consider the following, via the Guardian:

A Nazi-themed Facebook group that called for the “execution” of Jews and African Americans has led to the expulsion of five Boulder, Colorado, high school students in an unusual case of “alt-right” hate speech spreading to teens in a liberal city.

About 15 students participated in a “4th Reich’s Official Group Chat” on Facebook, according to a Boulder police report, which said members discussed “killing all Jews and [N-words]” and encouraged each other to “recruit more members so they can complete their ‘mission’.”

Members wrote messages championing “WHITE POWER!”, posted pictures of guns, called a firearm a “[N-word] BLASTER”, used derogatory terms for gay people, joked about “rape memes”, declared that they “must lynch the [N-words]”, and mocked Mexicans, copies of the group’s chats showed.

The controversy culminated in expulsions at Boulder Preparatory high school but comes at a time when the alt-right movement – known for white supremacist views and its overtly racist ideology – has gained traction during the divisive US presidential race.

Headlines of the day II: The political freak show

First, a handicap, via the New York Times:

Clinton’s Past Leaves Her Muted in Furor Over Trump

  • Amid a swirl of sexual assault accusations against Donald J. Trump, the virtual silence from Hillary Clinton speaks volumes.
  • Her old missteps and her husband’s history have effectively paralyzed her during a moment of widespread outrage.

And a seriously scary offering from the Boston Globe:

Trump’s supporters talk rebellion, assassination at his rallies

  • At a time when trust in government is at a low point, Trump is actively stoking fears that a core tenet of American democracy is also in peril: that you can trust what happens at the ballot box.
  • His supporters here said they plan to go to their local precincts to look for illegal immigrants who may attempt to vote. They are worried that Democrats will load up buses of minorities and take them to vote several times in different areas of the city. They’ve heard rumors that boxes of Clinton votes are already waiting somewhere.
  • And if Trump doesn’t win, some are even openly talking about violent rebellion and assassination, as fantastical and unhinged as that may seem.

Quote of the day: It’s a reality television show. . .

From Matt Taibbi, writing in Rolling Stone:

There’s an old Slavic saying about corruption: One thief sits atop another thief, using a third thief for a whip. The campaign trail is similarly a stack of deceptions, with each implicit lie of the horse race driving the next.

Lie No. 1 is that there are only two political ideas in the world, Republican and Democrat. Lie No. 2 is that the parties are violent ideological opposites, and that during campaign season we can only speak about the areas where they differ (abortion, guns, etc.) and never the areas where there’s typically consensus (defense spending, surveillance, torture, trade, and so on). Lie No. 3, a corollary to No. 2, is that all problems are the fault of one party or the other, and never both. Assuming you watch the right channels, everything is always someone else’s fault. Lie No. 4, the reason America in campaign seasons looks like a place where everyone has great teeth and $1,000 haircuts, is that elections are about political personalities, not voters.

These are the rules of the Campaign Reality Show as it has evolved over the years. The program is designed to reduce political thought to a simple binary choice and force more than 100 million adults to commit to one or the other. Like every TV contest, it discourages subtlety, reflection and reconciliation, and encourages belligerence, action and conflict.

Trump was the ultimate contestant in this show. It’s no accident that his first debate with Hillary Clinton turned into the Ali-Frazier of political events, with a breathtaking 84 million people tuning in, making it the most watched political program in American history.

Chart of the day: Ranking problems facing the U.S.

Sadly, the environment, the one thing that will endure, is ranked last.

From Gallup:


France ends mandatory transgender sterilization

Goof lord.

Mandatory sterilization?

Although it wasn’t all that long ago, many states in the U.S. mandated sterilization for the “feeble minded,” part of the the same eugenics movement that gave inspiration to Hitler.

From the  Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Rights activists celebrated a major victory in France on Thursday after the country passed legislation allowing transgender people to legally change their gender without undergoing sterilization.

The move comes after a handful of European nations strengthened the rights of transgender people by scrapping requirements such as undergoing medical procedures in order to have their desired gender legally recognized.

Since 2014, Denmark, Malta and Ireland have allowed people to legally change their gender by simply informing authorities, without any medical or state intervention.

The practice of involuntary sterilization has been widely condemned as a human rights violation, including by the United Nations.

Headline of the day: When all else fails, try sexism

From the London Daily Mail:

#repealthe19th: Trump supporters’ Twitter campaign to reverse amendment that gave women the vote after poll shows he would win the election if only MEN voted

  • Hashtag #repealthe19th began trending on Twitter on Wednesday
  • The 19th Amendment gave american women the right to vote in 1920
  • Trump supporters began tweeting about repealing it after new maps showed the Republican nominee would win if only men voted
  • The data also showed that Hillary Clinton would win by one of the biggest landslides in history if only women voted