Fifty years ago the brilliant and always challenging philosopher of communication theory, Marshall McLuhan, wrote Understanding Media, in which he exclaimed, “In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message.”
McLuhan propelled us, even inspired us, to look beyond the obvious. With “the medium is the message,” McLuhan prompted us to pay attention to subtle changes in our societies and cultures, and to even faint changes affecting the medium, independent of content. His entreaties prefaced the advent of the Internet, although he predicted its coming, and McLuhan forewarned us to pay attention to the creeping medium. Today we find our lives completely invaded by technology, much of which we do not see and do not control.
As I listened to the latest salvos from this Administration’s teleprompters, I was struck by the continuing dearth of “content” and lack of meaningful strategy flowing out once again. Even after almost six years of banality and platitudes, and sinking poll numbers, it remained too much to expect a consequential strategy from this Presidency. The teleprompter didn’t fail to deliver feeble, “we are not exceptional” bromides.
McLuhan asked us to make distinctions between form and content. How do we apply his insights to Obama’s dumbed-down and numbing presentations? Forget “the medium is the message.” It seems that in the age of Obama, the message is the strategy.
Government’s first and most important priority is to keep the Nation safe. Yet here we are. A foreign policy which has completely failed its people. A southern border out of control. The whole Middle East in chaos. China doing as it will wherever it will. And Dictator-For-Life Putin disregarding foreign, sovereign state borders. There is no determination. There is NO grand plan. There is no leadership.
The telepromptered speech is all the strategy there is.
McLuhan suggested, “Control over change would seem to consist in moving not with it, but ahead of it. Anticipation gives the power to deflect and control force.” This decade finds us slipping behind change. As many have observed, this Administration leads from behind. The Nation looks forward to the arrival of a new Presidency.
A constituent of the vast baby boomer generation with a career which has been fortunate to know the ponderous corporate worlds, as well as the intimately pressurized, and invigorating entrepreneurial domains of high tech and venture capital, I have harvested my share of mistakes meandering through corridors of enterprise from Silicon Valley, to London and endless, colourful, sometimes praetorian points in between. The voyage has provided an abundance of fodder for a pen yielding to an inquisitive keyboard, a foraging mind, and a passionate spirit.
Whether political or business or social or economic or personal, is it not all political? It is a privilege to write, and an even greater privilege to be read by anyone, and sometimes with the wind at my back the writing may occasionally be legible. I do not write to invite scorn, nor to invite respect, but if I get really lucky the writing can stimulate thinking. I also write for the very selfish purpose of animating my own processes, and engaging the best of what life offers. Above all, whether biting fire or swatting shadows, I am grateful to be gifted the freedom to write and publish whatever flows down to the keyboard. To all those who enabled this freedom, and to all those standing guard to preserve it, I am indebted.