Sunday, September 18, 2011

Boehner plus Cantor equals atavism

John Boehner and Eric Cantor, to name a few, are misanthropic atavists. It's not important that you know what the term means. We can't all be George Wills. Actually, I made up the term, which is not that unusual in national discourse these days. There are a lot of made-up names being flung toward President Obama that are meaningless. Like socialist. Even the folks who use that vengeful word don't know what it means, but they go right on saying it anyway. Maybe it helps their digestion.

Precise communication is not America's strong suit these days despite all of the twitterers walking around malls with those gadgets grafted to their ears.

Talk about communication skills: If you watch TV commercials in any half-hour segment, you would come to believe that we are the happiest nation on the planet. Every item that's promoted works. You know that to be true because there are usually two or three people standing around with happy faces to tell you that it really works. Unless, of course, we are being sold a certain medicinal miracle that , if you have fatal side effects, really doesn't work. By then, it is too late to call you doctor as the pitchman advises you to do - immediately! (I'm particularly curious about the soft-drink commercial in which everyone is awash with the stuff and dancing ecstatically. I tried it, and can tell you that it doesn't work that way.)

I regret that we have reached this level of incoherence in 2011, especially during the 100th anniversary of Marshall McLuhan's birthday. There isn't even a short street named for him in my town and I dare not ask my councilperson to do something about it.

I was drawn to the Canadian professor and media specialist in 1964, when everybody seemed to be talking about his new book, Understanding Media, the Extension of Man. But as a magazine editor, I needed a break from political screeds that were pouring out of the radical right's mimeo machines during the Goldwater campaign. McLuhan argued that the "medium is the message". At the risk of oversimplification: he insisted that it is more important to recognize the medium that influences our existence than what is actually being said.

That's particularly true today when , say, Tea Party rallies are the medium rather than the exhortations by the sign wavers to take back the country. Or, as the professor maintained: "a lightbulb creates an environment by its mere presence." I'd rather not take this further, especially since I haven't noticed any lightbulbs at the rallies.

But to return to Boehner/Cantor: They do find TV the convenient medium to exhibit their atavism, however that might apply as they grope around in the Dark Ages. There has, after all, long been the standing notion that if it isn't shown on TV, it never happened.

What a lousy way to solve the nation's economic problems. Now that I've said it, I'm beginning to feel better about my made-up term.

No comments: