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“The Fifth Columnist”

The Media isn’t the Message

Michael Neilly, Dunrobin ON We believe what we are told. We read books, listen to the news and watch television. This is our view of the world. My view of the causes of the First World War come from three books and several documentaries on the History Channel and Netflix.

I was shocked to see that Hitler may have made it out of Germany at the end of World War II, according to the series called ‘Hunting Hitler.’ For years, I think most of us believed that he committed suicide in his bunker at the end of the war. Recently unclassified FBI documents claim that he made it to South America. Likewise we were taught that oil came from dinosaurs. I remember writing a column on this, disputing the claim with some basic math. What we know personally is the view from the narrow path that we walk in a lifetime. I know that the English watch a lot of American television, but that was based on an experience in 1977, based on a single household, for just a few days. But it is salted away in my mind as gospel and universal. For the first time in decades, I’ve been following the American election, from the straw polls on. Everybody I talk to is awestruck by the rise (and possibly fall) of Donald Trump. Nobody appears comfortable with either candidate, Trump, bombastic and tactless; Clinton, a cagey politician with a lot of baggage. We believe what we see in the media, and hope that some context is offered, that it is unbiased, but neither is true. It’s a shame that some fine presidential candidates were (apparently) swept aside by these two, but we are riveted nevertheless by this train wreck, this lurid story. I’m heartened by the messages I see now about conservation, that we need the world and the world does not need us, ideas about consuming produce grown within a hundred miles. But still we won’t challenge the market’s need for constant growth, now being fed in Canada largely by immigration. We accept the right to grow and the right to pollute because we believe that it is our planet. Convenience and comfort trump the inevitable conclusion. Marshall McLuhan once said that the media is the message. I once accepted this without question. It was www.dialogue.ca

brilliant. Now I’m not so sure. Air is a medium, water is a medium, space is a medium and the message is just noise, gibberish, a star farting millions of light years away, Gilligan’s Island. For us, it’s entertainment, nighttime viewing. The medium is just a conductor, a continuum. What we run through it says who we are: Ice Road Truckers, Hitler’s Bunkers, soap operas. From my narrow path, I’ve concluded that our perception is manipulated by the message. Growth is necessary. I’d feel better with a new car, surely. The planet is warming or cooling. Thoughts, feelings, actions, results, the message tells a story to push our buttons, and the puppet master makes money. Gaia or God or Gort the Robot, I look to the sky for them. A fireball streaks through the atmosphere. Could it be? I turn back to the house and wonder what is on TV. On another note, I’ve been writing this column for over 10 years, blathering about my view from the narrow path. It’s hard to believe that someone can complain for that long about three subjects, but there you have it! And Maurice and Janet King have graciously let me get away with it. There’s something about seeing words in print. I just wanted to thank you all for reading this column. On still another note and in a bit of shameless self-promotion, I’m pleased to announce that my wife and I recently wrote a teen novel called “Sphere,” available on Amazon, and the idea that this story could be around for a hundred years or more – well, that’s intoxicating, if a bit wishful! Readers of this particular column may notice that this is our contribution to the “noise!” Here’s hoping that it’s a pleasant one all the same. – Mike

Sphere - by Allida M. Neilly and M. R. Neilly A mysterious island with a shadowy past. An awesome discovery made decades earlier. Three young teens stumble onto a secret of astronomical proportions. Relentlessly pursued by the military and corporate interests, they must elude capture and find a way to save their friends from a maniac before it’s too late. Paperback: 218 pages (CreateSpace Independent Pub. Platform, Aug. 12 2016); ISBN-10: 1533516812; or Kindle edition (Devonia Books, July 22 2016) ♣ VOL. 30, NO. 1, AUTUMN 2016

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Dialogue Vol.30, No.1 digital edition  

Canada's unique volunteer-produced magazine for ideas, insights, critical thinking & radical imagination - shared in letters, essays, storie...

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