The Medium Is the Message: Strategies for Activists

Marshall McLuhan


Several years ago I studied Marshall McLuhan, the late English Literature professor and self-anointed Media Guru from University of Toronto.  He stated that THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE.  What does this mean?

THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE could also be construed as this:

People are not always looking at WHAT you say, but HOW you say it.

I remember attending a lecture given by Jason Kenney, the Minister of Immigration here in Canada.  While I believe the guy lies through his teeth most of the time, I’ll have to admit that he is a smooth talker, and I came away with a good impression of him.  At least a good impression of his public speaking skills.  Of course, all questions were filtered before they got up to the stage for him to answer during Q & A time.  I was hoping to grill him, but alas, the Conservatives are too smart in their careful control of Public Image and Outgoing Communication.  So only questions Jason Kenney was comfortable with got up to the front.

In the same meeting a lady in Punjabi robes stood up, as soon as Kenney started speaking, and began shouting about how refugees are being abused by this administration.  For one, we couldn’t hear what she was saying because she was shouting so shrilly and quickly.  Second, abruptly breaking in when the speaker was about to begin seemed ill-timed and downright rude.

So truth was defeated in that moment, also the truth remains the truth.  THE MEDIUM IS  THE MESSAGE.  You look like an ass, people treat you like a donkey.  Doesn’t matter how right you are.  The Conservatives have Communication 101 down to an art after several years in power, although in the beginning the leader and Prime Minister Stephen Harper had to rein in his Ministers on several occasions.  Image.  Everything’s image in our Matrix.

So where does that leave us?  Shall I continue “RANTING” in my blogposts and emails to friends?  No, coz people think I’m a freak.  Even a couple friends told me they agree with most of what I say, but disagree with my methods.

So I have a good thing going.  Perhaps many others will follow me.  But if I rant and rave, and appear only negative, who the Hades will bother stepping forward to support and join with me?


A couple nights ago, I borrowed a DVD from our local library.  It is called “Blue State”, starring Breckin Meyer of Garfield fame, and Anna Paquin.  The gist of the story is that John (Breckin Meyer) is a Democrat who writes a blog called the Donkey Revolution and who worked on the the Kerry / Edwards campaign during the 2004 election.  While being filmed for TV news, he appears a bit intoxicated and sure of Democrat victory, so sure, in fact, that he vows to move to Canada if Bush gets re-elected.  So, when the bad news comes, he advertises for others to join him to go to Canada.  Chloe (Anna Paquin) joins him, and they depart from San Francisco up through Oregon and eastern Washington state.

While stopping in Spokane, Washington, to see his parents, John and his father have a loud argument over the dinner table.  John’s mother goes into the kitchen with Chloe, and almost seems ready to cry.  She says, “Why must John provoke Father to anger so?”  John ends up being told to leave the house by his father, so John and Chloe leave and rent a couple hotel rooms in town.

At the end of the day, John’s dad was ticked off, and more adamant in his beliefs, John’s mom was distraught that people can’t get along, and Chloe thought John was a hypocrite.

In fact, John was right all along.  But was it worth arguing with his dad?  Obviously not.  The truth is the truth, but at the wrong time and place, the truth can simply cause disruption, and people are no closer in believing it than before.  They may be even further away from believing the truth.  So what you have achieved is one big fat zero: MISSION NOT ACCOMPLISHED.


In Chinese, there is a saying called “PLAYING THE FIDDLE FOR A COW”, 对牛弹琴.   Basically it means that you say things that go over people’s heads.  They may not understand, or may disagree with you.  Whatever the situation, the bottom line is that they don’t “get it”.  So you are wasting your time and breath giving them your impassioned speech on truth.  What’s the use, eh?

It’s like Yeshua the Messiah says in the Sacred Scriptures over and over: “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”  If people don’t have ears to hear, you are virtually “throwing your pearls before swine”.  They are not in the mental state to receive your words.

So your timing may be off, and also the WAY you are presenting your message.

Remember, you and I came to truth through a long process.  We sweated, we researched, we studied, we talked to many people, we pondered and digested all we were learning, we questioned, we drew connections and conclusions, we experienced parts of the truth, we finally made our decisions.  We cannot expect others to shortcut or circumvent the process.  It took us time, we should give others the chance to take their time too.

Instant truth is truth not worthy believing.  If someone immediately grasps the truth unquestioningly, be skeptical.  They probably aren’t getting it.  Again, you’re wasting your time.  Better for them to question, research, get answers, than to be one of the “SHEEPLE” who blindly follow you and your message.


Since January 2012, I have ceased going to church.  I am actually pretty anti-church now.  It was not a sudden decision, but something building up over the years.

So I have met a few Christians, and here is the typical flow of the conversation:

THEM: Which church do you go to?

ME: No church.  I quit going last January.

THEM: (they look hurt) Why?

ME: Well, I still believe in the Bible and Jesus, but I think that Christians have walked away from the truth.  They supported George Bush who lied to America and invaded Iraq, killing thousands of people.  The office I work at has an English school with many Iraqi students.  They shouldn’t be here, they should be able to live in their homeland without fear of war.  And the Christians supported Stephen Harper, the worst Prime Minister in Canadian history.  Jesus says to love God with all our hearts, but Christians love money, fame and power instead.  He says to love our neighbours, but instead we hate Muslims, gays, evolutionists, Climate Change scientists, socialists, immigrants, etc.

THEM: Uh, that’s too bad you think that way . . .

And the conversation usually dies at that point, and the Christian starts looking from side to side for a way to escape.

I did this at a friend’s son’s wedding party.  I thought nobody would care, that no opinion and comments would go unnoticed.  After all, it was a busy, noisy party, with many people around chatting about many topics.  Guess what, the Christians I had talked to complained to the host, and I ended up looking like a reactionary jerk, disrupting the party!  Waaaaasssssaaaaaaaaiiiiiiii (Chinese for “Holy ****)!

So what’s the point for me even mentioning these things to Christians?  Have I won anybody to my opinions?  No.  Do they think I’m an ass?  Yes.  Hee-haw, hee-haw!

It would probably be a lot better if the conversation goes like this:

THEM: Which church do you go to?

ME: Well, I’m not at a church at this point in time, but I am interested in starting a group in the community I live in, a group that really takes Jesus and His words seriously.

THEM: Oh really?

ME: Well, all this is a long story, and this is probably not the time or place to discuss it.  If you are even interested to know more, feel free to contact me and we could talk more.

This would probably go over much better.  There’s no point arguing, or going on and on about something that others have no interest in.


You know, after leaving a movement or group philosophy, it is often difficult to keep respecting the people in it.  I don’t wish to leave Christianity and then begin treating Christians like the devil himself.  There are so many kind and excellent Christians.  It’s the movement itself, and the way it has operated in the past and continues to operate, that I have issues with.  While Yeshua Himself had confrontations with His opponents – the Herodians, Saducees and Pharisees – and he publicly rebuked them and vice versa, He showed love and kindness to them and everybody.


I have been studying Dale Carnegie’s two books How to Win Friends and Influence People and How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.  This stuff is very deep.  I have a long way to go in living up to Carnegie’s ideas.  These ideals are very lofty, and I am so far from reaching them.  But it is the right direction.





About sleepless in turtle island

Hi, I´m Dimitri. I have lived in Turtle Island for awhile now, so my cultural understanding is slowly improving. Also, I can see things in this place that boggle my mind. Thus this blog...
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