Neil Post, “The Medium Is the Metaphor” (Page 10)
“A message denotes a specific, concrete statement about the world. But the forms of our media, including symbols through which they permit conversation, do not make such statements. They are rather like metaphors, working by unobtrusive but powerful implication to enforce their special definitions of reality. Whether we are experiencing the world through the lens of speech or the printed word, or the television camera, our media-metaphors classify the world for us, sequence it, frame it, enlarge it, reduce it, color it, argue a case for what the world is like.”
Literally: I believe this passage is saying that while messages are “specific” and “concrete” statements about the world, but the medium in which they are transferred almost embodies its own true meaning of that message. The mediums may sometimes take on the responsibility for what we later determine is reality. Postman describes these mediums (media and symbols) as metaphors. We know that metaphors are not always literal representations of the things they stand in for. They are merely used to highlight similarities between one or more objects, ideas, or people. Mediums are also given the power to manipulate and reduce or increase the seriousness of a message.
Intellectually: This passage makes me think about a lot of things relative to our current media outlets. One of those things are our news outlets. Like Postman said, sometimes newscasters seem to be way too caught up in their appearances. They are wearing the latest fashions and are covered in makeup and fancy hairdos. While there is nothing wrong with this, in the context of news reporting, it almost takes away the seriousness of the messages attempting to be conveyed by these reporters. We may find ourselves more caught up in the “glitz and glam” of their appearances. Another example of how media may give off the wrong message about our world, is President Obama. Why do I choose Obama? Well, it’s simple. As much as I like Obama, when he is seen singing the latest lyrics to a hip-hop song, or emulating the latest dance craze, it clouds our judgement on who he is and his job title. He is the President of the United States, and unfortunately, the severity of his job title is reduced or increased, and not necessarily in a positive way.
Emotionally: How does this passage make me feel? Upset. Why? Well, it’s simple. Metaphoric representations of our cultures and societies, most of them time, do more bad than good. Let us revisit the Trayvon Martin case for instance. Trayvon Martin was primarily targeted for the way he was dressed and his skin color–at least this is what the media was trying to paint this scenario as. The only reason he was confronted was because there was a negative connotation surrounding people who wear hoodies and are black. You see it all the time on TV and in newspapers. Unfortunately, suspects of color that commit crimes are often represented as just that: a hoodie-wearing thug with bad intentions. It’s upsetting because this is not the reality of the black community at all. Don’t get me wrong, there are indeed people who dress like that who are up to no good, but not every person of color that does has bad intentions.
Relationally: This passage fits into the overall message of the essay, because Postman even stated on page 6 that, “Our attention here is on how forms of public discourse regulate and even dictate what kind of content can issue from such forms.” What I believe he means is that his purpose of writing this essay was to prove that various forms of media often ties in to what becomes reality to people within the same cultures and abroad. I also think he was trying to speak on the controversy that stems from these outlets and forums. Also, on page 10 Postman argues that, “Each medium, like language itself, makes a possible a unique mode of discourse by providing a new orientation for thought, for expression, for sensibility.” I think the overall point here is that various means of communication from outside sources often shape the way we view the world. It often determines whether we’ll be entertained, apathetic or drawn in with a certain seriousness.
Thoughts on The Corporation
Here are some of the most powerful moments that stuck with me:
- Externality: Which was defined in the documentary as the effects of a transaction between two people and a third party who did not consent to the transaction. What externality is, is when a corporation makes enough profits to pay someone else to do the work and separates themselves from any type of labor.
- Abuse of Power: Corporations go into third-world countries and exploit the citizens of these places. Unfortunately, these corporations are viewed as gods because they save many people from poverty and starvation. The citizens are payed less than a dollar an hour and are even exposed to harmful chemicals and dangerous working conditions.
- Overuse of Antibiotics: The documentary talks about cows contracting an infection in their udders called mastitis from taking doses of Posilac (bovine somatotropin). The cows would then have to be treated with antibiotics. Unknowingly human beings would also be consuming these antibiotics which makes it difficult to treat other infections due to bacteria becoming resistant.
- Psychopathy: Since corporations are considered “legal persons” under the law of the land, they can also be subjected to a “mental analysis.” They exhibit common signs of psychotic behavior such as lack of empathy/remorse, constant lying and an inability to maintain meaningful relationships.
- The Best Things in Life Are Free: “What is wealth? Why isn’t clean water, fresh air and a safe environment considered wealth? Why is it only considered wealth when there’s a gate placed around it and it’s privatized?” People should not have to pay for “luxuries”, when there are several luxuries existing within nature.