Marshall McLuhan coined the term “the medium is the message” in 1964. It essentially means the medium through which a message is transmitted affects the message itself. He goes much deeper than this in his book Understanding Media but that’s the essence of what the term means.
If that doesn’t make sense to you, consider this: the exact same words transmitted through a book, a newspaper and via TV will reach different people and how they interpret the information will be different.
I use this as a lead in to how I feel about people sharing links online. Links don’t exist in a vacuum – the site that is linked to is important. Essentially, the link is the site.
This post is motivated by an incident earlier this week when I seriously lost my shit at someone on Facebook and now I have a bunch of people being all Judgey McJudgerson on me. The first part of this story was a young woman sharing a post on Facebook detailing how a guy harassed her and several other women on a tram in Melbourne. Then someone I had considered a friend posting a link from a hate site dedicated solely to abusing feminists saying the post he was sharing proved the young woman who posted the story was in the wrong.
The big reason? The harasser was “autistic”. This apparently means his threatening behavior to women (and he ONLY behaved this way to women) was excusable and the evil feminists are in the wrong.
Side note: I think the sharing of social media posts where someone accuses someone else of something with no more evidence than a photo is questionable at best. Sometimes the accusation is sexist harassment, sometimes it’s racist, sometimes it’s as simple as “here’s a photo of the person who stole my laptop”. My feeling is unless you know the original poster personally and can verify facts with them, if you don’t see evidence more convincing than a photograph you should think long and hard before sharing it. Use video of nasty public incidents, people!
And as I said, I seriously lost my shit at the person who posted the misogynist link responding to the original post as they seemed to think that such a disgusting post from such a disgusting site should be taken as evidence that the evil feminist was in the wrong and was actually discriminating against people with autism.
If you’re at all familiar with my reactions to people I consider to be arseholes, in this case I ended up at the extreme end of my reaction spectrum. There were a couple of reasons for this:
- First – the choice of site to link from is inexcusable.
- Second – he kept asserting he was reasonable and pro feminist. Just because he’s sharing a hate filled post from a hate filled site, how could I possibly think he was endorsing their hate?
- Finally – When I made it clear his attitude was making me sick and I didn’t want to hear from him any more he kept responding along the lines of why wouldn’t I engage with him because he’s so reasonable. Which is just fucking rude in my book. Feel free to consider me a drama queen for getting angry when someone refuses to respect my desire to be left alone.
The big thing right at the centre of this is can you divorce yourself from the central message of a website when you promote a link from that site as being the truth? He thinks yes, I think most definitely no. If you share a link from a hate site saying it is the truth you are at least tacitly endorsing the web site as a whole. When the link is consistent with the central message of the hate site (as it was in this case) I believe it’s reasonable for people to consider you are explicitly endorsing the site.
If you share a link from a site like infowars you come across as a paranoid bigoted idiot. If you share a link from an anti-vaxxer site it seems like you’re ok with spreading the dangerous lie that vaccines are bad. If you share links from a hate site you have to expect people to think you’re ok with their message of hate.
As I kept getting told he didn’t understand how I could think he was endorsing the hate site just because he was spreading their message as the truth I resorted to hyperbole to illustrate the issue.
Imagine instead of a guy harassing women on a tram, it’s a guy dressed up in a nazi uniform (swastikas and all) shouting “sieg heil” at Jewish people entering and leaving a synagogue. One of the worshipers posts his photo on Facebook to shame him and raise awareness of the problem. You share a link from an overt neo-nazi site that claims the man in question was autistic and therefore it’s the evil Jews who were in the wrong.
How the fuck could you say with a straight face that you’re not endorsing anti-semitism when you say the anti-semitic article from the neo-nazi site is the truth?
This still didn’t get through so I said “fuck it, you’re a cunt, I’m out.”
If you think me being aggressive to what I see an unconscionable behaviour is worse than someone promoting misogynist hate and being too fucking self absorbed to even see it then I have a problem with your priorities. If you want to call yourself a supporter of a marginalised group but switch from championing their cause to criticising them (and promoting blatant hate sites) the instant their actions push you out of your comfort zone then I think you can go fuck yourself.
I might have been overly aggressive for some people’s tastes. I might have even been obnoxious.
But I wasn’t fucking wrong.
2 responses to “The Medium is the Message”
Yeah! Say it, bro!
Yep, agree. But can we talk about the meta-issue? Re-posting, posting links, extensive quotation in social media: it’s all extremely lazy and always says to me “this person has articulated something that they’re too dumb to write themselves”. It’s derived (in a bad way), and we should be much tougher on the concept overall. I’m not sure whether it’s a right/left thing, but I suspect it’s more a right-wing nutjob thing (I’m including ‘male-rights’ turkeys in this category). When done by the left, it’s usually an example of virtue signalling. But I’m not 100% sure of this hypotheis. What do you think?