The Medium is Still the Massage*

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It’s in their own words


  • Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. (Ephesians 5:15-17 NIV)

As recently as the seventies, advertising and marketing were in different worlds than that of today. I recall, starting out scouring the want ads in industry trade magazines like Adweek and Advertising Age (now AdAge). For someone with little or no experience, but with enough perceivable talent in the graphic arts, finding work as a production artist in an in-house marking department was actually feasible. I should know. Yes, it was a very different world then. 

Like almost everyone else, I only saw what was in front of me, and the possibilities of what lay ahead. Still, I may have had something of an instinct to shy away from getting onboarded at one of the big agencies in Los Angeles. Not that there weren’t plenty to choose from. A few didn’t survive, like J. Walter Thompson. But others, like BBDO, and Y&R, and Foote Cone and Belding (now FCB) merged into giant worldwide agencies. Madison Avenue has been commandeered by huge global conglomerates—and often as not, they are headquartered in Europe.

In some ways, my experiences, though they were rather varied, could never have prepared me for the ad game of today. Even in the relatively brief span of time since I was that young man—okay, maybe not so brief—too much has changed. The fact is, the entire world has changed. Advertising has been upended. The target market has just become instead… the target. We are really being massaged.

But there is no way anyone can call advertising a game anymore. In fact, it’s deadly serious.

Media advertising in the seventies really only included broadcast and print. Both industries have been utterly transformed by the internet, and fewer people watch much of anything while sitting on the couch sharing a bag of popcorn. Families, what few remain intact, don’t really do much of anything together. Reading the paper? Please. The local papers are now an anachronism, and the major circulations, with the possible exception of digital subscriptions, are in steady decline. Because in every major city the internet blew up everything. Streaming is how people are informed and entertained now—on their computer, or if they are in their living room—on a massive screen. The same as our phones, we now need a smart TV. Cable is becoming old technology as streaming offers consumers hundreds and hundreds of options. 

Streaming news and entertainment—the two have essentially merged—utilize delivery systems and platforms that depend on advertising dollars to sustain the demand. The 1.1% of the elitists who control nearly half of the worlds wealth (see graph) are determined all of this must be controlled. Media investment company, Magnaestimates the amount at $318B in the US. The plan necessarily includes controlling the content, the content producers, and the companies that pay for advertising the content. They believe if there is a powerful king remaining on this earth, content is it.

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Daily Wire Editor Emeritus Ben Shapiro exposed the powerful global entities working to deplatform and demonetize conservative voices in a new Twitter (X) thread last week, where, “He explained  how the World Economic Forum (WEF), the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), along with NewsGuard, were all working together to crack down on so-called “misinformation” and dictate what media is “safe” for advertising.”  

In their own words, these new or evolved organizations reveal how it will happen. I have boldfaced in red the key words to take away: 

GARM is the Global Alliance for Responsible Media, a cross-industry initiative established by the World Federation of Advertisers to address the challenge of harmful content on digital media platforms and its monetization via advertising.

GARM was launched at Cannes in the summer of 2019 and has been working hard to highlight the changes needed for advertisers to feel more confident about advertising on social media. As of November 2019, GARM is a flagship project of the World Economic Forum Platform For Shaping the Future of Media, Entertainment and Culture.

That’s quite a positioning statement, but gets even more ominous:

“With nearly 3.8 billion people online, the world is increasingly connected, and yet the increase in dangerous, hateful, disruptive and fake content online risks threatening our global community. Members of the Global Alliance for Responsible Media recognize the role that advertisers can play in collectively pushing to improve the safety of online environments. Together, they are collaborating with publishers and platforms to do more to address harmful and misleading media environments; and to develop and deliver against a concrete set of actions, processes and protocols for protecting brands.” (From WFA

The project focuses on addressing the following challenges:

  • Hate speech [by what definition]
  • Bullying [by whom]
  • Disinformation [from whom]
  • Use of personal data [which we voluntarily surrendered]
  • Child exploitation [excluding the transgendered crowd]

This concluding statement is the prizewinner:

“The goal is to accelerate and advance the role that advertisers can play in collectively pushing to improve the safety of online environments. This alliance drives uncommon collaboration to improve the safety, trustworthiness, and sustainability of media.”

Of course that may sound harmless, if not actually good, to a lot of people—maybe even for most. But if we have any sense of what these global collaborations really intend, we should know they are intended as a push for globalization. And this, based on nearly every historical precedent available to cite, is always the end game of tyrants and demagogues. We are now living in an age of immediately available porn, and the fear mongering is really just another form of it. 

Says Shapiro, (pictured) “GARM is an unholy alliance between huge advertisers and social media companies like Google’s YouTube, China’s TikTok, Meta’s Facebook & Instagram, and even Twitter/X and Snapchat. GARM developed something they call the ‘brand safety floor & suitability framework.”

Shapiro tells us the framework might be fine if it stuck to things like blocking child pornography, but it also included cracking down on viewpoints that GARM found objectionable. He says, “But their authoritarian nature kicked in, and they decided to ban cultural commentary they don’t approve of, like when we say men can’t be women.”

If you are wondering when media people will finally “wise-up,” don’t hold you breath. The consumer has to believe that the societal issues GARM identifies, are often harmful distractions and straw men. 

“The medium is the massage” was a phrase created by Marshall McLuhan, (cover photo) who was a media theorist. It was published in his book of the same name in 1967. By that he meant that the form of the medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived—by how it’s massaged. If that was true in the fifties, how much more so today? 

It comes down to this: regardless of what it is, the message must always be the main thing. Those of us who believe the message of the Good News have to know that it’s far superior to the beguiling message of fear, division and distraction. That message, no matter the what the medium, is, and always will be, very, very bad news. 

  • Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 ESV)
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views the Virginia Christian Alliance

About the Author

Shenandoah Christian Alliance
Shenandoah Christian Alliance is a Christian organization devoted to the promotion and education of biblical truths, faith, and spiritual equipping. We believe in the sanctity of marriage as defined in God’s revealed word. We oppose the practice of abortion, and respectfully object to its funding and facilitation as currently promoted by our elected leaders. We understand homosexuality to be something that God—whom we worship and honor—does not approve among his creation. Our faith in God as revealed in scripture is not something we are ashamed of, or for which we must apologize.