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10 Dec
Is the Medium the Message or What?

Is the Medium the Message or What?

As a child of nine or ten, driving through the American night with my traveling-salesman father, there would always come a time, usually around two-thirty am, when we were able to receive only one of two stations on the Buick Roadmaster car radio of the day.

Both broadcasting operations transmitted at 500 kilowatts, one from El Paso (if I remember correctly) and the other from Cincinnati, and their respective programming seemed identical or at least interchangeable—radio evangelism or “Christian” radio—as did the voices and speaking styles of the successive bringers of good news, not at all wheedling or Jesus-painted-on-velvety but strong, forthright, compelling, matter-of-fact (a subtlety that totally eluded me at that tender age) and altogether inciting me to think that an unstoppable yet plausible and reasonable-sounding rant concerning the “ministry” of Christ was the appropriate thing to put on the air at three o’clock in the morning.

For some reason, I can still recall that the gospel-beamer in Ohio offered, in return for a gift of $10, “an oil-cloth table cloth featuring a hand-painted portrait of the Savior.”

As time and roads went on, these broadcasts regularized themselves with my consciousness and became as necessary to my psychic well-being as the Hank Williams songs that were normally our last listening fare before the onset of four hours of Jesus Radio; and at any time thereafter I could close my eyes and play the broadcasts for myself on my internal Donnie Station.

The oddest feature of the experience was that at the outset I had developed an auto-immunity against the actual message contained in the preachers’ mesmerizing collective manner of speaking, and by subconsciously dissociating the two—medium and message—not only was my mind preparing its top soil as fertile ground for the theories of Marshal Macluhan twenty years along the space-time continuum, but also attuned me to responding viscerally and quite helplessly to the speech patterns and vocal intensity of Ron Paul, regardless of whatever the hell he’s talking about.

Reacting to the Texan legislator as a Confederate foot soldier perking up on hearing the mystical strands of Bonnie Blue Flag filtering through the back forty in the wee hours, that precise moment on the human clock when Hearts and Souls are One. [Read the lyrics of the Battle Hymn.]