Obama’s Ubiquity

Dwight – 10/11/09

As seen on the Drudge Report

As seen on the Drudge Report

While trying to explain President Obama’s constant speech-making, TV, radio, and magazine appearances even when it seems not to advance his agenda, I gradually realized that this is an application by the Obama administration of Marshall McLuhan’s famous theory that “the medium is the message.”

Imagine you are an extraterrestrial sociologist traveling to earth to make some observations. You land in the United States. You don’t know the language, so nothing anyone says means anything to you. You note, however, that one person is constantly on television. His picture appears on nearly every magazine cover multiple times. He has a weekly radio “show” of his own. He is constantly giving speeches in which he seems to be saying the same things over and over. Sometimes he speaks in very large venues to very large audiences. You begin to formulate a conclusion:

“Whoever this man is and whatever he is saying he must be extremely important and in charge of just about everything that goes on in this strange place. He appears to be so important that many residents of the planet act as if they can’t function without him.”

In this context, It doesn’t matter what Obama says. More important is that he is seen as being indispensable, so important that he must make at least a speech a day. So important that we would be lost without him. The message then is not embodied in what he says. It’s that he is there everyday saying something.

Now who, besides our intrepid interstellar traveler, is new to the planet? Children. They haven’t been here long. They don’t yet understand much of the language. They have no experience with politics. All they know is that this man Obama is always everywhere, so he must be very important.  Others who are “new to the planet,” in a manner of speaking, are those adults, young and old, who proclaim (often with pride) that they “never paid much attention to politics.”  These are all the targets of Obama’s ubiquity.

Along these lines, the trouble with Obama’s speaking to students at the opening of school lies not in what he said. Most people found that to be positive. What he said is not the real message. The real message is that over time, year after year, he can be seen as the official opener of all the public schools, the extremely important teacher-in-chief.

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