By: Reyshimar Arguelles

Within mass media circles, theorists in the field will often repeat Marshall McLuhan’s notion that “the medium is the message.” Any mass communication student should understand the phrase thoroughly and what it entails: that the channels of communication create the associations that bind our understanding of the messages being produced.

When the YouTube star PewDiePie creates a video, the production and distribution of the video enables us to thrive within his world filled with excessive swearing and unfunny quips that could make any toddler worship him as a sort of postmodern deity. That is to say, the videos that PewDiePie publishes have become an extension of his being.

It’s all pretentious pseudo-intellectual stuff, I know, but McLuhan’s observations of the mass media and its influence on society invites us in trying to understand how communication channels can shape our politics, the way we view our politicians, and the way we behave towards issues that have far-reaching legal and moral consequences later on.

Moving images have, for a fact, been used for purely political ends, with numerous historical instances of video’s power to embolden crowds and incite feelings of fear and anger masquerading as national pride. Obviously, there is propaganda value to be found in a video when it is produced in the most effective manner.

The right aesthetic elements – lighting, cinematography, timing – have worked breathtakingly well in German filmmaker Leni Reifenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will.” The film was a pure example of how the video medium can be weaponized in politics as it documented the 1934 Nuremberg Trials and captured the German public’s sympathy and trust for Hitler’s imperial delusions. Indeed, it was never the film’s intention to portray the road to empire for what it really was: a set of stairs that lead to the chopping block.

This example alone illustrates how dangerous videos can be when they are used to pander to irrational compulsions. And indeed, no other medium could be more effective at that. Evolving from the amazing production value of “Triumph of the Will,” we are now at the point of mass media’s history when communication channels dictate political discourse more than the content itself.

This watering down of content is demonstrated by politicians and their PR managers who somehow find it a great idea to use the “Budots” meme as campaign material. Perhaps, political campaigns in the future will be defined by how much shallow material you can churn out regardless of your positions on the economy and national defense. While we’re at it. we can let Manong Johnny challenge any youngling Senator to a dance battle.

Nothing more can be said of how much we have devolved as technology continues to become more sophisticated and the distribution channels become more prevalent. Whereas one had to visit a theater in order to watch a cinematic masterpiece like “Triumph of the Will” more than 80 years ago, now we are able to share the most mind-numbing Tik Tok videos that really make you think if humanity is even worthy to inherit the Earth.

But we can rest assured that the video medium is capable of some measure of good. In light of the Bikoy series of videos supposedly uncovering a money trail that involves the presidential family and alleged drug syndicates, we can find solace in using the medium to promote transparency and hold those in power accountable.

Whether or not the uploader of the video should be pilloried for sedition or whatever complaint the National Bureau of Investigation is tasked to launch against him, people should put more weight on the content of the Bikoy videos. Maybe Bikoy is right. Maybe Bikoy is just another disgruntled administration lackey or an opposition puppet. But either way, shooting the messenger won’t make things better for the country.