The Medium is the Massage?

How many times have you heard “The medium is the message”? It’s kind of poetic. And since it’s attributed to eminent media critic Marshall McLuhan you find a way for it to make sense.

Then today I read an e-mail (below) explaining that he never said that and his real message is “the medium is the massage”. The media work us over, the way we perceive the world.

So I’m believing this guy. Taking the Internet medium as authoritative. This guy made a case, he did research. It’s so exciting to think that everyone on the outside is wrong, ignorant.

Yet, ironically, this medium massaged me. The mythology of the Internet and the influence of its participants have shaped the way I perceived that e-mail.

When, in fact, the medium is the message.

From: Albert Saxon (
Subject: McLuhan misquoted for decades: He really wrote The Medium is the *Massage*

In keeping with this week's theme I wonder if you can help me correct a
major misduplication or mispronunciation that is being perpetrated today.

For almost 40 years Marshall McLuhan's book "The Medium is the Massage" has
been been misquoted as (sic) "The Medium is the Message." McLuhan in his
continuously misquoted book said,

"All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive in their personal,
political,economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical and social
consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected or
unaltered. The medium is the massage."

Toward the end of the book he also says,

"... media, by altering the environment evoke in us their unique ratios of
sense perceptions. The extension of any one sense alters the way we think
and act -- the way we perceive the world. Were the Great Blackout of 1965
to have continued for a half year, there would be no doubt how electronic
technology shapes, works over, alters -- massages -- every instant of our

Since too few people read these days they hear "the medium is the message"
bantered about by marketing professors, other college professors, media
personalities and a host of other "knowledgeable types" -- none of whom have
read the book, and accept it as truth.

It is natural to attempt to make sense of something we hear from an
authority figure. Since too few question the validity of what authority
figures say, and since that particular quote means nothing, they then try
to concoct some significance to fit this mis-statement. They either come
up with nonsense or give up and then pass along the misquotation while
attempting to sound knowledgeable.

This may be a lost cause, but while I am still capable of some optimism, I
hope not.
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