If familiarity were the same thing as understanding, it would be supererogatory to raise the question of what the media mean. Nothing is more generally familiar in our time, nothing deals more consistently with the familiar, and nothing familiarizes masses of men more rapidly with certain classes of events. Surely it should be enough for us to acknowledge that the media mean what they say on the subjects they process and disseminate.

But familiarity is not, in all respects, at least, even an approximation of understanding, and in some respects we are forced by experience to acknowledge it can frustrate understanding, blocking even the recognition of events taking place under our noses. By some distressing paradox, familiarity breeds estrangement. The most constant light of revelation or exposure desensitizes the organism to both radiance and gloom.

When the commuter in transit between dream and the routine of his employment turns on the car radio and dials across the bands, he will recognize not only familiar signals but that the thump of music and the theme of voices is essentially identical from all stations. Moreover, it is the sound of yesterday and the day before. The commuter might—perhaps he must--entertain the fancy that the mechanical reproduction of music and speech sounds like yesterday because it is yesterday and tomorrow and tomorrow...

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