The emergence of McLuhan Moments

Updated
 

Did you ever see “Annie Hall”? There’s a classic scene in which Woody Allen starts lecturing some loudmouth in a movie-theater line about how little he knows about Marshall McLuhan. When the guy protests, Allen brings the actual McLuhan over. “You know nothing of my work,” the scholar says.

At this point, one wonders whether Mitt Romney has seen the movie, because the McLuhan Moments keep popping up.

A couple of weeks ago, the Republican presidential candidate cited Jared Diamond as support for his views on international affairs. Diamond himself responded soon after, saying that Romney has no idea what he’s talking about. He didn’t literally say, “You know nothing of my work,” but he came close.

This week, Romney also cited former President Bill Clinton’s welfare law, which Romney falsely claims President Obama has “gutted.” The same day, Clinton issued a statement explaining how very wrong Romney is about the basics of the policy. The Republican apparently knows nothing of Clinton’s work, either.

And yesterday, Ezra Klein noted that four Romney campaign economists released a paper on the Republican’s economic plan, which included supporting documents from independent economists. Oops.

And so I contacted some of the named economists to ask what they thought of the Romney campaign’s interpretation of their research. In every case, they responded with a polite version of Marshall McLuhan’s famous riposte. The Romney campaign, they said, knows little of their work. Or of their policy proposals.

Yes, Team Romney cited the work of several respected scholars, all of whom disagreed completely with how Romney’s campaign had characterized their work. In one case, the truth was the polar opposite – Team Romney, hoping to prove Obama’s Recovery Act didn’t work, cited the scholarship of University of Chicago economist Amir Sufi, who said the stimulus actually worked rather well.

Perhaps Romney should stick to citing dead people who can’t speak up, or secret sources who’ll tell him what he wants to hear. At this point, these McLuhan Moments are making him look pretty silly.

Mitt Romney

The emergence of McLuhan Moments

Updated