Dialogue creates a people by bringing individuals together to create shared meaning. The “masses”, by contrast, are the product of one-way communication that sees individuals as targets for predetermined messages. Once reduced to a “mass”, however, our ties of community are weakened and our sense of belonging dissolves. Now, instead of enlivening our communities through active public discourse, we simply enrich the media through passive consumption of product.
A half-century ago, writes Ivan Ilich, most of the words an American heard were directed specifically at him or her. Only occasionally did words reach Americans as undifferentiated members of a crowd, in a class, at church during a political reunion, or at a show. Words used to be like handwritten notes in sealed envelopes; they bear no relationship whatsoever to the rags that pollute our mail nowadays. Toidayl, words that might hold our individual attention have become rare. In revenge, our sight, our hearing are assailed, day after day, by a stock of prefabricated image, ideas, feelings, and opinions, wrapped and delivered by the media.”