A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

Before and after

Last week, as you know if you’ve been following this blog, was different from previous weeks.  The standard format was dropped, and instead I posted a 5-part essay explaining what I believe is the single most important thing you need to know to understand Marshall McLuhan.

What I argued is that Marshall McLuhan lost his genius as a result of surgery to remove a brain tumor in November 1967 and as a result if you want to understand McLuhan you need to read and listen to him as he was before the surgery.  McLuhan before the surgery was in conversation lucid, mercurial, and inventive.  In print he is original and exciting.  McLuhan after the surgery was clever, but confusing.  In print he leaned too heavily on his coauthors without whom he might never have managed to meet a deadline.  In conversation he seems to be distracted by small things or stuck on the pursuit of new ways to frame his old ideas.  Gone is high definition low definition in figure and ground, left brain and right brain.

This is controversial.  I do not expect to persuade you to view McLuhan in a new way in one leap, for that is certainly not how I did it.  Consider first what is agreed by his biographers.  The 1967 surgery was dangerous.  He was changed as a result of it.  He lost his prodigious memory and energy.  He lost years of reading.  He became petty and short tempered.  The question is:  Was it a fundamental change?   I believe it was.

Below are two videos of McLuhan being interviewed:  The first from 1960, seven years before the surgery.  He is 46.  The second is from 1976, nine years after the surgery he is 65.  Watch them.  Compare McLuhan before and after.  Ask yourself: Is it just age that is damping him down?  Tomorrow, which my 100th post of this blog, which I remind you is both a tribute and lament for Marshall McLuhan, I return to the standard format.

Cordially, Me

Marshall McLuhan

1. Marshall McLuhan Explorations: The global village on CBC Television [Broadcast Date: May 18, 1960]


2. Marshall McLuhan on the Today Show interviewed by Tom Brokow [Broadcast Date: September 24, 1976 after the Presidential Campaign Debate Between Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter, September 23, 1976]

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, 1970s and 80s, Communication, Vol. 1 No Comments

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