A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan continues. If he had lived Marshall would have been 100 on July 21, 2011. Join me in the countdown to his centennial, and an exploration of more of his observations on the way media work in the electric age in which we live.

1970s and 80s

You can learn a lot about a nation …

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  From its sports!

“Games are the mask of the crowd. … Each nation’s popular games project the image of its central dynamism.”

Me (December, 2010, age 58).  For example …

This is America:



This is Canada:


This is Britain:


Cordially, Marshall and Me



Marshall McLuhan, Culture is Our Business, 1970, p. 118.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, December 23rd, 2010
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Did TV hurt baseball?

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  It is possible …

That baseball’s popularity will ebb and football’s will grow as TV continues to do its work on us.  TV and football are tactile.  Baseball is visual.

Me (December, 2010, age 58).  Really?

This is one of those predictions by McLuhan that at first strike me as crackers, but then when I look for evidence I’m surprised by how much the facts support him.  Have a look at the results of this Gallup poll, which shows that since the coming of TV in the late 1940s the popularity of baseball in America has fallen and football has risen.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Culture is Our Business, 1970, p. 118.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
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Where’s the play?

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Did you know …

That the word school is from the latin scholia meaning leisure or play?  Is it any wonder kids are dropping out of school?  School has become a detention center.

Me (December, 2010, age 58).  What is to be done?

According to my Shorter OED, school derives from the latin schola (not scholia) and means the employment of leisure in disputation.  As usual McLuhan gets the small bit wrong but the big bit right.  Unless school is as engaging as play little real learning will take place there.  How much real disputation goes on in our schools?  How can we introduce more intellectual play?

Is this the solution?

Or is this?

Or are we still missing the point?

Cordially, Marshall and Me


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Michael Hinton Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
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Business is our culture.

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59). You can learn a lot from ads

Today, with the movement of information at electronic speeds, “business and culture have become interchangeable.”  This is why I pay so much attention to advertisements.  To watch an ad is to be immersed in the culture within which the ad is designed to be persuasive.  In the future a historian who wanted to understand this age of ours could do so easily by studying our ads.

Me (December, 2010, age 58). Possibly.

If Marshall is right we should be able to discover a great deal about the differences between the 1950s and 1960s by examining these two ads, the first from the 1950s the second from the 1960s.  In the interests of science I have tried to hold constant as many variables as possible.



Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Culture is Our Business, 1970, “author’s note.”

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Michael Hinton Saturday, December 18th, 2010
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Business, Communication, Culture 2 Comments

The terrors of television

Marshall McLuhan (March 15, 1976, age 65). Dear Eric:

As you know television exerts a far more insidious affect on the minds of children than it does on adults.  Promise me you will be careful to limit your daughter’s (my granddaughter’s) exposure to not more than one hour a week.  More than this and it is doubtful her nervous system can develop undamaged.  If she protests tell her I will pay her a dollar a day for each television-free day.   

Me (December, 2010, age 58).  McLuhan never spoke this way about television in public

Was the private McLuhan closer to the truth than the public McLuhan?

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, p. 69.

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Michael Hinton Friday, December 3rd, 2010
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The power of numbers

Me (October, 2010, age 58).  If not true perhaps it should be.

In 1970 Marshall McLuhan was granted an honorary doctorate by the University of Alberta and in his speech to the graduating classes could not resist talking about one of his favorite ideas:  that the world’s problems were all capable of speedy resolution.  If only the experts would stand aside and let large numbers of ordinary people go to work on them.  Hard to believe?  Odder things have happened – such as for example Wikipedia or a Nelson Eddie-led rebellion.

Check out especially the four minutes from minute 2 to 6.


Marshall McLuhan (November 20, 1971, age 60).  No problem …

“There is no kind of problem that baffles one or a dozen experts that cannot be solved at once by a million minds that are given a chance simultaneously to tackle a problem.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, “Convocation Address, University of Alberta, November 20, 1971.”

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Michael Hinton Friday, October 29th, 2010
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Vol. 1 1 Comment

Y-y-y-y-you are not who you think you are

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  Really!

Everyone knows Marshall McLuhan said “the medium is the message.”  But hardly anyone understands what he meant by it.

Are you ready for it?  New media change the way we perceive the world.  How?  Because they change the way we sense the world.  With our perceptions changed the world becomes a different place.

So what?  Your children, being shaped by different media than the media that shaped you, are entirely different creatures and live in an entirely different world.  But you knew that already didn’t you?

Marshall McLuhan (1977 age 65/66). We’re re-tribalising!

Boom!  Boom!  Boom go the drums! [Be patient this 8 minute video is well worth it]


Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage, 1967.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, September 25th, 2010
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The g-g-g-global village is out to get you

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  Who put the geewiz in the global village?

If there is one thing everyone knows about Marshall McLuhan, it is that he said we have been recreated by electronic technology in “the image of a global village.”  It is tempting to look at this idea of a global village as a positive vision of the essential oneness of all peoples on this planet.  To see our global village bathed in an electric glow in the night skies as a warm, safe, and supportive place.   To experience the good vibrations that come as we listen to John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

This was the temptation I almost fell prey to yesterday.  But McLuhan had a very different thing in mind when he talked about a global village.

Marshall McLuhan (1977 age 65/66).  We are going tribal!

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage, 1967, p. 67.

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Michael Hinton Friday, September 24th, 2010
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To hell with the facts

Marshall McLuhan (1970s, age 60s).  Violence and media go hand in hand.

The media’s power to incite violence is evident in the structure of our language.  Did you know that the word violence is derived from the Latin word for crossroads?

Me (August, 2010, age 58).  “Cross” roads, of course, are “angry” roads.  And doesn’t anger frequently result in violence?

Unfortunately, if you look up the word violence in the dictionary, the Oxford, Mcluhan’s favourite dictionary, you will find that its origin is traced to the Latin word, violentia.  Violentia does not mean crossroads.  It means impetuous or furious, which is a shame because McLuhan’s derivation is far more interesting than the dictionary’s – at least to a student of media.

What was McLuhan thinking?  McLuhan-biographer Philip Marchand says, McLuhan never allowed the facts to govern his ideas.  And McLuhan is known to have defended his tendency to alter facts to suit his argument with the line – half a brick will break a window as easily as a whole one.  Granted.  But it is hard to escape the linear thought – however big the brick is it still has to hit the glass to cause damage.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan:  The medium and the messenger, 1989, p. 62.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, August 18th, 2010
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What’s the good word?

Marshall McLuhan (1973, age 61-62).  “Dad, you’re in the dictionary!”

“Of course I’m in the dictionary, Eric, I’m looking up a word.  Here it is, ‘corniche’ from the French – ‘a road along the edge of a cliff.’  Exactly where we are today, literally and metaphorically, don’t you think?

“No Dad, I don’t mean you’re using the dictionary, I mean you’re actually in it.  There are now words based on you.  ‘McLuhanism,’ McLuhanize,’ ‘McLuhanite,’ and get this ‘McLuhanesque.’

“Well that’s vurry satisfying.  Northrop Frye isn’t in the dictionary is he?  But hold on, which dictionary?  the Oxford?”

“No, The Barnhart Dictionary of New English Since 1963, first edition, 1973.”

“What a shame.  I’d have preferred the Oxford.  After all, it is the Dictionary.”

Me (August, 2010, age 58).  McLuhan would have been pleased

McLuhan did make it into the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, which was published in 1989.  Unfortunately he did not live to see it.  However, it is safe to say that he would undoubtedly have taken great pride in this mark of the power of his influence on what he considered to be the most powerful of all mediums, our language.

Cordially, Marshall and Me



The Oxford English Dictionary, second edition, 1989.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, August 12th, 2010
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