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.

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Time gentlemen (and ladies) please!

It is time to say good bye to Dr. Herbert Marshall McLuhan – media explorer, theorist, prophet, and celebrity. This blog began in September, 2009, on the anniversary of the stroke that took away his power to speak and ends, today on the 100th anniversary of his birth.  Each post, this is number 452, has looked at one of McLuhan’s observations, ideas, thoughts, opinions, or experiences.  I am saying good bye to Marshall now not because there is nothing left to say, but because it seems to me a good time to move on. I have had the wondrous experience of viewing the world for a time through Marshall’s eyes and I thank you for joining me in this attempt to understand him better.  It has been at various times thrilling, disciplining, and surprising, an adventure, a job and an obsession, but I have never found it dull. And that’s the way I want to keep it.

Before I go here is one last idea of Marshall’s to ponder: “The media,” he wrote to Walter Ong in November 1961, “as extensions of the sense organs alter sensibility and mental process at once.”  But, he adds, we are unaware of what they are doing because of their “hypnotic aspect… . Each is invested with a cloak of invisibility.” Faced with such powerful forces is it any wonder McLuhan was never completely successful in his quest to understand media. But then that is the fate of every great philosopher.  He sometimes got it wrong.  But when he was right, boy was he right!

Cordially, Marshall and Me

P.S. I have been fortunate to recieve the help, support, and encouragement of many people.  I would like to thank, especially, Deborah Hinton, David Hinton, Ramon Campos Salazar, Jeff Swann, Michelle SullivanJulien Smith, Mitch Joel, and Michael Edmunds.

Reading and listening:

Lament for Marshall McLuhan, composed and played by Sebastien Joseph [then 15 years old]

My essay on Marshall McLuhan

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, selected and edited by Matie Molinaro, Corinne McLuhan and William Toye, 1987, pp. 280-281.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, July 21st, 2011
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Where to from here?

Me (December, 2010, age 58).  Not done with McLuhan

Welcome back.  The last 300 posts of this blog have explored a large number of the ideas of and about Marshall McLuhan.  I have not counted, but the number must be far more than 300.  For most people, however, there are only two ideas – the medium is the message and the world as a global village – and neither of these ideas now almost two generations old since they were first announced in the 1960s is very well understood, which is odd.

Why?  Who was he?  What did he really mean?  Was he really that bad a writer?  What did he really think?  Was he serious?  Was some of what he said just bullshit?  What was he really like?  How can he be better understood?  What does it matter now after all these years?  These are questions I have tried to answer in the first 300 posts of this blog, and I’m not yet finished answering.  We are, I think, not done with McLuhan.  In the year ahead I will continue to talk about his ideas; to go slow; to look at them one by one, to wonder at them and about them, and in this way to celebrate and pay tribute to him.  If he is right and media change us, understanding how they do this is vitally important.


If you wish to be part of this conversation please leave your comments.

Cordially, Me


Neil Postman, “Forward” to Philip Marchand, Marshall Mcluhan: The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, pp. vii-xiii.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, December 7th, 2010
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Looking for Marshall McLuhan

Me (December 4, 2010, age 58).  Are  you there, Marshall?

Two weeks ago I was in Toronto and stopped in to have a drink in the bar of the Sutton Place, on Bay Street, a few minute’s walk from Marshall McLuhan’s old offices – the Coach House – at St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto.

I did so because I knew McLuhan liked to have a drink at the Sutton Place, it was cold and I thought I might still pick up a memory of him, and my wife knowing this might be on my mind suggested it.  The roof-top bar McLuhan liked at the Hotel is now closed, but one of the waiters, Frank, who has worked in the hotel for over 30 years said he remembered serving McLuhan.

What did he drink?  After some time he recalled. St Jovain, a white Bourdeaux.

Not Scotch?  No, white wine, St. Jovain.

And that was that. He could remember nothing else.

This I think is as good a place as any to leave McLuhan on this the 300th post in this blog, not with a breakthrough in media studies, but drinking white wine, looking out over the city he knew so well, for so long.  Wondering, perhaps, whether this was as good as it got, and if so whether that wouldn’t be all that bad …

Cordially, Me

P.S.    Thanks to all of you who read From Marshall and Me.  And my thanks especially to the following people who in many different ways, small and large, helped to make series 1 a success:  Debbie, Ramon, David, Julien, Michelle, Michael, Mitch, Tara, Jose, and Alex.

P.P.S.  See next week for the start of the next series of posts of this blog that will look for McLuhan and take us intoMcLuhan’s centennial.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, December 4th, 2010
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More on the Critics!

Marshall McLuhan (June 2, 1960, age 48).  There’s no such thing as bad advertizing?

Yesterday I told you  what Robert Fulford had to say about me in Maclean’s.  I must say the man really does not get me.  He is hung up as teenagers say on Euclidian space.  It blinds him to the truth of the medium is the message.  He says I’m repetitious.  But I have to keep repeating myself because he does not get it.  That is to say getting it is something he does not get.  Get it?

Me (December 2009, age 57).  More critiquing of the critics

Let us look now at the criticisms that can be found in the blurbs printed on the covers and dust jackets of the 4 copies of Understanding Media that I have on my McLuhan book shelf.  There is more than a hint of criticism to be found there because McLuhan’s publishers knew controversy sells books.

Second printing, October, 1966, Signet Book, new American Library of Canada: “Understanding Media is the book that’s making history and hysteria- with its radical view of the effects of electronic communications upon man and the twentieth century. Marshall McLuhan is the new spokesman of the electronic age- the oracle whose revolutionary ideas have blasted an explosion of debate from academy to coffee house. [The publisher] “His critics are infuriated by his ideas ….”  Richard Schickel, Harper’s.

Third printing, 1968, McGraw Hill, hard cover:  “An infuriating book.” Commonweal.

First MIT Press edition, 1994, soft cover:  “McLuhan’s theories continue to challenge our sensibilities and our assumptions about how and what we communicate. … There has been a notable resurgence of interest in McLuhan’s work in the last few years ….  Lewis H. Lapham revaluates McLuhan’s work in the light of the technological as well as the political and social changes that have occurred in the last part of this century.”

Critical edition, Ginko Press, hard cover, 2003:  “Infuriating, brilliant and incoherent. “ Commonweal Review.  “The medium is not the message.”  Umberto Eco.

There is a recurrent idea in the blurbs.  People are “infuriated” by the book.  Why?  Among other things Robert Fulford, whose criticism of McLuhan in Maclean’s set off this series of blogs on the criticism of Marshall McLuhan, presumably would say his arrogance is infuriating. (To be continued)

Is there anything in Understanding Media that you find infuriating?  Tell me what it is and why it is infuriating.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for the is post

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 300.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009
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In the land of politics

Marshall McLuhan (September, 1964, age 53).  These guys don’t get it

I spoke at the Progressive Conservative party’s Conference on goals for Canada.  Former Prime Minister Diefenbaker was there when I made my address, but I don’t think he heard what I was saying.  He hasn’t been listening a lot lately.   Not in the flag debate.  Don’t like that new flag much myself but it doesn’t do any good to resist change you must lead it.  Among other things I told them that “political parties must now begin to think seriously about their responsibility to teenagers.”    I hope they heard that one if they don’t they’re dead.

Michael Hinton (October, 2009, age 57).  They still don’t get it

According to journalist Martin Sullivan after Marshall McLuhan spoke, Eugene Forsey, one of the senior figures in the party, turned and said, “Is McLuhan suggesting Diefenbaker should where a Beatle wig?” 

To understand the importance of McLuhan’s idea you need to understand some Canadian political history.  In 1963, after winning with a minority in 1962 and the largest majority to date in Canadian political history in 1957, John Diefenbaker’s Conservatives were defeated by Mike Pearson’s Liberals.  The conference McLuhan spoke at in 1964 had been organized by Dalton Camp.  Camp was a major strategist and power broker in the Federal Conservative party, who would orchestrate the removal of John Diefenbaker from the leadership of the party, in ‘the night of the long knives’ in the hopes of shifting the Liberals from power in the next election.  Camp believed “there are business and professional men, and the rising generations of young people, who do not find political organization in its traditional form either appealing or challenging.”  The conference, as Forsey’s remarks suggest, did not succeed in Camp’s aim which was as he put it, to stimulate, “from fresh springs of awareness new channels of thought, inquiry and purpose.  What we cannot do again is merely ingest the realities of a new society into an inert doctrinaire conservatism.”  That, however, is precisely what the Conservatives did and the Liberals held onto power for the next 16 years.       

Given that today most Canadians under 30 seem to have little interest in the traditional political process and political parties is their anything Canadians learn from this?  What about in other countries, such as the United States and Britain, where those under 30 also appear to be disengaged from politics?  Why don’t political parties think seriously about their responsibility to teenagers?  If they did what would they do differently?

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Reading for this post

Sprague, D.N.  Post-Confederation Canada:  The structure of Canadian History since 1867. Scarborough, Ont.: Prentice-Hall, 1990, pp. 255-321, and appendix I.

Sullivan, Martin.  Mandate ‘68. Toronto: Doubleday, 1968, pp. 89-91.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, October 24th, 2009
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