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.

Coming to terms with McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan (September 24, 1976, age 65). The Carter-Ford debate was stupid

Today I was taking with Tom Brokow and Ed Newman on the Today Show.  They were asking me about yesterday’s abominable debate between Ford and Carter.  I watched the debate on black & white and two kinds of colour, CBS colour and NBC colour.  What was abominable about the debate is that it was stupid.  It was all wrong for TV.  TV is a cool medium and the debate form is hot.  On TV audience’s attention spans are limited to 4 to 5 minutes, the debate went on for 90 minutes.  The TV couldn’t take it.  The medium rebelled against the bloody message.  Technically, I think it was an amplifier that blew up putting an end to the fiasco.

Me (January 2010, age 57). Who’s got the “corporate” image?

You can tell that Brokow and Newman aren’t quite sure whether to take McLuhan seriously or not.  For example, when McLuhan says he watched the debate on TV in two kinds of colour, CBS and NBC, you can feel their eyebrows go up.  Also, like hot and cool the terms McLuhan uses causes him problems.  Carter, McLuhan says, has a “corporate” image.  Brokow objects, surely not.  McLuhan then tries to explain that by corporate he means not “business” or “industry” but “public” as opposed to “private.”

In McLuhan’s thinking corporate works better on TV.  Private works better on radio or print media.  Tribal man he teaches is “corporate” not private.  He isn’t I think entirely successful in his chat with Brokow and Newman in part because his terms raise barriers to their understanding of him.

One observation McLuhan makes that they both dismiss is worth thinking about.  Why is it, says McLuhan, that the candidates – Carter and Ford – come off as much less authoritative and personable than the journalists who are questioning them?  Brokow and Newman say it’s because questioners typically have the advantage.  But is it merely this?  Look at the interview.  Isn’t it clear Brokow and Newman come off looking much stronger and more authoritative than McLuhan?   Why?  Perhaps because Brokow and Newman are more corporate than McLuhan.

Do you agree that Carter, Brokow and Newman look more corporate than Ford and McLuhan?  What could McLuhan do to come across better on TV?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

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Michael Hinton Friday, January 15th, 2010
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Culture, Technology, Vol. 1 1 Comment

1 Comment to Coming to terms with McLuhan

  • Alex Storino says:

    McLuhan was made impossible to comprehend by owners of media, program hosts, advertising and marketing firms, this is something that I believe was a suppression tactic used by pyramidal top down, centralized mass media approaches. Of course trying to follow McLuhan is an attempt in futility. One needs to relax and simply absorb McLuhan like one might do with a hypnotist. It is far more effective to watch or listen to this interview while utilizing a treadmill or other aerobic stationary machine.

    Many people find it difficult to suspend their judgment and once they do traverse in to the right side of their minds, many have no idea how to come back.

    I’ve found that Bruce Lee’s Tao of Jeet Kune Do is a great accompaniment to understanding and implementing McLuhan’s style. West goes East as East goes West. There are so many similarities between the two that I was able to base my M.Ed research project’s pedagogy (in a reality TV summer camp) on McLuhan’s theory and Lee’s “way of life”.

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