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.

Machinery is all around us

Marshall (June, 1951, age 39).  Machinery is all around us

I was writing to Pound about this, too.  Machinery is all around us because we are inside the machine.  And the machine is inside us.  The two joined in an unholy duality.  We have become machines. 

Me (October 2009, age 57).  Machinery is all around us still

What’s wrong with being a machine?  McLuhan explains in the preface to the Mechanical Bride, which was his first book and is about advertising.  In the HBO TV series “Mad Men” Don Draper says advertising is about happiness.  McLuhan says the purpose of the happiness advertising offers is to get past your mental gatekeeper, to get inside your mind “in order to manipulate, exploit, [and] control.”

Take a look at the ads in Vanity Fair, Vogue or The New Yorker.  What is the happiness they are offering?  What social myths do they use to get inside us?  Why is it easy to see this happening in yesterday’s ads?  (More Doctors smoke Luckies than any other cigarette, that’s why we say they’re Doctor recommended.) Why is it harder to see this happening in today’s ads?  (Natural American Spirit is the only brand that features both cigarettes made with 100% certified organic tobacco as well as cigarettes made with 100% additive-free, natural tobacco.)  (Perhaps this one is not that hard to understand.)       

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

The Letters of Marshall McLuhan.  Selected and edited by Matie Molinaro, Corinne McLuhan, and William Toye. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1987, p. 227.

Marshall McLuhan. The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man. Gingko Press, 1951; 2002, pp. v-vii.

Natural American Spirit ad. Vanity Fair, September, 2009, pp. 253-254.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, October 13th, 2009
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Business, Communication, Culture, Vol. 1 No Comments

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