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.


The far-seeing Marshall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Unbelievable?    

“Surely, it is not unbelievable that decision-makers are totally out of touch with the world they live in?”

Me (March, 2011, age 58).  Surely not.


 Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 104.


Michael Hinton Thursday, March 10th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Management, Politics No Comments

TV will not take a hot character.

Marshall McLuhan (October 29, 1960, age 49).  It’s a cool medium.    

“If the person who comes in front of the TV camera is already a very complete and classifiable type of person – a politician, a highly obvious doctor type, lawyer type – the medium rejects him because there’s nothing left for the audience to view or to complete, and they say this guy’s a phony.  There’s something wrong with this guy.”

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  Will the real Obama please stand up.



 Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, “The Communications Revolution,” panel discussion at Third Annual Conference on the Humanities, Ohio State University Graduate School, October 29, 1960, in Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Me: Lectures and Interviews, 2003, p. 40.

Tags: ,

Michael Hinton Friday, February 18th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication No Comments

Newspapers don’t make news.

Marshall McLuhan (1965, age 53).  You do.

“The only connecting factor in any newspaper is the dateline… . When you enter through the dateline, when you enter your newspaper, you begin to put together the news – you are producer.”

Me (January, 2011, age 58).  If so, it doesn’t matter that Sarah Palin couldn’t name a paper she’d read:

Their names are irrelevant.  If you don’t like the sense Sarah Palin makes of the stories that flash past her eyes don’t blame it on the newspapers she reads or doesn’t read.  It’s not what she reads but what she does with what she reads.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, “Address at Vision 65,” in Essential McLuhan, 1995, p. 227.

Tags: , , , , ,

Michael Hinton Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Technology No Comments

Movies will conquer the world for Uncle Sam.

Me (November, 2010, age 58). Hollywood and globalization.

It seems obvious that Hollywood is a great training ground for globalization.  To see what the western world is all about all you have to do is buy a ticket to a Hollywood film.  If so then the battle for and against globalization will be won on the media battlefield.  For globalization to triumph Hollywood movies must beat TV and the internet.  But then maybe he’s wrong or perhaps the movie has moved on.


Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52). Of course …

“the film medium … [is a] monster ad for consumer goods.”


“The movie, as much as the alphabet and the printed word, is an aggressive and imperial form that explodes outward into other cultures.”


Cordially, Marshall and Me



Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 294-295.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Michael Hinton Saturday, November 6th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Technology, Vol. 1 No Comments

The burning of sacred books.

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  What is the solution?

The story that continues to play itself out in newspapers (and on CBCs Cross Country Check-up) and in real life is Pastor Terry Jones’s threat to burn the Quran on September 11.  What can or should be done to deal with this kind of stupidity?  As usual Marshall McLuhan provides guidance.  But as usual the solution requires some hard work.  (For some help see tomorrow’s post.)

Marshall McLuhan (December 23, 1960, age 49).  The solution is there you just don’t see it.

“As always when a serious problem emerges, the answer will be found to have been discovered somewhat earlier in an unexpected area.”


Cordially, Marshall and Me



Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 278.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Michael Hinton Friday, September 17th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Culture, Vol. 1 No Comments

The power of names

Marshall McLuhan (July 1968, age 57). Poor old Nix-on

The Nixon campaign has been consulting me on the best ways Richard Nixon can use the media to win this year’s race for the Presidency.  I told them that he should put his campaign ads on radio rather than TV.   A hot character like Nixon is ideally suited to radio.  His hot-stuff will not go over well on TV.  If they insist on putting him on TV, I told them, they should make sure he says as little as possible.  He should be as silent as his beloved ‘silent majority.’  That should cool him down.  Unfortunately, Nixon can do nothing about his name.  The ‘Nix’ sound in Nixon has a pronounced negative subliminal effect on voters.  A name of course is a medium.  And the medium is always the message.  You can turn off your TV but you can’t turn off your name.  Names are numbing blows from which we never recover.

Me (August, 2010, age 58).  Good old Mars-hall?

Douglas Coupland has a good deal of irreverent fun with Marshall McLuhan’s name.  He places “the name Marshall McLuhan into commonly available internet name generators” and generates for example McLuhan’s porn star name (Pud Bendover), pimp name (Slick Tight) and drag name (Vanilla Thunderstorm).  He also uses a word scrambler to break and reassemble ‘Marshall McLuhan’ into a large number of three and four letter phrases such as ‘alarm small hunch,’ ‘clam hah small um,’ and ‘call sham man hurl.’   But these exercises – entertaining as they are in a smirking way – do not tell us much if anything about McLuhan or the power of names.

However, a case can be made that McLuhan may have suffered from a negative subliminal effect associated with his name in the more pedestrian way he alleges Nixon did.  McLuhan’s name was played with by his academic enemies who mocked him by calling him ‘McLoon.’  How much of a blow was this?  Did it encourage his readers to view his ideas as loony?  On the other hand his boyhood nick name was ‘Mars’ the Roman God of War (from Mars-hall) which may on balance lent him considerable subliminal strength and contributed to his combative nature.

What does your name say about you?  Or not?

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Douglas Coupland, Marshall McLuhan, 2009, pp. 2-9.

Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan: The medium and the messenger, 1989, p. 3.

Tags: , , , , ,

Michael Hinton Saturday, August 14th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Vol. 1 No Comments


Marshall McLuhan (1966, age 55). It seems inevitable.

As the world speeds up what was formerly separate becomes joined.  Politics is becoming entertainment and entertainment politics.  Within fifteen years I think it is safe to say an actor will be elected president of the United States.

Me (July, 2010, age 58). And vice versa?

This is one of McLuhan’s predictions that seems spot on (Ronald Reagan) incredibly perceptive (who else would have thought such a thing) and a bit too good to be true (one wonders how seriously he took the idea.)

As I was playing with the idea it struck me that it should work the other way too.  A politician should eventually succeed as an actor.  It took a bit longer but Al Gore did win an Oscar for his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.

What predictions of Marshall McLuhan’s do you find most startling?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

P.S.  From Marshall:  Corinne tells me it’s your birthday.  Happy Birthday Michael.  May there be many more.

Reading for this post

Barrington Nevitt with Maurice McLuhan, Who Was Marshall McLuhan? 1994, p. 198.

Tags: , , , , ,

Michael Hinton Saturday, July 24th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Culture, Technology, Vol. 1 1 Comment

The measure of Marshall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan (May 6, 1966, age 54).  Really?

Well, how’d I do Corinne?

You were magnificent Marshall.  But surely Patrick Watson was exaggerating when he said that “no one can make sense out of more than ten percent of what” you say.

Me (June 2010, age 57).  A test

While Marshall McLuhan was renowned for being difficult to understand to say that 90 percent of what he says is incomprehensible does seem an exaggeration.  Granted Patrick Watson’s aim was to be controversial when he said this on the CBC television program “This Hour Has Seven Days.” (May 6, 1966)  But this is as good an excuse as any to make the point that Marshall McLuhan is not as difficult to understand as is commonly thought.  Or maybe he is.

Here by way of a test is a bit of what Marshall McLuhan had to say on the program.

[The interviewer, Robert Fullford, asks.]  “Has [the world] changed because of TV?”

[McLuhan replies:] “Television gave the old electric circuitry that’s already here a huge extra push in this direction of involvement and inwardness.  You see, the circuit doesn’t simply push things out for inspection, it pushes you in. It involves you.  When you put a new medium into play, people’s sensory life shifts a bit, sometimes shifts a lot.  This changes their outlook, their attitudes, changes their feelings about studies, about school, about politics.  Since TV, Canadian, British and American politics have cooled off almost to the point of rigor mortis … .”

What do you think?  Is 90 percent of this something “no one can make sense out of?”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Who Was Marshall McLuhan, edited by Barrington Nevitt with Maurice McLuhan, 1995, pp. 135-36.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Michael Hinton Thursday, June 17th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Vol. 1 No Comments

What don’t you know?

Marshall McLuhan (January 25, 1973, age 61). That’s my favourite question.

Why is it that people are so interested in what they know?  My strategy is always to explore my ignorance, the things I don’t know.

Me (May 2010, age 57).   A big territory.

Once you start exploring your ignorance you will find – at least I have found it so – that it’s a big territory.  If you are having trouble discovering things you’re ignorant of take any subject on which you think you know something and ask yourself “How do I know that?”  (This question according to Deirdre McCloskey was a favourite of economics Nobel laureate Milton Friedman.  See “this” on her web site.)

Experiment.  Try this question when other people start telling you things about politics, economics or society and see what happens.  Let us know what happens.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, pp. 464.

Tags: , , ,

Michael Hinton Friday, May 7th, 2010
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Education, Vol. 1 No Comments

Pearls before swine?

Marshall McLuhan (May 14, 1969, age 57) Appalling!

Just got back from the Bilderberg Conference.  If I had known that the participants understood so little about the electric world in which we live I would never have agreed to speak.  As I told Prince Bernard of the Netherlands, who was a splendidly urbane host, only artists see the world as it is the rest – and I include the delegates to the Conference in this less than august company – see it as it was thirty years ago.  The shocking thing is that these are the people who are running our world.

Me (April 2010, age 57)   In every way!

McLuhan’s performance at Bilderberg was one of his worst.  And he was not invited back.  Apparently the delegates, who included such political heavy weights as Robert MacNamara, George Ball, and Dean Rusk, did not appreciate McLuhan’s “foul language.”  It is also likely that the delegates found that what McLuhan had to say foully expressed or not as insulting and incomprehensible.  For example here are three ideas McLuhan brought to the delegates attention:

(1)    By 1830 the Industrial Revolution had made England a communist state;

(2)    Today thanks to advertising we live in communist states; and

(3)    Given the above why the hell is America fighting communism.


Is there anything more to these particular ideas than a peculiar sort of word association?  (Communism is defined to be a world in which an abundance of material wealth is found.)


Cordially, Marshall and Me


Reading for this post

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, pp. 372-73 and 531.

Tags: , , , , ,

Michael Hinton Tuesday, April 27th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Vol. 1 No Comments