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 rational and the visual

Marshall McLuhan (June, 1967, age 55).  Thinking is leap frogging

“Connected sequential discourse, which is thought of as rational, is really visual. It has nothing to do with reason as such. Reasoning does not occur on single planes or in a continuous connected fashion. The mind leapfrogs. It puts things together in all sorts of proportions and ratios instantly.”

Me (June, 2011, age 58). Like this:

Cordially, Marshall and Me


McLuhan: Hot & Cool, edited by Gerald Emanuel Stearn, New York, 1967, p. 264.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, June 30th, 2011
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Will we ever crack the code?

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  The ultimate challenge!

“Cracking the code of our own popular culture is much harder than the problem of the Rosetta Stone image.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  And what a challenge it is!

The finding of the Rosetta Stone at the town of Rosetta in Egypt in 1799 provided the crucial information required for linguists to eventually decipher the writing of ancient Egypt because the stone contained parallel passages written in Egyptian hieroglyphic characters, Egyptian demotic writing, and miracle of miracles Greek.  Popular culture is so hard to understand because it is more than language.  It is everything that makes us who we are as feeling, thinking, acting, and speaking social beings.  Unfortunately, there are no cultural Rosetta Stones – no worked examples of the multi-dimensional translation of one popular culture into another – to guide us.  As a result we never know which leads are worth following up and which are not.  And to make matters worse, because we are inside of it most of the time we don’t even realize there is something called our popular culture which we don’t understand. (Or as McLuhan liked to put the idea, whoever it was that discovered water it certainly wasn’t a fish.)  One of the ways Mcluhan thought you could see a popular culture was through ads.  McLuhan found ads to be endlessly fascinating.  Each is outside of ourselves and represents a window into our popular culture.   What do they mean?  Who can say for sure, but they do fascinate …

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 148.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, May 31st, 2011
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The TV thing.

Marshall McLuhan (March 7, 1977, age 65).  Mental pollution!    

“The TV thing itself is very, very polluting.  It goes right into the nervous system.  The problem is how literate is your society, your family circle.  Your child is coming out of an intensely literate world, so he can take a fair amount of TV without too much harm.  But to the ordinary kid without a lot of literacy, TV will just turn off any possibility of left hemisphere.” 

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  What now? 

A bleak vision.  Today there are more ordinary kids than ever before.  Without literacy to protect them logical thought may be on the ropes.  What is required is a champion.  If only it were this easy. 

 Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 177.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, May 4th, 2011
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Apocalypse now?

Marshall McLuhan (July 24, 1974, age 63).  Good-bye identity!    

“Electric speeds of information literally create the mass man and obliterate the private man.  … Is it too late to point to our universal victimization by media in which private identity has been abolished?” 

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  With what result?

Electric media separate us from our bodies.  As, for example, when you make a cell phone call.  You stay put your mind hurtles elsewhere to meet with others in electric space.  All media separate you from the physical you.  The result, electrically, McLuhan came increasingly to believe, is a witches brew of dark discarnate effects.  As we lose our physical identities we become unable to separate fantasy from reality, resort unthinkingly to violence, and are watched and monitored relentlessly by electronic eyes at home and abroad.  Is there any escape?  Depending on the day Marshall’s answer was either yes or no. 

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 503.

Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan:  The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, pp. 249-50

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Michael Hinton Friday, April 29th, 2011
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The amazing déjà vu machine.

Marshall McLuhan (1969, age 58).  I’ve made a breakthrough!

For your information, a question: “Is the déjà vu phenomenon, i.e. ‘I’ve been here before’, exotic with the ‘man of letters’, and normal and un-noticed by non-literate man?  If so [one day]  … It should be possible to create physical situations in which anybody might experience the sensation of déjà vu.”

Me (March, 2011, age 58).  A déjà vu machine?

Who would want such a contraption?  It seems like an invention that provides a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.  On the other hand, anything that can produce such subtle disturbances in the working of the mind could lead to devices capable of having far more powerful and disturbing effects for good or ill:

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Counter-Blast, 1969, p. 27.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, April 12th, 2011
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Do media merely serve human ends (like chairs!)

Marshall McLuhan (1969, age 58).  It would seem so.

“Until now, all media have been given the flat earth approach – that is, to common sense, the earth is flat.  To private, unaided perception, it must always seem flat.  Media of all kinds [people naturally think] exert no effect on ordinary perception.  They merely serve human ends (like chairs!) and convey data, etc.”

Me (March, 2011, age 58).  Taking a round earth approach to media.

McLuhan said that the flat earth approach to media was the one sensible people take.  He believed that the media hypnotize you into thinking that they aren’t doing anything else.  That they are protected in their operation by a cloak of invisibility.  Cars take you places, ads try to sell you stuff, Google gives you access to information, surely, they don’t change the way you think.  Or do they?

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Counter-Blast, 1969, p. 22.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, April 9th, 2011
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Do you have a head for heights?

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Depends on whether your ear or eye is dominant.    

“The Iroquois in high steel have no qualms since they don’t have the habit of visual perspective.  If you never think to look down, a twelve–inch girder high above the street is as secure as a sidewalk.”

 Me (February, 2011, age 58).  Don’t like that idea?

Never mind, McLuhan has others.




Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 150.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011
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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.

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Michael Hinton Sunday, January 2nd, 2011
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Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  “What did you say, Corinne?”

“Doubts, Marshall.  Do you have any?”

“Certainly.  I doubt that there are more than 5 of my colleagues at Toronto University that understand anything I’ve been saying about media.  I doubt I will ever be comfortable with these invasive new technologies.  I doubt that anyone but myself truly understands the importance of my work.”

“No, Marshall.  I mean with all the trouble in the world do you ever doubt there is a God?”

“Never.  Others can bother their heads about it.  I don’t.  It frees me to do so much.  It allows me to see the world for what it is.”

Me (November, 2010, age 58).  Doubtless …

Marshall knew as a Catholic that no matter how things looked the world was the creation – the extension – of God and as such coherent and understandable.  No matter what he had to worry about He didn’t have to worry about that.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, p. 58-59.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, November 18th, 2010
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What’s wrong with our schools?

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

“In education the conventional division of the curriculum into subjects is already as outdated as the medieval trivium and quadrivium after the Renaissance.  Any subject taken in depth at once relates to other subjects.”

Me (November, 2010, age 58). No wonder kids drop out …

Nothing makes sense.  It’s too superficial.  Math in math class.  English in English class.  Science in science class.  We need to mix things up.  And give it a purpose.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 347.

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Michael Hinton Friday, November 12th, 2010
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