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.

The miracle of communication.

Marshall McLuhan (November, 1965, age 54).  In conversation at lunch.

“Marshall,  a question.  What has the world’s greatest communicator failed to communicate today?”

“Heaven knows.  But let’s be serious, Barry.  Most people assume that anyone who can speak or write clearly can communicate.  But communicating anything really new is always a miracle – very rare, but not impossible.”

Me (June 2010, age 57).  What did Marshall McLuhan mean?

This snippet of conversation – well most of it, I have added some things on – was recalled twenty-odd years later by McLuhan’s long-time friend and colleague Barrington Nevitt.

The problem with new ideas, McLuhan often suggested or implied is that they’re hard work.  You have to think.  He thought most people were intellectually lazy.  They would rather have old ideas.  They were asleep.  They want to get into their newspaper like they do a hot bath.

Getting people to listen to and grasp a new idea, McLuhan thought had nothing to do with clear speaking or writing.  In fact he often said clear speaking or writing was evidence of the absence of thought.

How hard is it to communicate new ideas?  Are old ideas really any easier to communicate?  What has been your experience?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

P.S.  To our Canadian readers, a happy Dominion Day from Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Who Was Marshall McLuhan.  Edited by Barrington Nevitt with Maurice McLuhan, 1995, pp. 107.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, July 1st, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Vol. 1 1 Comment

1 Comment to The miracle of communication.

  • Michael Edmunds says:

    “I don’t see any point in making anything but controversial statements..There is no other way of getting attention at all. I mean you cannot get people thinking until you say something that really shocks them; dislocates them.”


    fueling debate

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