A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.Â Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday,Â I present one of McLuhanâs observations and talk about its relevance today.Â 300 ideas. 300 days.Â 300 posts.
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 yearâs race for the Presidency.Â I told them that he should put his campaign ads on radio rather than TV.Â Â A hot character like Nixon is ideally suited to radio.Â His hot-stuff will not go over well on TV.Â If they insist on putting him on TV, I told them, they should make sure he says as little as possible.Â He should be as silent as his beloved âsilent majority.âÂ That should cool him down.Â Unfortunately, Nixon can do nothing about his name.Â The âNixâ sound in Nixon has a pronounced negative subliminal effect on voters.Â A name of course is a medium.Â And the medium is always the message. Â You can turn off your TV but you canât turn off your name.Â Names are numbing blows from which we never recover.
Me (August, 2010, age 58).Â Good old Mars-hall?
Douglas Coupland has a good deal of irreverent fun with Marshall McLuhanâs name.Â He places âthe name Marshall McLuhan into commonly available internet name generatorsâ and generates for example McLuhanâs porn star name (Pud Bendover), pimp name (Slick Tight) and drag name (Vanilla Thunderstorm).Â He also uses a word scrambler to break and reassemble âMarshall McLuhanâ into a large number of three and four letter phrases such as âalarm small hunch,â âclam hah small um,â and âcall sham man hurl.âÂ Â 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.Â McLuhanâs name was played with by his academic enemies who mocked him by calling him âMcLoon.âÂ How much of a blow was this?Â Did it encourage his readers to view his ideas as loony?Â On the other hand his boyhood nick name was âMarsâ 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?Â 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.