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.

To hell with the facts

Marshall McLuhan (1970s, age 60s).  Violence and media go hand in hand.

The media’s power to incite violence is evident in the structure of our language.  Did you know that the word violence is derived from the Latin word for crossroads?

Me (August, 2010, age 58).  “Cross” roads, of course, are “angry” roads.  And doesn’t anger frequently result in violence?

Unfortunately, if you look up the word violence in the dictionary, the Oxford, Mcluhan’s favourite dictionary, you will find that its origin is traced to the Latin word, violentia.  Violentia does not mean crossroads.  It means impetuous or furious, which is a shame because McLuhan’s derivation is far more interesting than the dictionary’s – at least to a student of media.

What was McLuhan thinking?  McLuhan-biographer Philip Marchand says, McLuhan never allowed the facts to govern his ideas.  And McLuhan is known to have defended his tendency to alter facts to suit his argument with the line – half a brick will break a window as easily as a whole one.  Granted.  But it is hard to escape the linear thought – however big the brick is it still has to hit the glass to cause damage.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan:  The medium and the messenger, 1989, p. 62.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, August 18th, 2010
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Vol. 1 No Comments

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