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.

What rubbish!

Marshall McLuhan (July, 1969, age 58). There’s no such thing as bad advertising.

It has seemed obvious to me, because it is grounded on observation, that “persons grouped around a fire or candle or warmth or light are less able to pursue independent tasks, than persons supplied with electricity.”  It has come to my attention, thanks to the sharp eyes and ears of my son Eric that Dame Rebecca West this month announced to the English Association in her presidential address that this observation is “rubbish!”  “Why,” she said, “should anybody listen to the writer of this sentence?”  Well, as I told Eric, evidently I can piss off some of the people some of the time, but fortunately I very much doubt if I can piss off all of the people all of the time.  No matter, what evidently pisses off the sainted Dame Rebecca is that people are listening to me.      

Me (February 2010, age 57).  What was her problem?

Marshall McLuhan carefully collected everything that was written about him.  Good and bad.  Boxes and boxes of books, magazines, off prints, clippings.  He sorted this material by topic into folders intending one day to use it in the revision of his books.  Although it is not clear how much revision he actually achieved.  In conversation, however, it is clear that his usual response to criticism was to ignore it.  Famously, in response to the criticism of Robert Merton at a scholarly seminar at Columbia University, he said, “Don’t like those ideas?  I got others.”  And his trademark reply to hecklers was:  “You think my fallacies are all wrong?”

What do you think?  Why was West so ticked off?  Why did people listen to McLuhan?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Rebecca West.  “McLuhan and the Future of Literature,” Presidential Address, 1969.  London: English Association, 1969.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, February 10th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Vol. 1 No Comments

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