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.

Who’s interviewing who? [continued]

Marshall McLuhan (December 1970, age 59).  Dick Cavett’s not listening

The other day, as I recounted yesterday, I was speaking on the Dick-Cavett-Show.  Unfortunately the host Dick Cavett kept interfering with the fun by asking me questions.

Me (January 2010, age 57) Marshall McLuhan’s not listening

As I said yesterday, McLuhan spent almost half of his time on the show asking questions, posing new topics for discussion and talking with the other guests – in short, playing Cavett’s role.

We ended yesterday with Marshall McLuhan’s observation that Nixon lost the 1960 Presidential debate to Kennedy because his hot image did not work with the cool medium of TV.  Cavett responds, if that’s true how come Nixon used TV to his advantage in 1968?  McLuhan’s response is something like “Did he?” And then basically to ignore the point, and move on to talk about Trudeau’s perfect coolness as a TV politician.  It is a good example of how infuriating McLuhan could be in relentlessly pushing his ideas and ignoring the ideas of others, particularly if they are ideas that make demands for rationality and consistency of thought.

At another point in their conversation McLuhan insists that he is throwing out observations, making probes to illicit understanding, and that understanding is not a point of view.  What he is emphatically does not have is a point of view.  To which Cavett says, in essence, not having a point of view is in fact a point of view.  Naturally, McLuhan ignores the point.  (To be continued)

What then are we to make of McLuhan’s terms hot and cool?  Did Nixon make himself over into a cool personality for the 1968 election?  Was McGovern actually hot?  Was the 1968 election won or lost by other means?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Joe McGuinnis, The Selling of the President, Penguin Books, 1988; originally published as The Selling of the President, 1968. Simon & Shuster, 1969.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, January 13th, 2010
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Technology, Vol. 1 No Comments

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