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 on trial?

Marshall McLuhan (April 2, 1971, age 59). We are.

When I heard the news on TV about Lt. Wiliam Calley’s life sentence for the My Lai massacre  it suddenly hit me.  TV steps up our sense of involvement so much that for example in the public broadcast of a trial the audience becomes the criminal.  Or more prosaically, the medium contains not the message but the user.

Me (May 2010, age 57).  What do you remember most vividly?

Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the memories that remain most vivid to me are associated with TV broadcasts:

  • O.J. in the white Ford Bronco;
  • the crashing of the jet liner into the Twin Towers;
  • the funerals of JFK
  • and Winston Churchill;
  • the first moon landing.

Why?  McLuhan would say that in these TV spectacles the audience becomes the criminal, the terrorists, the corpse, the astronaut.

What events do you remember most vividly?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, pp. 430-31.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, May 1st, 2010
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Technology, Vol. 1 1 Comment

1 Comment to Who’s on trial?

  • Stephen Fowler says:

    It nay be true that we become what we are vicariuosly witnessing, at least for the moment. I don’t know.
    But the reason for our vivid memories is, I think, less comlicated than that.
    Because of modern technology, we get to witness these things over and over and over again. And not only in exactly the same way we first witnessed the event, but also in exactly the same way our friends and neighbours witnessed the event.
    This is something we don’t get to do with our ‘real’ (personal) lives.
    So it’s no wonder our mediated memories are more vivid than our own.

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