Marshall McLuhan re Wikileaks


Marshall McLuhan with regard to WikiLeaks…

“Under conditions of electric simultaneity the ground of any figure tends to become more and more noticeable. Perhaps it all began with cubism and the discovery that by eliminating the merely visual or rational relations between services, by presenting the inside and the underside at the same time as the outside, the public became totally involved and aware in a multisensuous way. As new media continue to proliferate, the nature of “news” will naturally change too, along with the perpetually renewed revolution in information speeds and patterns.”

“Position papers are secret or confidential documents for the attention of committees, and any office boy can publish these, no matter how top secret they may be. The Pentagon Papers were position papers which may or may not have been studied or discussed by a Congressional committee. They are “the news behind the news”, which used to be considered muckraking but has now become an ordinary dimension of journalism, such as nourishes the underground press and which, in turn, affects the forms and publics of the regular press. What has happened since the old muckraking days of the 1920’s is that espionage, whether political or commercial, has become the largest business in the world, and we take it for granted that the modern newspaper depends on “bugging” the whole community. In fact, we expect the press to “bug” the world and to challenge and penetrate all privacy and identity, whether private or corporate.”

“Among the unexpected features of the information revolution are the extraordinary diminution of private identity and egotistic conviction, as a result of major involvement in the lives of other people, and the extra-ordinary enlargements of the public sector. We have moved into an age in which everybody’s activities affect everybody else, and therefore the whole matter of privacy is suspect, even as it is impractical. One result has been a relaxing of private morals (sometimes referred to as “permissiveness”) and at the same time an extraordinary new intensity in public morals. This change is well reflected in the Watergate affair. In Washington, as elsewhere, laxity of private standards is expected, but the same private standards no longer extend to the image of the President. Under electric conditions it is not possible to extend the laxity of private life into the public domain; rather, a new absolutism in the public domain is felt to be mandatory.”

“The U.S. happens to be the country in which the private and specialized had been allowed the utmost development. Quite dramatically, therefore, the “bugging” of private lives, long taken for granted in the commercial, the political, and the military establishments, has suddenly become the means of revealing the bankruptcy of public morals.”

“A spectacular paradigm of the information revolution has been developed for the world at large by the Watergate affair. While it seems to specialize in matters of political espionage and image- building, it also draws attention to the fact that the entire educational and commercial establishments, as much as the political and military establishments, depend on data banks of total information concerning both producers and consumers, both the governors and the governed. The Watergate affair makes it quite plain that the entire planet has become a whispering gallery, with a large portion of mankind engaged in making its living by keeping the rest of mankind under surveillance. The FBI includes among its responsibilities keeping under surveillance individual members of the CIA. We thus have a complete scheme of baby-sitters for the baby-sitters — chaperons for chaperons — and it is the business of every commercial establishment to keep all other commercial establishments under surveillance as a minimal condition of survival.”

All quotes from McLuhan, M. (1974). “At the moment of Sputnik the planet becomes a global theatre in which there are no spectators but only actors”. Journal of Communication, Winter, рp. 48-58.

3 Responses to “Marshall McLuhan re Wikileaks”

  1. Fascinating!


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