From the Marshall McLuhan Clippings File: PEOPLE Magazine – September 20, 1976

19Mar15
   This photo by Harry Benson of Marshall McLuhan in front of René Cera’s Pied Piper’s All at the Coach House  was used for this magazine article

If the Media Didn’t Get Marshall McLuhan’s Message in the ’60s, Another Is on the Way

September 20, 1976 – Vol. 6, No. 12

 Select quotes from that article, the full text of which can be read at https://goo.gl/trZzOh .

Just as Sigmund Freud is the father of psychoanalysis, Marshall McLuhan is the pioneer in media sociology [today called media ecology], the study of the effects of electronic information—TV, radio, stereo and cassettes—on society. Understanding Media created a storm of controversy when it was published in 1964, but now it is used in nearly every university on the North American continent and has been translated into 15 languages… 

“You see, I’m a sleuth, a kind of Sherlock Holmes character who simply investigates the environment and reports exactly what he sees. Strangely enough, some people are actually frightened by me. I find the whole exploration of the environment very exciting. Once you decide to become an explorer, there’s no place to stop. I’m like Columbus. I discover new worlds everywhere I look”… 

Much to his satisfaction, more and more of his early prophecies are coming true. Twelve years ago, for example, he predicted that high school students would soon be more dramatically influenced by the audiovisual media than by print. At the time educators doubted him. Now HEW and several educational testing services confirm that reading scores among such students have dropped alarmingly…

Watergate, of course, was for McLuhan a microcosm of what is happening everywhere in this electronic age. “Electronic devices are making what we think of as privacy obsolete,” he explained back in the 1960s. Nixon, to hear McLuhan talk about him, was a Greek hero. His tragic flaw was his failure to recognize that he could not defend his own privacy while depriving everyone else of theirs. “He also wasn’t good television,” McLuhan points out. “He looked too different, too private. People are suspicious of privacy in the electronic age. Now, Gerald Ford is the perfect electronic man. He becomes whatever you want him to be.” 

Because of his theory that print is becoming obsolete, McLuhan is sometimes considered an enemy of books. On the contrary, he devours them, as many as 30 a week in five languages. Curiously, McLuhan moved his TV set into the basement recently. Although his theories pivot upon the importance of TV in shaping the future, McLuhan wants to minimize the effect it has on him. “I did not want it invading my home,” he explains. (Likewise, he never uses a dictation machine and prefers that his secretary use a manual rather than an electric typewriter)… 

A month ago McLuhan got word that he has achieved a kind of immortality. The Oxford dictionary, bible of the English language, will include the word “McLuhanism” in its next edition, a colleague advised. McLuhan considered the prospect sourly. “I can just imagine,” he says, “what that word is going to mean.”

[Addendum: the word McLuhanism is still there in the OED in its online version, defined as: “The social ideas of McLuhan concerning the effects of mass media, esp. the argument that it is the characteristics of a medium rather than the information it disseminates which influence and control society”. – see https://goo.gl/vx9kHP  

McLuhan on the Today Show, 1976

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