McGill Lecture: Marshall McLuhan’s Role in the Quiet Revolution, 1970

Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, October 1970


The McGill Institute for the Study of Canada (MISC) invited Jonathan Slater, a professor of public relations at State University of New York Plattsburgh (SUNY) on Oct. 14 to give a lecture exploring the influence of Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan on the role of mass media in Quebec’s Quiet Revolution and the October Crisis. The webinar was part of a formal partnership between McGill University, Bridgewater State University, and SUNY Plattsburgh.

Slater’s talk drew on research for his upcoming book on the role of mass media in Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, a period of socio-cultural change in the province. The October Crisis culminated in the Front de libération du Quebec’s (FLQ) kidnappings and attacks of two diplomats in the fall of 1970.

Slater lectured about Canadian philosopher and professor of literature Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980), who is often heralded as the father of communication and media studies. During the Quiet Revolution and October Crisis in Quebec, McLuhan observed and commented on the cultural changes in Quebec from his home in Toronto, where he was director of the Centre for Culture and Technology. In her introduction of Slater, Blair Elliot, MISC Communications and Events Associate, highlighted how some of McLuhan’s contemporaries saw his role in the crisis.

“Two of McLuhan’s contemporaries, his Toronto colleague Northrop Frye and Montreal author Hugh MacLennan, accused McLuhan of stirring up trouble in Quebec,” Elliot said. “McLuhan’s open friendship with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau ostensibly was behind Frye’s assertion that McLuhan was interfering in Quebec’s affairs. MacLennan believed McLuhan’s contentions about mediated environments were abetting French nationalist sentiment in the province.”
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