Part 6.2: February 4, 2018
Unless specified otherwise, page numbers are from Letters of Marshall McLuhan (1987) 
Culture and War
In the same letter to Ezra Pound (January 1951, p. 219), McLuhan provides an example of sex being used to promote American military readiness against communism.
Before McLuhan started writing friendly letters to “conservative” Clare Booth Luce, wife of Time and Life publisher Henry Luce, he points to the January 1, 1951 issue of Life magazine as the “War assets issue” in which “Pin-up girls featured as major asset” . His strategy in his book The Mechanical Bride against samples of media manipulation is to use humor (see below), but this is so ridiculous it “can’t be satirized.”
In contrast, McLuhan characterizes George Orwell’s 1984 as a satire of events 50 years ago being portrayed as “a threat of the future.” He describes the effect of this contradiction as “narcotic.” A footnote (p. 219) mentions McLuhan’s interview in a March 7, 1977 issue of Maclean’s magazine, saying that 1984 was
not a prediction. . . It’s nostalgia from 1934. ‘New Speak’, for heavens sake, was Time magazine . . . .
It’s significant that an expert in English literature describes the effect of 1984 as “narcotic.” In my view, Orwell’s novel was more than a warning against Stalinist-style dictatorship. I think his novel–and other dystopian science fiction packaged as drug-like entertainment–is endlessly promoted in order to condition us as we proceed step by step along the planned path towards totalitarianism.
Note that McLuhan was making these criticisms of the mainstream media and culture manipulators back in 1951 (Life)  and 1977 (Time). Decades later, the “mainstream” media liars and other complicit institutions are actively filling our heads with complete crap.
McLuhan’s The Mechanical Bride
The editor (pp. 216-217) quotes the preface to McLuhan’s The Mechanical Bride (1951):
many thousands of the best-trained individual minds have made it a full-time business to get inside the collective public mind
leading to a state of “public helplessness.”
Why not assist the public to observe consciously the drama which is intended to operate upon it unconsciously?
Turning to the Wikipedia article on this book, which:
argues anger and outrage are not the proper responses to the culture industry. “The time for anger . . . is in the early stages of a new process,” McLuhan says, “the present stage is extremely advanced.” Amusement is the proper strategy. . . .
As an explanation:
McLuhan compares his method to the sailor in Edgar Allan Poe’s short-story “A Descent into the Maelstrom.” The sailor, McLuhan writes, saves himself by studying the whirlpool and by co-operating with it.
McLuhan quotes Poe’s sailor:
I must have been delirious, for I even sought amusement in speculating upon the relative velocities . . .
Although I’m sure there is a place for McLuhan’s strategy of using humor as self-empowerment, I can’t agree that it’s the solution.
Also, unfortunately, I think the above quote about the sailor points to what seems to have been McLuhan’s main way of dealing with the system, which is to cooperate with it.
There is a letter McLuhan wrote later to Robert J. Leuver (July 30, 1969, pp. 386-387) in which he points to the Christian’s ability to undervalue this world (not take it so seriously) and laugh at nonsensical policies.
However, is there not too much “co-operating” with the “whirlpool” among people who are more aware and should know better? If there is an after-life, are we going to be rewarded–after sliding on out of here–for not lifting a finger to prevent this world from turning into a total hell–not even protecting our own families from insidious propaganda? There are some very good aspects to traditional Christianity, but there are passages in the New Testament that seem to encourage unthinking submission to unjust rule .
Human vs. Technology
In his letter (March 14, 1951, PP. 220-223) to Harold Adams Innis, author of Empire and Communications (1950) (who was a big influence on McLuhan as per the editor’s notes, p. 220), McLuhan recommends The Art of Being Ruled by Wyndham Lewis. He describes it as “probably the most radical political document since Machiavelli’s Prince,” but:
Lewis reverses the perspective and tries to discern the human shape . . . in a vast technological landscape which has been ordered on Machiavellian lines (p. 222).
McLuhan refers to a “fallacy”
in the Deutsch-Wiener approach in its failure to understand the techniques and functions of the traditional arts as the essential type of all human communication. It is instead a dialectical approach born of technology . . . . (p. 222)
According to the editor (p. 222), McLuhan is referring to a paper by Karl Deutsch: “Communication in Self-governing Organizations: Notes on Autonomy, Freedom and Authority in the Growth of Social Groups,” published in Lyman Bryson, ed., Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life. 12 Session. Freedom and Authority in Our Time (1953) , and to Norbert Wiener’s The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society (1950).
Esoteric Techniques used by Pound, Eliot and Joyce
In a letter to Pound (July 16, 1952, p. 231-232), McLuhan refers to T. S. Eliot‘s study of Sanskrit, as well as Pound’s studies of Anglo-Saxon, Layamon’s Brut (history of Britain) and Catullus (see editor’s note, p. 231) .
McLuhan refers to using “technique as content” and how Pound, Eliot and Joyce use as a guide
in all matters of letters, sounds, phrases situations the whole traditional lore on the diverse labyrinths of the Cumaean Gates. Rock labyrinth. Water labyrinth . . . Is there some secret cult knowledge in these matters. Masonic? . . . (p. 231) 
Secret Societies and the Arts
Writing to Pound (December 3, 1952, p. 233), McLuhan feels that he is banned and nobody will publish him (editor suggests a magazine rejection).
The following statement explains what he had been learning and it also seems to indicate, by the way, a deliberate change in career strategy (reminiscent of how most of us tend to go along with the system out of fear):
Unaware of the liturgical wars between the Secret Societies I did and said all the wrong things in my early appearances in the little mags. I had no party line. I was objective. I was a Fool. Now that I have found out all about the umpteen liturgies as revealed in all the “schools” of art, I’m just a wee bit disgusted . . .
Although McLuhan is disgusted, I can’t help noticing the way he frames his discovery mildly in terms of “liturgical wars” rather than referring to heresies as we might expect from a believing Catholic. Maybe he is trying to avoid causing offense to Pound.
Note: unless specified otherwise, web references are cited as accessed on or before February 4, 2018.
The cover title is “IN THIS ISSUE: AMERICA’S ASSETS: MORE THAN 50 PAGES OF PICTURES.” The issue includes information intended to condition readers for war, war contracts, the draft, the atom bomb, and the use of atomic technology for other purposes (e.g., radioactive isotopes).
Two relevant articles:
“Apprentice Goddesses” (p. 36)
which has many photos of actresses
“West Coast Youth” (p. 45)
which includes pictures of teen-aged and 20-something men and women. It reads like a satire of fascism (like the 1997 film Starship Troopers: www.imdb.com/title/tt0120201/?ref_=nv_sr_1)
The subtitle to “West Coast Youth” is
Brawny and buoyant, it is a bright asset for the U.S. future.
Referring to California youth:
the children are at least one-half inch taller and four pounds heavier than the U.S. average.
the bumper crop of youth also shares a buoyant optimism of spirit . . .
The article (p. 46) refers to “the strenuous outdoor life.” Caption in large type:
the girls are devoted to the cult of the body
38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
. . .
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
- http://art3idea.psu.edu/boundaries/bolagrams/labyrinth.html (further research)
To be continued: Part 6.3
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