Part 4: August 27, 2017
Unless otherwise mentioned, page numbers are from Letters of Marshall McLuhan (1987) 
According to the editor’s introduction to the 1946-1979 period, Marshall McLuhan was an associate editor of the journal Explorations: Studies in Culture and Communication (first issue December 1953), which was partly funded by the Ford Foundation (p. 174).
The Ford Foundation’s current Board of Trustees is listed at their website:
On their mission page, for example, they include the following statement under “Building Institutions:”
We have created or helped sustain thousands of pathbreaking organizations working on a broad range of social change issues.
More information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Foundation
One of my earlier posts is about the Ford Foundation: https://canadianliberty.com/?p=18383 – Soviet and American systems were to be merged – where we are today!
From 1953 to 1955, McLuhan was Chairman of the Ford Foundation Seminar on Culture and Communication. With other University of Toronto faculty members and graduate students, McLuhan studied the societal effects of the electronic media. After that, the National Association of Educational Broadcasters (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Association_of_Educational_Broadcasters) “engaged McLuhan to lead a research project on the media.” His results were published in Report on Project in Understanding the New Media (1960), which led to his 1964 book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (p. 174, editor’s introduction to 1946-1979 period).
In a May 31, 1953 letter to his friend, Jesuit priest Walter J. Ong, S.J. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_J._Ong), McLuhan explains that he was
given 43,000 dollars by Ford Foundation to run a 2 year Communication project here at Toronto University. . . (p. 236).
In a February 7, 1954 letter to Wyndham Lewis, McLuhan also mentions his role as Chairman of a Ford Foundation project to study the impact of new media on any aspect of life and society the group chooses (p. 242, letter and footnote).
Another example of foundation influence is mentioned in a footnote to a letter to Jacqueline Tyrwhitt (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaqueline_Tyrwhitt) (May 11, 1964), in which McLuhan refers to Sigfried Giedion’s The Beginnings of Architecture (1964). This is volume II of The Eternal Process: A Contribution to Continuity and Change with Volume I being The Beginning of Art (1962). According to the footnote, these volumes were published by the Bollingen Foundation (p. 298).
Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bollingen_Foundation) lists many works published by this foundation, including authors such as Giedion and C. G. Gung. Funding for the Bollingen Foundation was provided by Paul Mellon, of the Mellon banking family (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Mellon). Giedion (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sigfried_Giedion) and his writings are frequently referred to in McLuhan’s Letters.
It’s not to say that everything about modern art, architecture and literature is objectionable, but I have to wonder about McLuhan and Lewis as traditional Catholics being so supportive and involved in it. I already mentioned some objectionable material by James Joyce.
I tend to look for an explanation in terms of directed social engineering.
As to CIA funding for the arts, modernism and very limited flavors of pro-American, anti-Soviet “conservatism,” The Cultural Cold War by Frances Stonor Saunders documents many examples. Saunders writes in the context of the Marshall Plan and in terms of an effort to compete artistically and ideologically with the Soviet Union, and I don’t remember her explicitly acknowledging the motivation of social engineering directed at Western society, i.e. “left-wing” “social changes” (as the Ford Foundation website mentions)–we have to look to other sources for that information.
In her book, there is no substantial reference to McLuhan (other than the standard throw-away line) and none to Wyndham Lewis directly, but there certainly are references to Ezra Pound and his crew (e.g., Eliot and Joyce). For example:
A literary radical, [James Jesus] Angleton (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Jesus_Angleton) had introduced Ezra Pound to Yale, and founded the magazine of verse, Furioso, in 1939 . . . (p. 237 of The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters by Frances Stonor Saunders, 1999)
In 1938, Angleton met Ezra Pound in Rapallo, and they became firm friends, . . . (p. 238, 239, ibid.)
Referring to certain kind of intellectuals attracted to the intelligence services, Saunders quotes novelist Richard Elman:
. . . They believed in a higher authority, a higher truth which sanctioned their anti-Communist, anti-atheist crusade. T. S. Eliot, Pound, and other modernists appealed to their elitist sensibilities (p. 248, ibid.).
The CIA had Eliot’s Four Quartets translated, and then air-dropped copies into Russia (p. 248, ibid.).
The author explains further:
Raised on modernist culture, these elitists worshipped Eliot, Yates, Joyce, and Proust. . . . high culture was not only important as an anti-Communist line of defence, but also the bastion against a homogenized mass society, . . . (p. 249, ibid.)
I don’t believe that snob-appeal is the whole story. Just as the Reese Committee investigated the big tax-free foundations directing funds to “left-wing” social change (again, see link above to Ford Foundation website), I tend to think that the CIA’s efforts have destructively fragmented our society (dividing generations for example), alienating the majority from “high culture” (with its absurd extremes of atonal music, for example), and thus weakening the public’s attachment to uplifting, traditional cultural influences (high or low). Then the public has their minds laid open to whole new vistas of mass indoctrination through pop culture while at the same time being unable to find common ground and communicate with others about anything that matters (due to all the new divisions in religion, dietary habits, body modification, etc.)
Eisenhower Explains the Big Mysterious Conspiracy “Theory” about Money being Used to Control Society
With respect to the related topic of government money being directed to universities, Eisenhower discussed this in his famous speech about the “military-industrial complex” and “scientific-technological elite”:
. . . In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. . . .
The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present–and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite. . . .
–Dwight D. Eisenhower: Farewell Radio and Television Address to the American People, January 17, 1961, www.presidency.ucsb.edu.
McLuhan’s Views on the Foundation Influence on Universities
In a March 23, 1971 letter to Claude Bissell, University of Toronto president (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claude_Bissell), McLuhan states:
. . . the main hang-up of the academic person. He is proud of his knowledge and eager to hide his ignorance. This foible forbids discoveries. The biggest grants from the biggest Foundations are given on an understanding that they will lead to nothing. If anyone was to discover anything on a grant, chaos would ensue. . . . (P. 429)
I doubt that grants lead to nothing. I believe their goal is to direct societal change (again, as the Ford Foundation website states).
In a much earlier letter to poet Ezra Pound (June 22, 1951), McLuhan refers to a Foundation officer named Cairns in connection with a poetry-related proposal for the Library of Congress, and also in connection with potential support for Wyndham Lewis. McLuhan says he agrees with whatever Pound had written about the Foundation administrators and universities [“beaneries”] (p. 226 of Letters of Marshall McLuhan):
McLuhan refers to Foundations as “tax-evasion devices” and to Foundation administrators as
stooges chosen by public relations bureaus whose idea it was to set up the Rock-Gugg-Ros-Boll [Rockefeller-Guggenheim-Ros?-Bollingen]. . . .
The beaneries [universities] are on their knees to these gents. They regard them as Santa Claus. They will do “research” on anything that Santa Claus approves. They will think his thoughts as long as he will pay the bill . . . To get published they must be dull, and stupid and harmless. . . .
In both letters, McLuhan acknowledges the power of Foundations over university research, but why does McLuhan insist that Foundation funding made the academic’s research “harmless”? This may have been what he believed or it may have been his experience, but is he downplaying the possibility of social and cultural change resulting from Foundation influence?
According to the editor, McLuhan is referring to Huntingdon Cairns, an officer of the Bollingen Foundation and clarifies that there had been a specific 1946 proposal for a contribution to the Library of Congress to make recordings of American and British poets. Also, there is no record of Cairns funding Lewis to continue The Human Age trilogy but notes that Lewis contracted with the BBC for a June 18, 1951 broadcast of a dramatization of The Human Age: The Childermass. The editor notes also that the Royal Literary Fund gave Lewis 100 pounds for a dictaphone after he became blind in April 1951, although Lewis developed a special writing technique instead (editor’s footnotes, p. 226).
Who is the Enemy of Society? Who, Why, How? The Word as a Drug and Universal Hypnosis, Humans Turned into Machines
In the same letter, McLuhan proceeds to be very critical of university administrators and teachers. You can get a picture of how he sees himself:
. . . [The teachers] have no tradition which would enable them to be critics of their own world. They have a temperament which prefers a quiet simple life, but no insights . . . . They distrust any of their number who has ideas.
45 years ago things were like this, but less so
Nowadays there is no conversation at all. Teachers distrust talk as much as business men. It is a mirror in which they too readily see their own vacuous plight. . .
. . . I am an intellectual thug who has been slowly accumulating a private arsenal with every intention of using it. In a mindless age every insight takes on the character of a lethal weapon. Every man of good will is the enemy of society. Lewis saw that years ago. His “America and Cosmic Man” was an H-bomb let off in the desert. Impact nil. . . . “
Interpreting McLuhan seems tricky at this point in the letter. After referring to the “intellectual bombs” of Lewis, he seems to imply that some other group (perhaps the establishment?) wants to destroy societal institutions and even people:
. . . We [explains he’s not of the “we” party so he seems to be referring to another more powerful group perhaps] resent or ignore such intellectual bombs. We prefer to compose human beings into bombs and explode political and social entities. . . . We want to get rid of people entirely. And it is necessary to admire the skill and thoroughness with which we have made our preparations . . . I am not of the “we” party. I should prefer to de-fuse this gigantic human bomb by starting a dialogue somewhere on the side-lines . . . Since  the word has been used to effect a universal hypnosis. How are words to be used to unweave the spell of print? Of radio commercials and “news”-casts? I’m working on that problem. The word is now the cheapest and most universal drug.
Consider the effect of modern machinery in imposing rhythm on human thought and feeling. . . . To-day we get inside the machine. It is inside us. . . . . You can’t shout warnings or encouragement to these machines. . . . Circe only turned men into swine. Our problem is tougher.
He gives the example of the radio quiz program in which the quiz-master asks if the participants are “ready for the next question.” “Only machines get ready for questions….” (p. 226-228).
Additional Information and References
Note: unless otherwise mentioned, web references in this post are cited as accessed on or before August 27, 2017.
End of Part 4
Continued: Part 5