Version 2.1 – August 12, 2019 – edited and added information to references section
Version 2.2 – July 15, 2021 – replaced video link which TVO vigorously shoved down the memory hole, but at least they left the transcript
Marshall McLuhan in Conversation with Mike McManus | Sep 19, 1977:
More interviews here: https://www.marshallmcluhanspeaks.com/soundbites/index.html (original link)
Original TVO link: https://www.tvo.org/video/archive/marshall-mcluhan-in-conversation-with-mike-mcmanus?utm_source=TVO
I am singling out a few of the points McLuhan makes (the focus on violence doesn’t interest me much). If you get distracted by the 1970s way of talking about different cultures, you’ll miss what matters.
Global Village, identity, tribal consciousness, individual consciousness
We’re going back into the bicameral mind [R], which is tribal, collective, without any individual consciousness. . . .
. . . the global village is a place of . . . very abrasive situations.
. . . it’s only the threat to people’s identity that makes them violent.
I don’t agree that it necessarily causes violence and I don’t think that is an adequate explanation for terrorist events. The overall point about identity is convincing to me.
. . . in our time, when things happen very quickly, there’s very little time to adjust to new situations at the speed of light.
Things like radio can push people up into a new kind of awareness which makes it very difficult for them to relate to other people.
Everybody is under surveillance. Privacy invasion. Discarnate entities. Loss of private identity
. . . We now have the means to keep everybody under surveillance [R]. No matter what part of the world they’re in . . . It’s become one of the main occupations of mankind just watching other people and keeping a record . . . . Every business has a huge espionage sector. And this is called public relations, and it’s called audience research.
And this is around the clock. And this has become the main business of mankind, just watching the other guy.
. . . invading privacy, in fact, just ignoring it. Everybody has become porous. They let the light and the message go right through us. . . . When you’re on the telephone, or on the radio, or on tv, you don’t have a physical body; you’re just an image on the air. . . . you’re a discarnate being. You have a very different relation to the world around you. And this, I think, has been one of the big effects of the electric age. It has deprived people, really, of their private identity.
Merging identities. Loss of identity. New technology is a revolutionizing agent. Role playing
Everybody tends to merge his identity with other people at the speed of light. It’s called being mass manned. It began quite a long time ago. [R]
. . . New technology, you say, is a revolutionizing agent.
Yes. It creates new situations to which people have very little time to adjust. They become alienated from themselves very quickly, and then they seek all sorts of bizarre outlets to establish some sort of identity by put-ons. Show business had been one way of establishing identity by just put-ons. And without the put-on, you’re a nobody. And so people are learning show business as an ordinary daily way of survival. It’s called role-playing. Role-playing has become the normal mode of survival in the business world. . . . .
Do you feel these young people out there under 24 have been totally tribalized?
They have lost their sense of direction. They do not have goals. . . .
. . .Well, the alphabet, the phonetic alphabet, the beginnings of western literacy came in about 500 B.C. And since then, between then and now is approximately 2400, 2500 years. And we are the first post-literate generation, as it were. We have by-passed the literate world of hardware and the lineal left hemisphere technology. We have by-passed it by moving once more, again, into the altogether world, the holistic world of the right hemisphere people . . . .
. . . it means they feel much more groupy and trendy than they do private or goal-oriented.
And there’s all this nostalgia… By the way, one of the big marks of the loss of identity is nostalgia. And so revivals on all hands, in every phase of life today. . . . Tells us who we are, or were.
I think the sheer dislocation of their lives has put them through a very violent course, indeed. They have been ripped off.
I think he overstates this point about violence. I think there is a lot of truth in the things he says but it pains me to say that I’m even suspicious of his language concerning violence. I believe the formula followed by the oligarchs is order out of chaos [R], so they seek to artificially generate conflicts from “both” sides of the constructed left-right dialectic, and I think we see endless signs of that in recent years (as of 2019).
Because, at the speed of light, what is a goal? You’re already there. You name it, and you’re there.
Television is addictive
And there is the strange factor that television is quite a potent drug. It is addictive. It is an inner trip, and it is a tranquilizer.
I think you get a certain immunity. Just as you get a certain immunity from booze, by literacy. . . .
Literacy and propaganda
However, literacy, also, though, makes us very accessible to ideas and propaganda. The literate man is the natural sucker for propaganda. . . . propaganda is our Achilles heel. It’s our weak point. We will buy anything if it’s got a good, hard sell tied to it. So propaganda is the great big soft spot in the makeup of the literate man.[R]
Attention span, literacy and religion
. . . A one liner. It’s all we have time for. Attention span gets very weak at the speed of light. And that goes along with very weak identity.
. . . religion is a form of indoctrination which requires a considerable amount of literacy. You cannot get religion into people minus literacy. And as literacy weakens, people lose their religious affiliations.
McLuhan makes another point about television viewing giving boys dyslexia and about the amount of dyslexia in prisons.
He also emphasizes that his “values are strongly centred in literacy” despite the point about propaganda and his interest in new media.
I think what he was always trying to say is that we should be aware of both the consequences and benefits of the technologies we’re getting into or that we are already in–printing press or Internet.
I would say that each of us needs to have a way to stop any particular technology from intruding on our lives. If a technology is objectively harmful and invasive and can’t be controlled by us, then it should be on the way out regardless of its touted benefits. Technology can be invasive of individual rights (health and property rights) when it’s not wanted. It can and is used in that way. It can be used as a weapon. McLuhan calls television a drug. Alcohol and drugs can be used to subdue whole peoples–as Brave New World illustrates [R].
The necessity of looking at the same thing from different directions
He talks about his experience converting to Roman Catholocism, and reading What’s wrong with the World? by G. K. Chesterton
He [Chesterton] was a cubist, you see? A paradox is a form of cubism in which you look at the same situation simultaneously from different directions.
. . . The habit of discontinuous and multi-levelled perception. But it goes partly, also, with my interest in Joyce, Pound, Elliot because they are also multifaceted people, and very right-hemisphered people.
I think this point is critical for us in order to survive our situation. McLuhan has pointed to ideograms also [R]. Alan Watt has pointed to pictographic languages as a way to switch on a part of our brain that is less used [R].
Harold Innis [R], I was very lucky to encounter him. . . .
But Innis, I think, is the only man, since the beginnings of literacy, 2400 years ago, who ever studied the effects of technology. . . . He is the only human being that ever studied the effects of literacy on the people who were literate, . . . Aristotle and Plato never studied the effects of anything on anybody.
I doubt he was the only one but he makes his point.
McLuhan’s main books:
The Mechanical Bride
The Gutenberg Galaxy
Laws of Media: by Marshall and Eric McLuhan (1988)
I have a new book called The Laws of the Media, which I hope will be much more attractive. . . .
[Pattern recognition] is one of the big excitements of life. It’s a sort of a detective activity . . .
Positive take on Canadian multiculturalism policy, seeing the value in keeping different cultures intact
. . . and keep their cultures intact and separate. That is the meaning of the multicultural mosaic. The mosaic is static. It isn’t in a state of constant inter-inanimation, or interplay. . . . And that’s exactly the way the French want to remain. They want to remain just the way they are. . . . So this is as amazing, as I say, ploy developed to make this possible. I don’t know if it will work, but I certainly don’t wish them ill on this manoeuvre. It is a kind of media ecology, you see? It’s a way of using our available resources in communication to keep people apart. And to keep them intact without merging. So it is, I think, it’s a drastic move. I never heard of it occurring in any other culture, did you? I never heard of a multicultural mosaic as an idea for immigration. It’s an amazing strategy of survival. Survival, however, is a legitimate goal in life, especially in a fast-changing world.
My view is that Canada is a big country and there is room potentially–for many cultures–and that is the situation we are in anyway–there are many from all over the world. Many realize that “migration” policies have become more extreme in recent years as globalism shows its teeth. I was taught the Canadian multicultural mosaic in Grade 9. If we are to take it as it was originally introduced, then maybe you can see the positive side of it. All cultures should try to strengthen their individual cultures.
However, part of culture, I believe, is universal, and I think it is strategic for those of us who want to uphold the value of human life (rights, freedoms and the Christian ideas of free will and dignity) to look for common ground with other cultures by communicating with them. Large traditional religions already claim to be universal so they cross ethnic boundaries. Already, that introduces a lot of common ground that we can uncover when we get past language barriers and other differences. However, there is a lot of common ground also hidden by religious and sectarian differences.
I think that human beings from all over have many of the same basic values at a fundamental level even if they haven’t seen the reason or need or means to correct harmful practices. And let’s worry about what’s going on in Canada first–by Canadians–or in the name of Canadians. What are we doing that is objectively harmful in an old-fashioned straightforward sense of the word? Nothing? I can name a lot of things. And what is the value set we are supposed to be following? It started off with Christianity and then it turned into something very vague that had to do with going along with whatever governments and corporations and media told us to do, right?
It is probably not McLuhan’s religious choice, but I think the answer to globalism (so-called humanism) is to outrank globalist anti-values with universal, spiritually-based, human-affirming values which recognize that we are made with purpose–to live with purpose [R].
- “Bicameral mind” or bicameralism: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=bicameral+mind&atb=v119-1&ia=web
- Surveillance: I think of my own school report cards as an earlier example.
- Surveillance: 5 Eyes / Echelon system / NSA further research:
I was interested in pinning down an early date for telephone interception because I remember seeing part of an early news report or documentary about this.
I found this (which may also be useful for understanding 5G, 4G and other cellular network standards):
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT 1999-2004 Session document FINAL A5-0264/2001 PAR1 11 July 2001 REPORT on the existence of a global system for the interception of private and commercial communications (ECHELON interception system) (2001/2098(INI))
There is a lot of information in this document. Here is something interesting on page 53:
In the late 1970s the Sugar Grove station in the eastern USA was developed (the station already existed for the purpose of intercepting Russian communications); it came into operation in 1980. A station in Hong Kong was also set up in the late 1970s. As a result, in the 1980s global interception of INTELSAT communications was possible using the four stations – Yakima, Morwenstow, Sugar Grove and Hong Kong.
Other references for research:
- Surveillance: Store convenience cards
- Internet surveillance (see above links also) and
- Government surveillance of large transactions: FINTRAC: https://canadianliberty.com/?s=fintrac
- Smart City Censors, 5G, Internet of Things and Cellular Networks. See https://canadianliberty.com/5g-overview/ and related website tags below
- “mass manned” and propaganda: relates to idea of direction of mass society in Edward Bernays: Propaganda Key quotations from this book are easy to find: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=Edwards+Bernays+propaganda+quotations&t=ffnt&atb=v119-1&ia=web
- Order Out of Chaos: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=order+out+of+chaos+mackey%27s+encyclopedia+of+freemasonry&t=ffnt&atb=v119-1&ia=web
- Propaganda: see my notes on Propaganda by Jacques Ellul: https://canadianliberty.com/notes-on-propaganda-by-jacques-ellul-6/
- Drugs subduing people: a lot of information on this website about many different aspects of drugs: illegal or prescription psychotropic drugs. Drugs is a complex subject but the main point to make is that possibly all aspects of this topic have been weaponized. For example: see Brave New World tag.
- Opium and heroin: Afghanistan War: https://canadianliberty.com/december-28-2007-canadians-in-afghanistan/
- Opium Wars vs. China: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=China+Opium+Wars+Palmerston&t=ffnt&atb=v119-1&ia=web
- Opioid deaths in North America: appears to be a very confusing situation, a two-edged sword, because on one side of the issue is the need for patients to have effective pain treatment, so there appears to be demonization (probably for tighter control) going on alongside the illegal trade and abuse of opioids. Links for further research:
- Drugs: Research: Drugs as Weapons Against Us by John Potash: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=john+potash+drugs+as+weapons+against+us&atb=v119-1&ia=shopping
- Ideograms: https://canadianliberty.com/analysis-letters-of-marshall-mcluhan-part-6-1-his-awareness-of-masonic-gnostic-occult-secret-society-influence/
- Alan Watt: Waiting for the Miracle. Books at cuttingthroughthematrix.com
- Harold Innis: https://canadianliberty.com/?s=Harold+Innis
- “Made with purpose” – disallowed concept in Brave New World system. Censorship in Chapter 12:
“A New Theory of Biology” was the title of the paper which Mustapha Mond had just finished reading. . . . picked up his pen and wrote across the title-page: “The author’s mathematical treatment of the conception of purpose is novel and highly ingenious, but heretical and, so far as the present social order is concerned, dangerous and potentially subversive. Not to be published.” . . . But once you began admitting explanations in terms of purpose – . . . It was the sort of idea that might easily decondition the more unsettled minds . . . – make them lose their faith in happiness as the Sovereign Good and take to believing, instead, that the goal was . . . , that the purpose of life was not the maintenance of well-being . . .
Note the use of the term “well-being” by the United Nations: https://canadianliberty.com/un-declares-international-day-of-happiness-to-measure-well-being-as-sustainable-development-kicks-in/