Transcript: Marshall McLuhan in Conversation with Mike McManus | Sep 19, 1977

Mike McManus stands in dimly lit television studio, in front of a large camera. He’s in his late forties, clean-shaven, with short side-parted blond hair. He's wearing a gray suit, blue shirt, and black tie.

He says MARSHALL McLUHAN
HAS BEEN MAKING PEOPLE THINK,
LAUGH AND EVEN WORRY FROM THE
EARLIEST DAYS OF TELEVISION.
HIS ARENA?
THE WORLD.
HISTORICAL PERIOD?
FROM THE BEGINNING OF TIME.
SUBJECT MATTER?
YOU AND I.
MY GUEST, Dr. MARSHALL McLUHAN.

Synth music plays as the opening sequence rolls.
In animation, a blue stage light shines and creates glittering letters that read "McManus."

Then, Mike sits with a guest at a round table.

He says MARSHALL McLUHAN, WAY BACK IN
THE EARLY '50s, YOU PREDICTED
THE WORLD WAS BECOMING A
GLOBAL VILLAGE.
WE'D HAVE GLOBAL
CONSCIOUSNESS, AND I'M
WONDERING, NOW DO YOU THINK
IT'S HAPPENING?

Marshall is in his late fifties, with short wavy gray hair and a moustache. He's wearing a black suit, white shirt, and black tie.

He says WELL,
YOU'VE HEARD OF JULIAN JAYNES,
THE BICAMERAL MIND, THE SPLIT
UP OF SAME AND THE RISE OF
CONSCIOUSNESS?

Mike says SO YOUR PREDICTION
IS CORRECT.
WE'RE INTO IT?

Marshall says NO, NO, I
THINK IT'S NOW PLAYING
BACKWARDS.
WE'RE GOING BACK INTO THE
BICAMERAL MIND, WHICH IS
TRIBAL, COLLECTIVE, WITHOUT
ANY INDIVIDUAL CONSCIOUSNESS.

Mike says BUT IT SEEMS,
Dr. McLUHAN, THAT THIS TRIBAL
WORLD IS NOT FRIENDLY.

Marshall says OH, NO,
TRIBAL PEOPLE, ONE OF THEIR
MAIN KINDS OF SPORT IS A KIND
OF BUTCHERING EACH OTHER.
IT'S A FULL-TIME SPORT IN
TRIBAL SOCIETIES.

Mike says BUT I HAD SOME
IDEAS AS WE GOT GLOBAL AND
TRIBAL, YOU KNOW, WE WERE
GOING TO BECOME...

Marshall says THE CLOSER
YOU GET TOGETHER, THE MORE YOU
LIKE EACH OTHER?

Mike says YEAH.

Marshall says THERE'S
NO EVIDENCE OF THAT IN ANY
SITUATION WE'VE EVER HEARD OF.
WHEN PEOPLE GET CLOSE TOGETHER
THEY GET MORE AND MORE SAVAGE
AND IMPATIENT WITH EACH OTHER.

Mike says WHY IS THAT?
BECAUSE OF THE NATURE OF MAN?

Marshall says HIS
TOLERANCE IS TESTED IN THOSE
NARROW CIRCUMSTANCES VERY MUCH.
VILLAGE PEOPLE AREN'T THAT
MUCH IN LOVE WITH EACH OTHER.
AND THE GLOBAL VILLAGE IS A
PLACE OF VERY ARDUOUS
INTERFACES AND VERY ABRASIVE
SITUATIONS.

Mike says DO YOU SEE ANY
PATTERN OF THIS IN, FOR EXAMPLE,
OF DESIRES OF QUEBEC TO
SEPARATE?

Marshall says I SHOULD
THINK THEY'RE FEELING VERY
ABRASIVE ABOUT THE ENGLISH
COMMUNITY, AND ABOUT... THE
WAY THE AMERICAN SOUTH FELT
ABOUT THE YANKEE NORTH 100
YEARS AGO.

Mike says BUT IS IT A NEED
FOR SPACE?

Marshall says NO, IT'S
A NEED FOR A LESS ABRASIVE
ENCOUNTER, AND A LITTLE MORE
SPACE BETWEEN THE WHEEL AND
THE AXLE.
WHEN THE WHEEL AND THE AXLE
GET TOO CLOSE TOGETHER THEY
LOSE THAT PLAYFULNESS.
THERE'S NO PLAY IN IT LEFT.
SO THEY HAVE TO HAVE A BIT OF
OIL, A BIT OF DISTANCING FROM
EACH OTHER AND SO ON.

Mike says AND IS THIS
DISTANCING, IS THIS GOING TO
BE A PATTERN RIGHT AROUND THE
WORLD?

Marshall says APPARENTLY, SEPARATISMS ARE
VERY FREQUENT ALL OVER THE
GLOBE AT THE PRESENT TIME.
EVERY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD IS
LOADED WITH REGIONALISTIC,
NATIONALISTIC LITTLE GROUPS.
EVEN BELGIUM HAS A BIG
SEPARATIST MOVEMENT.

Mike says BUT IN QUEBEC, FOR
EXAMPLE, THEY DEFINE IT AS THE
QUEST FOR IDENTITY.

Marshall says YES, ALL
FORMS OF VIOLENCE ARE A QUEST
FOR IDENTITY.
WHEN YOU LIVE OUT ON THE
FRONTIER, YOU HAVE NO
IDENTITY, YOU'RE A NOBODY,
THEREFORE YOU GET VERY TOUGH.
YOU HAVE TO PROVE THAT YOU ARE
SOMEBODY.
AND SO YOU BECOME VERY
VIOLENT.
AND SO IDENTITY IS ALWAYS
ACCOMPANIED BY VIOLENCE.
THIS SEEMS TO PARADOXICAL TO
YOU?
THAT ORDINARY PEOPLE FIND THE
NEED FOR VIOLENCE AS THEY LOSE
THEIR IDENTITIES.
SO IT'S ONLY THE THREAT TO
PEOPLE'S IDENTITY THAT MAKES
THEM VIOLENT.
TERRORISTS, HIJACKERS, THESE
ARE PEOPLE MINUS IDENTITY.
THEY ARE DETERMINED TO MAKE IT
SOMEHOW, TO GET COVERAGE, TO
GET NOTICED.

Mike says AND ALL THIS IS
SOMEHOW AN EFFECT OF THE
ELECTRONIC AGE?

Marshall says OH, NO.
BUT PEOPLE IN ALL TIMES HAVE
BEEN THIS WAY.
BUT IN OUR TIME, WHEN THINGS
HAPPEN VERY QUICKLY, THERE'S
VERY LITTLE TIME TO ADJUST TO
NEW SITUATIONS AT THE SPEED OF
LIGHT.
THERE'S VERY LITTLE TIME TO
GET ACCUSTOMED TO ANYTHING.

Mike says WOULD THEN THE
QUEST FOR IDENTITY OF THE
FRENCH CANADIANS, AND THE KIND
OF INHERENT VIOLENCE YOU SPEAK
OF THAT'S COMPETENT WITH THAT,
IT WOULD NOT HAVE COME SO SOON
WITHOUT...

Marshall says ELECTRIC
TECHNOLOGY?
YES, THAT'S TRUE.
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.
IRELAND HAS SHOWN MANY
RESPONSES TO THIS SITUATION IN
ITS RELATIONS WITH NORTH AND
SOUTH OF IRELAND, AND ITS
RELATIONS WITH ENGLAND.
I MENTION THEM BECAUSE
EVERYBODY TENDS TO KNOW A BIT
ABOUT THAT.

Mike says RIGHT.

Marshall says AND IT
HAS BEEN IRRECONCILABLE UNTIL
NOW, ANYWAY.
THE ENGLISH REPRESENTING THE
HIGHLY LITERATE SOCIETY, AND
THE IRISH REPRESENTING A MORE
ORAL, AND A MUCH MORE
COMMUNAL, TRIBAL GROUP.
AND WHERE THE TRIBAL FEELINGS
ARE STRONG, RADIO SENDS THEM
UP THE WALL.
SO RADIO HAS SENT TRIBAL
SOCIETIES AROUND THE GLOBE UP
THE WALL WITH INTENSITY OF
FEELING.
ONE OF THE BIG VIOLENCE MAKERS
OF OUR CENTURY HAS BEEN RADIO.
HITLER WAS ENTIRELY A RADIO
MAN, AND A TRIBAL MAN.

Mike says AND WHAT DOES
TELEVISION DO, THEN, TO THAT
TRIBAL MAN?

Marshall says WELL, I
DON'T THINK HITLER WOULD HAVE
LASTED LONG ON TV.
LIKE SENATOR JOE MCCARTHY, HE
WOULD HAVE LOOKED FOOLISH.
HE WAS A VERY HOT CHARACTER.
LIKE NIXON MADE A VERY BAD
IMAGE ON TELEVISION.
HE WAS FAR TOO HOT A CHARACTER.
MUCH BETTER ON RADIO OR ON THE
MOVIES.
NOT BAD ON THE MOVIES, WHICH
WILL TAKE QUITE HOT CHARACTERS.
BUT NIXON WAS HOPELESS ON TV.

Mike says THE INVESTIGATIONS,
NOW, THE CIA AND THE FBI, AND
EVEN OUR OWN, GOD FORBID, RCMP,
HAS THIS ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE
ELECTRONIC AGE?

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Marshall McLuhan."

Marshall says YES.
BECAUSE WE NOW HAVE THE MEANS
TO KEEP EVERYBODY UNDER
SURVEILLANCE.
NO MATTER WHAT PART OF THE
WORLD THEY'RE IN, WE CAN PUT
THEM UNDER SURVEILLANCE.
IT'S BECOME ONE OF THE MAIN
OCCUPATIONS OF MANKIND JUST
WATCHING OTHER PEOPLE AND
KEEPING A RECORD OF THEIR
GOINGS ON.
THIS IS THE WAY MOST
BUSINESSES ARE RUN.
EVERY BUSINESS HAS A HUGE
ESPIONAGE SECTOR.
AND THIS IS CALLED PUBLIC
RELATIONS, AND IT'S CALLED
AUDIENCE RESEARCH.

Mike chuckles.

Marshall says AND THIS
IS AROUND THE CLOCK.
AND THIS HAS BECOME THE MAIN
BUSINESS OF MANKIND, JUST
WATCHING THE OTHER GUY.

Mike says AND INVADING
PRIVACY.

Marshall says INVADING
PRIVACY, IN FACT, JUST
IGNORING IT.
EVERYBODY HAS BECOME POROUS.
THEY LET THE LIGHT AND THE
MESSAGE GO RIGHT THROUGH US.
BY THE WAY, AT THIS MOMENT, WE
ARE ON THE AIR, AND ON THE
AIR, WE DO NOT HAVE ANY
PHYSICAL BODY.
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.
WHEN YOU DON'T HAVE A PHYSICAL
BODY; 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.

Mike says SO THAT'S WHAT THIS
IS DOING TO ME?

Marshall says YES.
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.

Mike says GOD SAVE US.
NEW TECHNOLOGY, YOU SAY, IS A
REVOLUTIONIZING AGENT.

Marshall says 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.
JOBS HAVE DISAPPEARED, AS IT
WERE, BUT ROLE-PLAYING HAS
COME IN ON A HUGE SCALE.
AND IT'S MUCH FLEXIBLE THAN
JOB HOLDING.
AND JOBS ARE RATHER STATIC,
REPETITIVE THINGS, WHEREAS
ROLE-PLAYING IS VERY FLEXIBLE.
YOU CAN PLAY MANY ROLES, BUT
YOU CAN ONLY HAVE ONE JOB AT
A TIME.

Mike says NOW, WE'VE REACHED
A POINT NOW WHERE EVERYBODY 24
YEARS AND UNDER IS THE TV
GENERATION.

Marshall says YES.

Mike says DO YOU FEEL THESE
YOUNG PEOPLE OUT THERE UNDER
24 HAVE BEEN TOTALLY
TRIBALIZED?

Marshall says THEY HAVE
LOST THEIR SENSE OF DIRECTION.
THEY DO NOT HAVE GOALS.
THEY DON'T HAVE OBJECTIVES.
AND THAT IS PUTTING IT MILDLY.

Mike says YOU THINK'S THAT
NEW?

Marshall says I THINK
THAT'S TYPICAL OF THE 24 YEARS
AND UNDER.
AND YES, I THINK THAT'S NEW.

Mike says YOU SAY, TOO, THAT
BETWEEN TODAY'S CHILD WHO HAS
BEEN RAISED ELECTRONICALLY,
AND MUST STILL LIVE IN A
LITERATE WORLD, BECAUSE WE ARE
STILL IN A LITERATE WORLD, THAT
THERE'S A 2400-YEAR GAP
BETWEEN THAT BOY OR GIRL AND
HIS PARENTS.

Marshall says AND HIS
PARENTS WHO GREW UP IN A
LITERATE SOCIETY.
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, WHO ARE THE THIRD
WORLD PEOPLE.
SO WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR
OWN CHILDREN IS WE'RE WATCHING
THEM BECOME THIRD WORLD.

Mike says WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

Marshall says WELL, IT
MEANS THEY FEEL MUCH MORE
GROUPY AND TRENDY THAN THEY DO
PRIVATE OR GOAL-ORIENTED.

Mike says I SEE.

Marshall says SO THE
DISC JOCKEYS HELP THIS ALONG
IN A HUGE WAY.
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.
REVIVALS OF CLOTHING OF DANCES
OF MUSIC OF SHOWS OF EVERYTHING.
WE LIVE BY THE REVIVAL.
TELLS US WHO WE ARE, OR WERE.

Mike says NOW THESE CHILDREN
THAT ARE MORE GROUPY AND LESS
PRIVATE, ARE THEY ALSO MORE
PASSIONATE OR MORE VIOLENT?

Marshall says I THINK
THE SHEER DISLOCATION OF THEIR
LIVES HAS PUT THEM THROUGH A
VERY VIOLENT COURSE, INDEED.
THEY HAVE BEEN RIPPED OFF.

Mike says BUT THEY'RE KIND
OF RUDDERLESS.

Marshall says THEY
DON'T HAVE GOALS.

Mike says DON'T HAVE GOALS.

Marshall says BECAUSE,
AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT, WHAT IS
A GOAL?
YOU'RE ALREADY THERE.
YOU NAME IT, AND YOU'RE THERE.

Mike says THE VIOLENCE OF
THE MEDIA, YOU SAY, ITSELF,
INVADING THOSE NOT PREPARED
FOR IT.
IT'S NOT THE CONTENT THAT'S
PRIMARY, IT'S THIS INVASION OF
PRIVACY THAT PEOPLE ARE NOT
PREPARED FOR THAT IS
DESTRUCTIVE.

Marshall says WE
RECENTLY HAD THIS TRIAL OF THE
YOUNG MAN WHO APPEALED TO
KOJAK AS HIS ALIBI FOR MURDER.
THIS IS A PATHETIC THING
BECAUSE NOBODY EVER MISTOOK
FICTIONAL ENTERTAINMENT
VIOLENCE FOR REALITY.
IT'S IMPOSSIBLE.
ONLY PEOPLE WHO ARE LEADING A
MERELY DRUGGED, FANTASY LIFE
COULD DO THAT.
AND THERE IS THE STRANGE FACTOR
THAT TELEVISION IS QUITE A
POTENT DRUG.
IT IS ADDUCTIVE.
IT IS AN INNER TRIP, AND IT IS
A TRANQUILIZER.
AND RECENTLY,
THE DETROIT
FREE PRESS
OFFERED 500 dollars FOR
ANYBODY WHO'D STOP WATCHING
TELEVISION FOR A FEW DAYS.
AND THEY DIDN'T GET MY TAKERS.
BUT THOSE WHO DID TAKE UP THE
THING DROPPED OUT VERY
QUICKLY, THEY COULDN'T BEAR IT.

Mike says DO YOU FEEL THAT
THE FACT YOU AND I HAVE
ENJOYED THE REWARDS OF
LITERACY, THAT WE ARE MORE
PROTECTED AGAINST TELEVISION
THAN THE CHILD?

Marshall says YES.
I THINK YOU GET A CERTAIN
IMMUNITY.
JUST AS YOU GET A CERTAIN
IMMUNITY FROM BOOZE, BY
LITERACY.
THE LITERATE MAN CAN CARRY HIS
LIQUOR; THE TRIBAL MAN CANNOT.
THAT'S WHY IN THE MUSLIM
WORLD, OR IN THE NATIVE WORLD,
YOU CANNOT... BOOZE IS
IMPOSSIBLE.
IT'S THE DEMON RUM.
HOWEVER, LITERACY, ALSO,
THOUGH, MAKES US VERY
ACCESSIBLE TO IDEAS AND
PROPAGANDA.
THE LITERATE MAN IS THE
NATURAL SUCKER FOR PROPAGANDA.
YOU CANNOT PROPAGANDIZE A
NATIVE.
YOU CAN SELL HIM RUM AND
TRINKETS, BUT YOU CANNOT SELL
HIM IDEAS.
THEREFORE, 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.

Mike says I SEE.
ELECTRONIC PEOPLE, YOU SAY,
LOSE THEIR RELIGION VERY EASILY.

Marshall says WELL,
THEIR ATTENTION SPAN IS VERY
WEAK, AS YOU KNOW.
WE INVENTED THE ONE-LINER IN
PLACE OF THE JOKE BECAUSE
PEOPLE CAN'T WAIT AROUND TO
HEAR YOU TELL A JOKE.
IT TAKES TOO LONG.
AS FOR CRITICS, SAID SAM
GOLDWYN, DON'T EVEN IGNORE
THEM.
THAT'S A ONE-LINER.

[chuckling]

Marshall says AND
THAT'S ALL WE HAVE TIME FOR.
THERE WAS A WONDERFUL
ONE-LINER IN THE MORNING
SMILE THE OTHER DAY.
THE TEACHER ASKED, SOMEBODY
DEFINE FOR ME NOTHING.
AND A CHILD PUT HIS HAND UP
AT ONCE AND SAID, TEACHER,
WHEN YOU PEEL A BALLOON, WHAT
YOU HAVE LEFT IS NOTHING.
[chuckling]
THAT'S 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.

Mike says AND RELIGION,
WHICH INVOLVES IDEAS, REQUIRES
A LITTLE MORE TIME.

Marshall says WELL,
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.

Mike says YOU'VE WRITTEN TO,
OR BEEN QUOTED AS SAYING
SOMETHING TO DO WITH CRIMINALS
IN JAIL WHO HAVE WATCHED
ENDLESS HOURS OF TELEVISION.
WAS THAT A PUT-ON?

Marshall says NO, THAT'S
A LITTLE MIXED UP.
WHAT I WAS REFERRING TO WAS A
RECENT STUDY MADE IN COLORADO
OF THE BOYS BEHIND BARS.
AND THE DISCOVERY WAS THAT EVERY
ONE OF THEM WAS DYSLEXIC.

Mike says THIS IS BEHIND
PRISON BARS.

Marshall says YES, IN
PENITENTIARIES IN COLORADO.
100 PERCENT DYSLEXIC.
THAT IS, PEOPLE WITH LEARNING
DISABILITIES.
AND THIS HAPPENS IN OUR WORLD.
THERE HAVE BEEN STUDIES HERE
IN TORONTO AND IN CANADA OF
THE SAME PHENOMENON.
AND THE STRANGE THING IS THAT
NINE OUT OF TEN DYSLEXIC, OR
NINE OUT OF TEN LEARNING
DISABILITY PEOPLE ARE BOYS.
ONLY ONE IN TEN IS A GIRL.

Mike says BUT WHAT'S THE
RELATIONSHIP WITH TELEVISION,
OR WATCHING TELEVISION?

Marshall says WELL, TV
HAS A STRANGE EFFECT ON THE
EYE MUSCLES.
IT TENDS TO PARALYZE OR TO
HYPNOTIZE THE MOTOR MUSCLES OF
THE EYES.
SO THAT THE MUCH TELEVISION
VIEWING PERSON TENDS TO HAVE A
VERY POOR ABILITY TO MOVE HIS
EYES ACROSS THE PRINTED WORD,
OR ON THE PRINTED PAGE.
AND HE NEEDS EXERCISES TO
CORRECT THIS.
AND THE EXERCISES NEED TO BE
TAKEN QUITE EARLY WHILE HE'S
IN HIS EARLY YEARS BECAUSE
OTHERWISE THEY HARDEN.
BUT THE IDEAL EXERCISE FOR
THIS PURPOSE IS THE
TRAMPOLINE FOR LOOSENING UP
THE EYE MUSCLES.
THE REASON THAT BOYS ARE SO
PRONE TO THIS PROBLEM, AND
GIRLS ARE NOT IS THAT THE
EXERCISES THAT BOYS TAKE,
HOCKEY AND BASEBALL AND
FOOTBALL, THESE EXERCISES ARE
VERY CRUDE MUSCULARLY AND DO
NOT HELP THE EYE MUSCLES IN
THE READING ACTIVITY; WHEREAS,
SKIPPING AND SEWING AND
COSMETICS AND SO ON, GIVE THE
GIRLS A MUCH MORE DELICATE
MUSCULAR COORDINATION THAN BOYS.
AND THEY HAVE LESS LEARNING
DISABILITY.

Mike says I SEE.
WHAT NOW, BRIEFLY, IS THIS
THING CALLED MEDIA ECOLOGY?

Marshall says IT MEANS
ARRANGING VARIOUS MEDIA TO
HELP EACH OTHER SO THEY WON'T
CANCEL EACH OTHER OUT.
TO BUTTRESS ONE MEDIUM WITH
ANOTHER.
THE, YOU MIGHT SAY FOR
EXAMPLE, THAT RADIO IS A
BIGGER HELP TO LITERACY THAN
TELEVISION.
BUT TELEVISION MIGHT BE A VERY
WONDERFUL AID TO TEACHING
LANGUAGES.
AND SO YOU CAN DO SOME THINGS
ON SOME MEDIA, THAT YOU CANNOT
DO ON OTHERS.
AND, THEREFORE, IF YOU WATCH
THE WHOLE FIELD, YOU CAN
PREVENT THIS WASTE THAT COMES
BY ONE CANCELLING THE OTHER OUT.
WE HAVE PAID NO ATTENTION TO
THE EFFECTS THAT, FOR EXAMPLE,
WE'VE JUST BEEN TALKING ABOUT
THE EFFECTS OF TELEVISION ON
THE PRINTED PAGE.
MOVIES DON'T HAVE THIS EFFECT.
THEY DON'T SLOW DOWN THE EYE
MUSCLES, BUT WE HAVE NEVER
STUDIED THESE PHENOMENA.

Mike says BUT DO YOU THINK
PERHAPS AT THE END OF YOUR
STUDIES OF MEDIA ECOLOGY,
YOU'RE GOING TO ADVISE A CUT
DOWN ON WATCHING TELEVISION?
500 dollars FOR ANYONE WHO WILL GIVE
IT UP FOR A DAY?

Marshall says EUROPEANS
HAVE CUT BACK ON THAT ALMOST
DOWN TO NOTHING LONG AGO
BECAUSE THEY REALIZED THAT IT
THREATENED LITERATE VALUES VERY
MUCH.
AN HOUR A WEEK IS WHAT THE
FRENCH CHILD GETS FOR
TELEVISION.

Mike says IS THAT RIGHT?
Dr. McLUHAN, YOU HAVE ADMITTED
IN THE PAST THAT YOU HATE TO
SEE THE UPHEAVAL THAT OUR
WORLD IS IN, TRUE?

Marshall says I
WOULDN'T SAY HATE TO SEE IT,
BUT IT IS A VERY CONFUSING
KIND OF WORLD, IN WHICH, AS I
SAY, YOU HAVE NO TIME TO GET
ADJUSTED TO ANYTHING OR
ACQUAINTED WITH ANYBODY.
YOU KNOW, WE LIVE IN A WORLD
WHERE YOU MEET MANY, MANY
PEOPLE PER DAY FOR THE ONCE
AND ONLY TIME IN YOUR LIFE AND
THEIR LIVES.

Mike says BUT I'M THINKING
MORE ABOUT THE FACT THAT BORN
IN WINNIPEG AND MASTERED IN
ENGLISH, AND ENGLISH IS
LARGELY STUDIED IN CAMBRIDGE
FOR GRADUATE STUDIES, ENGLISH
WAS LARGELY YOUR WORLD, AND
LITERATURE, IT'S BEEN UNDER
ATTACK BY THESE NEW ELECTRONIC
MEDIA, ESPECIALLY TELEVISION.
THIS BEEN HARD ON YOU?

Marshall says I DON'T
THINK SO.
BECAUSE THERE'S ALWAYS THE
CHALLENGE OF MEETING THE
OPPOSITION HEAD ON.

Mike says BUT YOU WOULDN'T
LIKE TO SEE THE LITERATE WORLD
DISINTEGRATE?

Marshall says BY NO
MEANS.
MY VALUES ARE STRONGLY CENTRED
IN LITERACY, WHICH I TEACH DAY
AND NIGHT, AS IT WERE.

Mike says AND DO YOU THINK
IT WILL SURVIVE?

Marshall says I IMAGINE
SO.
I THINK SO.

Mike says IT'S SAID, TOO,
THAT YOU FELT HOSTILE TO
MODERN LIFE.
THAT YOU LOATHE MACHINERY, AND
YOU HATED BIG CITIES.

Marshall says THEY'RE
TALKING, MAYBE, ABOUT A PERIOD
WHEN I WROTE
THE MECHANICAL
BRIDE.

Mike says PROBABLY.

Marshall says IT'S A
LITTLE WHILE AGO, ALL RIGHT.
I HAVEN'T HAD MUCH TIME TO
INDULGE THOSE FEELINGS.
I'VE BEEN TOO BUSY TO DEVELOP
THOSE HOSTILITIES.
AND I'VE HAD A WONDERFUL LUCK
IN MEETING FASCINATING PEOPLE
AND HAVING WONDERFUL STUDENTS
YEAR IN AND YEAR OUT, SO THE
AMOUNT OF SATISFACTION IS
HUGE.
AND IT WOULD BE A VERY SELFISH
THING TO BLAME ANYBODY FOR
ANYTHING ELSE.

Mike says YOU'VE ALSO SAID
THAT YOU'VE REALLY NEVER BEEN
LONELY FOR A MOMENT IN YOUR
LIFE.

Marshall says THAT'S
TRUE.
I'VE NEVER HAD THAT EXPERIENCE.

Mike says DESCRIBE YOUR
CONVERSION TO ROMAN
CATHOLICISM IN 1938 AS A LONG
PILGRIMAGE AND A SOLITARY ONE
DONE ENTIRELY BY READING.

Marshall says THAT'S, I
THINK, TRUE, EXCEPT, AGAIN, I
HAD LUCK.
I MET PEOPLE, TOO.
BUT IT WAS MAINLY A LITERARY
ACTIVITY.

Mike says A BOOK BY GILBERT
KEITH CHESTERTON,
WHAT'S
WRONG WITH THE WORLD?

Marshall says YES,
HANDED TO ME ON A WINNIPEG
STREET BY TOM EASTERBROOK.
HE SAID TO ME, I HATED THIS
BOOK; I THINK YOU'LL LIKE IT.

[chuckling]

Mike says I'VE OFTEN
WONDERED, YOU KNOW, I'VE READ
SOME CHESTERTON MYSELF IN MY
YOUNGER DAYS, AND I'VE OFTEN
WONDERED IF YOU'D BE SATISFIED
WITH YOUR CONTRIBUTION ON A
MUCH MORE GLOBAL SCALE THAN
CHESTERTON'S, BUT BEING
SOMETHING SIMILAR TO HIS.
HE WAS ALWAYS TAKING THE
ACCEPTED AND TURNING IT UPSIDE
DOWN AND INSIDE OUT.

Marshall says HAVING A
GOOD LOOK AT IT FROM MANY SIDES.
HE WAS A CUBIST, YOU SEE?
A PARADOX IS A FORM OF CUBISM
IN WHICH YOU LOOK AT THE SAME
SITUATION SIMULTANEOUSLY FROM
DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS.

Mike says SO THERE ARE SOME
PARALLELS THERE.

Marshall says OH, WELL,
SURE.
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.

Mike says AND HAROLD INNIS.

Marshall says HAROLD
INNIS, I WAS VERY LUCKY TO
ENCOUNTER HIM.
IT WAS THROUGH
THE MECHANICAL
BRIDE
THAT I MET HIM.
AND WHEN I HEARD HE HAD PUT IT
ON HIS READING LIST, I WAS
FASCINATED TO FIND OUT WHAT
SORT OF AN ACADEMIC WOULD PUT
A BOOK LIKE
THE MECHANICAL
BRIDE
ON A READING LIST.
SO THAT'S WHEN I WENT AROUND AND
MET HIM AND WE BECAME ACQUAINTED
FOR THE FEW YEARS THAT REMAINED
OF HIS LIFE.
HE ONLY HAD ABOUT THREE YEARS
TO LIVE AT THAT TIME.
BUT INNIS, I THINK, IS THE
ONLY MAN, SINCE THE BEGINNINGS
OF LITERACY, 2400 YEARS AGO,
WHOEVER STUDIED THE EFFECTS OF
TECHNOLOGY.
AND I THINK THAT'S AN AMAZING
THING IN VIEW OF THE NUMBERS
OF GREAT MINDS THAT HAD THIS
OPPORTUNITY.
HE IS THE ONLY HUMAN BEING
THAT EVER STUDIED THE EFFECTS
OF LITERACY ON THE PEOPLE WHO
WERE LITERATE, OR THE EFFECTS
OF ANYTHING ON ANYBODY.
THIS, AS I SAY, IS A UNIQUE
THING IN INNIS' CASE.
ARISTOTLE AND PLATO NEVER
STUDIED THE EFFECTS OF
ANYTHING ON ANYBODY.

Mike says WOULD YOU LIST
THE MECHANICAL BRIDE
AND
THE GUTENBERG GALAXY, AND
UNDERSTANDING MEDIA
AS THE
THREE MONUMENTS OF YOURS, AS
FAR AS BOOKS ARE CONCERNED?

Marshall says I HAVE A
NEW BOOK CALLED
THE LAWS OF
THE MEDIA, WHICH I HOPE WILL
BE MUCH MORE ATTRACTIVE.
BUT I'M WORKING ON NEW THINGS
ALL THE TIME.

Mike says AND STILL LOOKING
FOR PATTERN RECOGNITION?

Marshall says IT'S ONE
OF THE BIG EXCITEMENTS OF LIFE.
IT'S A SORT OF A DETECTIVE
ACTIVITY, YOU KNOW?
I DO A LOT OF SLEUTHING.

Mike chuckles and says ON BEING A CANADIAN, I THINK
NORTHROP FRYE SAYS THAT ONE OF
THE THINGS CANADA GIVES YOU IS
THE CHANCE TO BE AN OBSERVER.

Marshall says YES.
BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT TOO DEEPLY
INVOLVED IN OTHER PEOPLE'S
PROBLEMS.
AND OUR OWN PROBLEMS ARE
RELATIVELY SMALL COMPARED TO
OTHER PEOPLE'S PROBLEMS.

Mike says AND A CERTAIN
FREEDOM, THEN?

Marshall says YEAH, IT
DOES.
SO YOU CAN BE ANN LANDERS TO
THE WORLD.

Mike says WHAT ABOUT THE
MULTICULTURED MOSAIC?

Marshall says THAT IS
AN AMAZING PLOY TO PRESERVE
THE CULTURAL IDENTITY OF
QUEBEC AND OTHER MINORITIES.

Mike says WHY DO YOU CALL IT
A PLOY, THOUGH?

Marshall says WELL,
IT'S A SORT OF AN OFFICIAL
ENDING OF MELTING POT.
THE QUEBECOIS ARE TERRIFIED
OF BEING MERGED IN THE
AMERICAN CULTURE.
I THINK IT'S AS SIMPLE AS THAT.
AND I THINK THEY'RE RIGHT.
THEY'RE ABSOLUTELY VULNERABLE.
WE'RE ALL VULNERABLE TO THE
AMERICANS, AND THEY'RE A VERY
ATTRACTIVE AND WONDERFUL
PEOPLE, AND I THINK WE COULD
EASILY BECOME MERGED IN THEIR
LIVES, AS WE TEND TO BE
ANYWAY.

Mike says DOES THAT MEAN, IN
ORDER TO LESSEN THEIR FEARS WE
ATTEMPT TO PARALYZE DIFFERENT
IMMIGRANT GROUPS COMING IN AT
THE STATE OF THEIR ARRIVAL?

Marshall says 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.
NO, IT'S STATIC.
AND THAT'S EXACTLY THE WAY THE
FRENCH WANT TO REMAIN.
THEY WANT TO REMAIN JUST THE
WAY THEY ARE.
AND SO IT'S NOT THAT EASY.
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.

Mike says AND YOU FELT THIS
YOURSELF.

Marshall says OH, YES.
I HAVE AN ESSAY COMING OUT IN
A HARVARD BOOK ON CANADA
CALLED,
CANADA, THE
BORDERLINE CASE;
IT'S IN A
BOOK CALLED
THE CANADIAN
IMAGINATION.
AND THE THEME HAS TO DO WITH
THE STRANGE EFFECTS OF BEING
ON SO MANY BORDERLINES IN
CANADA.
WE HAVE SO MANY CULTURAL
BORDERLINES IN EVERY DIRECTION
THAT IT IS VERY CONFUSING TO
THE IDEA OF PRIVATE IDENTITY
OR EVEN GROUP IDENTITY.
BUT IT IS VERY ENRICHING, TOO,
BECAUSE PEOPLE ON FRONTIERS
HAVE A VERY RICH LIFE OF
INTERPLAY WITH OTHER PEOPLE,
OTHER CULTURES.

Mike says RIGHT.
I KNOW YOU DON'T LIKE TO MAKE
PREDICTIONS.

Marshall says I MAKE
THEM ALL THE TIME, BUT I MAKE
ABSOLUTELY SURE THEY'VE
ALREADY HAPPENED.

Mike chuckles and says YOU DON'T LIKE BEING CALLED A
PROPHET, BUT OF COURSE, I
THINK IN THE BIBLICAL SENSE,
THERE WAS AN UNDERSTANDING OF
A PROPHET OF SOMEONE WHO IS
NOT TALKING ABOUT THE FUTURE,
BUT IS TELLING YOU WHAT IS
HAPPENING NOW, RIGHT?

Marshall says THE
PRESENT.

Mike says WOULD YOU LIKE TO
TELL US WHETHER THE COUNTRY IS
GOING TO STAY TOGETHER OR NOT?
AND THEREBY BE TELLING US
WHAT'S HAPPENING TO US NOW?

Marshall says WELL,
THAT IS A... I DON'T KNOW IF
YOU'D CALL THAT A PROPHESY OR
NOT.
THERE IS A SENSE IN WHICH THE
SEPARATISM OCCURRED LONG AGO.
BUT THERE IS A HARDWARE SENSE
IN WHICH IT IS STILL INTACT.
THE COUNTRY IS STILL INTACT IN
A HARDWARE SENSE, LEGAL SENSE.
IT'S THE HARDWARE, I THINK,
THAT IS UNDER DANGER UNDER
ELECTRIC CONDITIONS.
THE HARDWARE WORLD TENDS TO
MOVE INTO SOFTWARE FORM AT THE
SPEED OF LIGHT.

Mike says YOU'RE LOSING ME
AGAIN, Dr. McLUHAN.
SO IN 15 SECONDS, I'VE GOT ONE
QUESTION FOR YOU.
HOW MUCH TELEVISION DO YOU
WATCH?

Marshall says WHENEVER
I GET A CHANCE.
NOT TOO OFTEN.
I MISSED
RIGOLETTO
LAST
NIGHT.
I WAS VERY DISAPPOINTED.

Mike says BUT YOU DON'T
WATCH IT THAT OFTEN?

Marshall says NO.
I DON'T HAVE THAT MANY
OPPORTUNITIES.

Mike says I SEE.
THANK YOU, MARSHALL McLUHAN.
I HOPE YOU'LL COME BACK AGAIN.
I'VE REALLY ENJOYED IT.

Marshall says THANK YOU.

Mike says AND THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
AND GOOD NIGHT.

Theme music plays as the end credits roll.

McManus.

Guest, Marshal McLuhan.

Story Editor, Richard Handler.

Director, Robin Christmas.

Executive Producer, Mike McManus.

A learning opportunity by TVOntario. Copyright 1978, The Ontario Educational Communications Authority.

Watch: Marshall McLuhan in Conversation with Mike McManus