Marshall McLuhan, False Prophet

Posted inThe Daily Heller
Thumbnail for Marshall McLuhan, False Prophet

We are in the post-mass media, proto-information, hipster digital, end of irony age and we love Marshall McLuhan for what appears to be his prescience, or at the very least for his brilliant cameo appearance in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. Here are his lines after Woody as Alvy Singer drags him out to shut-down a pretentious, blowhard “media” professor who was talking way to loudly, as blowhards to, in a movie line:

Marshall McLuhan: I heard what you were saying! You know nothing of my work! You mean my whole fallacy is wrong. How you got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing!Alvy Singer: Boy, if life were only like this!

Did anyone catch:

You mean my whole fallacy is wrong.

Is McLuhan making fun of himself or his critics? Or both? I recently read this book:


There’s a great quote from this harsh “media” critic in the section “McLuhan’s Totalitarianism and Human Resilience” that goes:

In Understanding Media, this blindness on McLuhan’s part appears as a total distortion of history: human history with the humans who created it left out: “If the student of media will but meditate on the power of the medium of electric light to transform every structure of time and space and work and society it penetrates or contacts, he will have the key to the form of power that is in all media to reshape any lives they touch.” All he can admit in his history is that the electric light came like a mysterious genie and altered the senses with its magic wand. But who turned electricity from lightning that destroyed people in to electric current that could be a tool for change?. . .Who envisaged and carried out the vast extensions of literacy and art that electric light made possible? McLuhan robs the human being of all his creativity and injects it into the media he created, so that the media become the creators and the human beings become the passive recipients, the slaves.”

Interesting, no?

Additional ResourceWith Saboteurs and Saviors: Managing Creative Team Dynamics tutorial, you’ll learn how to manage your creative team and communicate better. Register today – this live webinar will be held on December 17.