•    Google Doodle, July  21, 2017


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               www.jansatta.com › अपडेट
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               www.lanacion.com.ar › Sociedad
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               www.spiegel.de › Kultur › Gesellschaft › Marshall McLuhan


  • Stephen Cornford, “Review: Wolfgang Ernst, Sonic Time Machines: Explicit Sound, Sirenic Voices, and Implicit Sonicity [AUP 2016]’ in Theory Culture and Society 34 (7-8) 2017: 299-303

301-2:  “Ernst’s central, albeit dispersed, thesis develops two ideas, both of which he cites from McLuhan (1997). Firstly, that ‘with the emergence of the phonetic alphabet the ears from oral culture became deaf in favour of visual recording and transmission of knowledge’ (p. 100). Ernst seeks to set the terms for a redress of this sensory imbalance in culture generally and media theory in particular. He therefore places the sonic in opposition to not only the visual, but also the alphanumeric. Crucially, this establishes a dichotomy between the recording and notation of music: ‘sonicity takes place as a physical vibrational event that is distinct from mere symbolization’ (p. 24). This further enables a definition of the inscription of sound, whether physically into analogue media or in the binary code of digitized audio, as implicitly sonic. This notion of implicit sonicity brings us to the second of McLuhan’s ideas, namely ‘the intrinsically acoustic structure of electronic mediascapes’ (p. 25). However, although drawing consistently on this idea of acoustic space, Ernst uses the term sonicity to distinguish it from the physical event of acoustic sound. Sonicity is therefore defined as the implicit existence of sound or the sonic, the latter of which – in Ernst’s usage – is better described as the sound-like than that which is explicitly sounding or of-sound. This allows Ernst to claim that ‘the concept of sonicity is suspended from the privileged anthropocentric perspective in favour of its capacity for exploratory and open access to implicit sonospheres’ (p. 31), and it is here that unravelling his thinking becomes problematic. While some of his examples certainly ring true, such as the ‘inherent sonicity of the video image’ (p. 28) which, citing Bill Viola (1990), he claims is due to the ‘vibrational acoustic character’ (p. 27) of video and its shared genealogy with electromagnetic sound recording, there are others, such as the sonic nature of the internet (pp. 33–34), which are questionable. For, while the enveloping, simultaneous data environments of wifi and 3G certainly display the characteristics of McLuhan’s acoustic space, the flow within the broader fibre-optic network and the html code which structures our online experience are both decidedly linear and sequential. This reveals a central double bind of Ernst’s argument, one which he appears to embrace for all its inherent contradictions: that his definition of the terms of a non-anthropocentric media analysis rests on a thoroughly anthropocentric opposition of eye and ear.”


  • Marc Steinberg, and Alexander Zahlten, eds., Media Theory in Japan (Durham: Duke UP, 2017)

–Marc Steinberg, “McLuhan as Prescription Drug: Actionable Theory and Advertising Industries”

“One of the turning points in the history of Japanese media theorization as media theory was the influx of Marshall McLuhan’s work into Japan in the years 1966-68, and the ‘McLuhan boom’ that ensued. … The Japanese reception of McLuhan seems to repeat some of the familiar debates found in his Anglo-American reception. Yet it also has significant local inflections that stem from the sites and institutions that mediated this introduction, and this, in turn, influenced the manner in which he was presented. Concretely, McLuhan’s reception in Japan was colored by the fact that he was introduced by figures closely associated with television broadcasters and ad agencies, and thus he was read as a management guru by white collar ‘salarymen,’ media workers, and business moguls alike. In Japan, perhaps more than anywhere else, McLuhan was regarded as a prophetic figure who spoke directly to ad executives and the managerial class. … The perception of McLuhan as a marketing guru is in large part due to the man most responsible for his introduction: Takemura Ken’ichi, a figure as reviled for bastardizing McLuhan as he is recognized for his popularization of the man. … Not surprisingly, Takemura also came to stand in for everything intellectuals and writers in Japan and around the world hated about McLuhan. So, rather than writers treating McLuhan as a false prophet, they tended to treat Takemura as one, and this had the effect of immunizing McLuhan against the type of attacks he was subject to in North America and Europe. Indeed, some of the fiercest critics of Takemura were in fact those who claimed to find theoretical value in McLuhan. … The first use of the term ‘media’ as a stand-alone entity coincides … with the 1960s McLuhan boom in Japan. … A second reason for this chapter’s emphasis on the McLuhan boom is its effect on adjacent fields, such as art history and architectural theory. … Takemura … was working for the US Department of Education as a Japanese-language consultant in Minneapolis from September 1967 to 1968, during which time he did indeed contact McLuhan, arranging a meeting with him that formed both the basis of a thirty-minute TV special broadcast on Mainichi television, and a later book titled Makurūhan to no taiwa (Conversations with McLuhan).”  [Kindle edition]



  • Dominic Pettman, Sonic Intimacy: Voice, Species, Technics (Stanford: Stanford UP, 2017)


“The Sony Walkman, in the 1980s, inaugurated the paradigm-changing moment when people could literally provide an internal soundtrack to their mobile lives. With the almost magical compression allowed by MP3 technology, we can now carry tens of thousands of voices in our pockets at any given moment. The average person in her twenties–should she be lucky enough to be born out of poverty–will listen to a greater variety of voices in a day than the average person did in a lifetime a few generations ago. We need not be McLuhan to understand that this entails a nuanced combination of sensory extension and amputation.” (Kindle locator 727)


  • Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, “The Kittler Effect,” New German Critique 132 (N0vember 2017) 205-224:

[212] “Kittler’s first large-scale deployment as a theorist in the Anglosphere was part of the trend toward technologically-informed and theoretically updated intermedial case studies that gathered steam in the 1990s and centred on texts published between 1850 and 1950. At the risk of oversimplifying matters for the sake of producing a tangible narrative, I would argue that the common denominator of this engagement with Kittler is an antidotal impulse. His reception was part of an underlying shift in the humanities that found its institutional expression in the creation of electronic writing centres, media studies departments, and digital humanities initiatives, most of which coexist uneasily with established media and communications programs. Kittler was deployed the way Marshall McLuhan could and should have been deployed a generation earlier–as a shifter who moves the materialities of communication to the front of the stage and serves as a counterweight to precisely those paradigms that had partly scuttled his acceptance by German studies.”


  • Public Policy Forum of Canada, The Shattered Mirror: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age (shatteredmirror.ca; 26 January 2017)

16: “[A]s early as 1964, Marshall McLuhan observed ‘the classified ads (and stock market quotations) are the bedrock of the press. Should an alternative source of easy access to such diverse daily information be found, the press would fold’.”

Carl Safina, “Thinking the Deep: The Abilities of the octopus offer insight into the evolution of animal intelligence,” The New York Times Book Review (1 January 2017) 9

“In Other Minds: the Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness [(N.Y. 2016)], Peter Godfrey-Smith hunts the commonalities and origins of sentience. He is an academic philosopher but also a diver. Watching octopuses watching him, our author considers minds and meanings. … Our last common ancestor, 600 million years ago, was a wormlike creature. Cephalopods are therefore an independent voyage into complexity. ‘This is probably the closest we will come to meeting an intelligent alien’ [writes Godfrey-Smith]. … Bone-free and shape-shifting, octopuses’ ‘body of pure possibility’ lets them flow through cracks the width of their eyes. … With neuron numbers comparable to those of mammals, octopuses’ brains are distributed; their arms harbor nearly twice as many neurons as their central brain (through which, incidentally, their esophagus passes. Not to mention: they have three hearts). Neural loops may give their arms their own form of memory. Their skin itself senses light and responds. An octopus is so suffused with its nervous system that it has no clear brain-body boundary. … Amid explosive evolution, you’d assume that speedy, grasping creatures evolved often. … Only vertebrates and cephalopods developed large, complex nervous systems. Contrary to some philosophers’ assumptions, consciousness doesn’t just project out; it is a relationship in traffic with the other world. … Future work will probably reveal the neural circuitries involved. Language isn’t required. As Godfrey-Smith notes, ‘very complex things go on inside other animals without the aid of speech.’ Octopuses have existed over a thousand times longer than humans. The sea is the original birthplace of the mind. ‘When you dive into the sea, you are diving into the origin of us all,’ Godfrey-Smith writes.

Friedrich Kittler, “Real Time Analysis, Time Axis Manipulation,” trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, Cultural Politics 13.1 (2017): 1-18

6: “History’s first … time manipulation technology was, of course, writing, especially in the shape of an alphabet that assigns a spatial position to each graphic sign representing a time-serial element in the chain of speech. Though Marshall McLuhan made this linearization responsible for all the one-sidedness of European culture, in truth and fact linearization is merely a necessary though by no means sufficient condition of written data processing. In order to intervene in a text composed of the finite elements of an alphabet, we need an empty space, the invention of which was always already implicit in that of the alphabet. Neither early Greek inscriptions nor early medieval manuscripts featured separations between words. As a result, any attempt to switch the position of the letters resulted in the same forgetfulness and data loss that occurs in oral speech. The only available intermediate storage device was the inevitably fallible human memory. But once there are empty spaces between words and on margins, individual letters can be manipulated as in a Turing machine.”

Ute Holl, The Moses Complex: Freud, Schoenberg, Straub/Huillet, trans. Michael Turnbull (Zurich-Berlin: Diaphanes, 2017)

16: “Media theories have repeatedly constructed their own Sinai situations. Despite the differences between the historical-materialist media theories of Walter Benjamin or Bertolt Brecht, the models of the Canadian school, or Gilbert Simondon’s differentiation of mechanical, industrial, and postindustrial technical objects as evolutionary forms, correspondences appear between radical media changes and juridical constitutions. Gregory Bateson’s ecological-cybernetic thought, together with systems-theoretical media theory, discourse-analytical, and media-archaeological studies or research into cultural techniques, reminds us that the transcendent is better initially understood as a material and operational relay on which social processes are regulated through recursion. The technical, aesthetic, and political spheres are made dependent on one another in this monitoring circuit. Only in this sense can the Old Testament be understood as the implementation of a universal order: ‘One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.’ The law always needs to be reconceived on the arrival of new strangers, if you decide not to combat unfamiliarity but to optimize communication.”

304:  “Only in an involvement with strangers and the alien can translation be thought of in terms of caesura and difference, … thus [opening up] a mnemohistorical exploration of the present as a psychohistory. Here the symptomatic, which for both Freud and Assmann manifests as the rise of violence in the context of monotheism, has to be deciphered in both directions; not only does the return of the suppressed [sic] point to violence at the beginning and in the dynamic of a progression to sensibility; conversely, it can be argued media-archaeologically and exactly in the tradition of the Canadian school of media studies that with the rise of new technical media—today still electronic according to McLuhan—an uneasiness in culture and memory is actualized and acts on the subject as unreliable and palpably foreign forces, as violent powers that also descend on collectives.”


William Robin, “A ‘New Music,’ Frugging Optional: Morton Subotnick’s ‘Silver Apples of the Moon’,” The New York Times (16 July 2017) [Arts] 10

“Soon after the Electric Circus [discotheque] opened, the label Nonesuch released ‘Silver Apples of the Moon,’ which became a milestone as the first electronic work conceived specifically for the LP medium. . . . Mr. Subotnick’s long career in electronic music, which influenced artists as disparate as Paul McCartney and Kraftwerk, began with an epiphany. While studying composition in the late 1950s as a graduate student at Mills College, he played regularly as a clarinetist with the San Francisco Symphony. ‘I was a divided person,’ he recalled, in a 2008 essay, of his separate roles as composer and performer. But when asked to write incidental music for a ‘King Lear’ production, Mr. Subotnick realized that the electronic medium could help merge this bifurcated identity. Steeped in the media theory of Marshall McLuhan, Mr. Subotnick conceived of what he called ‘music as studio art.’ ‘I could create and perform in my studio, and it would come out as a sound piece, which was at once a musical creation and a performance,’ he wrote.

[Morton Subotnick provided the soundtrack for McLuhan’s film Picnic in Space.]

  • Peter D. McDonald, Artefacts of Writing: Ideas of the State and Communities of Letters from Matthew Arnold to Xu Bing (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2017)


10ff: “Read alongside ‘The Consequences of Literacy’ [by Jack Goody], Marshall McLuhan’s The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962), which appeared a year earlier, seems like an uncannily pre-emptive rebuke. For one thing, McLuhan rejected the idea that oral cultures show no ‘capacity or opportunity for independent and original thought’; for another, he saw the advent of ‘phonetic writing’ as a cultural catastrophe. ‘Literate man, when we meet him in the Greek world’, he insisted, ‘is a split man, a schizophrenic, as all literate men have been since the invention of the phonetic alphabet’ (26). He did not use the word ‘schizophrenic’ lightly or entirely metaphorically. ‘Only the phonetic alphabet makes a break between eye and ear, between semantic meaning and visual code’, thereby instituting a wholly new set of ‘ratios or proportions among the senses’, rupturing the primal integrity of the ‘human sensorium’ (31, 41). As we have seen, given the evidence for the ongoing interconnectedness of the phonological, the orthographic, and the lexical in the literate brain, this sensory-cognitive version of the Judeo-Christian Fall narrative makes no sense in contemporary neuroscientific terms, though for McLuhan it was central. The dissociation the Greeks effected was not just psychic, however: it was cultural, since ‘only phonetic writing has the power to translate man from the tribal to the civilized sphere’ (31). In McLuhan’s primitivist lexicon ‘civilized’ was synonymous with ‘schizophrenic’, ‘abstract’, and ‘visual’, whereas ‘tribal’ signified ‘wholeness’, ‘concreteness’, and the ‘audile-tactile’, associative patterns he had no hesitation in projecting onto his own idiosyncratic cultural map of the world. While ‘areas like China and India are all still audile-tactile in the main’, he claimed, ‘Africa’ epitomized ‘the implicit, magical world of the resonant oral word’ (22, 25). In the end, however, McLuhan’s analysis was less an anticipatory repudiation of the world according to Goody and Watt, than a direct inversion of it. Like them, he saw Greek ‘phonetic writing’ as an exclusively ‘visual code for speech’, but he recast their positive account of its transformative effects in starkly negative terms (53). In his view, the future lay in the new ‘post-literate’ media of the ‘electronic age’—notably the telegraph, radio, film, and television—that promised to overcome ‘the detribalizing power of the phonetic alphabet’, cure Western ‘schizophrenia’ by reclaiming the repressed ‘Africa within’, and unite ‘the entire human family into a single global tribe’—hence his utopian vision of the ‘global village’ to come (3, 9, 26, 36, italics added).


There was, however, one key respect in which McLuhan reinforced Goody and Watt’s corrective version of the relativity thesis. Like them, he insisted that ‘the medium is the message’, as his most famous catchphrase had it; or, in other words, that the language-centred relativity thesis had to be extended to writing and the other modes of communication as well. Yet, here too, there was a difference. Though McLuhan made much of the disastrous consequences of Greek phonetic writing, his primary target, as his title indicated, was the ‘Gutenberg revolution’ which not only inaugurated the era of print in fifteenth-century Europe but (p.11) heralded the age of European nationalism (153). Whereas political commentators tend to trace the latter back to the Treaties of Westphalia (1648) and Utrecht (1713), which established a system of sovereign European states, McLuhan, following Harold Innis’s Empire and Communications (1950), argued that ‘print, in turning the vernaculars into mass media, or closed systems, created the uniform, centralizing forces of modern nationalism’, thereby laying the foundations for the nationalistic versions of the linguistic relativity thesis itself (226). Whereas Goody and Watt turned to Whorf, McLuhan looked back to the Prussian idealist philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt, citing the following key statement from On the Diversity of Human Language (1836) via Ernst Cassirer and in Susanne K. Langer’s translation:


Man lives with his objects chiefly—in fact, since his feeling and acting depends on his perceptions, one may say exclusively—as language presents them to him. By the same process whereby he spins language out of his own being, he ensnares himself in it; and each language draws a magic circle round the people [Volk] to which it belongs, a circle from which there is no escape save by stepping out of it into another. (36)


A few sentences earlier, Humboldt had written ‘there resides in every language a characteristic world-view [Weltansicht, not Weltanschauung by which he meant something different]’. Again, like Whorf, Humboldt saw this as a phenomenon in and of language; whereas McLuhan, like Goody and Watt, believed that the effects of print were social and political as well as cognitive. If the ‘Gutenberg revolution’ instituted the ‘fixed point of view’ characteristic of nationalist thinking, it also fostered the centralizing modern state and a new idea of community as a uniform nation with a single standardized language (250). McLuhan, it should be said, did not appeal to Humboldt merely as an exemplar of nation-centred linguistic relativity. In keeping with his utopian vision, he saw the passage from the Diversity of Human Language as an endorsement of his own ambition to ‘transcend the limitations of our own assumptions by a critique of them’ (36). Humboldt’s relativism, as he saw it, was fundamentally emancipatory, since he showed ‘we can now live, not just amphibiously in divided and distinguished worlds, but pluralistically in many worlds and cultures simultaneously’ (36). For him, the ‘global village’ to come was, in other words, not just post-literate but post-national. Like many commentators, he ignored the fact that Humboldt, for all his relativism, always insisted on seeing languages as open-ended rather than ‘closed systems’, the expressive potential of which is endlessly extendable, a point I return to on a number of occasions throughout this book.


Unlike Goody and Watt’s idea of Europe or the West as a product of phonetic writing, McLuhan’s idea of the modern nation-state as an artefact of print had a long and influential afterlife. In the early 1980s, the political scientist Benedict Anderson gave it a Marxist inflection, turning McLuhan’s ‘print culture’ into ‘print-capitalism’, in an effort to understand why socialist internationalism seemed consistently to lose out against nationalism in the worldwide anti-colonial struggle.  ‘Nationality’, ‘nation-ness’, and ‘nationalism’ were, he argued, ‘cultural artefacts of a particular kind’—he called them ‘imagined communities’—the ‘obscure genesis’ (p.12) of which lay not in Gutenberg but in the ‘revolutionary vernacularizing thrust of capitalism’ that fuelled the burgeoning European book trade in the early sixteenth century (4, 24). As a revisionist Marxist who had his own qualms about philosophical idealism, the phrase ‘imagined communities’ had a particular resonance for Anderson partly because it acknowledged the strong feelings of attachment the idea of the nation aroused but mainly because it enabled him to move beyond the generally dismissive terms in which nationhood had been discussed within the Marxist tradition where it tended to be regarded as an instance of ‘false consciousness’. ‘Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity/genuineness’, he insisted, ‘but by the style in which they are imagined’ (6). When it came to the nation as such, two print artefacts played an especially influential part in this process: the newspaper and the novel. While the newspaper performed a kind of ‘mass ceremony’ at ‘daily or half-daily intervals throughout the calendar’ by bringing ‘thousands (or millions)’ of otherwise scattered readers together as a ‘secular, historically clocked, imagined community’, the novel—or at least the ‘old-fashioned novel’—brought characters who might also ‘be largely unaware of each other’ together in ‘the same clocked, calendrical time’, conjuring up a supplementary ‘imagined world’ for its readers that was ‘a precise analogue of the idea of the nation’ (35–36, 25–26). Though much disputed, Anderson’s central thesis transformed the way nationalism was understood in the political sciences over the next two decades, while simultaneously reshaping debates about the novel and the nation within literary studies. In 2007, however, the literary critic Joseph Slaughter inventively extended its scope, identifying a similar analogue between the ‘world novel’—more specifically the Bildungsroman—and the ‘imaginary international community of human rights’ established after 1948. Picking up on the quarrels over the drafting of Article 29 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which centred on the ‘development of the human personality’, Slaughter gave a detailed account of ‘the sociohistorical alliance between the Bildungsroman and human rights as mutually enabling fictions’—underscoring this literary argument, he noted that the quarrels involved a clash over the interpretation of Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719).


Neither Anderson nor Slaughter subscribed to the deterministic elements of McLuhan’s thesis, which made his idea of the nation a figment of his own methodology, yet, in arguing for the various analogues to which they were committed, they remained indebted to one aspect of his thinking. For McLuhan, as we have seen, the transformative effects of print could be discerned not only in politics but in thought, engendering what he called the ‘fixed point of view’. Following a similar logic, Anderson claimed that the newspaper and the novel foster the national imaginary by creating a homogeneous sense of time for the reading public, and Slaughter argued that the Bildungsroman shapes the international imaginary by tracing the plot trajectories of characters as they succeed or fail to develop as ‘full personalities’, that is, become incorporated members of a larger community of rights holders. It is worth noting in passing the emphasis both placed on community, signalling an important departure from Goody and Watt who, predictably enough, saw the novel as an expression of Western individualism emerging from (p.13) ‘the autobiographical and confessional direction of such writers as St Augustine, Pepys and Rousseau’ which ‘replaced the collective representations of myth and epic’ (339). This reiterated one of Watt’s main arguments in The Rise of the Novel. Like Anderson and Slaughter, I discuss various ideas of community throughout this book—not just national and international, but sub-national and supra-national—and the many ways in which literary works intersect with them. Unlike Anderson and Slaughter, however, I take written constitutions to be the primary site of these ideas, treating literary works, and, indeed, some oral forms, as secondary; at the same time I consider how, in some cases, these secondary forms have the potential not just to supplement statist ideas of community but to challenge them.

  • Hassan El Ouazzani, Les rêves  de McLuhan, traduit de l’arabe par Abderrahmanne Tankoul (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2017)


  • Alberto Contri, McLuhan non abita più  qui: i nuovi scenari della comunicazione nell’era della costante attenzione parziale (Torino: Boringhieri, 2017)


  • Alex Kitnick, “Massage, c. 1966,” October 159 (Winter 2017):  86-102102:   “If McLuhan imagined that the media’s massage extended the human into new forms, [Claes] Oldenburg and [Susan] Sontag seem to have conceived of it as an antidote—the art of massage might return us to our senses—and yet it would be too neat to put these thinkers on opposite sides of a divide. What is clear is that massage was a code word at this moment for both talking about human transformation as well as imagining ways of keeping earlier conceptions of the human intact; with roots in therapy, it spoke of anxiety. Clearer still is that the media’s massage continues to redefine the very status of the human today. And yet art has retracted greatly in the last fifty years: Just as light shows have given way to hot spots, today’s art—still emphatically focused on the body—no longer imagines it in terms of interactivity, or liveness, or feeling, but rather serves it up as relic.”
  • Shinichi Furuya, Masse, Macht und Medium: Elias Canetti gelesen mit Marshall McLuhan  (Berlin: Transcript Verlag, 2017)In his life’s work “Mass and Power” from 1960, Elias Canetti, Nobel Prize Winner for Literature, does not explicitly deal with the problem of electronic mass media, but his writing nevertheless exerted a significant influence on Marshall McLuhan, the great media theorist of the 20th century. Using Canetti’s reception in McLuhan’s media theory, Shinichi Furuya analyzes the hidden connection between mass, power and medium in Canetti’s works and reveals the (dis) continuities between mass theory and (mass) media theory (publisher’s blurb).
    • John Durham Peters ‘‘You Mean My Whole Fallacy Is Wrong’’: On Technological Determinism,” Representations1 (2017) 10-26



    (10)  IN WOODY ALLEN’ S ROMANTIC COMEDY Annie Hall (1977), the world’s most famous technological determinist had a brief cameo that in some circles is as well-known as the movie itself. Woody Allen, waiting with Diane Keaton in a slow-moving movie ticket line, pulls Marshall McLuhan from the woodwork to rebuke the blowhard in front of them, who is pontificating to his female companion about McLuhan’s ideas. McLuhan, as it happened, was not an easy actor to work with: even when playing a parody of himself, a role he had been practicing full-time for years, he couldn’t remember his lines, and when he could remember them, he couldn’t deliver them.1 In the final take (after more than fifteen tries), McLuhan tells the mansplainer, ‘‘I heard what you were saying. You, you know nothing of my work. You mean my whole fallacy is wrong. How you ever got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing.’’ In the film, the ability to call down ex cathedra authorities at will to silence annoying know-it-alls is treated as the ultimate in wish fulfillment as Allen says to the camera, ‘‘Boy, if life were only like this!’’ Rather than a knockout punch, however, McLuhan tells the man off with something that sounds like a Zen koan, an obscure private joke, or a Groucho Marx non sequitur. There is more going on here than a simple triumph over someone else’s intellectual error. Isn’t a fallacy always self-evidently wrong?


    (24) Maybe McLuhan’s reply to the academic blowhard does make higher sense after all. Could he have been engaging him in an antic dialogue of provocation? Instead of refuting him, McLuhan put the blowhard in the position of the refuter: you mean my fallacy is wrong. He was ironizing a well-known academic truth game by switching roles of examiner and examined. The stinger of a fallacy being wrong, this curious double negation, however, left McLuhan with the performative upper hand. McLuhan, like Kittler, was a troll. Both practiced the art of making statements designed to outrage; if you take a statement literally, the joke’s on you. If they can goad you into sputtering indignantly about technological determinism, you lose! The blowhard had reduced McLuhan to a set of ideas, a doctrine, or message, but McLuhan, ever the meta-artist, showed that it was all about the act, the twisting of grammars, the medium. McLuhan never claimed to have a point of view: as a latter-day sophist he could conjure dissoi logoi (contrarian terms) at the drop of a hat. McLuhan had a knack, a bag of tricks, not a philosophy, a set of tenets. He knew the truth sometimes had to be lured forth. By resisting the would-be Columbia professor’s reduction of his work to ideas rather than disruptive performances, McLuhan scored the most decisive refutation, showing, Zen style, that he had missed the point. By risking looking like an idiot, McLuhan showed himself to be the true parrhesiastes, the provoker of truth



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