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It Is Not A Good Idea
To Act As If You Can Not Accomplish
What You Were Elected To Do


Wednesday, May 16, 2018


Tom Wolfe on Marshall McLuhan:
Every major technology changes the balance of the senses. One of the most explosive of these technologies was the development of the printing press in the fifteenth century. Before that, people's senses still had pretty much the old tribal balance. That is to say, the sense of hearing was dominant. People got their information mainly by hearing it from other people. 
People who get their information that way are necessarily drawn closer together, in the tribal way. They have to be close to each other in order to get information. And they have to believe what people tell them, by and large, because that is the only kind of information they can get. They are interdependent. They are also more emotional. 
The spoken word is more emotional than the written word. It carries emotion as well as meaning. The intonation can convey anger, sorrow, approval, panic, joy, sarcasm, and so forth. 
This aural man, the tribal man, reacts more emotionally to information. He is more easily upset by rumors. His and every body else's emotions-a collective unconscious-lie very near the surface. 
The printing press brought about a radical change. People began getting their information primarily by seeing it -the printed word. The visual sense became dominant. Print translates one sense-hearing, the spoken word-into another sense sight, the printed word. Print also converts sounds into abstract symbols, the letters. Print is orderly progression of abstract, visual symbols. 
Print led to the habit of categorizing-putting everything in order, into categories, "jobs," "prices," "departments," "bureaus," "specialties." Print led, ultimately, to the creation of the modern economy, to bureaucracy, to the modern army, to nationalism itself. People today think of print as if it were a technology that has been around forever. 
Actually, the widespread use of print is only about two hundred years old. Today new technologies-television, radio, the telephone, the computer-are causing another revolution. 
Print caused an "explosion"-breaking society up into categories. The electronic media, on the other hand, are causing an "implosion," forcing people back together in a tribal unity. The aural sense is becoming dominant again. People are getting their information primarily by hearing it. They are literate, but their primary source is the radio, the telephone, the TV set. 
The radio and the telephone are obviously aural media, but so is television, in McLuhan's theory. The American TV picture has very low defini tion. It is not three-dimensional, like a movie or a photograph, but two-dimensional, like a Japanese print or a cartoon. The viewer fills in the spaces and the contours with his mind, as he does with a cartoon. 
Therefore, the TV viewer is more involved in the TV image than in the movie image, he is so busy running over the image with his eye, filling in this and that. He practically reaches out and touches it. He participates; and he likes that. 
Studies of TV children-children of all social classes who are used to getting their information primarily by television-studies of this new generation show that they do not focus on the whole picture, the way literate adults do when they watch a movie. They scan the screen for details; their eyes run all over the screen, focusing on holsters, horses' heads, hats, all sorts of little things, even in the fiercest gun battles. They watch a TV show the way a nonliterate African tribesman watches a movie But exactly! 
The TV children, a whole generation of Americans, the oldest ones are now twenty-five years old-they are the new tribesmen. They have tribal sensory balances. They have the tribal habit of responding emotionally to the spoken word, they are "hot," they want to participate, to touch, to be involved. On the one hand, they can be more easily swayed by things like demagoguery. 
The visual or print man is an individualist; he is "cooler," with built-in safeguards. He always has the feeling that no matter what anybody says, he can go check it out. The necessary information is filed away somewhere, categorized. He can look it up. Even if it is something he can't look up and check out-for example, some rumor like "the Chinese are going to bomb us tomorrow"-his habit of mind is established. He has the feeling: All this can be investigated- looked into. 
The aural man is not so much of an individualist; he is more a part of the collective consciousness; he believes. To the literate, visual, print man, that seems like a negative quality, but to the aural, tribal man, it seems natural and good. 
McLuhan is not interested in values, but if anything, he gives the worst of it to the literate man who is smug in the belief that his sensibility is the only proper one. The tribal man-the new TV generation-is far more apt at pattern recognition, which is the basis of computers. 

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posted by Pastorius at permanent link#


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe I have read everything he ever wrote for public consumption. Better than any other author, he understood the America I grew up in. His critique of modern culture and the people who defined it was unfailingly spot on. RIP.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 6:10:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No wonder he never got the Nobel prize: Tom Wolfe made the left look stupid


Wednesday, May 16, 2018 4:17:00 pm  

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