20180415

KIDVID

Since August 1973, consumer advocates Action for Children's Television (ACT), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and industry representatives National Advertising Review Board (NARB), the Senate Commerce Commission (SCC) and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) had met regularly in an attempt to agree on ways to police programming for children on TV and children's commercials.

Peggy Charren of ACT told the 'Washington Post' in 1974, "Children are not the proper target for sales messages." The 'Washington Post' continued, "All the networks are signing on educational consultants in such numbers that our colleges and universities may soon lack faculties." Saturday morning television were expected to air programs showing pro-social values and teaching good citizenship, loyalty, trust and friendship.

Speaking to the press in 1978, Norman Prescott of Filmation Studios argued, "We're not saying children's shows are all they should be. We do say there isn’t enough children's programming. But if parents use TV as a babysitter, then the shows aren’t going to improve. As for the commercials, parents control what foods are brought into the home. Not the kids. If parents don’t approve of the products being advertised, they shouldn’t buy them.

"Producers have the duty and the responsibility of leaving a child with some kind of learning experience. When you take a young, pliable mind and introduce it to any form of entertainment, it’s wrong to reinforce a lack of reality in their everyday world. We’re the guys who innovated the educational content in action-adventure and comedy shows for kids. Overall the quality of Saturday morning shows is bad, but I think we're a shining example.

"No one had tried to educate through commercial entertainment TV. 'Fat Albert' is about a contemporary 'dead end' gang of ghetto kids. We've handled subjects like divorce, alcoholism, death, drugs, junk food and even the problem of watching too much TV. One of the real problems in children's programming is the difference in the ages of viewers. The kid audience, estimated at 35 million, is broken down into two major groups, those from 2 year-olds to 6 and 7-year-olds to 11."

Lou Scheimer added, "There's so much mindless material on TV the child is bombarded with meaningless movement. He sits, transfixed, watching action and color without content. There’s nothing wrong with showing right from wrong or where to go for help or how to solve a problem, along with entertainment. But it must be remembered that aside from our shows and Hanna-Barbera, most of the cartoons on Saturday morning were done for theaters as family entertainment long ago.

"Some of them go back to the '30s, '40s and '50s. It began with 'Fat Albert' in 1971. We used pro-social messages through entertainment. The networks didn't think it would work. But we organized a group of educators and consultants to include worthwhile themes. It's ('Tarzan') at the top because it is fantasy and Tarzan is a super-hero who is perceivable as a human being they can copy and there are a lot of animals. Each episode involves a moral question and resolution. Eventually, cable TV or pay TV of some kind will provide the right kind of kid shows. Until then, we’re doing our best."

In 1981, Tony Thomopoulos outlined ABC prime time lineup for the 1981-82 TV season, "The feel of the schedule reflects the mood of the country. It's a return to more traditional values."

At the same time, Joe Barbera made the comment about Saturday morning TV, "All I hope is that we leave education to the schools, where I believe it should be, and leave entertainment to us. I hope someday we can again have a cat chasing a mouse (as in 'Tom and Jerry') and not have to stop in the middle and start teaching him basketweaving or glass-blowing, because someone says you have to have something educational.

"You've got to grab them (the viewers) in the first shot. You've got to grab them with something exciting, which is a big deviation from what it used to be 20 years ago (say around 1961), when you'd open with Huckleberry Hound sauntering along singing, 'Oh My Darling.' Today (in 1981), by the time we get to the second phrase they'd go, 'Wait a minute, where's the action?' I think what has happened is that television has created a bunch of restless youths."

In 1958, Belgian cartoonist Pierre "Peyo" Culliford created the Smurfs. In 1978 (some 20 years later), a British oil company launched a Smurfs merchandising promotion. The campaign attracted the attention of an American novelty company. In the 1981-82 season, the 'Smurfs' went on air. Joe Barbera conceded, "I'm still trying to figure out why it took off. I remember we had another animated series that didn't work. We had to eliminate the villain.

"That was it. Gargamel and Azrael the cat are the villains. I think that's what makes the show work. Kids have never seen anything like this before. This is what life is all about. When they grow up they're going to meet all kinds of problems and I think they should learn about it and prepare for it. The way you look at most things on television is that they last two seasons. We did six years with 'The Flintstones' in prime time. I think the 'Smurfs' have a future in prime time specials. Our first prime-time special did good in the ratings."

Lucy Johnson of NBC acknowledged, "You ask yourself why they're popular. You study it and end up saying you don't know. It's an indefinable chemistry and charisma that the kids relate to but I would say that the merchandising was already there so kids were familiar with the characters." It was reported NBC earned about $150 million with sales of Smurf dolls, figurines, puppets, pins, pajamas, clothing, posters, school bags, lunch boxes, cups, stationery, records and books.

Lucy Johnson continued, "And secondly, they're cuddly and loveable and represent the kids' point of view. All the elements of good and evil are there, but it always ends on a positive note. And I think it's important that Papa Smurf is the authority figure in charge. The Smurfs react like humans. They stray and do things they shouldn't, but always in the background is Papa Smurf as that strong central figure in their lives.

"I got involved in children's programming a week after the premiere. Hanna-Barbera couldn't deliver the shows fast enough. The quality is so much higher than what we're used to on Saturday mornings that it takes much longer. So around the third week we had to start repeating. It didn't make any difference. There was such a hunger for this show that all the typical taboos didn't apply. Nothing has slowed it down.

"We started the (1981-82) season in third place. The show has been No. 1 four weeks in a row. Its broken all viewing records for Saturday morning. This is the first time we've had a No. 1 children's show in years. It's an extraordinary turnaround. It's not just a hit – it's a megahit. It's going to create a lot of imitators, and for once they'll be imitating something worthwhile.

"I think the imitators might have trouble. This is something pure and it works. The characters are very well defined. I think when something is created from a body of work that's stood the test of time for 20 years it shows. There are thoughtful stories. That's what makes it so nice – something good is being imitated instead of just something that's popular."

In the 1985-86 TV season, Walt Disney Productions joined the Saturday morning lineup with 'Gummi Bears' and 'The Wuzzles'.

Gary Krisel of Disney insisted the Saturday morning animation was not the same as the popular Gummi Bears candy sold in Europe, "That's a German name for rubber, but we just liked the sound of it. We're not tied into the candy. Disney has always had a strong licensing and marketing division. I know there is a lot of controversy about cartoons based on toys. But that's not the way we do things here. Here the stories come first. We're not going to be adding characters or accessories to sell more toys.

"There's been a change in thinking. We now see television as having a very important role in communicating to children. We also think that Saturday morning television has improved in recent years. We're creating a new style of animation that hopefully will raise the standards. One reason many Saturday morning cartoons don't have the high production values is because the producers want to make a profit right away."

It was noted the drawings were done by Japanese artists. Gary Krisel continued, "That's the only way to hold down costs and we're closely supervising all the work. The storyboards and ideas are all done here, along with the writing, music, editing and voices. In fact you may have noticed that some films such as 'Star Wars' do not play as well on the small screen as they did in the theater. The same thing is true for animation. There is no need to make the elaborate effort that goes into one of our feature-length projects.

"Now we're not going to be offering the same sort of detail and quality and special effects that go into our feature-length animation, but these new efforts will be better than anything new that's been seen on television. You won't see figures walking like sticks and then moving their jaws a couple of times to suggest talking. We'll also be trying to keep that Disney charm. Care has been given to character development. The Gummis, for example, are fond of puns and they like to play on words. Subtle messages about health and safety will be in the stories. For example, the bears 'buckle-up' when they rode on their little cars."

In 1918, Joe Barbera, then 8, began third grade at Holy Innocence School in Brooklyn. Between 1957 and 1974, he tried unsuccessfully to sell to the TV networks on the idea of a series of animated bible stories, "I think they felt, and rightly so, that any biblical subject would involve a difference of opinion. They just didn't want to get into anything that controversial." Fortunately, the advent of home video solved Joe Barbera's problem.

In 1986, Joe Barbera took six cassettes of 'The Greatest Adventure Stories From The Bible' to a convention of Catholic educators in Anaheim, California. Each cassette ran for 30 minutes and the first six biblical stories were: 'Moses: Let My People Go', 'David and Goliath', 'Joshua and the Battle of Jericho', 'Noah and the Ark', 'Samson and Delilah' and 'Daniel and the Lion's Den'.

Joe Barbera expressed, "It was at Holy Innocence that I found out I could draw. I reproduced the famous picture of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. I did it in chalk on the blackboard. Later, I read about Michelangelo lying on his back painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and getting full of plaster dust. With me, it was chalk dust. When my mother found out I was spending all my time doing biblical scenes and neglecting my other studies, she yanked me out and put me in public school."

Joe Barbera defended the violence in the stories, "How do you hide the violence? When David marches out and faces Goliath, he's there because Goliath has been taunting the Israelites. He kills him with a slingshot, which was a deadly weapon in its day." Each cassette opened with the youths on an archaeological expedition, falling into a sand whirlpool and a time warp, "Our young observers help bridge the gap. Then we added things we felt would have happened. Noah's ark had to leak. And the ark would rock, so the elephant would slide back and forth. Each story also has an underlying moral, but we don't hit you with it. You turn off young people if you try to preach."

The $2 million project was financed by Hanna-Barbera and Taft Entertainment Co. At the time, Joe Barbera stated, "If it goes the way we think it will, we'll soon have 26 cassettes out. We'll do as many as it will take. The story of Joseph alone could take up to six parts." Before the convention, it was reported over 250,000 cassettes had been sold in advance sales for $19.95 each.

Back in 1970, Joe Barbera told the press, "Sometimes we have as many as 650 artists employed here (at Hanna-Barbera Productions). They are all very good and, being artists, they want special treatment. Can you imagine what it would have been like to have had Michelangelo, Van Gogh, Rembrandt and El Greco in your employ at the same time?”

20180414

KIDVID

"Kidvid" was the television industry term for children's programming. Starting in 1966, Saturday morning had been packaged as all-children's hours to advertisers featuring a combination of cartoons and live-action series.

'The Flintstones', first televised in 1960 was regarded a phenomenal success. Joe Barbera told the 'Los Angeles Times' in 1972, "Flintstones was a first – the first animated series in prime time … It made television history. And now Pebbles and Bam-Bam, their little children, are teenagers on NBC 10 years later. They're not really old enough to be teenagers, but television makes people grow up faster."

A pre-historic parody on modern suburban life in the Stone Age period, 'The Flintstones' soon became America's favorite animated family and one of the most popular comic strips ever drawn. The characters on 'The Flintstones' behaved and spoke in contemporary manner, though they lived in the pre-historic town of Bedrock, reportedly some 250 feet below sea level.

Bedrock boasted all the advantages of urban life including the town's newspapers, The Bedrock Bugle, which was chiseled on a stone slab. Fred Flintstone worked as a Dino operator (a dinosaur powered crane) for the construction Rock Head and Quarry corporation. Its slogan "Feel secure; own your own cave." Fred and friend Barney Rubble both belonged to the Y.C.M.A (young cave man's association) and Fred and wife Wilma lived in a split-level cave and drove a rock-wheeled, thatched-roof convertible car.  

Bill Hanna remarked, "You can read a lot into it. You can compare Fred and Barney Rubble with (Jackie) Gleason and (Art) Carney (in 'The Honeymooners')."

Joe Barbera mentioned, "We had a lot of pre-historic and animal gags. The show really took off when Wilma had a baby and we had a contest to name the baby. The Ideal Toy Co. called and asked what the baby was going to be? I said, 'A boy, of course. A chip off the old rock.' The man from the toy company said if we'd make it a girl he'd give us a lucrative contract for dolls. We changed it to a girl on the spot. We had the contest and the baby became Pebbles." 

In 1962, the space-age animated family, 'The Jetsons' featuring all the futuristic gadgets made its prime time debut. Cartoon was regarded an art form. However the difference between full-scale animation which used 26,000 drawings and limited animation which used up to 900 drawings, according to Joe Barbera was like "the difference between making Rolls-Royces and Ford Tempos. It's purely a matter of money, and you either stay in the business or you don't?"

Hanna-Barbera Productions was the first and biggest studio supplying over 250 series of animated entertainment primarily to television for Saturday morning screening.

Chuck Jones made the comment, "I call it illustrated radio. The reason being that you build a sound track which will carry the story if the pictures don't work. Try it sometime. Turn the sound off and you can't possibly understand what's going on, but leave the sound on without the pictures and there's no problem at all. With the stuff we did, you can turn the sound off and still tell what's happening, because the characters are acting. That's how we judged our work."

Faith Frenz of CBS argued, "My belief is that the concept overrides the technique when it comes to Saturday monring programming. I think the idea that the style of animation should be criticized because it is limited is a limited point of view from adults."

Of Saturday morning television, Joe Barbera made the point, "Any new company that opens up finds out that there isn't that much (animation) talent, so you have to go abroad to find studios that will do some of the work for you. Suddenly you're traveling around the world (at the time to Australia and Taipei, Taiwan) trying to make deals and you run into all kinds of problems, like the film arrives and it isn't right. We're partners with people in both (overseas) studios. There's no way it will ever work in those countries unless you are partners with the people. You find that out. Then everything works better. They don't resent the invaders.

"People seem to think that we deliberately are trying to crucify a business that we've been raised in. We can do the finest animation in the world right here in this studio, but no one will put up the money for it, and it will not make that much difference, not for Saturday morning. There's no question that the networks are still there (in 1985) and they're very, very important, but for the future, you have to be looking for the other markets."

In October 1976, Hanna-Barbera Productions launched a college of animation at its Hollywood studio. Joe Barbera told the 'Los Angeles Times', "We have to train people if the industry is going to continue. What we're trying not to do is to train them in the television technique of limited animation. We're teaching them the feature technique (full animation) that we were trained on, which means teaching them motion, style and design. We're keeping the art going. No computer will ever replace it."

However the difficulty was the TV production season lasted only about six months. In order to "build a steady flow of work", Joe Barbera convinced parent company Taft Broadcasting Co. to invest in animated feature films to be made over at least the next five years until 1980.

William Hanna and Joseph Barbera began creating cartoons for MGM Studios. "We did every frame of the first 'Tom and Jerry' in 1939 (to show in theaters)," Joe Barbera recalled. "Then MGM decided we had exhausted all the story ideas about a cat and mouse. So for the next 20 years, all we did was turn out 'Tom and Jerry' cartoons." 

Bill Hanna added, "Then they folded the animation department (in 1957), and Joe and I were out of work. We set up our own studio at our homes and went to work (they started with $4000). The first thing we did was 'Ruff and Reddy.'" By 1960, Hanna-Barbera Productions earned about $3.5 million in addition to merchandising sales. In 1968, Hanna-Barbera Productions was sold to Taft Broadcasting for $12.5 million. 

In 1985, Joe Barbera told the press a half-hour animated series for the networks could cost as much as $250,000 per episode. At the time, 'The Jetsons' made a comeback in the syndication market, "There's more freedom of creativity in first-run syndication. With the networks, you have to sell the ideas and execution, and they have to approve. In syndication, you have to sell the ideas to the distributor who says, 'I wouldn't think of telling you what to do.'" 

By 1973, Lou Scheimer of Filmation made known, "There is a tremendous overseas market for animation. The appetite for animation overseas is insatiable. We see cable as our ultimate market. With pay cable you could get your costs back overnight." It was understood, producers of kidvid programs had "up-front costs on 52-week returns." A seven-minute cartoon feature in 1981 for theatres could cost as much as $100,000 to produce. 

On TV, producers offered "limited animation" in order to reduce the amount of time and number of frames needed to complete a cartoon. By 1981, the Hanna-Barbera Productions cartoons could be seen in 80 nations around the world in 22 different languages. At the time, it was also selling almost 4,500 toys under its name and other products including Pebbles Flinstone dolls and Scooby-Doo pajamas. 

"Television just eats this stuff up, chews it, throws it out," Joe Barbera observed. As reported, "To fill its fall schedule of 14 half-hours (about 90% of Saturday morning television over three networks), Hanna-Barbera must produce nearly a half-million frames of cartoon film for each Saturday – 24 frames for each second on the air." Joe Barbera pointed out a half-hour cartoon in 1972 would cost $65,000 to produce but by 1981, the cost had more than triple.

In the 1978 episode of 'Super Friends' titled 'Fairy Tale of Doom', viewers learnt Toyman had invented a device that could project anyone right into the pages of a story book and allowing them to become part of the tale itself. However if that person did not leave the bed-time story within 12 hours, he or she would become permanent characters and lost forever in the pages of the fairy tale history.

In real life, Diana discovered after marrying her Prince in July 1981, that her fairy tale marriage, regarded one of 20th century's most famous marriages, would end a decade later in what the Queen came to call an "annus horribilis". Speaking to the BBC in 1995, Diana reminded, "But then here was a situation which hadn't ever happened before in history, in the sense that the media were everywhere, and here was a fairy story that everybody wanted to work. And so it was, it was isolating, but it was also a situation where you couldn't indulge in feeling sorry for yourself: you had to either sink or swim. And you had to learn that very fast."

On 'Super Friends', Wonder Woman decided to play out the story in order to "get out of this deadly fantasy land." As the Super Friends became trapped in the pages of fairy tales, the Legion of Doom under Luthor leadership began a super crime wave  in order to control the wealth of the world. Wonder Woman told Cheshire Cat, "You don't understand I am not Alice. I don't belong in this story." Caterpillar countered, "You won't be in this story much longer anyway." In another scene, Batman voiced, "The first law of the Super Friends is that there is always a way (out)."

Sonny Fox of NBC told 'The Pittsburgh Press' at the time, "There is nothing inherently wrong with animation, if it is done well. I'm troubled by super persons who have powers beyond realism. There is a message in super heroes that makes me uncomfortable. I have no trouble with Flash Gordon or Tarzan, because they are heroes within the realm of human power. If the cartoon is good enough to keep the viewer raptly attentive and emotionally involved, it draws attention away from the ads."

Saturday morning programs such as 'Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids' were dedicated to "pro-social messages" as well as educating young viewers. In 1975, Joseph T. Klapper of CBS did a survey of 720 children aged between 7 and 12 from six different cities after the screening of 'Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine', "Our goal was not to teach formally but to entertain and communicate pro-social messages."

It was found the average child among 87% received 2.9 messages with only 2% of those 87% received a distorted message. Some 84% of those 87% received message of "safety"; 80% received message of "kindness"; 74% received message of "honesty" and 41% received message of "loyalty". Joe Klapper enthused, "The wonder of TV's impact could be amazing if parents or teachers talked to kids after programs."

Of the criticism that Saturday morning limited animation was not as creative, Joe Barbera contributed to the lower violence quotient, "There's no more individuality left. There was a time when if you saw a 'Tom and Jerry' cartoon, a Disney cartoon, a Lantz cartoon, each of them represented a certain thinking and technique that you could spot.

"Now (in 1981) about 15 people have got to see our cartoons before they go on the air. The networks send out their people, I can't blame them, and 9 out of 10 people from the network get terrified. They tell you you can't do this or that. We don't have any violence in our cartoons, we don't shoot anyone, you never see a gun or a knife or a sword. We follow the guidelines religiously. You have to have a flattening of the material … It's got to fall flat."

Peggy Charren of the parents' group Action for Children's Television told the press in 1976, "For many children, their first art is the animated Saturday morning schedule and what they see from 3 to 6 in the afternoon on independent and UHF stations. And it's almost never exciting or delightful animation. I don't see any reason the (TV) specials should be so much better than the weekly series. If they can't produce more quality programming at a reasonable price, they should just put on less. No one says there has to be children's programs from 7am to 12pm on Saturday. Everyone would be better off if there was less of it and what there was was better."

20180411

MARSHALL McLUHAN

"There are no passengers on the spaceship Earth. We are all crew," Marshall McLuhan maintained. "Everyone is an executive. Look at the decisions a housewife has to make. Isn't she an executive?" 

At the launch of his book 'Take Today – The Executive as Dropout' in 1972, Marshall McLuhan stated, "This isn't a book of theories or concepts. It is a book about processes, about what is happening now. People think you have to have some grand theory to write a book. Alvin Toffler writes a meaningless book but because he has a big, heavy moral people think it is significant. Our book (co-written with engineering consultant Barrington Nevitt) is designed to help people figure out for themselves what is going on." 

In his review of 'The Medium Is the Massage' in 1967, Richard Kostelanetz of 'The New York Times' made the point, "McLuhan's books contain little of the slick style of which popular sociology is usually made. As anyone who opens the covers immediately discovers, 'The Gutenberg Galaxy' (1962) and 'Understanding Media' (1964), are horrendously difficult to read – clumsily written, frequently contradictory, oddly organized, and overlaid with their author's singular jargon. 

"The basic themes in these books seem difficult at first, because the concepts are as unfamiliar as the language, but on second (or maybe third) thought, the ideas are really quite simple. Everything McLuhan writes is originally dictated, either to his secretary or to his wife, and he is reluctant to rewrite, because, he explains, 'I tend to add, and the whole thing gets out of hand.' Moreover, some of his insights are so original that they evade immediate understanding; other paragraphs may forever evade explication." 

Marshall McLuhan reasoned, "Most clear writing is a sign that there is no exploration going on. Clear prose indicates the absence of thought … It is rarely that readers of anything explain what they think it means. However, most readers are eager to tell how what they read makes them feel … On the telephone, we can scarcely visualize the faces of our own family while talking to them on the phone, but we find it easier to 'see' those with whom we are not acquainted. 

"Stockbrokers tell of their surprise upon meeting men they have dealt with for years on the phone: 'Never thought you looked like that.' Radio, in contrast to the telephone, permits the listener to fill in a good deal of visual imagery. The radio announcer or disc jockey stands out loud and clear, while the voice on the telephone resonates in isolation from the visual sense. 

"Nobody ever wrote a lament about 'all alone by the radio,' but 'all alone by the telephone' is a classic of the '20s that is a resounding prophecy of hi-rise living in the present time (1971). The TV generation imagines it has a totally new human mandate. It sees life returned to a primal state with all the rules of the game yet to be discovered, such was the natural feeling of North American settlers when they seemed to be monarchs of all they surveyed. 

"The familiar phrase can teach as much about our current media of communication. The user of the electric media, whether radio, telephone, movie or TV, has a powerful sense of being king and emperor, since he is the content of a total environment of electric services. These services extend to the moon and to Mars. The invasion from Mars occurred inevitably when radio beams made Mars a party of our planetary territory. Electric media transport us instantly wherever we choose. When we are on the phone we don't just disappear down a hole, Alice in Wonderland style – we are there and they are here." 

Richard Kostelanetz continued, "In looking at history, McLuhan espouses a position one can only call 'technological determinism.' That is, whereas Karl Marx, an economic determinist, believed that the economic organization of a society shapes every important aspect of its life, McLuhan believes the crucial technological inventions are the primary influence. 

"McLuhan admires the work of the historian Lynn White Jr., who wrote in 'Medieval Technology and Social Change' (1962) that the three inventions of the stirrup, the nailed horseshoe and the horse collar created the Middle Ages. With the stirrup, a soldier could carry armor and mount a charger; and the horseshoe and the harneness brought more efficient tilling of the land, which shaped the feudal system of agriculture, which, in turn, paid for the soldier's armor. 

"Pursuing this insight into technology's importance, McLuhan develops a narrower scheme. He maintains that a major shift in society's predominant technology of communication is the crucially determining force behind social changes, initiating great transformations not only in social organization but human sensibilities. He suggests in 'The Gutenberg Galaxy' that the invention of movable type shaped the culture of Western Europe from 1500 to 1900. 

"The mass production of printed materials encouraged nationalism by allowing more rapid and wider spread of information than permitted by hand-written messages. The linear forms of print influenced music to repudiate the structure of repetition, as in Gregorian chants, for that of linear development, as in a symphony. Also, print reshaped the sensibility of Western man, for whereas he once saw experience as individual segments, as a collection of separate entitites, man in the Renaissance saw life as he saw print – as a continuity, often with casual relationships. 

"Print even made Protestantism possible, because the printed book, by enabling people to think alone, encouraged individual revelation. Finally: 'All forms of mechanization emerge from movable type, for type is the prototype of all machines.' In 'Understanding Media', McLuhan suggests that electric modes of communication – telegraph, radio, television, movies, telephones, computers – are similarly reshaping civilization in the 20th century. 

"Whereas print-age man saw one thing at a time in consecutive sequence – like a line of type – contemporary man experiences numerous forces of communication simultaneously, often through more than one of his senses. Contrast, for example, the way most of us read a book with how we look at a newspaper. With the latter, we do not start one story, read it through and then start another. Rather, we shift our eyes across the pages, assimilating a discontinuous collection of headlines, subheadlines, lead paragraphs, photographs and advertisements." Marshall McLuhan pointed out, "People don't actually read newspapers, they get into them every morning like a hot bath." 

Richard Kostelanetz continued, "Moreover, the electronic media inititate sweeping changes in the distribution of sensory awareness – in what McLuhan calls the 'sensory ratios.' A painting or a book strikes us through only one sense, the visual; motion pictures and television hit us not only visually but also aurally. The new media envelop us, asking us to participate. 

"McLuhan believes that such a multisensory existence is bringing a return to the primitive man's emphasis upon the sense of touch, which he considers the primary sense, 'because it consists of a meeting of the senses.' Politically, he sees the new media as transforming the world into 'a global village,' where all ends of the earth are in immediate touch with one another, as well as fostering a 'retribalization' of human life." Marshall McLuhan expressed, "Any highway eatery with its TV set, newspaper and magazine is as cosmopolitan as New York or Paris." 

Richard Kostelanetz continued, "In his over-all view of human history, McLuhan posits four great stages: (1) Totally oral, preliterate tribalism. (2) The codification by script that arose after Homer in ancient Greece and lasted 2000 years. (3) The age of print, roughly from 1500 to 1900. (4) The age of electronic media, from before 1900 to the present (in 1967). 

"Underpinning this classification is his thesis that 'societies have been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication. His most famous epigram – 'the medium is the message' - means several things. The phrase first suggests that each medium develops an audience of people whose love for that medium is greater than their concern for its content. 

"That is, the TV medium itself becomes the prime interest in watching television; just as some people like to read for the joy of experiencing print, and more find great pleasure in talking to just anybody on the telephone, so others like television for the mixture of kinetic screen and relevant sound. Second, the 'message' of a medium is the impact of its forms upon society. The 'message' of print was all the aspects of Western culture that print influenced. 

"Third, the aphorism suggests that the medium itself – its form – shapes its limitations and possibilities for the communication of content. One medium is better than another at evoking a certain experience. American football, for example, is better on television than on radio or in a newspaper column; a bad football game on television is more interesting than a great game on radio. Most congressional hearings, in contrast, are less boring in the newspaper than on television. Each medium seems to possess a hidden taste mechanism that encourages some styles and rejects others. To define this mechanism, McLuhan has devised the categories of 'hot' and 'cool'." 

As understood, a 'hot' medium (such as radio, print, photography, film and paintings) had a considerable amount of detailed information. 'Cool' required that the audience participate to complete the experience such as a TV cartoon because Marshall McLuhan argued, "simply because very little visual information is provided. Any hot medium allows of less participating than a cool one, as a lecture makes for less participation than a seminar, and a book for less than a dialog. 

"It was no accident that Senator McCarthy lasted such a very short time when he switched to TV. TV is a cool medium. It rejects hot figures and hot issues and people from the hot press media. Had TV occurred on a large scale during Hitler's reign he would have vanished quickly. (Television) is revolutionizing every political system in the world. 

"The executive drops out because specialism is impossible at the high speed of the Electric Age. Henry Kissinger, for example, is a specialist in the history of World War I. Kissinger is a man out of the 19th century. Why, he does not even understand what electric money is. There's something strange about the current (in 1972) campaigns. The conventions are outdated forms, like something from science fiction. 

"The parties are meaningless; they have no policy and are looking only for an image. Richard Nixon is an interloper. In fact, nobody can take the job of being president in the electric world. The scale is too big. Things have to be run by surrogates and computers. The centralized constitutional government is doomed to break up into smaller tribal regions. Kids today (in 1972) are a whole new ethnic group." 

Richard Kostelanetz continued, "McLuhan advocates radical changes in education, because he believes that a contemporary man is not fully ‘literate’ if reading is his sole pleasure: 'You must be literate in umpteen media to be really 'literate' nowadays (in 1967).' Education, he suggests, should abandon its commitment to print – merely a focusing of the visual sense – to cultivate the 'total sensorium' of man – to teach us how to use all five cylinders, rather than only one."

20180405

CELEBRITY

June 28, 1914: (St. Vitus day - Battle of Kosovo, 1389) The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzogovina sparked the outbreak of World War I. Before his death in 1898, the Iron Chancellor, Prince Otto Furst von Bismarck-Schonhausen had already predicted the war, "One day the great European War will come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans."

In February 1984, some 70 years later, Sarajevo, then Yugoslavia, played host to the XIV Winter Olympics. To counter ABC's coverage of the Games, NBC aired the three-part mini-series, 'Celebrity'. Based on Thomas "Tommy" Thompson's blockbusting book (No. 1 on the best-seller lists for 4 months in 1982), 'Celebrity' was an old-fashioned story of retribution. Part I  attracted 21.2% households ratings on Sunday night and 33% audience share; Part II on Monday night attracted 21.4% households ratings and Part III on Tuesday night attracted 24.9% households ratings.

Centered around "the three princes", the mini-series 'Celebrity' opened near the end of its story. In 1975, three former high school friends who grew up in the same Fort Worth, Texas neighborhood to become celebrities reunited in a cabin where they relived a terrible secret of a crime committed on the night before their graduation in 1950 (some 25 years earlier).

Evangelist Thomas Jeremiah "T.J." Luther, voted most popular in the senior yearbook was the prince of temptations. Gridiron player turned Hollywood movie star, McKenzie "Mack" Crawford, voted "most handsome" in the yearbook was the prince of charms and journalist Kleber Cantrell, voted "most likely to succeed" was the prince of power.

William Hanley adapted Tommy Thompson's book for television. Paul Wendkos was director and producer Rosilyn Heller reportedly promised Tommy Thompson before his death she would see the TV adaptation of his novel through, "It was one of Tommy's dying wishes. He said, 'Ros, we've got to go to Texas to do 'Celebrity', so that's why we're here (on the set near Dallas)."

Tommy Thompson who received training at 'Life' magazine (1961-1972) told 'People' magazine, "It is certainly not autobiography, but there are pieces of me in many of the people who now live on the pages. That is the only real truth in writing fiction." Rosilyn Heller added, "Tommy was a person in great conflict about it (being a celebrity). He was embarrassed about loving it."

'Newsday' reported, "Co-producer Richard L. O'Connor brought the $10.1 million project in slightly under budget and on time. The 70-day filming schedule shifted from locations in New York, to the Dallas-Fort Worth area to the Los Angeles area."

Of the character T.J. Luther, one critic remarked, "Luther's path to prominence takes a stranger twist. After working at ever more menial jobs, Luther turns to crime and eventually lands in jail. Then, he blinds himself while using lye to remove a self-portrait from a cell wall. Within hours, however, his sight is restored. And even more miraculously, the effect of the lye on his self-portrait creates a reasonable representation of the face of Christ.

"Luther undergoes a religious conversion, and in no time is head of one of the largest and fastest-growing evangelical movements in the United States. He calls his followers 'The Chosen', builds his City of Miracles near Fort Worth, and operates a multi-million-dollar empire from an office filled with the latest in electronic surveillance and communications equipment."

Michael Beck told the press, "The English are real sticklers for accents and dialects. Accents are very important in England because they not only reveal where you come from but establish your class. I wasn't in any of the New York scenes, so while everyone else was there NBC sent me to Fort Worth to study the accent. I think we owed it to the people who live there to try to get the accent right. Doesn't it drive you crazy to watch 'Dallas' and they all sound like they're from Los Angeles?

"I'd read the novel and Tommy was fairly clear that as a faith healer T.J. was a fraud. He's a manipulator of people, charismatic and charming in a certain way. But in the show we leave it up to the audience to decide. Personally, I think he's a fraud and a con man. I approached T.J. as a person with extremely low self-esteem. Fame happened to Mack because of his good looks. Kleber achieved fame because of his talent. But it's T.J. who wanted fame the most.

"He's a loser in life but he keeps harping on the fact that he was voted most popular in high school. He aligns himself with gangsters until he sees his main chance to become an evangelist. He resents that Mack and Kleber have shut him out of their lives. No matter how successful he's become, he's still a loser. I wanted it (the evangelist role) to come out of the writing and the character.

"I wanted it to be an old-fashioned tent revival, with a lack of sophistication but with the animal magnetism and sexuality of a rock star. I wanted his show to be a tent revival and rock'n'roll kind of show. I purposely didn't watch any of the TV evangelists or I would have copied them. Paul saw it as a modern-day morality play. Innocents commit a sin, the sin haunts them and there's retribution for their fall from grace.

"He has a way of pulling from his actors. What he would say, one word, would open up something, and you could give more. Everyone was feeling the presence of Tommy Thompson. When we were first introduced as boys, it rained in the script. But it hadn't rained in Texas for about three months. Paul really wanted a long shot of the street, and suddenly, storm clouds came up, and it rained for two hours – on the one day that we needed rain."

Richard L. O'Connor recalled, "Most difficult, almost unbearable for everybody, was when Mack gets married. That day, in California, was like 108 degrees. There was no air conditioning, and we were dying in this room, yet everybody looks so fresh on screen." Michael Beck explained the aging process of the characters, from 18 to mid-50s, "Phil Lanthrop’s lighting did a lot to help all of us, the whole 18-year-old aspect of us. It wasn’t difficult finding that emotionally, because I’d been there, but physically, at 35, when you smile, your face wrinkles."

20180404

MARSHALL McLUHAN

Marshall McLuhan observed, "Fire provides a curious opportunity for sharing and involvement. For example, if two people are sitting in a room, carrying on a conversation, they are usually comfortable as long as one of them is talking. But if there is a sudden pause, or lull, in the conversation, both of them will begin to feel uncomfortable if the pause lasts for more than about 10 seconds. They have difficulty handling the silence. If there happens to be a fireplace in the room, however – and there’s a fire going in it – those same two people can sit there for 15 or 20 minutes without saying a word, and not feel uncomfortable at all. The fire provides a means of silent communication and involvement." 

By 1975, Marshall McLuhan declared "all the future is here, it is not coming." He also stated, "Ads are the cave art of the 20th century." However the TV generation was not a consumer generation as the generation had seen it all and had it all and its effects. "They’re not interested in old ideas, old values. But with the depression will come a return to all these old values. The young are already becoming old-fashioned. You see evidence of it now (in 1975).

"I always predict things that have already happened. That's how you get a reputation as a prophet. I don't have theories. I simply watch what's going on. I just predict what has happened. In the '70s we'll see a huge return to the hackneyed ways of our forefathers. The young, who are adept at role playing, move easily from one culture to another. Easy glum, easy glow. 

"In the electric environment you don't have objectives. You are there already. When you're going at the speed of light you can't think of a goal you don't have. You've already achieved it. This mucks up industry. In place of goals we have roles. Role playing turns life into a game, the sort of amenities the wealthy have are now (in 1975) available to the middle class. They've all seen marble halls and played the roles of the rich. The superwealthy people in the world are jokes." 

Marshall McLuhan also made the point to the 'Los Angeles Times' in 1978, "Children using TV for dialog is a very revolutionary step. At the speed of light the same information is available everywhere at the same moment. Our children understand that. And they are a little puzzled by the prison houses they are locked up in the schools. The greatest invention of our time is the instant replay. We do it in sports, fun and games. But it is going to become, 'What did you say again professor?' That is recognition, not just cognition. It is a huge step." 

Math and reading tests measured "only the left hemisphere of the brain. The right side of genius and artistic gifts are not capable of being measured by anything educators have designed." Television was primarily right hemisphere medium and that "as it moves up to more and more dominance, educators are up against a very tough problem."

In October 1970, Maurice McLuhan stood in for Marshall McLuhan to talk to the teachers who filled the auditorium at Watkins Hall on the University of California campus in Riverside. "A new technology destroys the old and retrieves the ancient and turns the old into an art form. (The) electronic technology has destroyed, or is in the process of destroying the old and has retrieved the ancient. We're back into the element of the occult – ESP – the horoscope – reincarnation. I'll try to clarify and when I can't, don't be dismayed. Go back to the source."

Children in 1970 were "learning in all direction. There are no goals. They're going to do their thing. The child in the playpen watching TV is getting in 10 seconds the information it took you (the teachers) 10 pages to write." Hence when teachers used old patterns, "one subject at a time, one line at a time, one line of information, he (the child) is turned off."

Maurice McLuhan believed the children in 1970 were growing up in an audiovisual world that had destroyed individualism (the written word). There was a new tribalism (TV) that had created "a hidden environment we're not even aware of." The movie, with the light coming from a projector behind the moviegoer, "becomes an extension of your vision." However on television, "the viewer becomes the screen. That iconoscope is tattooing the vision right here on your body … It has drawn us all in as participants – as actors."

Mankind was moving into "audio space. It's where the kids are at. We notice that men are starting to use scent. The sense of smell is coming back. We're moving into a different kind of space, and we've got to know where it's at. If you're watching a train recede down the track, what grows smaller? Your chance of catching it. You learn distance in terms of touch. The tactical sense organizes all the other senses. Did you know the difference between acoustical space and visual space? I don't. The acoustical space center is everywhere. The margin is nowhere. Visual space – you are the center."

The new generation would live in a "hunter society" because they would be hunting, rather than moving toward goals. "The teacher, like the bricks and mortar, is no longer necessary. You are important, but only as a resource person. Only a resource … Kids – put the hardware in their hands." Some teachers were "Apollo program Ph.D's" unemployable when their particular project had shut down. "They're useless in our society. That's why they're (the youngsters) hunters in our society. The hunter is the guy with a patch on one of his eyes. True Grit. With only one eye you've got to use that eye."

Television, Marshall McLuhan made the argument in 1977, "It has wiped out politics. All forms of legal and logical connectedness are dissolving, melting away. People are now going with the intuitive, the mythological, the image. On TV, a political party or a policy pales beside the image of the tribal leader (in soap operas referred to as patriarch or matriarch such as Mother Forrester on 'The Bold And The Beautiful').

"Richard Nixon looked liked himself, just Nixon, so he was no good on the air. But Jimmy Carter is a tribal image, the first tribal president in American history. He looks like the typical big Southern boy, the guy with the fishing pole and straw hat. He has loads of charisma. He’s Huck Finn. Charisma, by the way, means looking like a lot of other people."

"The West is going East and inward, even as the East is going West and outward … Private, separate, individual Western man, with his outer objectives and goals, was long counterpointed against the third world of tribal or clannish and group men with their inner vision of solidarity. (In soap operas a family was referred to as a clan such as the Ewing clan on 'Dallas').

"Today (1973), Western man is impelled inward by his electric services, even as Eastern man is moved to seek outer goals and objectives through his acquisition of our old Western hardware. A similar change which has taken place in our political lives is an aspect of living in a world of instant information. The old politics elected representatives who were associated with special attitudes viewpoints and parties directed toward change, all of which have tended to be played down by the new politics of a shared-service environment designed ecologically for permanence.

"The bureaucrats and experts in charge of the ecological service environment are the servants of the new 'hunting' population, the new electronic citizenry who create and exchange information as a way of life. The new politics is concerned less with participation than with anticipation, less with representation than with charismatic embodiment of special moods and needs."

In conclusion, Maurice McLuhan urged teachers in 1970, "If something has been said that you can use as a probe into the problem … Most people say of Marshall's ideas, 'Do you understand them?' Marshall says, 'These are probes. Use them.' You (the teachers) have really been a very, very wonderful group. When I came here (to UC), I felt like a mosquito at a nudist colony. I didn't know where to begin."

20180403

MARSHALL McLUHAN

Speaking at St. Louis University in 1975, Marshall McLuhan made the observation, "The Third World is the special creation of electric speed. It is created by the Fourth World that goes around the other three. The First World is industrial society. The Second World is Russian Communism. The Third World doesn't have either. All have the Fourth World, the one you never hear about, the electric environment. 

"Even the Third World has radio. The Arab World is a nice example of the Third World that entered the First World simply by hooking their computers into the pricing information. The control over our economy is gone. Through the use of computers, big multinational companies can by-pass national economies and plug into pricing systems anywhere in the world. 

"Instead of being guided by the old law of supply and demand, they can know instantly what a product is selling for in that country and price it for that area. Through electronics, the big companies have by-passed currencies. I'm the only communications man who studies the effects of an innovation ... My approach is studying the effects of the innovation on the community. 

"In the case of one, the telephone, the real change comes with the environment created to serve it – not your private use. The telephone needs a huge environment of services to support it. When you speed up a service from letter speed to instant you drastically change a business structure that depended on slower memos and intercoms for communication. 

"The telephone completely by-passes the old organization chart – you are instantly in touch with the man at the top. When the telephone rings, you feel an urge to answer it. The telephone is powerful, despotic. Few people can ignore it and say, 'I'm busy.' You cannot use a telephone as background music – or a television, either. Both are too demanding. 

"But the new electric speed creates specialized jobs, and the new executive has to switch jobs quickly. Women's Lib is related to this in an important way. Women are more adaptable at this flexible shifting than men. Women are now (in 1975) being used more. Women's Lib is not an answer to the maiden's prayer, but the creating of a new prayer. 

"The speed-up creates shifts from jobs to roles. The specialized executive drops out. He can’t keep up, can’t adapt. New kinds of people come in – those who are good at role playing. An actor who can only play one role is not wanted; neither is an executive who can do only one job. The old politician could afford to be himself. The new one must be a role player. Richard Nixon was an old-style politician. He had no capacity to role play. He was serious, grim, rigid." 

In August 1973, Richard Nixon delivered a second address to the nation on Watergate. Marshall McLuhan made the comment, "What Watergate has disclosed is no more than what occurs in the daily routine of the commercial sector, where 'espionage' becomes a daily strategy of survival. The speed-up on services and information for decision-making releases civil war in any large organization. 

"New series and new environments of information blur old patterns of power and identity and inspire new struggles for patterns of power and identity. Today (in 1973), information technology promotes wars within large corporate structures which are exhibited as dramas in the press and on TV and in our living rooms. I have written elsewhere: 'Today, the Commander in Chief, President Nixon, is looking rather fragile and inadequate simply because his advisers are so brittle and specialist.' 

"Long accustomed to living in the relative security of their niche in a hierarchical organization, then suddenly find themselves in the very unhappy hunting grounds of a newly 'wired planet.' In the electric information environment, the single job tends to move its occupant toward role-playing or flexible interplay among a diversity of related jobs. The specialism of the old public relations function is increasingly assumed as a mask or role by the individual jobholder. 

"The new information environment of our electric time encourages everybody to assume a part in the global theater … In the world of the wired planet, even a small bit of 'coverage' represents participation in multibillion dollar services which have become, in turn, the principal means of creating wealth from day to day. President Nixon occupies a very dramatic spot between the old and new politics, in the drama of the old private ethic and the new corporate imagery. 

"The permissiveness of the 1950s suddenly signaled the decline of private identity and the corresponding increase of corporate awareness, both of which were much enhanced by the advent of TV, for TV brought the outside inside the American home, thus submitting the world of private goals to the unremitting inspection by our social ideals. 

"For centuries Americans had gone outside to be alone and had gone inside to be warm and sociable. This basic pattern had reversed the custom of the rest of mankind. Suddenly, TV had brought America into line with Europe and Asia. Since TV, the young, at least, tend to go outside to be with people and inside to be alone. Consequently, when the outside came into our sitting rooms by TV, a revolution of conscience occurred and the rigors of our highest ethical ideals were suddenly applied to the public sector of social and political action. 

"The Watergate affair had revealed the transfer of slack, private ethics to the public arena just when a revolution in moral conscience had occurred in the people. That is, since TV the rigors of the old personal ethic have been transferred to the world of individual action. Rigor and permissiveness have strangely altered their areas of operation. 

"Mr. Nixon appears, at least, to be saddled with the image of private permissiveness extended to the public sphere of new ethical absolutism. That is, just when public attitudes had reversed the old political order by demanding the most scrupulous behavior in public places, the Watergate investigation revealed the patterns of former public permissiveness. 

"With the great decline in private identity via participation and merging, many people are inclined to be permissive in the private sector while demanding altogether new absolutist standards in public life. One reversal pattern that is worth watching in the new information environment is the flip that tends to occur when any figure is given conspicuous treatment as a 'villain'. 

"Just by observing or 'putting on' the image of such figures, especially when they are held up for a stretch of time, the public tends to identify with them and to feel that it is they, the public, who are really on trial. Just to the degree that a figure is permitted to entertain, or even to hold the attention of the public, the coverage that he gets is actually taken, as it were, out of the public hide. 

"To the degree that he wears the public as his costume, he can easily flip into the mode of public hero, or antihero. Such would appear to be the magic by which multitudes of malefactors have in the past been elevated to the status of public favorites. It is not necessary to argue that Jack the Ripper belongs in this category, but perhaps Lieutenant Calley did. 

"Nobody who represents a considerable proportion of the community can be given a great deal of public coverage without garnering a great deal of public acclaim and sympathy at the same time. In our new information world, when specialists wilt on the vine or on the organization tree, it is an everyday occurrence for someone to 'fall out of his tree.' 

"Today (in 1973) is the age of the dropout and it is important to note that the dropouts of all kinds are people who are trying to 'get in touch.' Touch is the world of the interval between the wheel and the axle, for example, and touch is the world of 'play' and of interplay, and if there is one area in which President Nixon has been notably defective, it is precisely the world of play and flexibility. If he were, therefore, to drop out, he would automatically re-establish this interval of play between himself and his ground, which might at once end the bind in his present situation and restore him to 'touch' with the public."


20180401

TELEVISION

The 'Los Angeles Times' reported in 1972, "All media are only extensions of man, says Marshall McLuhan, but the electronic age has extended the central nervous systems far beyond the human body. Some media extend us further beyond ourselves than others, however, depending upon the amount of information they provide, the degree to which they require individual participation. Television, for example, is what McLuhan calls a 'cool' medium because, by providing less data, it requires greater individual participation to fill in details. On the other hand, a fact-packed book is a 'hot' medium because it requires little participation from its reader."

TV was tribal (oral and tactile modes of communication). Book was individualist print mode or required "print-formed mind" to follow. One literacy expert told the newspapers industry in 1986, "People are not illiterate because they watch TV. They may watch TV because they are illiterate. Rather than condemn TV, we ought to explore the ways to use it to bring people back to print."

"If people at the everyday, man-on-the-street level are going to come to understand and appreciate and grapple with the uncertainty and the ambiguity of the questions of life, it is going to come about in part because journalists began to acknowledge what they all know; namely, that the world is not as simple as we tend to portray it to be," it was argued.

The history of literature, it was reasoned, was "the history of pointing out that the world is not as simple as it seems, that life is filled with ambiguity and uncertainty, that we deceive ourselves right and left. Literature tells the truth. And if it doesn’t tell the truth it's not literature, (it's) propaganda or something else."

The printed word stood up to not only the spoken word, but the pictured thought as well. People were said communicated with the written language. The spoken language however was most effective when transferred to print. Television which came by the radio route showed people could listen and watch at the same time. "To listen – or watch – one must be there for the presentation," it was suggested. However "one may read anytime, anywhere and may re-read to correct his memory. (Hence) the printed word has values the spoken word can never possess."

Of the 2,700 TV viewers surveyed in June 1980, over 90% "misunderstood" some part of the news segments, confirming the long-held view that the spoken word was not understood almost as well as the printed word. "Television has an advantage over the print media because of its immediacy and the added dimension of sight," it was observed. "But sometimes there is a tendency to pay too much attention to the visual and not enough to context. The importance of the spoken word should not be overlooked."

In 1984, CBS did a telephone survey asking a representative 1,000 viewers to identify their favorite television characters. It was found older actresses such as Jane Wyman, Bette Davis and Joan Collins broadened a show's appeal by drawing older female viewers. 'Newsday' reported, "'Falcon Crest' which finished last season (the 1983-84 season) as the 7th most popular prime time show, is heavily skewed toward older female viewers. One viewer in four is a woman over age 55, well above the average of about one in six for other prime time shows. If the interest of older women in 'Falcon Crest' were merely average, the show's ratings would drop dramatically."

In prime time, each rating point could represent between $40 million and $50 million in gross revenues over the course of a season. The Television Bureau of Advertising reported Proctor & Gamble was the top television advertiser, spending over $295 million on network TV advertising the first nine months of 1984 and another $146 million on national and regional spot commercials.

In the 1983-84 season, 'Dallas' (Friday) and 'Dynasty' (Wednesday) were locked in a seesaw battle for first place. 'Dynasty' was nostalgia. Stephen Schiff of 'Vanity Fair' made the observation, "'Dynasty' embodies the return of a phenomenon I had thought long dead: camp in its original form – earnest, na├»ve, genuinely impassioned, and genuinely ridiculous. 'Dynasty' popularity is quirky, broad yet extremely private, lowest-common-denominator yet high-brow-hip. The show is oxymoronic: it's a mass-market cult. 'Dynasty' represents something extraordinary: the incursion of so-called gay taste into the mainstream of American culture."

Of his analysis on television's role in society, Marshall McLuhan explained to 'The Washington Post' in 1977, "Television is not a visual medium. It is audible tactile. It's something that uses the eye as if it were an ear. Television uses the eye as an ear literally because the characteristic mode of the image is discontinuous, whereas the movie image is visual, shutters and still shots with frames and so on.

"The TV camera has no shutter and is a continuous pickup just like the sound pickup. The image enhanced to you for participation is mostly acoustic and very little visual. The effect is that it's an inner trip. TV is addictive, it’s a drug. Tests have been run, you know – they paid people to stop watching it and then tested them to see what happened to them. They show all the withdrawal symptoms of drug addicts.

"And so, for people who have goals in life the inner trip is fatal. Goals and objectives disappear on the inner trip, and one becomes involved in role-playing. What faculties are involved in TV? I have discovered in the last few years that the acoustic dimensions, the world of the simultaneous since we hear from all directions at once, is a sphere whose center is everywhere and whose margin is nowhere.

"Now the acoustic world belongs to the right hemisphere of the brain, and the left hemisphere is visual. The left hemisphere is the world linearity, connectiveness, logic, rationality, analysis, classification and so on. For some decades, we have been living in a world in which the environment, the major environment in which we live, is instantaneous information.

"An instantaneous information world is one which completely furthers and enhances the world of the right hemisphere of the brain, which is the simultaneous or acoustic hemisphere. The visual hemisphere, the logical, connective, classification hemisphere, has been pushed up into dominance over the centuries by word systems and courier systems and linear systems with all kinds of information.

"Now, at the speed of light, the right hemisphere is pushed up into dominance. But all the institutions – legal, rational, moral – were all invented or devised under conditions of left hemisphere dominance. At the speed of light, under electric conditions, the organization chart just collapses. The kind of flip that now happens in decision-making is straight over to the world of Zen, where the big and important problem is what are the questions, not what are the answers.

"The modern decision-maker has first got the need to know what are the questions, and the answers are not so difficult anymore. Our left-hemisphere world, which has given us all our typical institutions, literacy, for example, flips, with the advent of Xeroxing, into exactly the opposite form. Gutenberg made everybody a reader. Xerox makes everybody a publisher. Now when everybody becomes a publisher, strange things begin to happen.

"The reappearance of Richard Nixon on TV is an example of retrieval. It's like an instant replay. Instant replays are electronic forms of tremendous meaning. They permit not cognition but recognition. So we will now recognize Mr. Nixon, but cognition is elementary compared to recognition. IBM used to give a saying: Information overload equals pattern recognition. At the speed of light what you see are patterns – you don't have a forbearer to go outside daily to tame and subdue the wilderness.

"Two hundred years of taming the wilderness developed that pattern of fighting, fighting, fighting when we go outside. Now, by contrast, we go home to be safe, secure and friendly. But television brings the outside inside the home. It brings that warrior’s face into the friendly face of the home. The Nielsen ratings tell the inside story of television. That is, they tell the subliminal story. The PTA is not subliminal, it’s extraneous and conscious – the crusading spirit of the conscious person.

"Now one of the peculiarities of electric services is they force the subliminal up into consciousness. This means, of course, the end of Mr. Freud. He was big and strong when people still had a subconscious. When we had a private identity, we had a big subconscious. Now that we have a group identity we have no subconscious. People who take a point of view and an alarmist stand are people who don't understand the media.

"They don’t realize that these things have gone around them and in through them and inside them, and that it is a kind of total disease. It’s an extension of our own private nervous system. These electric media are us. We’ve done this to ourselves, unwittingly. Now, to take a stand against that is like taking a stand against measles or against flu. It’s taking a stand on 19-century hardware technology and saying, we’ve gotta hold on to this stuff.

"Meantime, they are living in a world which has carefully removed it. The media are violent in the sense they invade us, like pornography. And let me say, violence means literally to cross boundaries, violate people's privacy, to violate people's rights. Pornography, for example, is a huge violence crossing people's right to privacy. The defense is not to pass a law or to say this shouldn’t happen, we've got to stop this. The defense is to understand the thing, and to, well, to pull the plug out if necessary.

"Under conditions of extreme survival, obviously we wouldn’t hesitate to pull out the plug. If you’re electrocuting a dangerous criminal, you’re pulling out the plug on him. A few months ago (in 1977), a big hurricane threatened in New York, and the media were covering the approach. Hour after hour, it was getting total coverage, no matter what happened or what it did. By the time it got to New York, it fizzled. It just disappeared. And the coverage did it.

"All you have to do to end those big disasters is to cover them. I was in New York during that hurricane thing, and I just noticed it dying down, dying down as it approached. Coverage got more intense and the hurricane just died. The coverage even transforms the criminal into show biz. This happened when there was a bank holdup.

"A bandit entered the bank and there was a phone ringing and he held up the bank and answered the phone. And they said, 'Hello, where are you?' - it was a radio show, a hot line. 'Where are you: I'm here at the bank, I'm holding up this bank.' And they held him for a few minutes and the cops were there and the whole thing was over. He became show biz, and that ended it. We all become show biz under the kinds of news coverage we have; everybody expects coverage, everybody expects to be transformed into show biz in some degree.

"The generation gap opened up by TV in the 1960s was no less than 2,400 years of a gap. For the first time in 2,400 years, since the beginning of the alphabet, people were going back to their primitive third world. Because TV is post-alphabet, post-literate, the TV generation had no contact with its own parents, or the previous world from which the parents had come. And the quest for roots is more difficult.

"The alphabet, in the 5th century BC, was the first moment in which Western man created this logical structure, and their private identity and this visual, Euclidian space. Alphabetic man – Parmenides was the first logician – and Aristotle and Plato came right out of that Parmenides tradition, they pushed the pre-Socratics out of the picture. Pre-Socratics were like us, and today we share a great sympathy with the pre-Socratics.

"So, the retrieval of all the pre-alphabetic forms of philosophy is now very, very strong. That's our quest for roots. But the TV generation was 2,400 years away from its parents. The parents hadn't come out of the 19th-century literacy and the kids were suddenly plunged into post-literacy, and they became 2,400 years apart. That's a big generation gap. It never happened before in the history of man because we never had electric technology before.

"Remember, at the speed of light you can go through centuries in a few minutes. Developmental, gradual developmental things are superseded by instantaneous replays, and instantaneous awareness and pattern recognition. People are puzzled today as to why the kids have no morality. It’s because our morality has for a long time been merely written and legalistic, and the kids cannot accept any form of legalism.

"This is not a result of conscious decision-making on their part at all. They simply respond to a new environment in which they live, in which the only thing that counts is total involvement. Legalism is objective – every one of you is equal before the set of laws, written laws. Now, to the man who is very subjective and totally involved, that kind of law is meaningless. He has to have a law to which his whole being can respond.

"And so these kids have no morals, in our sense. They have a code which belongs to the old rural traditions. The novel disappeared through electricity because the novel is entirely continuous. The stream of consciousness intervened and took over, and stream of consciousness is totally discontinuous. James Joyce is discontinuous. Flaubert wrote the last novel of continuity, left hemisphere, and after that everything flipped into discontinuity.

"But the novel in the sense of a continuous plot disappeared. The detective story is an electronic form – because it uses the total environment as plot. There is not a continuous connected story in the detective story. It is totally discontinuous and involves the reader totally in reconstructing an action. And so, it is kind of an electronic form."

Blog Archive