CBC Digital Archives

Marshall McLuhan:The destroyer of civilization

He was a man of idioms and idiosyncrasies, deeply intelligent and a soothsayer. He had prescient knowledge of the Internet. Although educated in literature, Marshall McLuhan was known as a pop philosopher because his theories applied to mini-skirts and the twist. For his ability to keep up with the cutting edge, one colleague called him "The Runner." Critics said he destroyed literary values. Today, McLuhan's ideas are new again, applied to the electronic media that he predicted.

media clip
British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge and Canadian historian George Woodcock discuss civilization and literature tonight in Vancouver. Does television mean the end of the book? Immediately, Marshall McLuhan's philosophies are brought into the discussion. They speak of McLuhan's theory that literature is finished. Muggeridge and Woodcock suggest that disseminating this idea contributes to the demise of the book and that McLuhan is an "actual destroyer of our civilization."
. George Woodcock (1912-1995) was a Canadian historian, journalist and author who made radio documentaries for the CBC in the 1960s and 70s. He was well-known for his books on the history of anarchism. As a champion of literary values he founded the journal Canadian Literature in 1959. Woodcock refused the Order of Canada because he said he only accepted awards given by his colleagues and peers.

. British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990) worked in various capacities, including as a Washington correspondent for the Daily Telegraph and an editor for the Calcutta Statesman. He was known as an insightful media personality whose commentary often took on a cynical tone.
. By the 1970s universities around the world invited McLuhan to guest lecture. He began travelling tirelessly but not without developing "a deep dislike of travel and dislocation of all sorts."

. Speaking engagements included trips to the Bahamas, Fiji, Greece, Monte Carlo, New York, Puerto Rico and Switzerland.
. Even though McLuhan had become famous globally, he had many critics. The New York Herald Tribune's review of Understanding Media stated that his work lacked quality.
. Once, McLuhan tried to patch up an interview he suspected had not gone well with the Manchester Guardian. After the interview McLuhan said to the reporter, "We are fellow literates." The reporter replied, "I hope not."
Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Monday Evening
Broadcast Date: July 8, 1974
Guest(s):
Host: Malcolm Muggeridge, George Woodcock
Duration: 1:33
Photo: CBC Still Photo Collection, Toronto

Last updated: January 4, 2013

Page consulted on July 9, 2014

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

Marshall McLuhan, the Man and his Message

He was a man of idioms and idiosyncrasies, deeply intelligent and a soothsayer. He had prescie...

Understanding McLuhan, finally

In a 1995 news report, a new medium called

McLuhan's predictions come true

Panel, including McLuhan's son Eric, discuss professor's prescience.

Homage to Marshall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan, the media theorist who was always "on the move," has died of a stroke.

Marshall McLuhan: set up by mom

Corinne McLuhan recounts story of meeting Marshall.

Growing up at the McLuhans'

Marshall's younger brother Maurice reminisces about childhood in Edmonton.