Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Marshall McLuhan, fully Herbert Marshall McLuhan

Canadian Philosopher of Communication Theory, Educator, Author and Media Expert

""Real life" often appears, at least, to be an imitation of art. Today, it is poster art."

"Ads push the principle of noise all the way to the plateau of persuasion. They are quite in accord with the procedures of brainwashing."

"American youth attributes much more importance to arriving at driver's-license age than at voting age."

"Good taste is the first refuge of the non-creative. It is the last ditch stand of the artist."

"There are no passengers on Spaceship Planet Earth. Everybody is crew."

"The medium is the message."

"The car has become an article of dress without which we feel uncertain, unclad, and incomplete."

"The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village."

"There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening."

"Only puny secrets need protection. Big discoveries are protected by public incredulity."

"We look at the present through a rearview mirror. We march backwards into the future."

"Invention is the mother of necessities."

"Spaceship Earth is still operated by railway conductors, just as NASA is managed by men with Newtonian goals."

"The trouble with cheap, specialized education is that you never stop paying for it."

"Whereas convictions depend on speed-ups, justice requires delay."

"Mud sometimes gives the illusion of depth."

"The price of eternal vigilance is indifference."

"The answers are always inside the problem, not outside."

"All media as extensions of ourselves serve to provide new transforming vision and awareness. "

"When a thing is current, it creates a currency."

"Art at its most significant is a Distant Early Warning System that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it. "

"The ignorance of how to use knowledge stockpiles exponentially."

"Environments are invisible. Their groundrules, pervasive structure, and overall patterns elude easy perception."

"Politics will be replaced by imagery. The politician will only be too happy to abdicate in favor of his image because the image will be much more powerful than he could ever be."

"Control over change would seem to consist in moving not with it but ahead of it. "

"I don't necessarily agree with everything I say. "

"Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication. "

"The medium, or process, of our time - electric technology - is reshaping and restructuring patterns of social interdependence and every aspect of our personal life. It is forcing us to reconsider and re-evaluate practically every thought, every action, and every institution formerly taken for granted. Everything is changing - you, your family, your neighborhood, your education, your job, your government, your relation to “the others.” And they’re changing dramatically. "

"Those who make a distinction between education and entertainment don't know the first thing about either. "

"Violence is the quest for identity. When identity disappears with technological innovation, violence is the natural recourse."

"Our technology forces us to live mythically."

"Most of our assumptions have outlived their uselessness."

"Theirs is the customary human reaction when confronted with innovation: to flounder about attempting to adapt old responses to new situations or to simply condemn or ignore the harbingers of change--a practice refined by the Chinese emperors, who used to execute messengers bringing bad news. The new technological environments generate the most pain among those least prepared to alter their old value structures. The literati find the new electronic environment far more threatening than do those less committed to literacy as a way of life. When an individual or social group feels that its whole identity is jeopardized by social or psychic change, its natural reaction is to lash out in defensive fury. But for all their lamentations, the revolution has already taken place."

"A fixed point of view becomes possible with print and ends the image as a plastic organism."

"A man's reach must exceed his grasp or what's a metaphor?"

"A commercial society whose members are essentially ascetic and indifferent in social ritual has to be provided with blueprints and specifications for evoking the right tone for every occasion."

"A successful book cannot afford to be more than ten percent new."

"A typewriter is a means of transcribing thought, not expressing it."

"A nomadic society cannot experience enclosed space."

"A theory of cultural change is impossible without knowledge of the changing sense ratios effected by various externalizations of our senses."

"Acoustic space has the basic character of a sphere whose focus or centre is simultaneously everywhere and whose margin is nowhere."

"A moral point of view too often serves as a substitute for understanding in technological matters."

"A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding."

"Ads are the cave art of the twentieth century."

"Acoustic space is totally discontinuous, like touch. It is a sphere without centers or margins."

"Ads represent the main channel of intellectual and artistic effort in the modern world."

"Advertising is the greatest art form of the twentieth century."

"Affluence creates poverty."

"African audiences cannot accept our passive consumer role in the presence of film."

"Advertisements constitute the only 'good news' in the newspaper."