Most everyone knows by now that it was the late Marshall McLuhan who told us that “the medium is the message” and who also first alerted us to the emergence of the “global village.” He is widely recognized as a communication and media theorist of abiding significance and among the most astute observers of our technological age. Not surprisingly, in its 1993 debut issue, Wired magazine adopted McLuhan as its patron saint .
Depending on how familiar one is with McLuhan, however, the following exchange from an interview he gave in 1966 may be a bit surprising:
Fulford: What kind of a world would you rather live in? Is there a period in the past or a possible period in the future you’d rather be in?
McLuhan: No, I’d rather be in any period at all as long as people are going to leave it alone for a while.
Fulford: But they’re not going to, are they?
McLuhan: No, and so the only alternative is to understand everything that is going on, and then neutralize it as much as possible, turn off as many buttons as you can, and frustrate them as much as you can. I am resolutely opposed to all innovation, all change, but I am determined to understand what’s happening because I don’t choose just to sit and let the juggernaut roll over me. Many people seem to think that if you talk about something recent, you’re in favor of it. The exact opposite is true in my case. Anything I talk about is almost certainly to be something I’m resolutely against, and it seems to me the best way of opposing it is to understand it, and then you know where to turn off the button.
(Understanding Me: Lectures and Interviews, 101-102)