On December 27, I posted “Marshall McLuhan — Brilliant Analyst, Prophet and Gravedigger?” Keith Spillett responded in a separate blog posting on December 30:
Koch’s post is utterly insane. The “unscholarly probes” argument rears it’s ugly head again! Basically, this is a criticism of McLuhan for not knowing exactly which one of his insights would bare out over time. The problem with being right as much as McLuhan was is people, like Koch, want to take shots at you on the occasions that you aren’t. McLuhan wasn’t an oracle looking into a crystal ball, he was a brilliant man trying to understand the human condition. The sarcastic rip at McLuhan for “telling jokes” is a dig at his being accessible to non-academics, which apparently in Koch’s opinion is a horrible transgression. So, basically, Koch spent a paragraph criticizing McLuhan for being occasionally wrong and an excellent writer.
Instead of weakening McLuhan’s case, he illustrates another example of what McLuhan was up against. You made that point vividly when you wrote “such misunderstandings sometimes originate from those who seem to be locked in a disappearing print culture, with its sequential and linear forms which leave such observers unable to comprehend the evolving digital media ecology.” The evolution from one media form to another is what Koch likes to refer to as “dumbing down.”
The coup de grace of the piece is Koch’s “probe” about McLuhan being responsible for a half century of human de-evolution. The sheer absurdity of that statement is remarkable. Koch tries to be sneaky here and hide behind a question mark, but it’s clear that his point is to somehow tie McLuhan’s work to some intellectual apocalypse that has befallen the universe. Talk about shooting the messenger!
A story written in 2008 by Eric Koch that relates directly to understanding McLuhan has been posted on the Stories page.