Was the Rolling Stones 1969 Hyde Park Concert crafted using McLuhan’s ideas?

Was this concert crafted using McLuhan’s ideas? Or, is it as it appears, a prime example of a return to tribalism via electronic media? Early in the video, Mick Jagger even speaks about the audience as participants.

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As far as I am able to determine, there is nothing documented that indicates The Rolling Stones were consciously crafting the Hyde Park concert around your father’s ideas. As artists, they were certainly responding to the cultural trends that constituted the focus of his work, so I can understand how it might seem that way. That being said, I did find the following interesting reference to the counter-culture in the Marchand biography.

“If McLuhan was unhappy about the assault on the Church by theological revolutionaries, he was not particularly pleased about the use of his work by cultural revolutionaries such as Abbie Hoffman, who in 1968 was saying, “The Left is too much into Marx, not enough into McLuhan.” When Hoffman published his Revolution for the Hell of It in 1968, McLuhan regarded it simply as a manifesto for the new tribalism. What was absurd, according to McLuhan, was that Hoffman seemed to think it meritorious to embrace this tribalism, when such embrace was almost as automatic, in the new electronic environment, as taking off one’s sweater in a warm room.” (Marchand, 1989, 206-207)

It seems reasonable to assume that the Stones were reading Hoffman and may well have been avid McLuhan-ites. I will certainly ask them if I ever get the chance! By the way, I particularly liked how the automatic nature of the tribal embrace was an issue for [McLuhan]. This makes perfect sense, since he stressed the need to observe the effects, and potential dangers, of new media environments. The tragedy of Altamont, only five months after Hyde Park, would seem to bear this out.

Thomas MacFarlane
Author of The Beatles and McLuhan, Understanding The Electric Age

Screen reading and literacy

New York Times Web Site with video ad

A hypothesis for investigation is that screen reading is an impediment to understanding. Conventional reading develops distinction and concentration. Reading on displays tends to confusion and distraction.

Eric McLuhan’s Fordham Experiment with film (albeit more of a demonstration) seems to show that light on, light through alone is significant. And that would just be comparing reading on a paper page versus an eReader.

At a major newspaper’s Site, there might very well be animated popup ads demanding attention, flavoring the experience more like the Star Wars cantina than a library. And there’s no location at a newspaper Web Site. In the paper copy, news, opinion, sports are in different neighborhoods, immediately indicating value and relevance. Online, everything and anything resides in the same one click away long house. With print reading, everyone is literally on the same page; the physical experience is identical for all. Published through the Internet, text differs according to screen size, specs and configuration. For Online reading, it’s very likely that ads and suggested Pages will vary from user to user.

A high level of literacy was an important factor in the American Revolution. Any George III of the future will be secure in knowing that when his Thomas Paine writes Common Sense, very few will even try to read it on a small screen. And for most of those that do make the attempt, something will appear over to the side about an actress in a bikini and that’ll be that.