http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOBJ8HQ2V70 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPiDfZVyXXY&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6eJyth8Dvo&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvATW2nfYZg&NR=1 Marshall McLuhan had ideas. They leaped, skittered and frisked. Often the ideas were expressed in impenetrable prose, and sometimes, when examined, they turned out not to be ideas but whimsies. Usually, however, something was there. Mr. McLuhan, who died in 1980, is the subject of ''Marshall McLuhan: The Man and His Message,'' a thoroughly rewarding documentary on Channel 13 at 10 tonight.
Mr. McLuhan, as Tom Wolfe, the documentary host, reminds us, was ''the seer of the 1960's.'' Indeed he was, with his fame enshrined in aphorisms and one-liners: ''The medium is the message,'' ''The world is a global village,'' ''Cool is involving, hot is not.'' But dismiss him only as an aphorist and you miss the point: He told us what the electronic media were doing.
Thus the documentary gives us Mr. McLuhan lecturing, crticizing and analyzing, even if loftily. In a 1974 film clip, he says that Homer sprang from the oral tradition and that Plato, literacy and ritualized education wiped him out. Now, he says, we once again live in an acoustic age. Phonetic literacy weakens, and rock becomes a form of education.
Listen carefully to the documentary then. When Mr. McLuhan mentions rock, a listener, presumably young, applauds. Mr. McLuhan seems to notice. Scarcely missing a beat, he notes that in the new world of electronic media, civilization surrenders to tribalism, while private identity gives way to corporate sanction. One wonders what he would think of music video.
Mr. Wolfe notes that Mr. McLuhan, a Canadian academic, loved publicity and celebrity status. Actually, this sometimes made it easy to dismiss him. In the 60's, a new celebrity arose every