Issue 20 : Spring 2011









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McLuhan & WikiLeaks:
'Hoedown' and 'Hendiadys'

by Gerry Fialka

15 Feb 1911

THIS ESSAY IS A MESS'SAY. READ IT LIKE YOU ARE DANCING TO YOUR favorite song. Free your ass, and your mind will follow. Consult, speculate, brainstorm, unlearn, argue, gossip, rethink, perceive. I aspire to inspire you to interconnect the following mess. Weed through these quotes. Can pattern recognition lead to comprehensive awareness (the big picture) with suspended judgment? Then what? More apps? We seem to be verbs. As I mirror McLuhan and WikiLeaks' memes, let's boogie the conversation as an extended Dance Mix.

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

This McLuhan probe from his 1972 book Take Today: The Executive as Drop-Out partners understanding and relationships of hidden environments. Consider not embracing something new until you understand what its hidden environments are doing to you.

Inspired by WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange's term "information activist," I aspire to be an epiphany activist. I am a wikiwhatever whitewash whistleblower wanna-bee. Why does the bee humm? Because it doesn't know the words. We are using words hEAR. And as McLuhan proclaimed: "The word is now the cheapest and most universal drug." Shimmy shake that fine line between public interest and moral indefensability. Twist and shout new radical interpretations of how public interest is served (a better verb here?) by journalism. "Now is the time" -MLK.

Marshall McLuhan created music of the future at the original 1970 MESS (McLuhan Emergency Strategy Seminar) along with Buckminster "Synergy" Fuller, Mary Jane "Spliteracy" Shoultz and Ted "They Become What They Behold" Carpenter, all of whom stressed that breakdowns can be breakthroughs. So get up on the down stroke. Jump back and kiss your own credibility. I started my own MESS (Media Ecology Soul Salon) in 1997 to probe how electric and digital media "transform every sense ratio and thus recondition and restructure all our values and institutions." - McLuhan. Choreograph the metaphysics of our callings and the nitty-gritty of our inventions.

'Hendiadys' is the expression of a single complex idea by two words connected with 'and.' In Latin it means "one by means of two." It usually is a noun plus an adjective turned into two nouns. For example, 'furious sound' becomes 'the sound and the fury.' The word 'hoedown' doubles effects-before-causes. Hoedown means "noisy dance." It came from the perceived parallel of dance motions to those doing the farm chores, as in double-trouble. Just what Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks crew are doing - the two-step cake-walk. They emulate the metaphor of para-environments caused by the Freedom of Information Act, the [American] government's own version of WikiLeaks. One of the crucial differences is the speed of release. We already have 9 million documents to bust the government. Do we need 9,000 more? There's 9 million stories in the Naked City. Are we addicted to content? McLuhan learned from T.S. Eliot that the guard dog can be distracted by a juicy chunk of meat (content). Is Julian, like Marshall, turning on the alarm, not starting the fire?

Many questions arise from not-for-profit WikiLeaks information activism. Julian's motive is to start dialogue and disrupt patterns. Jailed associate Bradley Manning's chat log reinforced the goals: "Hopefully worldwide discussion, debate and reforms." But, carefully survey the services and disservices of WikLeaks. It has caused governments to increase clampdowns and censorship. It uncovers diplomacy mistakes and shows off diplomacy skills. It can clog up and free up intelligence sharing. MacNamara spoke about whomever wins writes the history. Break dance entertainment as a branch of politics into two ! Sputnik turned us into actors in the global theater as WikiLeaks transforms us into playwrights, publicists and theater/movie critics. How is it causing new storytelling methods? New drama of being and perception? New language?

James "Let us pry" Joyce leaked Finnegans Wake in 1939, maybe the first WikiLeak. He poeticized 'hendiadys' on page 95: "all the twitterings and the raspings and the pure craig." The British secret police studied the Wake'scontent for hidden secrets. "Make the secrets productive" yelled Joseph Beuys, who wanted to transform society with art. He also wrote a whole new chapter to the Wake. Beuys felt everyone is an artist, evoking the Wake's protagonist - HCE (Here Comes Everybody). The Balinese have no word for art. They do everything as well as they can. Most people are pushed into the artist's role. The artist cannot dispense with the principle of 'doubleness' or 'interplay' because this type of 'hendiadys' dialogue is essential to the very structure of consciousness, awareness, and autonomy.

Gandhi's admonition: "It is as much our moral obligation not to cooperate with evil as it is to cooperate with good."

Who are the moral police? Inside your own head or others? Or both? To whom can I say what I think? How's the hoedowning going, homey? 'Hendiadys' is a figure of speech used for emphasis! Menippean masher Robert "Sarah is already the US President" Dobbs tinkle toes: "Since McLuhan defined 'metaphor' as the act of looking at one situation through another, each situation constitutive of figure-ground interplay (a concept borrowed from Gestalt psychology), then a metaphor was an instance of mixed media, or two figure-grounds. And so was consciousness - because of its essential subjective experience as doubleness, which is doubled again as the objective effect of its autonomous interplay with other consciousness." Dobbs updates Warhol's aphorism: "In the future everyone will have privacy for 15 minutes." 15 minutes of shame?

"Publication is a self-invasion of privacy" -McLuhan.

Marcel Proust asked "on what occasion do you lie?" The hidden grounds on the figure of WikiLeaks are the issues of secrecy, journalism, privacy, diplomacy, newspapers, Internet and the truth vs the lie. Got more? Do you think keeping silent is the right thing to do? Does it make you an accomplice? Does acknowledging your enemy empower them? Geoff Olson wrote in Common Ground: "As yet, critics have produced no evidence to support the contention that 'WikiLeaks endangers lives.' It might be more accurate to say WikiLeaks endangers lies." Boogaloo da Beltway. A half of leak is still alot of a leak.

"All lies are simulations because they seem to be like the facts they are covering and completely distorting; and all simulations, exactly because they're verisimilar, because they copy but impoverish the reality of experience, are lies, as Plato has already taught us." - Massimo A. Bonfantini.

Can you 'cognitus interruptus' your double binding addiction to the drama of cognition and recognition? (Study Gregory Bateson's double bind theory.) The difference that makes the difference? The meaning of meaning? Consult the Pollstergeists.

So, Daniel "I am WikiLeaks" Ellsberg signed secrecy agreements. He had an epiphany: "my life had split in two." Frank Zappa yelped about one plus one equaling eleven, two plus two equaling twenty-two. Ellsberg decided to do the civil disobedience dance. He proclaimed "would you go to prison to end war?" Do you have to work within the system in order to change it, as Zappa said. Subvert from within. Pump up da sound and da fury.

All art aspires to the condition of music. "Artists are engaged in writing a detailed history of the future because they are the only people who live in the present." - Wyndham Lewis. As the old Commie joke goes: "We cannot predict the future but the past is changing before our very eyes." So when Jean Cocteau claimed that "art is science made clear" was he "effects-precede-causing" Julian Assange's new coining of "scientific journalism?" McLuhan's Laws of Media Tetrad was called the new science. I welcome your input on a WikiLeaks Tetrad:

1) What does WikiLeaks enhance or intensify?
2) What does WikiLeaks render obsolete or replace?
3) What does WikiLeaks bring back that was previously obsolesced?
4) What does WikiLeaks become when pressed to an extreme, what does it flip into?

In response to the Academy of Motion Pictures nominating activist Josh Fox's Gasland documentary, the Gas Company told the Oscars to stick to art and stay away from science. Fancy foot workin' the hybridizations? McLuhan recommends to study advertising. So "po-mo-de-con" struck the new perfume ad: "Now, Aura is our science." Kiss my aura, door ah perception!

McLuhan said: "World War III will be a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation."

Marshall McLuhan knew that words evoke more than their meaning. When he repurposed Ashley Montagu's "The Method is the Message" to come up with his most famous aphorism "the medium is the message," he was proclaiming much more that what appears in those five words. The medium is the MASSAGE, the medium is the MESSAGE, the medium is the MASS age, the medium is the MESS age, the medium is the ME SAGE, the ME DIE UM is the message. Got more?

Can we tell the dance from the dancer? Back to the MESS hall: Bradley Manning's "I've made a huge mess"... Jack LaLanne's "I was a mess"....Girl "Gregg Gillis" Talk's "I don't want it to be ironic, What it comes down to is being a fan of all this music. I just thought that it could all share one roof and be this really interesting mess." Gimme that fun-key drummer beat. Can we share Rainer Maria Rilke's dream of playing phonographically the seams of the skull - two different hemispheres of the brain? Doin' the doubleness rag! Back to the "Big Mac CLUE hand," who wrote in 1977 that media ecology "means arranging various media to help each other so they won't cancel each other out, to buttress one medium with another. You might say, for example, that radio is a bigger help to literacy than television, but television might be a very wonderful aid to teaching languages. And so you can do some things on some media that you cannot do on others. And, therefore, if you watch the whole field, you can prevent this waste that comes by one canceling the other out." I've got jam on my knees, and I'm ready to spread the negentropy. Robert Dobbs reinvents: "The real meaning of media ecology for me was not to turn media off and go back, rather it was a means to move forward and keep the non-entropic process happening." Poet and politician Dobbs understands how and why Marshall mimed the "CIA world" in the Sixties, and talked about using the computer as a global thermostat. Is the dance floor is gettin' too hot to handle? Dobbs cries out "ambiguity is a sign of human maturity" as Malcolm Gladwell says "It is not just that secrets themselves are hard to fact-check; it's that their interpretation is inherently ambiguous." Jaron Lanier, who played with Ornette Coleman and George Clinton, spouts "Information systems need to have information in order to run, but information under represents reality." Zadie Smith twirls: "One nation under a format." Getting down just for the funk of it.

"I should prefer to de-fuse this gigantic human bomb by starting a dialogue somewhere on the side-lines to distract the trigger-men, or to needle the somnambulists." - McLuhan '55.

In the N.Y. Times, David "The Codebreakers" Kahn retrieved a rear-view- mirroristic quote from the 17th century: "A diplomat is an honest man sent abroad to lie for his country." So put on your dancing shoes, the ones labeled TSA (Tactile Situational Awareness), used at the center of the cyclone. Da shit done hit da fan. Before we all go de-teching and outsourcing self-control, think about how McLuhan extended Mallarme's "To define is to kill, to suggest is to create" to "[evolve is to adapt] to exploration."
Emma Goldman pranced the importance of dance with revolution. So get up offa that thang and try and release the pressure (and some more documents?). Special thanks to Suzy "Enjoy The Ride" Williams, George "Tear the Woof Off the Sucker" Clinton, Parliament-Funkadelic, James "too black to be white" Brown and James Joyce's (who invented FaceHook and disguised it as a book) "To funk is the only peternatural its daring feers divine. Bebold!" Leakin' all over the leaks. "I'm anti-anti-WikiLeaks." - James Lileks.

"PRESS: Government by News Leak" - chapter title in McLuhan's 1964 book Understanding Media.

My meaning has merged with the method (which rests on metaphor) to generate insight, not to establish classifications. Pas de deux your attention to the rhetorical trope (or dance troupe) of 'hendiadys' that McLuhan wrote in Cliche to Archetype: "there is doublets." Years later, Richard Cavell, in his book McLuhan in Space, emphasized: "The notion that all knowing is binary thought."

Please send Gerry Fialka your feedback and feedforward via blog: or email- - or phone 310-306-7330 or visit: or dance. Phew!

"Drop this jiggery-pokery and talk straight turkey" - McLuhan's 12 inch album The Medium is The Massage

Related Links and Credits

All images courtesy of:

Additional McLuhan at:
McLuhan on Video Talks

New Suzy Williams song dedicated to Gasland