11 April 2019, The Tablet

McLuhan and Trudeau: Faithful icons of the electronic age

McLuhan and Trudeau: Faithful icons of the electronic age

Marshall McLuhan, Pierre Trudeau


Philosopher and media guru Marshall McLuhan and political radical and premier of Canada Pierre Trudeau shared a deep friendship in the 1960s and 1970s, underpinned by their commitment to their Catholicism, as revealed in a newly published collection of their letters

There was a time when a communications genius and a political genius – both Catholic and both devout in their way – could address issues of shared concern through the filter of faith. The launch last month in Toronto of Been Hoping We Might Meet Again: The Letters of Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Marshall McLuhan, annotated by the journalist Elaine Kahn, provides a nostalgic reminder that the lively, personal exchange between two public figures for whom their Catholic faith was constitutive of their life and vocation was, if not conventional, both possible and plausible.

Herbert Marshall McLuhan, an often ruffled and eccentric English literature professor with a doctorate from Cambridge on James Joyce, an unrivalled theorist of technology and communications, a darling of Wall Street advertisers, a cameo performer in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, and a prognosticator in the caste of a Cassandra, was also a theologically uninventive Catholic with a love of G.K. Chesterton, a daily communicant who would end his undergraduate class at St Michael’s College, University of Toronto, early to attend Mass; and a surprisingly close reader of papal polity.

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