Okay class. First thing I want you to do is watch this video of Marlon Brando. For real. Then come back.

Great stuff, eh? That interview was taped in 1973. Brando admits to being a little “long in the tooth”, but that doesn’t stop him. He wasn’t one to give many interviews, but when he did, gosh, he gave great ones. My husband Greg sent me this last night, and I watched it three or four times. I couldn’t get over the incredible insight Brando had. Remember, this was a good 20 years before the Internet, and about 30 years before social media started to take hold.

We’ve gotta drop format. 

“We’ve gotta drop format”  is one of the best quotes from the whole interview. At first I wasn’t exactly sure what Brando was trying to say (a lot of people have trouble trying to figure out what he was trying to say most of the time, so I guess I’m normal.). But I realized he’s referring to “format”, as being the typical way in which big media operated back then (and I suppose still tries to operate today).

Dropping format means not putting up with the status quo. It means not letting big media and famous people with big voices get all the attention.  (Today, that includes “Internet famous” people too.) He even refers to himself as a “pontificating actor”, and points out that the sound man has just as much right to have his voice heard as anyone else.

Think about that for a minute. Brando is right. We used to get all of our information from the people with the biggest voices, because they were the only ones that had control of the broadcast channels. But that’s all changed. If you have an Internet connection and an idea, you can be a publisher. You can have a voice. You can broadcast your stories to the world.

You can break format. As Steve Jobs might have said, “How cool is that?”.

If somebody disagrees, you gotta speak up. 

How many of you refer to yourselves as “lurkers”? You spend all of your time online listening, and watching. You treat new media like old media – as a consumption-only medium.

The single most amazing thing about the Web is that it’s a many-to-many conversation that you don’t have to simply consume. You can be a contributor. You have as much right as anyone else to participate. You can, and I’d argue you should, speak up. Not just when you disagree, but when you have something to say.

This is our space, our forum, our medium, and McLuhan was right – it’s also the message. This is your chance to find your voice, and all it takes is making the first step – saying hello to someone new, writing 200 or 300 words on your blog, or sharing something that you find interesting. You gotta speak up, as Brando said – because now, your voice can, and will, be heard.

You gotta hear from everybody. 

This is the line I had running over in my brain all night – “If it isn’t a world of dialog and exchange between people….we are in for a helluva lot of trouble.”

It’s not about just listening to the big voices anymore. It’s not about corporations and governments telling us how we can and can’t share information. It’s about each of us taking responsibility for our own thoughts, feelings, ideas, dialog, and opinions, and about being brave and standing up and finding our voice and using it.

I completely agree with Brando. If you only let the big voices do all the talking and sharing and pontificating, then the channel doesn’t thrive. In fact, I think it runs the risk of stagnating, and dissolving back into the old format, where big media dictated what we should see, hear, and experience. And if that happens, we are indeed in for a helluva lot of trouble.

It’s a noisy world out there. But that just means, you need to learn to speak up.

What say you?

2 Responses

  1. Susan,

    You are right and so is Marlon. Retrieving accurate information is almost impossible particularly if it comes from a government or major corporation. One of the many good things about the U.S. is every one has the right to express their opinion no matter how ill-founded in fact it may be.

    You can tell the truth and not provide accurate information. If the speaker makes a statement to another believing the information is true and does not intend to deceive, but the information is inaccurate, the speaker has not lied, has told the truth, but has provided inaccurate information.

    Samuel Clemens said, “If you don’t read a newspaper you are uninformed, if you read one you are misinformed.”

    The difficulty with retrieving information is the skill to determine if the information is accurate, therein lies the sticky wicket.

    With respect,


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