Friday, August 20, 2004

Blogs: The 21st Century Pamphlet

Frederick Turner explains how the major newspapers and networks have lost their credibility and offers hope for the going back to the past.
But for a while most of us felt that we had an established press whose canons, techniques, competition, and honorable tradition gave us news that was fairly reliable and when in error, honestly so, or at least the result of the coarsening and immediacy implicit in the medium. That trust is gone -- not just among Republicans and conservatives, but as the polls show, among Democrats, Independents, and liberals as well. It was bad luck for the Gray Ladies that their minions chose to break the tradition of trust just at the moment that powerful new media emerged from the boiling ferment of electronic technology, and that alternatives now exist. It may be that the old media are now self-destructing, and that like the medieval Vatican, the Ching Dynasty, the Holy Roman Empire, the French Academy, the Victorian Church of England, and the Communist Party, they are losing their hard-won authority because of wanton abuse.

So we set out now, like Adam and Eve at the end of Milton's great poem on the Fall, into a new informational world, a new period of history where we cannot rely on journalistic authority and have no guide as to what to believe. It is a fallen world, but it has a certain excitement. For we may now start learning about the current world from each other -- from Chinese or Iraqi or Israeli or Indian or Persian or Spanish or U.S. eyewitnesses, from bloggers and friends on the telephone and radio callers whose trustworthiness we must judge on our own -- just as we did before the great nineteenth and twentieth century newspapers came along.

Perhaps we could put it in an even more radical way. As such institutions as coffee-houses, town meetings, old fashioned barber shops, primary caucuses, soap box gatherings, debates, and suchlike fell into disuse, and the networks and newspapers took over, the Public itself began to disappear, to be replaced by a segmented demographic mass swayed by centralized journalistic voices and shaped by polls. What is now happening is that rather swiftly a new Public is forming, self-organizing around Google and link lists and blog chatrooms. And it will demand a new Res Publica.

He alludes to how Blogs are essentially a modern version of "pamphleteering." Not the first to do so, I might add. Which is further proof that not many ever have an original idea. Ever since reading Bernard Bailyn's Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, I had equated blogs with those Revolutionary era pamphlets. I'd urge all to read both the aforementioned post (by Dan Bricklin) and Bailyn's book. It appears we bloggers have simply relit the torch our forefathers used to explain and contextualize the evolving relationship between America and Great Britain in the 18th century. Indeed, it is the very lifeblood of our nation for citizens to offer commentary. When the founders guaranteed the Freedom of the Press, they weren't referring to just newspapers: many had been coaxed toward revolution by the words of the pamphleteers. They recognized the power of the pamphlet and how vital they had been in inspiring the Revolution. It seems that the major media had better acknowledge the power of the blog, the pamphlet of the 21st century. If they won't tell the whole truth, they will be eclipsed by those who will while acknowledging the biases they hold.

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