Rathergate anniversary - 82 days and counting
Click here, here and here for previous posts on the Rathergate anniversary countdown.
The new media and the freedom that it brings kicked into high gear on September 8, 2004, but there were always plenty of commentators who foresaw the liberating possibilities that the new media could bring. Joe Sobran wrote the following on March 4, 1997:
The mass media have spread the assumption that fads can be moral imperatives. They create an illusory world in which the past hardly exists, especially the Christian past.March 4, 1997
Those media are less useful for communication, in the sense of conversational give-and-take, than for propaganda. The rise of mass media has proved especially useful for tyrants who are determined to obliterate historical memory and create masses of manipulable people, as Stalin used his media monopoly to rewrite history and science.
Just as freedom depends on keeping political power carefully divided, it requires media that are not only independent but diverse. In the recent era of media giants -- when three networks dominated the airwaves -- ideological diversity was minimal. We're now moving into an era of media fragmentation, for which we should be deeply grateful. It means the end of the liberal opinion cartel.
CBS' "60 Minutes" recently ran a short piece about alarming myths propagated on the Internet. But the great virtue of the Internet, as opposed to the big networks, is that anyone can get a piece of the action. You can actually talk back, contradict, argue, without buying your own network. There is far more interaction -- real communication -- than was ever possible on the big networks. On the Internet, falsehood is harder to spread, and easier to correct, than on the centralized media of the recent past.
John Henry Newman, a 19th-century Anglican who converted to Catholicism (and eventually became a cardinal), observed that during the Arian heresy of the fourth century, the church's elite, including most bishops, had largely embraced Arianism. It was the laity who defended orthodoxy and finally prevailed.
In the same way, the grassroots media are now rising up against the elite media. Of course the new media have their own absurd fads, but because of the actual diversity of those media -- and we all want "diversity," don't we? -- absurdity can't get a monopoly. Just as important, it can't create the illusion of consensus. To listen to some of the network talk shows, you'd think America was populated exclusively by liberals (and "responsible" conservatives who might as well be liberals).
The real trouble with the media age is that there haven't been enough media. Fortunately, that's no longer true. And liberal fads are no longer likely to pass for "official" truths.