Monday, November 14, 2005
The Evolution of Media, The Supreme Court & Rights
An article addressing many of the same issues as this but in much more detail is currently on http://www.americanchronicle.com. That one is a lot longer, but very interesting to read. It actually reminded me that I can write more than opinion. In it, I actually debate myself.... and didn't do a bad job at it, either!
Media evolution is a remarkably fascinating phenomenon that has been a vital, yet often unappreciated catalyst in the development of the world as we know it. Beginning with the use of hieroglyphics by ancient Egyptian Priests and progressing to present day high speed internet and satellite communications, the fundamental benefits and drawbacks of each age of media progression have had remarkably similar characteristics.
The use of symbols to communicate with the masses was gradually replaced by persons of a region learning to orally interpret the words of others. This development facilitated trade and the spread of information from one location to another. When the first books were authored, most people did not have access to them because the original was used simply to hand scribe copies and then placed into libraries for posterity. This wasn’t a problem because only a select few extremely privileged members of a society were able to read. Consequently, they had the power to reign over all others because they controlled the flow of information.
Johannes Gutenburg invented the first movable type printing process in 1450, which marked the beginning of mass media. With Gutenberg’s invention he mass produced copies of The Holy Bible, and more people began to have access to the written word and realize the importance of the information that accompanied it. This advance eventually led to society understanding and discussing events that affected them and eventually gave rise to an affordable and effective way to question authority.
During the reign of Charles I of England, pamphlets were mass produced and used to inform great numbers of people of dissenting opinions regarding the way the crown was being worn. This eventually led to the English Revolution followed by the onset of an industrial revolution. Societies became an increasingly knowledgeable and opinionated force to be reckoned with. In an attempt to quiet the voices, censorship and selective taxation were born. Throughout history, the use of these tactics will prove to be ineffective in quieting the voices of dissention.
Pamphlets were once again used in early America to communicate political and theological ideologies to the masses and were met with the same attempts at censorship, but to no avail. Printing presses were few and far between in the Colonies, but the masses did have a medium to inform them.
As America grew, railroads ventured into the west and along with them went the telegraph line. By this time, there was no stopping the information snowball that was avalanching into political reform and accountability. This was followed by the invention of the telephone, soon to be followed by the transmission of radio waves, and once again, a government that didn’t appreciate the public having a voice.
Federal regulations were enacted that gave the Government an upper hand in controlling what could be and what couldn’t be done with this technology. Although the First Amendment had been in place for nearly 130 years, the Sedition Act in 1918 stomped all over the rights of the public to speak freely and the press to print what they deemed worthy. Society was threatened with prosecution if they publicly opined negatively about the powers that were. With the onset of television, this was once again repeated in the form of Senator Joseph McCarthy.
Today we live in a world with high speed internet access, satellite imagery and fiber optic networks spanning the globe. These advances allow the world to see the world as it is happening. If the people in power could be trusted to be honest and sensible to the people they are responsible to, the media and society would flourish. To society, much of this technology has contributed to living a life of increasing ease. Unfortunately, this same technology contributes greatly to what many would refer to as the social degradation of American culture. Americans are lazier and fatter than ever and expect instant gratification of their wants and needs. The ethical standards of journalists and political figures are constantly challenged by the ease with which they can manipulate the public view of the worlds’ situation. And where will it all end?
The media has evolved into a potential bridge to a future filled with promise, or an instrument of propaganda that could be wielded by the arms of politics and corporate America to benefit the few. History has shown us that the words of the constitution have often been slanted to benefit the people of influence and power. The public must be the element that propels advances in technology toward a respectable future rooted in integrity. They need to cut through the rhetoric and decide what is acceptable and what is not in media development and behavior. If society doesn’t demand their rights as written in The U.S. Constitution and insist on total honesty and integrity from governing bodies, I fear that all of this magnificent progress in the media will have been irrelevant.