Random Thoughts

A day at B.U.

... notes from a lecture

by Carol Nelson

I attended three lectures at Boston University with a friend this month. The one I found most interesting was given by a young man, Alex Whalen, who spoke for one hour on "Media and the History of Politics in America." He covered 400 years and 20 hours of material in ONE HOUR!

I was brought up to date on the "Confluence of Change" in media beginning in Europe with paper and writing which was discouraged by the Catholic church to curtail reading by the masses. Then typesetting and printing and again an authoritarian control of information.

A "third revolution" in media, now in the United States, was community newspapers begun by Ben Franklin and his brother and were provided free by early convenience stores for the purposes of advertising. Alex Whalen added that Ben's brother signed Ben's name to some pieces he wrote that would cause a stir. This actually was the cause for Benjamin's move to Philadelphia!

The Post Office was also a bright idea of Ben Franklin's. He was the first Postmaster. It was an information network followed by the Stamp Tax in 1760. Thomas Paine wrote "Common Sense" in 1776 of which 150,000 copies were made. It stated that nobody owns information. In 1792 there were 75 post offices and privacy was guaranteed against government violation until WWI.

There were 100 copies made of the Declaration of Independence and disseminated to the people and it was established that self government calls for learning and reading newspapers. Madison held the theory that in the time it took for the news to reach people there would be opportunity to ponder problems and to arrive at  good decisions. The good would win out over the bad, given time.

Newspapers took up the causes of political parties: the Whigs and the Republicans, actually created the two party system.

The telegraph sped up the flow of information faster than it could travel before.

Alex Whalen spoke of immigration which dwarfed current numbers, interest groups, competition and the telephone which decentralized all information. He talked about radio, F.D.R. and the Fireside Chats, the depression, and WWII.

Television brought about images of the news and expansive, simultaneous information. Cable television brought about fragmentation, campaigns, polls and the "selling of the presidency."

The internet connects the masses and shares information as never before. Costs plummeted. "INFORMATION WANTS TO BE FREE!" It is impossible to control, without spatial boundaries, stored forever, speedy, flexible, diverse, past bureaucratic politics and attainable by anyone.

The change we need has already arrived bringing a new era of inspiration and new politics!

Thank you Alex Whalen!

September 5, 2008

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