Ideology, revolutions, and media culture go hand-in-hand. Before the printing press, information transmission was glacial, and all conflicts were local conflicts. Even big, seemingly ideological movements like the Crusades have been convincingly portrayed as “inventions” — historians’ shorthand for diffuse, superficially correlated movements that appear much more interrelated in hindsight than they actually were, and that the writing of history itself helps to construct (see also “Gnosticism,” the “Hundred Years’ War,” etc.). Protestantism is the obvious example of media’s effect. Had it not been for the printing press, Luther’s theses would’ve remained what he insisted they were — “a learned dispute between monks.” Back when schools actually taught history, that was taken as read, along with the idea that “a vigorous print culture” was one of the key factors behind the English Civil War, the American Revolution, the French and Russian Revolutions, etc. (Russia was so “backward” vis-a-vis the West, its development of print culture so recent, that a novel has been blamed for lots of its 19th century turmoil — What Is to Be Done?, by Nicolai Chernyshevsky (later turned into murder manual of the same title by V.I. Lenin)). No media culture, no revolution.
That said, how’s American media culture doing these days?
There are no obvious historical parallels, as we’ve never seen a free press prostitute itself so completely before. Speaking of “inventions” in the historian’s sense, a “free press” is a pretty recent one, and the idea of an “objective” media took root in living memory. Ask your grandma — even small cities and large towns used to have three or four newspapers, all nakedly partisan. You’d have your Republican Post-Intelligencer, your Democrat Times-Picayune, and often an immigrant-oriented paper written in the old country’s language, plus a “Negro” paper in any town with more than four black residents. It kept everyone relatively honest, as you could always count on the enemy’s newspaper snooping around, and retaliation for any misdeed was guaranteed.
But, of course, the “”””Progressives”””” got ahold of it, Gramsci-style, and did what they always do. They proclaimed their perspective the only “objective” — and therefore, only legitimate — one, slapped an academic credential on it, and began infiltrating their newly-degreed saboteurs into every newsroom in America. When ordinary Soviets joked that “there’s no news in the truth, and no truth in the news,” they were punning on two media outlets that had always been under the Party’s control.* Our newspapers volunteered to censor themselves, and our “journalists” wouldn’t admit (publicly) to being Party organs if you waterboarded them. They insist they’re defending the Truth — “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” as the National Laughingstock puts it, in a phrase that’s so quintessentially MiniTrue George Orwell’s ghost must be kicking himself for not thinking of it.
What happens now? There’s truth out there, and real news, too… but where? More importantly, do things like Gab have any legitimacy among the masses? Who reads them, and of the readers, who, if anyone, is prepared to act? All the Revolutionaries in Boston in 1775 read Franklin’s broadsheets, and the Jacobin clubs of Paris all had their dedicated newspapers. You can find out what the New Model Army was thinking by reading its pamphlets. Do we have any Jacobins? Are the various “Alt-Right” (whatever that means today) websites the equivalent of samizdat? Most importantly, does anyone capable of doing anything read them? (Remember, it wasn’t Ivan Sixpack who overthrew the USSR, but pro-Yeltsin armor officers).
I don’t know, and I have no idea how to find out. If someone does, though, please do. If there’s hope, it lies with the proles… provided they actually know anything, and care about what they know.
*Izvestia was a Soviet propaganda sheet whose name meant “news;” Pravda, the other Soviet propaganda sheet, means “truth.”Loading Likes...