The Powerful, Monied, Elite vs the Internet, Twitter, And the Masses. [180*2]
THE FACE OF THE POWERFUL, MONIED, and ELITE
IF YOU DON'T HAVE SIRIUS/XM radio, you should seriously think about getting it so you can tune into channel 124, POTUS - Politics of the United States for the People of the United States. It is unquestionably the most unbiased political show around. I fully admit that most of the hosts bear to the left, but, that apparently doesn't make much difference for they seem to go out of their way to bring on guests from the right. It is also their style, unlike the rest of thier cohorts, including CNN, to not badger the guests but to let them speak their minds without inserting their own political views.
It so happens that I recently turned on POTUS just in time to hear a guest speaking of pyramids and social media. It turns out, the reason they were talking about this subject was the massive use of Twitter in the Israeli-Palestinian flare-up in Nov 2012 and how this phenomenon potentially influenced the course of the conflict. The discussion, of course, was about the larger issue of the how much the various forms of social media are changing society, specifically, the relationship between those with power and those without power.
A TRIP BACK IN TIME
FLASH BACKWARDS 20 YEARS to an auditorium at Maxwell AFB, AL; I was attending Air War College and it was nearing the end of the course. They were presenting a series of guest lecturers on a range of subjects; one was Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Colin Powell, after which I became a huge fan, and still am, in spite of his terrible performance one day at the U.N. Another speaker, whose name I no longer recall, was a "futurist". What he did for a living was to think about what the world might look like in 10 or 20 years. The interesting thing is he spoke about roughly the same thing I was listening on POTUS, except his discussion was in the future tense and not about current events.
There wasn't any publicly available Internet then, we had only received our first computer, the Z-100, in our office in the Summer of 1985; it was now the Spring of 1992. In a couple of years I would be at a briefing by an engineer from GE, I believe, or maybe it was Westinghouse, anyway, he was telling the audience that science has about reached its limit on miniaturization of integrated circuit wires at two micrometers wide; it was physically impossible to manufacture anything smaller than that for a host of reasons. Obviously he was wrong; if he hadn't been, there wouldn't be any Twitter today.
The one part of the speakers presentation in 1992 which I remember is his comments regarding the impact the Internet will have on society and the relationship between the mighty and the masses. He pointed out, correctly, that one way the mighty stay mighty is through the control of information. The few could, for the most part, determine what made it into the public forum or not. That is why the free press, unbiased or not, is so critical in maintaining any sort check on the powerful and is a protector of individual and societal liberty.
THE MIDDLE MEN
PRIOR TO THE COMMERCIALIZATION of the news in the 1980s and 1990s, newspaper and television news reporting was relatively free to actually ferret out and report the news. ABC, NBC, and CBS were relatively reliable news sources as were many major newspapers. In fact, while the newspapers often reflected the political bias of their owners, especially in their editorials, not so much in the straight news, the TV news tried to remain unbiased all-around; it was basically not-for-profit and was, believe it or not, respected. Not so today. The profit motive entered news reporting, especially television, and like with health care, the quality of news tumbled, people started sneering at it, or at least I did; they began to distrust what was being said.
Then enter Richard Murdock and Fox News, with "all the news I want you to hear, my way." With the deregulation of the media industry and the introduction of cable, people like Murdock, with very strong political views and agenda's, began buying up news outlets. In doing so, Murdock could control the message to reflect his personal political agenda, a thing the regulations were once there to prevent; they don't any more however, all in the name of laissez-faire. Now Murdock represents the hard Right of the political spectrum and Fox News is his symbol of that for television journalism in America. I don't know who owns MSNBC, but they accomplish the same purpose on the Left. I also don't know if the owners of MSNBC control as extensive an outlet network as Murdock does, but to think they might scares the bejeezus out of me.
Audiences peeled away from the broadcast channels, who were still somewhat regulated, and the networks fought back by turning their news shows into entertainment performances as well. Real news declined and sound-bites increased. True interviews went to the sidelines as "gotcha" journalism gained, and kept, popularity. The only exception to this was CNN, when it first started, and it was wildly successful. All the time, in the background, while the quality of news reporting was in decline, the Internet was maturing - with the help of Al Gore, of course (he really did, you know, by pushing through various bills in Congress that facilitated the growth of the Internet).
ENTER THE INTERNET
THE INTERNET BEGAN ITS RAPID GROWTH in the public sphere after 1995 when the last bar to commercialization was removed. By 2000, Internet traffic was expanding by 100% per year and users between 20 and 50% per year. Today, the number of users is estimated to be 1/3 of the world's population.
The speaker, in 1992, predicted that as the Internet grows, the power of people like Murdock decreases because they are losing control of information. The Internet, he said, will by-pass the normal channels of information distribution and the masses will have direct access to the news makers themselves. That was then, this is now. Today, the world can listen in, in real time, over Twitter as the combatants in the latest Hamas-Israeli conflict taunt and argue with each other ... unreal.
IMPACT ON POLITICS
THE SPEAKER, IN 2012, used that example and others, such as the instant knowledge across America that President Obama had flunked his first debate ... before the debate was even over! or what Mitt Romney really thought of 47% of Americans; it changed perceptions dramatically. In Obama's case, the political pundits and talking heads were by-passed completely and they had to play catch-up, as did Obama. But with Romney, there was no way to hide what he said, or the way he said it, as was possible in the past; it was out there and going viral, something that might not have happened if there had only been print media or just a photo. Is it possible this exposure of true feelings may have cost Romney an election because a large portion of the 47% he mentioned that he was "writing off" were conservative Republicans who had planned on voting for him?
IMPACT IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR AND WORLD EVENTS
NOT ONLY IS SOCIAL MEDIA having an impact in the political arena, it is working its magic in the private sector as well. Two recent examples are the comments by Chick-fil-A's CEO over same-sex marriage and Papa John Pizza's CEO over Obamacare. The Chick-fil-A bru-ha-ha led to major Facebook and Twitter campaigns, both for and against the stance of Dan Cathy, the company's CEO, regarding the evils of same-sex marriages; this was in addition to a war in the mainstream media was well, which did a nice job of catch-up. Chick-fil-A finally had to back off its stand somewhat.
Likewise, Papa John's CEO John Schnatter caught a lot of heat and praise for promising to raise prices and cut employee hours because of the cost of Obamacare (turns out, he was fibbing), starting with Facebook and expanding from there. In both cases, Chick-fil-A and Papa John's stock prices took a major tumble. Other recipients of the wrath of social media that come to mind are Bank of America, who reversed its service charge policy as a result of the assault, and the Boy Scouts of America, who have not reversed their anti-gay position.
In the past, without social media, Bank of America fees would have remained, the Boy Scout leadersip's homophobia would have continued to be unnoticed and the two food chains CEO's comments would have been page three news. Is it possible that the Israeli-Hamas conflict might have lasted weeks longer than it did without the notoriety and personalization brought to it by Twitter, as well?
Consider past events of tremendously more moment. What if Twitter had been in the hands of Vietnamese villagers during the thousands of massacres by Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces or at Mai Lia when American forces were committing their version of war crimes; how would the course of that war have changed? Or, when, after the massacre of 22,000 Polish prisoners by Russian forces in the Katyn forests was discovered by the Nazis, the Allies decided to cover it up and persuaded the Polish government-in-exile to do the same for the "good of the war effort"; it wouldn't look good to cast one of the allied forces in a light as bad as the Nazi's, don't you see. If there had been Facebook and Twitter then, could the cover-up have happened, could it have hurt or helped the subsequent events in WW II, which was yet to come?
The point, of course, is that today the potential power of the Internet and social media networks having cut out the "middle-man" in news delivery is incalculable. To quote from a 1943 memo by Owen O'Malley, British ambassador to the Polish government, to Anthony Eden, British foreign secretary:
"This dislocation between our public attitude [about the Katyn massacre] and our private feelings we may know to be deliberate and inevitable; but at the same time we may perhaps wonder whether by representing to others something less than the whole truth so far as they seem to us probable, we are not incurring a risk of what -- not to put a fine point on it -- might darken our vision and take the edge of our moral sensibility."
EVEN AS UBIQUITOUS AS THE INTERNET IS TODAY, the social media and how it is going to be deployed is still in its infancy, or maybe puberty. There is a lot more growing to do and as the full weight of its consequences bears down on the Powerful, Monied, and Elite, they will start to understand their world is actually changing, that new rules are being developed and it isn't them doing the developing; control is slipping away from their grasp. These men, for the most part, will probably not sit ideally by and see their world challenged and weakened; they will fight back. Unlike governments who have recently crumbled before the onslaught of the social media, big business, and those who run it, when they get their dander up can sometimes be the most power force on earth, certainly more than any government because they don't have to follow the rules.
So, the ultimate question might be, "will there be war between the top and bottom, or is the Internet going to, in time, lighten our vision and sharpen our moral sensibility?
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Do you think those in Power will ultimately fight back against the impact of Social Media
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