I was writing yesterday that the 20th century was unique in the annals of history as being a time when it was possible to engage in the mass indoctrination of millions of people using one-way megaphone broadcast media, such as the printed press, radio, and television. And I suggested that the internet or worldwide web had inaugurated an era in which this sort of indoctrination had ceased to be possible.
In the comments Walt disagreed:
There’ve been a lot of collective brainwashings in the annals of history with no empirical backing and no mass media as we know it. . The sun revolves around the earth. Which is flat. Various whimsical gods control the weather. God created man as a separate species. Wait! no he didn’t. Sin causes disease….
I don’t think that it’s true to say that there is no empirical evidence for the idea that the Sun revolves around the Earth, and that the Earth is flat. For in fact, it is a matter of ordinary everyday experience (which is a form of empirical evidence) that the Sun does go round the Earth, and that the Earth is flat. Or at least it gives every appearance of being thus. It’s actually quite difficult to believe anything else. Can it be called “brainwashing” if people naturally and initially see things this way? Surely brainwashing is a process whereby one belief is replaced by another. After all, doesn’t washing imply that there needs to be some prior belief that needs to be washed away? Wouldn’t it be truer to say that it’s the people who believe that the Earth goes round the Sun, and that it is a spinning sphere, who have been brainwashed, because they have been “re-educated” out of the natural and normal idea that the opposite is the case.
And it still seems to be the case that various whimsical gods actually do control the weather, given our inability to predict what will happen in the atmosphere in the next few days, never mind the next few millennia (which is what the climate change furore is all about).
And don’t men (and women) seem to belong to a separate species? We wear clothes, while the animal kingdom does not. We build houses and cities, while the animal kingdom (apart from termites) does not. We speak languages, while animals just bark and grunt. Why on earth should we think that we are not some separate species?
…it’s not the “smoking causes cancer (and heart attacks and blindness and impotence and wrinkles)” that caused the mischief, it’s the Secondhand Smoke (even brief outdoor whiffs) causes all the above plus asthma and SIDS….
But the SHS hysteria is built upon the original conviction that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer. It is a simple extension of that belief. As is the idea that Smoking Causes every disease known to man. Take away the original, foundational doctrine, and the entire edifice collapses.
Colin Smith disagrees with my assertion that the two-way, conversational internet subverts the one-way. megaphone, broadcast media of the 20th century.
I think you are wrong about the idea that the internet changes everything – in the long run at least. It is becoming all too clear that access to the internet is via corporate gatekeepers who have their own political sympathies. Their grip is tightening on what you are allowed to view, read and say,
I think it’s perfectly true that the corporate gatekeepers in Google, Facebook, Twitter. YouTube. etc, have their own political sympathies, and now act to de-platform people like Alex Jones and others on the alt-right.
But these corporations do not themselves constitute the entirety of the internet. They instead offer various different internet services. Google has a search engine. Facebook has an online community. Twitter allows short messages to be sent to millions of people. And they all have competitors. There are other search engines, like Bing. And to the extent that they act to de-platform the likes of Alex Jones, they will find themselves losing customers to those of their rivals who continue to offer them space.
Alex Jones has been banned from YouTube, but he still has his own website – InfoWars – on which it is possible to watch a live stream (I watched it briefly just now). It is certainly an inconvenience for him (and his viewers) to have been banned from YouTube and Twitter and Facebook, but he has not thereby been completely silenced, and I’m not sure that he can be completely silenced.
I might also add that I am myself one of these gatekeepers. I decide who gets a hearing on this blog, and who doesn’t. And I rigorously exclude antismokers. I block them and I ban them – simply because my political sympathies lie with smokers, and not with antismokers, and I want smokers to have a voice that they are denied elsewhere.
I could exclude lots of other people – e.g. leftwingers, global warming alarmists, europhiles, and people who like celery -. but it’s really only smoking bans and antismokers about which I feel most strongly.
It may well be that the internet will eventually come under complete central control. But it hasn’t happened yet. I think I will know that this has happened when I turn on my computer one morning, and find that the only thing I can watch is the BBC, and that I must pay an annual £155 licence fee to do that. For then they will have converted the internet into another 20th-century one-way megaphone broadcast media platform.