Good night and good luck (and good tweeting), or why technology has become the democracy equalizer

by KGBTexas on June 29, 2009

The late sociologist Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) famously stated that ?the medium is the message.? McLuhan also prophesied that television (and other forms of electronic communications) were creating the first truly ?global village.?

Media sociologist Marshall McLuhan - anyone using social networking is a living example of his "Global Village" theory

Media sociologist Marshall McLuhan - anyone using social networking is a living example of his "Global Village" theory

But what McLuhan could not have possibly predicted was that the one-to-many nature of television would give way to the billions of one-to-one, one-to-many, anywhere-in-the-world communications channels that the Internet would later create.

While Web 1.0 was about static Web Site Development, the rise of Web 2.0 and our ever expanding box of interactive social media tools are eventually inverting and re-rendering McLuhan?s most famous axiom ?the medium is the message.? What we?re witnessing today, via technology, is that ?the message is the medium.?

If you haven?t stopped to ponder this, two ?case-in-points? in recent weeks have reinforced, at least IMHO, the profound (and lasting) global impact that is being exerted by new technology and social media.

First, I?m not going to get into a dissertation of constitutional law. But if you haven?t read our Bill of Rights lately, check out our First Amendment: ?Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.?

Well, it seems like if you ever wondered why democracy has worked so well in holding the United States together for so long, our basic freedoms of speech, the press, of religion and the right to assemble is pretty much at the heart of our foundation of freedom.

In the case of post-election Iran, the whole free world should applaud the efforts of that nation?s newly anointed ?citizen journalists? who are embracing the fact that technology is giving them the democratic freedoms that their society does not provide. If you thought Twitter, text messaging and cell phone videos were just for teenagers to whittle away their time chatting with each other, think again.

The message is the medium.

And, in another social media-enabled first, the Obama White House recently ensured that Nico Pitney, a blogging journalist from The Huffington Post, was not only present at the President?s recent Rose Garden press conference, but also permitted him to ask the President a question. Yes, a blogger was actually able to ask a question based on input from his online followers and thread contributors, including Iranians in the middle of the latest Middle East imbroglio.

Other reporters and more conservative news organizations were incensed at this maneuver, insisting to discredit both the HP and the White House for allegedly ?planting? the question. This has been firmly denied by both the HP and White House, and other reporters have stepped forward to explain they are frequently informed they will be called upon by the President. Regardless of what you believe, it still sends a powerful message that at least the White House understand the changing nature of journalism and the power of online reporting is very real.

The message is the medium.

The net-net of Iran, bloggers in the Rose Garden, and what other interesting paths technology and social media take us down is that we must not fail to realize the enormous communications potential that comes with the Global Village Network.

I only wish that the late broadcast journalism pioneer Edward R. Murrow was still around to witness this communications (r)evolution.

Broadcast journalism pioneer Edward R. Murrow and long-time producer Fred Friendly

Broadcast journalism pioneer Edward R. Murrow and long-time producer Fred Friendly

Murrow, who gained fame broadcasting from the roof tops of London during the blitz of World War II, later fought even greater battles ? with the Communist Witch Hunter Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy, and eventually his very employer, the network executives at CBS. But consider the timelessness of one of Murrow?s greatest quotes about old school television -

Murrow sacrificed his career to bring the public ?fair & balanced reporting? years before it became a trite tagline

Murrow not only understood the power of mass communications, he also sacrificed his career to bring the public ?fair & balanced reporting? years before it became a trite tagline

?This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference.?

Let?s hope the people of this planet continue to embrace the Internet?s vast potential to inform, educate and entertain.? McLuhan and Murrow are probably very proud of our citizen journalists of the world.

- Rich Teplitsky -

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June 29, 2009 at 3:59 pm

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