July 1, 2020

Divided we watch

As I've mentioned before, The Smithsonian Channel is one of the few channels I watch on a fairly regular basis, so it's no surprise that I'd stumble across this insightful quote at their website as to what the Balkanization of television has meant to the political order. After the quote, I'll be back with the pertinent details.

A stable national government requires a measure of cohesion of the ruled. Such cohesion can be derived from an implicit mutual agreement on goals and direction — or even on the processes of determining goals and direction. With the diversity of information channels available, there is a growing ease of creating groups having access to distinctly differing models of reality, without overlap. For example, nearly every ideological group. . . now has its own newspapers. Imagine a world in which there is a sufficient number of TV channels to keep each group, and in particular the less literate and tolerant members of the groups, wholly occupied? Will members of such groups ever again be able to talk meaningfully to one another? Will they ever obtain at least some information through the same filters so that their images of reality will overlap to some degree? Are we in danger of creating by electrical communications such diversity within society as to remove the commonness of experience cessary for human communication, political stability, and, indeed, nationhood itself? Must “confrontation” increasingly be used for human communication?

National political diversity requires good will and intelligence to work comfortably. The new visual media are not an unmixed blessing. This new diversity causes one to hope that the good will and intelligence of the nation is sufficiently broad-based to allow it to withstand the increasing communication pressures of the future.

Am I right? Not only interesting, but insightful. Now for the rest of the story.

The author of that quote is Paul Baran, one of the pioneers of the Internet and a man who predicted the development of the "portable telephone." It comes from a paper titled "On the Impact of the New Communications Media Upon Social Values," in which he looked at how the societal fragmentation created by technology could create a polariation in our political discource, something which, I think we can all agree, exists in abundance today. It's quoted in a Smithsonian article, TV Will Tear Us Apart: The Future of Political Polarization in American Media,

He wrote this paper in 1969.

The Smithsonian article was written in 2013.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, And if we thought things were bad then. . . TV  

1 comment:

Thanks for writing! Drive safely!