Stories, Learning & Place

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Leaving the Garden
   Setting out into a different world

Frederick Turner considers the rash of scandals in the past year at the old media institutions--the New York Times, the BBC, CNN--and concludes that the corrupted practices of those who make these institutions are catching up with them. A significant minority of people now say the main stream media cannot be trusted. That was before the CBS boondoggle.

He suggests this is the passing of an old order.  A thing that has happened many times before, to such authorities as “the medieval Vatican, the Ching Dynasty, the Holy Roman Empire, the French Academy, the Victorian Church of England, and the Communist Party.” They abused their authority until they lost it.

But all is not lost:

So we set out now, like Adam and Eve at the end of Milton’s great poem on the Fall, into a new informational world, a new period of history where we cannot rely on journalistic authority and have no guide as to what to believe. It is a fallen world, but it has a certain excitement. For we may now start learning about the current world from each other—from Chinese or Iraqi or Israeli or Indian or Persian or Spanish or U.S. eyewitnesses, from bloggers and friends on the telephone and radio callers whose trustworthiness we must judge on our own—just as we did before the great nineteenth and twentieth century newspapers came along.

Perhaps we could put it in an even more radical way. As such institutions as coffee-houses, town meetings, old fashioned barber shops, primary caucuses, soap box gatherings, debates, and suchlike fell into disuse, and the networks and newspapers took over, the Public itself began to disappear, to be replaced by a segmented demographic mass swayed by centralized journalistic voices and shaped by polls. What is now happening is that rather swiftly a new Public is forming, self-organizing around Google and link lists and blog chatrooms. And it will demand a new Res Publica.

And how do we ensure that this new Public, of which our students may be members, is a good Public, except by educating young people into the highest and best use of the informational tools we now have and are developing.


Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 09/19 at 11:13 PM
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©2004 Michael L. Umphrey
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