Thomas Paine.com

By H. Millard
web posted June 1999

I got an email rececntly from the Republican National Committee telling me I ought to protest CNN's decision to have Al Gore sit in for Larry King as guest host. Maybe you got one too. Whatever. Anyway, CNN did in fact change their position and put Gore in as a guest rather than as host.

Whether CNN's change of mind was a result of a massive protest or not, I don't know, but I suspect that CNN realized that Gore may not make it to the presidency and that if a Republican gets in, that there might be some hard feelings toward CNN.

For me, however, the interesting thing about this email campaign was the fact that the RNC, by the very fact of using what must have been a blanket email, may be indicating that it understands that the grass roots activists aren't using jungle drums to send messages from one trailer park to another but are using computers, and that many of the most politically active grass roots folks in the party are getting their information and are communicating via the internet these days.

Just as the JFK/Nixon race is considered to be the first real TV election, the 2000 election may be the first internet election. And main stream newspapers? Why, they're now running generic "tell your children to read a newspaper a day" ads on TV to try to stem the tide of people turning to the net instead of to the papers.

Computers, as most people who use them now know, have reached the plug-it-in and turn-it- on stage of development and this is quickly overcoming any resistance to their use. And as most people who use computers also know, computers without the internet are little more than glorified typewriters and calculators.

There is a tremendous opportunity to bring about social change via the internet that is only now being realized. But perhaps the talk of the internet in relation to TV and newspapers misses a point of deeper significance. What's really happening is that the elites, once again, aren't able to control information as they have in the last couple of hundred years.

As you may remember from your history, Thomas Paine and others in revolutionary America were able to counter the propaganda of the British with cheap printing presses that put them on more or less an equal footing with the Brits. Up until then, those with the money and power controlled the press and the information that was spread. Such control allows one to use clever psychological propaganda to manipulate people into various positions.

The antidote for such propaganda is correct information. The cheap presses took away the advantage of money and power from the Brits and allowed those such as Paine to print and distribute information from their perspective to try to win minds to their views. Suddenly, it became a battle of brains. Could the Brits out think and out write Paine and other revolutionaries and win the day, or could Paine and company convince enough people in the colonies that it was time to boot the Brits out? We all know the answer to that.

However, as technology got more and more expensive and as the nation spread out, those with power and money once again were able to control the presses, and that's the way it's been up until the advent of the Internet. Now, however, we're on more of an equal footing with the elites again and ideas can be floated to vast numbers of people that they might not otherwise hear if the elites were still in control of information.

The elites aren't happy about this development and there are all sorts of sneaky little things coming down the pike in the way of censoring the net. As usual, the elites are using noble sounding phrases and emotive words to try to control information, but with enough people aware of the tricks and with some critical thinking, the elites may fail. The important thing for all citizens to remember is that free speech must be protected because without it, there is little hope of having any other rights. If we want our rights, we must be able to communicate and we must be able to discuss anything that the human mind can conceive rather than allowing the elites to decide what may be written, heard or seen.

The next few years may be a very interesting time for freedom and for free speech as the toiling masses free themselves from the grip of elite propaganda via the internet.

H. Millard, 1999

 

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