Monday, August 31, 2009

Media used to control or those in power control the media

The readings for this week made me think about the similarities between how technologies that helped with information-sharing when they were invented were used then and are still being used today. The printing press, the telegraph, the phone, the radio, tv and film all aided in dispersing information and connecting people. For example, during the Civil War, the new technology had significant military implications. The US laid more cables and sent millions of telegrams during this time and this was the first conflict that was reported on greatly. During the Cold War the propaganda that was dissimenated all over was clearly for the benefit of those controlling the airwaves. After these technologies became international there was more of a need for a governing body and for oversight. There were commisions and other groups that were formed to try to have some understanding of the best methods to do this. Same kind of problems are being faced today here in the US.

So, what were the benefits to these innovations of the time? Sure there are and were plenty, but I'm a pessismist, so I will simply focus on the negatives aspects that evolved and are currently plaguing information technology and the media, these amazing inventions that make our lives easier every day and yet have also helped reaked havoc.

As I previously mentioned, the Civil War, Cold War and WWI, WWII, were all aided in some way by the either the telegraph, the phone, the printing press or all. What comes to mind is the things that make the world go round; power and money. For instance, the newspaper industry became one interested in making profits. Ideally, it was made for sharing information on current events, and news from around the world, but as is the case now, it is controlled by a company or corporation with it's own agenda. This is true of the media in general. In any case, during the Cold War, the US used the radio to influence others to abhor the Communists and the Soviets tried to convince Cuba, for example, to join their forces. So the cycle continues as the US tries to influence other countries to side with them, and other countries try to negatively portray the US. It is easy to use the media because it has such a wide reach. The technologies have compounded as they did in the early 20th century as well. With th printing press newspapers and books could be printed, then with the invention of trains, these books, newspapers, pamphlets could be widely dispersed. (Martin Luther used the printing press well.) Then, the telephone and radio had a wider reach. Not only could one person read a book, now they could talk about it on the radio and reach further and eventually call their relatives to tell them about it. (Now, the internet serves this purpose too.) My point being that those with power and money have control of the technologies or have and had more of them readily available and thus were able to achieve more influence and power using them. The British had the most cable lines, which they used strategically to control their colonies.

Rulers, leaders and dictators today realize the power of the media and of these information-sharing technologies. That is why there is a constant need for oversight and control, or at least that is what the people with power and influence think. They can't have a journalist running around reporting the corrupt ways of the senator or of the CIA. I just read an article about the need to subvert media in Latin America. Now, the media is the enemy to control as opposed to those in control using the media to control. It's still used for that purpose, but it was more obvious before.


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