An historical analogy


Reader John Swails Ph.D., Associste Professor and chair of the Department of History, Humanities and Government at Oral Roberts University, wrote us with an interesting analogy for the Rathergate scandal, as well as other useful perspectives. With his permission, we publish it:

Instapundit uses that term (Media Meltdown) in an article and points out that due to the influence of the internet, talk radio, and cable networks the old media is being shown to be stodgy and inflexible.  I would add the point that historically speaking we are on the edge of a paradigm shift like that preceding and including the Reformation.  Before the invention of movable type press in 1445, the flow of information was almost entirely in the hands of the Catholic Church who virtually controlled the copying and distribution of manuscripts.  With the invention of the press, information began to flow around the Church's bottleneck and, not surprisingly, a few years later the Reformation followed.  To quote a movie, "It's all about the information."  The ramifications of this change are unfolding as we speak.
I agree that talk radio and cable news programs have a part, but I suggest that the most influential, consistent, and substantial impact comes from the internet and bloggers worldwide who are alert and intellectually honest.  This change has happened behind the scenes as self—absorbed personalities attempt to direct the thinking of the public rather than simply inform.  The arrogance of that position has rankled many for a long time.  I believe that the old media has noted for a while the unpleasant and irritating nature of individuals who disagree with their viewpoints and presentations bur dismissed them as buzzing annoyances.  The "Rathergate" scandal combined with the gratuitous story two weeks earlier about Israel and AIPAC has brought into clear focus the lack of intellectual honesty and rank condescension that permeates much of the old media. 
Dan Rather, in particular, has now to face the responsibility of taking a false position.  I think back to his interview with Saddam Hussein on the eve of the American invasion of Iraq as he toadied up to a mass murderer and oppressive tyrant with softball questions he would have derided in an interviewer of George W. Bush.  I recall a Rather who stood on a roof in the Old City of Jerusalem two years ago with the Dome of the Rock in the background and asked his producer, "What are we looking at here?"  I see a Rather who stood a hill outside Beirut, Lebanon in the late summer of 1982 and night after night reported the figures for civilian displacement from the Israeli incursion into Lebanon——the numbers going from 200,000 to eventually 500,000 (the actual population of the area prior to the war was less than 200,000 total)——piously intoning that these figures came from the Lebanese Red Crescent which was, as he reminded us over and over, like our Red Cross.  What he did not tell us was that the president of the  Lebanese Red Crescent was Fathi Arafat, the brother of Yassir Arafat, who was supplying these grossly inflated figures.  If we had been informed of that, most Americans would have said, "Wait a minute!"  I must add my voice to those who are calling for him to resign.  It is the decent thing to do.
Now the bottleneck that has restricted the flow of information to the few "clerics" who were capable of carrying the burden of deciding what and how the news was to be reported.  Others, pajama—clad and perhaps unwashed, are now raising their voices and being not only heard but having an impact.  They are reporting on the facts and checking the facts.  One can admit that facts may not be the truth in a philosophical sense, but in the final analysis the facts will lead us closer to the truth than misrepresentations, distortions, and deceit.  And today the internet provides a great alternative to the mainstream media for those who want the facts and are willing to go look for them.