Free Bird

December 5th, 2022 Leave a comment Go to comments


Back in the day, someone had the brilliant idea to create a vehicle by which news and information could be disseminated. This could only have come about when the inputs and opinions of the masses mattered, thus, the idea of having some kind of news vehicle came to fruition.

Before then, news, or more likely gossip, was spread by word of mouth, at drinking establishments, at churches or by travelers coming through a town.  Of course, before then, there was no news other than what the overlords decided that the peasants needed to know; and all  the peasants needed to know was to keep working to pay taxes to the rulers.  Thus, knowledge was either what the church or the rulers decided was knowledge.

As the phenomenon of education proliferated, so did the notion of critical thinking.  In order to think critically, you needed information, unbiased and provable. This made the imposition of news and information more problematic for those who were used to controlling knowledge to the masses.  As someone eloquently wrote, ‘knowledge is power’ and suddenly, the opinions of the masses mattered. Eventually, newspapers and journals became the default arbiters of legitimate news and their operators became very powerful.  It became a lot easier to determine when someone was untruthful, because the journals would be a credible check.

With the onset of the television age, the new unimpeachable source of information and knowledge became TV networks. I can still remember people stating that ‘if it was on TV, it must be true’. While a large swath of people still believe this, the credibility of heretofore unimpeachable sources has long since expired. The slogans of “The Paper Of Record” for the New York Times and “Democracy Dies In Darkness” for the Washington Post are comically ironic.  The days of Walter Cronkite invoking “ And that’s the way it is” as his sign off are also quaint relics of the past.  The currency of credibility of these outlets have long been spent.

Television was a very powerful medium because most people are easily manipulated by what they see as much as what they hear. It’s been widely accepted that if not for TV viewers watching a debate between a nervous looking Richard Nixon and a polished looking John Kennedy, that Nixon would have won the presidential election in 1960 on the issues alone.

Clearly some objective means of news and information was needed and in 2007, a new micro blogging site, Twitter was created.  The new social media phenomenon allowed anyone to post their thoughts and views with a 280 character maximum. As in all successful businesses in history, this service tapped into a monstrous pool of demand and soon, having a Twitter handle was as de rigueur as having a last name. Whether student or CEO, politician or dictator, famous or unknown, everyone wanted to have their say and most importantly, to hear what others thought.  Thus having ‘followers’ became the new currency of fame.  Unfortunately, Twitter is hardly the font of knowledge.  The most vapid attention whores can garner millions of acolytes and create financial empires for themselves.  Strangely, a platform which notionally allowed the democratization of news and information, became a receptacle for the most vapid in society whose opinions, not knowledge, were expressed.  Well, the first amendment also protects the stupid, so you get what you get.  What many don’t understand is that free speech allows people to say things that others may not want to hear….otherwise it ain’t free.

A great upheaval occurred recently as the platform was purchased by Elon Musk. Long regarded as a vehicle for left wing narratives and censoring of ‘unacceptable’ views, Musk revealed what many have known for years….Twitter was a corrupted platform which enabled propaganda favored by their operators.

It’s been great entertainment to watch ‘celebrities’ profess the validity of their views while at the same time wanting to censor those with views whom they oppose. Philosophically, this is like the monkey wanting to censor the organ grinder. We are treated to the deep intellectual insights of such as Alyssa Milano or of famous meathead Rob Reiner. Oddly, those that have always defended Twitter when it was their own platform are now condemning it for allowing just ‘anyone’ to speak on it and worst of all, with views opposing theirs.  Like a scene from the film Blazing Saddles, many have expressed threats to leave the platform and no longer treat the rest of us to their utterances.

Even more sinister however are the revelations by Musk of the collusion between Twitter and political operatives to sway elections and push detrimental policies. The light has been turned on in the kitchen at night and the cockroaches are scattering.

As in much earlier times, the opening up of Twitter to become a more truly free speech platform will hopefully enable real dialogue on real issues.  People will be more truthfully informed and those in power will need to pay attention.  The views of the dirty unwashed will matter. The time when certain overlords control the message may again be over.

  1. Christopher Erickson
    December 5th, 2022 at 10:39 | #1

    One of your best commentaries ever. Thanks. Will forward far and wide!