Friday, February 15, 2008

Freedom of Speech

In today’s world people take for granted the rights granted to them by the amendments of the US constitution. In many cases, these rights are stretched to their limits as we can easily observe on a daily basis just by listening to the lyrics of many popular songs and observing the controversial images produced by some music performers. The origin of these rights is based on political conflict not only on the words they represent.

“By itself, the mere wording of the First Amendment did not guarantee freedom of speech, broad or narrow in construction. Few words have been susceptible to more varied interpretations. The real meaning of the amendment was determined through political conflict, and this conflict was not long in coming.” Starr P.77

Political conflict gave birth to the Republican Party when Jefferson and Madison formed their own opposing party. This affected the press in the same manner. Some printers were Federalists and agreed with the ruling administration others disagreed and had to fight an uphill battle to be recognized.

Federalists would eventually be responsible for giving the “Freedom of Speech” a necessary push in the right direction. The Federalists Sedition Act of 1798, a direct limitation on freedom of speech, gave them the power to imprison opposing Republican editors. This attack made the imprisoned editors seem like heroes in the eyes of the public and the strategy to limit the media would only backfire and help the opposition. Republican printers increased dramatically after this and created a network that would allow the Republican Party to take control in the 1800’s giving “Freedom of Speech” the power to protect the media from government control and show how the press can influence public opinion.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

In Colonial Minute

Chapter three marks a very interesting turn in direction for it is when Starr ventures further deeper into the choices that the young nation of America would make that would cause there youth not to be a roadblock to there advances in communications. One institution established that was crucial to the advancement of the colonial media was the establishment from the postal service. Unlike previous nation states the United States were not as fervent in there restrictions of media. Starr quotes Benjamin Rush who says that media should be distributed to shape the "principles, morals, and manners of our citizens to our republican form of government". This is true and legislation would be passed to reflects Rush's points. The Office Act would be passed and would allow for Congressional creation of postal rights, median discounts, and privacy from government infringement. Postal services were not just limited to postal routes however. Education was of keen importance to the colonist. More so in the north were funding was made available for schools in new townships. Women were not to read for there betterment but were to read for the betterment of her children in order to give the children of the colonies ideas of republicanism and other American values. Education, and the postal service were the beginning of many decisions that would put the new nation on equal footing with other nation states like France and England.

The Rise of Journalism

In the third chapter of Paul Starr-America's first Information Revolution, Starr points out the beginning stages of the Journalism Revolution and the ways in which it shaped American politics and society. he begins by using an example of Washington Irvings
Rip Van Winkle. In this book a story is told about how Rip Van Winkle is overwhelmed by the site of the people being so active in the politics in this post American Revolution society.

"There was a busy, bustling, disputatious tone about it.....He had arrived in
the midst of an election". "The orator bustled up to him.....inquired'on which side he voted?...Rip stared in vacant stupidity".
This example by Starr, gave me a chance to understand the true significance that the American Revolution had on American society and the "demand" that would be put on Journalism. Journalism would be needed to spread the news in a "unbias" way. Starr also points out how the founding fathers used print media as a critical "weapon".

"Jefferson wrote Madison in 1793, urging Hamilton to critisize him in
print...take up your pen, select the most striking heresies, and cut him to
pieces in the face of the public".
I feel this was Starrs way of showing how the newspaper was a very popular and invaluable entity in American society and it would be a forum to critisize those who you opposed/supported in the "face of the people and public". This is still true to this day. Mediums such as newspapers have daily editorials that give citizens a chance to voice thier opinions and beliefs contrary to the writer/editor/paper's that sometimes cover a one sided argument. In the world of contemparary Journalism, the government has their hand on what is to be published (not to the extreme, free speech still exist in Journalism, but there are limits). Seeing how alot of these papers and broadcast companies are owned by conglomerits which are to the right.

Star Chapter 3-If the Goverment only knew? Our Postal system how powerful it has become...

Starr Chapter 3 pg 94
Starr write's, "Previous political thinkers had not imagined that a large republic could survive partly because they had not foreseen how improved communication could maintain a vital connection between representatives and their constituents. They had not understood how new institutions (even without new technologies) could create publics larger than face to face communities. Nor had they anticipated the new rules of knowledge that a republic might establish-the new commitments about what the government would make public and what people could keep private"
Today our government needs to protect Americans from brutal attacks which are planned overseas and being implemented against our people here at home. Our government's ability to obtain information is powerful and vital in protecting the United States. If our government made all information passed through our communication systems public, our country would be at great risk.
The postal service had developed so rapidly over the years, that now compared to the 16th and 17th centuries our communication systems are astonishingly hi-tech and advanced. The political brains of these centurions, who didnt know at the time, their development of political communication through the postal service, has helped the United States to develop laws and strategies that are vital in protecting the people of the United States. They have given people ability to send messages and communicate with people all over the world. They succeeded, it developed into both private and public.
The debate "public or private", our postal system which was created so many years ago for so many different reasons by our government, has turned into a method of communication whether private or public that has made our country grow into the most powerful country ever!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The News Network

"Nowhere in Europe was there anything like this profusion of newspapers and newspaper reading. IN 1775, newspaper ciculation per capita had been greater in England than in AMerica. In 1835, after travels in America, the English writer Richard Cobden pointed out that despite a larger population, the British isles had only 369 newspapers, of which only 17 were daily, while the United States, according to an almanac for 1834, had 1265 newspapers, of which 90 were daily." - Starr, pg 86

America had developed such an intricate network for printing and ciculating newspapers. The demand for the news, and information from around the world was so great. Unfortunatley, the privelage of obtaining the news at your fingertips was restricted to slaves, and in some cases, woman.

Printing flourished in the north, however, the southern and midestern states did not want their slaves to read or have any knowledge of life off of the plantations.

"South had a an extensive postal network, but it imposed censoship on the mails. In July 1835, pro-slavery men invaded the POst Office in Charleston, South Carolina, to confiscate and burn a a mass mailing by northern abolitionists." - Starr, pg108

With all of the potential the news circulation had, censorship still existed do to persecution that still existed within the U.S.

Ben Franklin Printers Apology

Ben Franklin writes in his Pensylvania Gazette on June of 1731 his apologies for the business of printing. He explains to the reader the problems with printing various information for various readers.

"That the Opinion of Men are almost as various as their faces; an observation general enough to become a common proverb. So many Men so many minds. That the business on printing has chiefly to so with mens opinions; most things that are printed tending to promote some, or oppose others."

Franklin goes on to explain that the business of printing is subjective to it's printer. He says that we don't get angered with all other professionals who transact with all types of peoples. Yet the printer is rideculed for whatever maybe offensive to some particular person.

The whole idea of print is that it is peoples opinion and belief that, that information is worthy to be in print. Not everthing that is printed will be enjoyed by all but it is the freedom of press that allows all people to publicly state their opinoions.

As far as the N.B. advertisement, Franklin clearly states that he was unaware of the meaning and didn't focus on the content because it was an advertisement. The person paid for the ad to go in the paper and therefore it was the persons words not Franklins.

Side note: Sea hen is a black bird. a guillemot

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Freedom of Expression

“There is considerable force in the argument that the struggle for an independent press, capable of reporting and commenting on events with a minimum of state interference and control, played a key role in the development of the modern constitutional state. …They saw the free expression of opinion through the organs of an independent press as a vital safeguard against the despotic use of state power….Statutory guarantees of freedom of expression were eventually adopted by various European governments so that by the end of the nineteenth century the freedom of the press had become a constitutional feature of many Western states.” –The Trade in the News by John B. Thompson P118

After reading this, I felt more upset about what I heard recently: Regulations on reporting activities in China by foreign journalists during the Beijing Olympic Games and the preparatory period will be in force from the January, 1st to October 17th 2008. According to this regulation, police are forbidden to prevent foreign journalists from interviewing.

It is no wonder that the Chinese government is trying to forge and present an atmosphere of freedom of speech to the world. But what about the situation before and after the Olympics? The answer is self-evident.

It is not news that China exerts strict censorship in publication. Censorship itself is not wrong and it is necessary to each state and government. When censorship interfere the freedom of speech, which comprises a vital part of human rights, it will only become a block or even an evil consequence to the pursuit of a democratic society.

According to John B. Thompson, in the 18th century, England, America, France and some other western countries had incorporated the right of freedom of expression in the constitution. This progress played a significant role in the development of democracy of most Western countries. In China, the freedom of expression is protected by the constitution, too. In reality, it is somehow distorted.

It is not rigorous by simply comparing the situation of Western countries with China. The problem of the right of freedom expression and censorship involves a lot of factors, including regime and the situation of a country. Different regimes or under different developing levels might carry out different regulations on freedom expression and censorship. However, if a state emphasizes on the differences while avoids solving this problem, it is just an excuse of absolutism.

Only if the right of freedom expression is virtually possessed by people at all walks, there are ways to disclose and cure the corrupt social issues; the majority of grass-roots class enjoys the fruit of the prosperity of the country; and the image of the country gets changed internationally.

Knowledge Is Power

“‘Knowledge is power’, maybe read not simply as an endorsement of knowledge but also as a warning about its perils. For fear of the power others might acquire against them, ruling elites have often kept knowledge secret, limited public discussion, and controlled religion, education, and science so as to prevent their subjects from acquiring sensitive information and dangerous ideas.” Starr, P8

For long time, knowledge and power are always interlaced and covered with each other. They are in an ambiguous relationship all the time. Especially in the humanity and liberal science, because they play significant roles in the of value system, they constantly involve in the battle with the power expansion.

Knowledge can be served as a tool of the political power. In the age of church, the hierarchy of knowledge is obvious and terrifying. Knowledge was only privileged to those who own power and wealth. Knowledge, as a tool, was used by the top rank of the hierarchy system to control their subordinates and maximize their power. The clergies interpreted the Bible differently according to their will. Thus the Church can control the poor by fooling their minds. The lower class, however, were deprived of educating, being unable to read or write. Not allowed to get in touch with truth, they become numb and submissive.

Knowledge is also dangerous. Possessing intelligence by acquiring knowledge, people can achieve the ability to doubt the existing and fixed notions and the obscure unsolved problems, and even things like hierarchy that makes the majority subject to the superior minority. Once the inferior majority begin to doubt their situation and awaken to fight with the upper class, it will soon be an end to the hierarchy system. Moreover, more people become literate and cultivated by reading, so that the written culture would be no longer monopolized by the upper class. The popular culture, which stands for the lower class, would gradually consolidate, which composes a great threat to the official culture, representing the upper class.

Books are the original records of knowledge, truth and spirit. Reading builds the bridge to access of intelligence. By reading, people learn the truth of life, the abstruseness of the world and the operation of the society. That’s why books were prohibited by the church and book burning were not exceptional in the history course.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bibles in Latin Only

From the early beginnings of the printing process, we have clear evidence how the system was initially geared towards the rich and famous. The idea of publishing only “certain books” only contributed to keeping the masses ignorant and subservient. Such is the case of the first bibles and law books written only in Latin as a means of entrenchment forcing the “public” to seek interpretation by those specifically qualified for such task.

One fact must not be lost sight of: the printer and the bookseller worked above all and from the beginning for profit.” Starr P.25

Only highly educated people were able to read and most importantly afford such books making it very difficult or almost impossible for someone from the “general public” to get ahead intellectually and making it impossible to challenge the existing established system. It would take many years and a very strong determination by a few people to exercise change for the public and finally bring some level of equality.

A Revolutionary Revolution

In chapter two something that stood out was Paul Starr's emphasis on the importance of the British choices on the development of colonial media. Gutenberg's key inventions, the printing press and movable type are always mentioned as spurring on a revolution that would change the way information was distributed. Starr however touts other factors as to why a technology becomes influential. One is how it is utilized and the effect that the created technology has on the Public Sphere. This means that the creation of the printing press was not as revolutionary as its name suggest since the printing press did not bring about much of a change in the systematic dissemination of information. Those who did not have access to books were not all of a sudden in a world of knowledge. However hundreds of years after the "printing revolution" a new revolutionary type of revolution was sprouting. Britain's economic issues brought about the enactment of the stamp act which stir the pot of colonial emotions quickly igniting and uniting anti-British sentiment.
Colonial newspapers found themselves in a frenzy to voice there descent. As Paul Starr would put it "The Stamp act crisis led to the first inter colonial cooperation against the British as well as the first newspaper campaign against them". This is an example of what Paul Starr would call a "constitutive choice". In this instance the British needed to generate income after the French Indian war. This action of the British would have huge ramifications for American media. As a result the precedent for the utilization of media against the British was established. Soon enough other forms of media like pamphlets would seek to put British rule in its cross hair. Now media was a source that provided the foundation for Americanization. For if American newspapers created unity in anti-British sentiment it would not take long before newspapers would create unity in other issues like tradition, government, and domestic customs. These were the seeds of the american revolution as well as the seeds of Americanization.