Big News: Trump. Still Bigger: The Internet
Like him or not, Trump is the most powerful man in the world. He gets more attention globally than any other single person. His media coverage may be mostly negative, but they’re covering him, and more importantly, his coverage of the media is just as negative, and it matters. So what is bigger than Trump? The technopolitics that enabled him to turn the tables on the media and rise to the presidency are bigger than Trump.
The internet went public in August of 1991. The barrier to information dissemination dropped to zero. This is the defining event of our lives. This invention in the last decade of the 2nd millennium will be the defining event of the 3rd millennium. It seems old now after 25 years. It is not old. It is still brand new and its shock wave is still emanating.
The Only Thing Bigger: The Gutenberg Press
You will see a theme on this blog that the best historical analog to the internet is the Gutenberg Press. The movable type press was invented 500 years ago, which is a long time past, but like the internet does today, the press represented an exponential increase in the spread of information. Information spreading has far-reaching impacts. The details of the impacts are unpredictable, but the overall effect has direct historical precedence if you know what to look for and you look for general trends.
The Gutenberg Press, the first movable-type printing press that enabled documents to be copied by machine. Look at the changes that occurred within two centuries of the invention. The press fueled the Reformation that occurred from 1517 (Martin Luther’s 95 theses) to 1648 (end of the bloody Thirty Years’ War). The Reformation was a revolution of literacy and upended the monopoly on religion that the Catholic Church had held in Europe for more than a millennium.
Fake News, A Modern Inevitability
“Fake news” is one small example of the impact that information dissemination has. It is an example of the general trend of exposing corruption and eliminating information asymmetries that leads to tearing down of institutions. We could not have known that Donald Trump specifically would be elected, but we absolutely should have known that ideas would shatter powerful institutions like the established media, and the Republican and Democratic parties. “Fake news” is shattering the established media. The media reports Twitter. They have to. They have to report what Trump says on Twitter because 50 million people will hear what he says anyway, and is therefore by default, “news.”
What It Means
I don’t know exactly. I do know that the fall of institutions and the shift of power is not complete. The internet is still new and we need to pay attention to the technopolitics of what is happening to understand our modern world.
Get on Twitter. Participate on the internet. Don’t leave it to the power-hungry, narcisistic few YouTubers and Instagrammers. Hard to imagine, but I bet anything there were hold-outs when the Bible was first available to read in 1500. I bet there were many who refused to read Martin Luther’s 95 Theses in 1520. They missed out. We shouldn’t. Help me understand what is happening. Contribute your thoughts here at RageandFrenzy.com