…. storming the CBS Building…..
The printing press unleashed a revolution unforseen by Gutenberg.
The ‘people’ were suddenly in control of information.
And those who had until then complete power over information did not like this at all.
The Cheese and the Worms by the Italian historian Carlo Ginzburg gives us an analysis of the impact of literacy on Medieval Europe. Menocchio, a peasant has learned how to read on his own. He is the first in his small village to do so. And he immediately starts to ask unpleasant questions.
The Church does not like this at all, and charges him with heresy, and tries him. Remarkably the Vatican kept a careful written account of the trial. This is a true story. His only crime is asking questions; questions that were raised by the books that he had read. In the end, the Church condemns him to death and he is burned at the stake. One of his last statements at his trial was to say, ‘they don’t want you to know what they know’.
In 1751, Denis Diderot was about to publish his famous Encyclopedia, the first cumulative collection of human knowledge in history.
The decision to publish an encyclopedia was met with great anxiety in the French court of Louis XIV. What would happen, people wondered, when the vast expanse of human knowledge was made available to every peasant. The encyclopedia would teach them how to build mills and make paper. They would drop their hoes in droves. Who would work the land? Who would do the work? The aristocracy would collapse.
Jean D’Alembert wrote a fascinating response to this called Discourse on the Introduction to the Encyclopedia of Diderot.
But the critics were right. The peasants did indeed educate themselves and leave the land. They created a powerful mercantile class and by 1789 were busy overthrowing the aristocracy in Versailles, and cutting off a few heads in the process.
Now, the power of television, video and the web has been unleashed on the peasantry. Those idle beasts whose sole job was to sit quietly on their couches, eat cheetohs and watch passively are now taking up cameras and edits and starting to make their own content.
The aristocracy does not like this at all.
Note the comment by Nino below,
“Five years ago you told very boldly that your VJs with your 3 weeks training will put us, dedicated veterans, with full production education and fully equipped with real broadcast gear will be history and put out of business by your VJs…..”
You see… the ‘dedicated veterans, with full producdtion education and fully equipped with real broadcast gear’… don’t like the idea that the peasants can now do what they do.
But they are only the tip of the iceberg.
The real ox that is going to get gored here are the networks and the studios.
Since the inception of the medium in 1939, networks and studios have had a monopoly on the production of television content. They decided what would be produced, what would be watched, what would be said. They decided what would constitute both public discourse and public entertainment in a world in which the average American spent 4.2 hours a day watching.
Now, the peasants are rising up. They are taking the power of television and video into their own hands, more and more making what they want to make.
And we are really just at the very beginning.
In France, the educated peasantry came to realize that they did not need the aristocracy at all; that they served no purpose, except to line their own pockets. That their power and position was a remanant of another era, now dead. In America, perhaps we will soon come to realize that we don’t really need CBS or NBC either. That we can create content ourselves, publish it ourselves, and the idea of paying someone $14 million a year to ‘read’ the ‘news’ to us for 22 minutes a night is as offensive as the jewels of Marie Antoniette was to another society in revolt.
Mon Dieu Katie. Aux armes!