Before the invention of movable type in the 15th Century, the media of mass communication was limited to architecture, paintings, sculpture, and images on coins and songs song by balladeers. Christians learned about the dangers of Hell from the stained glass stories in the cathedrals. The people might have had an idea of what their king looked like by his minted (usually heroic) image on coins. But they might not have known much about their king or what he was doing that might change or even end their lives suddenly.
After the printing press, the sliver of humanity that was literate (mostly clerics, some of the more motivated aristocracy and a few merchants) engaged in continental communication of key new ideas. Slowly over centuries, literacy spread downward, and politics and news began to be informed by books, newspapers and pamphlets.
Prior to the invention of the telegraph in the 1840s, whatever news there was could move no faster than the trot of a horse -- although semaphore, yodeling, smoke signals and carrier pigeons could move some vital information slightly faster over short distances.
In fast succession, mass and long-distance communication was advanced by the general availability of telephones (1870s), linotype-fast newspapers (1880s), radios (1920s), televisions (1950s), computers (1970s), the Internet (1990s), and cellular text, audio and now video devices (2000s).
Over those centuries we have gone from ignorance of the events of the world due to the absence of information to today's condition of confusion and ignorance due to an unending glut of information. We are living out the truth of Sherlock Holmes' insight that to hide something, surround it in plain sight with many similar items. In his fictional case, a criminal hid an incriminating broken piece of plaster in a room filled with broken plaster. Which was the piece that mattered?
Today, as snippets of news flash past our consciousness at a rate and volume greater than our capacity to absorb, we don't know what to know and what to ignore. And of the information we decide to notice and absorb, there are so many versions of it that we don't know what is true and what is false or distorted.
For example, on Monday, the Washington Post reported that war was likely to break out between Ethiopia and Somalia Tuesday morning. On Tuesday, the BBC reported that the threat of war between Somalia and Ethiopia was receding as both sides indicated a desire to negotiate.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.
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