The Great Unwashed (the ones referred to in the Constitution as “the people”) just can’t seem to get it together—or so elitist Progressives have been telling us for years.
Take, for example, this book commentary article from an FDR-era magazine:
‘RADIO ARMAMENTS’ is the expressive term used by an American newspaper man to indicate the sinister propaganda possibilities of wireless. In his startling book, ‘Mobilizing for Chaos’ (Yale University Press, $2.50) Mr. O. W. Riegel presents evidence to show that every successive advance in the technique of communications—from the telegraph to ultra-short-wave radio—’has been accompanied, paradoxically, by an intensification of political and cultural rivalries, which has prevented the growth of the community feeling one might have been led to expect.’ In other words, the very instruments designed to promote the maximum of enlightenment and mutual understanding have been, are, and will be exploited to strengthen the most barbarous forms of nationalism: those, namely, based upon bitter economic rivalries and imperialist ambitions. To this end government control of the ‘nervous system fabricated out of telegraph, telephone, and radio’ becomes an imperative, which even in the United States (through the recently established Federal Communications Commission) is being heeded. Mr. Riegel’s quietly written and well-documented book is further proof of the insufficiently realized fact that in the modern state political power is actually (if not ideologically) in the hands of those who control the strategic physical apparatus of the country. In no other way can we adequately explain the continued success of the Fascist dictatorships in Europe; nor is there any doubt that the Soviet Union—which operates three of the world’s most powerful radio stations—would encounter terrible difficulties if its closely controlled communications system were disrupted or sabotaged by enemies.
An interesting justification for muzzling free speech: telecommunications have intensified “political and cultural rivalries” while preventing “the growth of the community feeling one might have been led to expect.” What happened to all that happy talk of communications bringing us all together? The complaint here seems to be that because radio hasn’t ushered in the socialist Millennium Progressives had been pining for, well, by golly, we need to do something about it! Even today, eerily similar lame excuses are frequently put forward to excuse power grabs by the Federal Government, all of which are supremely unconstitutional if the First Amendment is to have any meaning whatsoever.
In whose hands is political power vested? In America, it’s supposed to be the people, of course, a fact which the author fails to emphasize. Then strawmen are set up for easy knock downs—the worst-case scenarios of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Soviet Russia—who undeniably abused their telecom systems, but who also experienced radically different political and social histories from the United States.
Then comes the clincher: If something isn’t done and soon, “new dark ages” lie ahead:
A few illustrative facts, taken from the section on radio armaments, will demonstrate the correctness of Mr. Riegel’s fear that, if present reactionary nationalist tendencies continue, the world’s technically magnificent communications machinery—its ‘electrical nervous system’—can do little but accelerate the speed with which we are heading for ‘new dark ages’:—
“Since 1920, when the American station KDKA began the first regular public broadcasting, radio has developed until to-day, a short half-generation later, there are in the world some 1,200 broadcasting stations, serving in the neighborhood of 40,000,000 receiving sets. This means a ‘listening public’ of from 120,000,000 to 320,000,000 persons: a generous percentage of which is illiterate, excitable, and easily dominated by the spoken and pictured word, in their ideas and their actions.” — Harold Ward, “The Sciences and Society,” in ‘The Living Age,’ April 1935, pages 179-180
Obviously, the people couldn’t be trusted to guide themselves, then or now, which is why we should rejoice that The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For are finally here.