Donut Age: America's Donut Magazine

And another thing

Another thought prompted by Mark's post on mass audiences. He writes:

The curse of the twentieth century was our collective rush to embrace broadcast media -- industrial-scale publishing, radio, mass marketing -- without thinking things through. Suddenly, one Leader could Lead millions astray -- and only the worst messages, dressed in the brightest finery, could be heard.

The implied causality here, mass-media leads to fascism, seems flawed for at least two reasons. First, tyrants and demagogues have led people astray for millenia, without the benefit of modern broadcast media. History is full of examples of good ideas (Christian love, the Rights of Man) being perverted into atrocities (the Crusades, the Terror).

Secondly, I don't think it was blind acceptance of mass-media that opened the door for fascism. Rather the opposite. If you look at the Modernist writers of the first half of the twentieth century, many of whom flirted with or openly embraced fascism, you repeatedly see complaints about the dilution and devaluing of the written word by the influence of industrial-scale publishing (which, incidentally, really began in the preceding century). This critique of the media of that era was often tied to a larger-scale critique of the system liberal democratic capitalism in which it functioned. Inasmuch as fascism also seemed to critique the same system, it was plausible (at least for a time) to see it as a kindred movement. So in one sense, writers like Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis came to fascism because they questioned mass-media. If that seems like an over-simplification , think about how nowadays, anyone who too-vigorously criticizes popular/mass-culture is labeled as an elitist, a term that often serves merely as a euphemism for "fascist."

Still and all, I think Mark and I are in agreement. We would both like to see a new alternative, something that would give us another choice between the mob and the hermit. But as I posted previously, I am not inclined to optimism on this point.