Air, Water, and Bandwidth
Debbie Saslaw
11

“Nothing travels faster than the speed of light, other than bad news”

Douglas Adams

I keep thinking about the comparison of our worldviews with the human life of just a few hundred years ago. News traveled only as far and as fast as a person could ride a horse in a day.

In our earliest history, we only needed to learn what was dangerous (fire, animals) and what was useful (fire, animals) once in a lifetime, early. You only had one chance to get that wrong. The range of discussion or consultation was limited to the sound of your grunt.

Animals and fire.

When the industrial revolution came along much later, shit got real. The poor were jailed, the rich got richer, few knew what was happening from day to day. With the advent of radio, then television, came an informed public. Thanks to the relatively inexpensive devices to receive radio, most people were able to have them or knew others that had them.

Things changed when television became the most popular diversion among many, and advertising took over. There was still the model of news as a way to compensate for the mandate given to networks to use the airwaves. News was delivered by trusted figures.

Walter Cronkite: “There is no such thing as a little freedom. Either you are all free, or you are not free.”

Once cable TV came, things like “news”, once a way to “pay” for using the public air waves that belong to you and me, was now an unabashed source of income for networks.

“The money’s rolling in…”

CBS CEO Les Moonves speaking at a Morgan Stanley-hosted conference

At the point where these channels are controlled by a small number of vested interests (who advertises on the Sunday political shows?), the Internet became the only hope to get the absolute truth and the absolute fake news of the day, 24/7 from around the world. That this channel that is the Internet should be controlled on either end, content/information providers or content/information consumers by any company, lobby, nation, government, dictator or party is obviously unethical.

There must remain a single democratic, egalitarian way to shout among the shouters, to inform and entertain, to hear and be heard.