The first deliberate use of mass media to control a society

June 13, 2016                                                                                                                                        The Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua

I was reading Jacques Crétineau-Joly’s marvelous though sadly never translated into English work L’Église Romaine en Face de la Revolution from 1859 about the disastrous calamities in Europe that both caused and resulted from the French Revolution and I came across a fascinating passage about the state of France between 1789 and the massacres of the fall of 1792 (translation and italics mine):

In each city there exists a (political) club and this club writes a daily newspaper.  To the aid of these two new mechanisms there is formed an electric current throughout France which propagates enthusiasm or fear, and which metes out hope or disappointments according to its pleasure.  They want to lead the French nation by degrees to repudiate her history and her cult on her own.  They blow into the hive to enrage the bees.

I have never read a more cogent analysis of the destructive power of mass media than this; and it was written in 1859!  The printing press had existed for a third of a millennium when the French Revolution broke out, and it had been used to bad effect by the Protestants and by Voltaire and his cronies with the licentious and pornographic publications they spread throughout Europe to weaken the wills of the societies that their disciples were now starting to assault but it had never been used quite like this.  Its purpose now was not simply to spread bad ideas but to control public opinion.

This was a first in human history to my knowledge.  The information flow was to be managed.  Certainly spreading rumors, especially in wartime, was an ancient tactic but it was usually local and only by word of mouth.  And newspapers had existed prior to 1789 but they were different: usually just a summary of grain prices, court cases, ship arrivals, and if any foreign news were included it was usually only because someone had sent a letter with some interesting factoids from a foreign port.  In the times when kings and their courts managed the affairs of state there was a lot less for people to worry about.

The revolution of 1789 claimed to launch the people, the French nation, into the halls of government.  And it created mechanisms such as an elected National Assembly that would be the vehicle for this supposed popular control.  The only hitch in this project was that the real revolutionaries had no interest in the actual will of the people.  Most of the people after six weeks of revolutionary government probably would have sought to return to a time of more peace and stability and prosperity with the old institutions firmly in charge, only maybe a little bit less corrupt, though it should be said that corruption is a constant throughout human history no matter what form of government one lives under.  In fact corruption has amplified exponentially in the so called ‘democratic age’ compared to what it was under the Catholic monarchs.

Now the will of the people had first to be constructed, for who could say that the 28 million souls who inhabited France in 1789 possessed a single will between them, and then molded to suit the preferences of the revolutionaries.  This is why the construction of this network of political associations who were producing their own publications all linked to a central authority was so crucial.  People in Bordeaux and in Marseille and in Lille would all be reading the same thing day in and day out.  Public opinion would not simply be managed it would be constructed.  I must also say that this network of political clubs and their publications is suspiciously similar to the network of Masonic lodges that existed throughout France during the years and decades prior to the Revolution.  Just saying it for the record.

With this information highway firmly under the control of the revolutionaries they were free to first exalt certain characters who served their agenda and demolish those who were opposed, sometimes the same person.  They were free to create false hopes and then dash those hopes AND give people someone to blame when those hopes did not materialize.  This was all new in 1789 and it appeared on the scene so fast that the French people had no defense against being manipulated like this.  Even today people can’t seem to figure out that 95% of what goes on in the media is designed to manipulate them into becoming servants of an agenda.  They never seem to get the fact that the way the media is structured even in the internet age allows it to be dominated by a very few whose names we will likely never know.  Some days I think that the modern mass media is that river coming out of the serpent’s mouth in chapter 12 of the Apocalypse.

Please go to Confession and pray three Hail Marys in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

 

 

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