“I believe,” he said, “that more than armies, more than diplomacy, more than the best intentions of democratic nations, the communications revolution will be the greatest force for the advancement of human freedom the world has ever seen.” At the time, most everyone thought Reagan was right.The twentieth century had been dominated by media that delivered the same material to millions of people at the same time—radio and newspapers, movies and television.Hierarchies would dissolve and peer-to-peer collaborations would take their place.
Reagan proclaimed that the world was on the precipice of “a new era in human history,” one that would bring “peace and freedom for all.” Communism was crumbling, just as fascism had before it.
Liberal democracies would soon encircle the globe, thanks to the innovations of Silicon Valley.
he Goliath of totalitarianism will be brought down by the David of the microchip,” Ronald Reagan said in 1989.
He was speaking to a thousand British notables in London’s historic Guildhall, several months before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
When he drove through adoring crowds, standing in his Volkswagen convertible, giving the Nazi salute, the newsreel cameras were there. Toward the end of the decade, President Roosevelt began searching for ways to urge Americans to take a unified stand against fascism.
In 1933, the With coordinated newspaper headlines overpowering him, with radio voices beseeching him, with news reels and feature pictures arousing him, and with politicians and professors philosophizing for him, the individual German has been unable to salvage his identity and has been engulfed in a brown wave. Given the rise of right-wing fervor in the United States at the time, he had reason to worry.
Members of the Committee joined many American intellectuals in subscribing to the views of the anthropologist Franz Boas, who believed that cultures shape the personalities of their members in predictable ways.
Germans, they thought, tended toward rigidity and an affection for authority, hence Hitler’s famously bureaucratic Nazi regime was a natural extension of the German character.
We especially need to grapple with the fact that today’s right wing has taken advantage of a decades-long effort to decentralize our media.
That effort began at the start of the Second World War, came down to us through the counterculture of the 1960s, and flourishes today in the high-tech hothouse of Silicon Valley.