Billy Beck makes an interesting point this afternoon. He points to a question that the Instant one asks, and then answers it:

“Glenn Reynolds, in the item linked below, asks, “Question: Was the press more professional decades ago, or was it just harder to tell when they cheated?”

Would I be a crashing bore if I mentioned the name of Walter Duranty?

I would suggest looking at Reynolds’ question like this: could Duranty have gotten away with what he did in the 30’s if a worldwide network of insignificant nobodies had been able to essentially talk back to and reject the presumption of a Duranty (and a New York Times) that they were, in fact, insignificant nobodies?…..

He goes on to compare, favorably, the internet, to the ground shift that occurred at Gutenberg.

Now, this is an interesting comparison. And he’s right, so far, I think;

The reaction of the Mainstream Press is perhaps the biggest indication of this situation. And that worried reaction, at least from their viewpoint, is perhaps justified. A look at the situation John Kerry finds himself in just now is instructive; Can you imagine that the press, and it’s thinly veiled support for Kerry, would have found itself being routed around, with the result being Kerry behind in the polling, if the net in general, and Blogs in particular, didn’t exist?

I know I can’t.

However, Beck tries to take it a step farther, and fails, I think:

“The fact is that “authority” is an individual matter”

Well, no…You’re warm, here, Billy, but not quite spot on.

Reconsider the revolution that was Gutenberg. Wasn’t that revolution centered around the understanding and the acknowledgement of an authority? After all, was not the biggest output of the presses of Gutenberg, The Bible? Granted that there was a great deal of other information that also flowed from the presses. But the biggest was the idea of getting that understanding out to the people… an idea Martin Luther himself thought paramount… and Pope Leo thought important enough to set fire to. As a result Luther perhaps better than anyone of his day understood how a lack of correct information could and did subrogate the under-informed.

Luther was bold enough to assert that religion was a personal choice,and a personal relationship between God and man was needful… and by that choice first, (though other bindigs followed) you were bound into the group of Christians. This concept of man as an individual within a group…a duality if you will, was in itself a revolution. Gutenberg’s printings of the Bible did much to extend and complete this revolution, because it brought an understanding of the scripture to the common man, whereas before that, such understandings among the common man were at best rare.  The pope lost that authority in such matters because by way of the information the presses put out, the people found out the real story, and made their choices accordingly. Thus was the Pope reduced from the singular voice of auhtority, to the status of one voice among many.

(For my part, this is by no means an idle connection to Luther… I’ve been re-reading “The Freedom Of the Christian” in the past week. Beck mention of Gutenburg made the ‘switch click’ for me.)

All this bottom lines at a rather different conclusion than Billy’s.

Even in the secular world, authority of ANY kind, is ultimately a group thing, as are all culturally awarded and ascribed roles. Where the individual gets into the act is decideing if they’re to be part of the group calling ‘x’ an athority.

With that relationship a little more tightly drawn, we can get back to Glenn’s question and the first part of Billy’s answer, then;

The so-called mainstream press has, I think lost it’s authority status because so many individuals have decided to seperate themselves from the group that considers them so.  This transition is part and parcel of the transition away from what passes for liberalism in the west.  And it’s occurring because the press has demonstrably abused that authority. The net has given the people that understanding and that opportunity.

Thus was the “mainstream press” reduced from the singular voice of authority, to the status of one voice among many.

Personally, I’m rather tickled at being one of those voices.