Much like the introduction to The Rise of the Blogosphere, the first chapter of the book focuses a lot on the history of journalism. Barlow introduces the idea of the early American coffeehouses in the 18th century. The way he describes them isn’t like the Starbucks kind of coffeehouse with acoustic music playing in the background and people writing novels, but more of a “politically edgy” place for “informal political debate” (7), which I picture as people passionately shouting at each other.
In many ways, these coffeehouses seem like the beginnings of blogs in that oftentimes, blogs are places to interact with people and their politics, especially with political opinions that might be considered “edgy.” Barlow points out this kind of similarity, too. Just before he begins his coffeehouse talk, he says, “The blogs are often considered by their promoters as a reversion, as a means of taking back power from the corporations, the representations of the rich, and returning conversation to the people” (6). The coffeehouses did exactly that; they returned the conversation to the people.
In addition to the shift in conversation from the press during both times to the people, Barlow says that “the reaction to [the coffeehouses] was much like that to the blogs: uneasiness coupled with feeble condemnation” (7). Because the British made sure to keep a close eye on the coffeehouses, I can imagine that they would scrutinize any information or opinions that came from the coffeehouses. Sound familiar?? While our new president hasn’t been criticizing personal blogs, he has been, like I touched upon in my last post, criticizing legitimate news outlets for putting out “fake news.”
Barlow also talks about the idea of censorship during the rise of journalism: “Even without resorting to direct censorship, government continued to try to control the printers…” (4). I think that it’s been obvious that Trump has been trying to control the press and limit their freedom “even without direct censorship.” Instead of censoring the press in an outright manner, he is attempting to pit the public against it, and, to a certain degree, it’s been working.