Thursday, 13 August 2009

Discuss: Blogging Vs. The Reformation

TB is working through a large collection of books he has wanted to read for months but hasn’t had the time. One he would recommend is

contributor Hugh Hewitt’s
“Blog – What you must know how the blogosphere is smashing the old media monopoly and giving individuals power in the marketplace of ideas.”

While is a few years old, it nonetheless gives an fascinating account of the history of the American blogosphere, it’s biggest casualties such as Kerry and Dan Rather, as well as advice to anyone wanting to expand their influence. However throughout the book Hewitt continually compares the power of blogging to that of Martin Luther. On first impression this is a slightly pretentious and over ambitious analogy. Hewitt writes;

What is really going on is an information reformation similar in consequence to the Reformation that split Christianity in the sixteenth century. The key to that Reformation was the wide dissemination of Scripture among the increasingly literate laity. Today we do not have a canon, but we do have an appetite for information, the arrival of new technology of distribution, and a million willing content providers. The old guard of old media is in a situation very similar to the Roman Catholic Church’s situation when Luther arose to challenge the pope’s authority. Once Luther’s spark set the fire, the availability of editions of the Bible made the collapse of the Church’s authority inevitable, though the struggle was long and often bloody.


You should thus be persuaded that the last couple of years have been important for blogging. But it is much bigger than that. That’s like saying 1517 was a big year for Martin Luther. Both statements are true but do not communicate the scope of the change that was initiated in those years. To get a glimpse of what is coming, try examining what followed Luther’s challenge to the authority of Rome. As Luther was to Leo, so bloggers are to MSM, and Luther’s impact wasn’t limited to the Vatican.

While it is true that the MSM are under threat and are running scared, is it really realistic to compare this online revolution to that of the 16th century? The very suggestion brings the line of bloggers being self-obsessed, arrogant and self indulgent immediately to mind. On the one hand the significance of the Reformation came down to the printing press and the free distribution of text. Surely blogging is just the same idea via an alternative method of distribution? A mere development, but the other hand Hewitt proves the other side of the coin can just as easily be argued. Have we, or are we, witnessing the second Reformation?




To compare blogging to the Reformation is a wrong comparison.

The reason is that the Reformation claimed anyone could read and understand scripture rather than a priest declaring it.

An analogy to this would have been the introduction of the newspaper where anyone can read it and follow it rather than have someone tell them how it is.

Blogging is like having members of the congregation preaching. While it can be useful, you would need to keep your wits and know your source before relying on it when talking to others!

Anonymous said...

The Reformation was attempted to reform a rather corrupt Catholic Church and fought for freedom to practice Christianity in manner different from that dictated by Rome. The printing press simply facilitated this change - important yes but I'm not sure the blogosphere can claim a similar stature. The internet has facilitated more freedom of speech, bloggers are simply evidence of that.

Baron Collingwood

Let me first start by saying I rarely read anything from Hugh Hewitt. The 'conservative right' (for lack of a better name) is so self centric and adoring of anything they feel they have influenced. I wouldn't put it past them to compare some minor future event to the Battle of Hastings.

The same thing Hewitt says of blogs could be said of the switch from radio to television. Dissemination of information is indeed coming quicker, faster, and from multiple sources but the same could be said of the switch in the mid 1980s from three channels to 500. Granted a step forward in access to data but not the Reformation.

If the only definition of equitable to the Reformation is a major shift in sources from which the masses receive their information, there would be multiple examples of the Reformation being recreated....

The Old Right/Classical Liberals that are on the real right tend to find people like Hewitt and most other US 'conservatives' to lean to the hyperbolic more often than not when it comes to historical references...

Anonymous said...

What a load of shit. Where's the totty gone?

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