Wednesday, December 23, 2015

How progressivism and journalism created the hated soundbite

In today's media world, sound bites are everywhere. Tiny little slogans that omit so much fact as to make them virtually useless. But where did these come from? Who created the soundbite? When was it invented? As is so common, most of the problems we have today are rooted in progressivism, from 100 year ago. The soundbite is no different.

George Creel, the chairman of the Committee on Public Information, wrote the following:

"Nothing is more true than that people do not live by bread alone; catch-phrases constitute a staple article of diet, especially in a democracy" - George Creel, Chairman of the Committee on Public Information

Setting aside that America is not a democracy, we see the crass view of the American people that is typical for journalists, which continues to this day. Especially the American that existed 100 years ago. Progressives have had a century to use their machinery in both education and media to dumb down the electorate, so that today, some may more readily and accurately make such arrogant pronouncements. I still reject them, but I would be a fool to outright dismiss the work the progressives have done.

So what did the original formula look like?

In the "General Suggestions To Speakers of the 4 Minute Men" (the 4 minute men was a division of the CPI), we see the following:

Read all the papers every day, to find a new slogan, or a new phraseology, or a new idea to replace something you have in your speech. For instance, the editorial page of the Chicago Herald of May 19 is crammed full of good ideas and phrases. Most of the article is a little above the average audience, but if the ideas are good, you should plan carefully to bring them into the experience of your auditors. There is one sentence which says, "No country was ever saved by the other fellow; it must be done by you, by a hundred million yous, or it will not be done at all." Or again, Secretary McAdoo says, "Every dollar invested in the Liberty Loan is a real blow for liberty, a blow against the militaristic system which would strangle the freedom of the world," and so on. Both the Tribune and the Examiner, besides the Herald, contain President Wilson's address to the nation in connection with the draft registration. The latter part is very suggestive and can be used effectively. Try slogans like "Earn the right to say, I helped to win the war," and "This is a Loyalty Bond as well as a Liberty Bond," or "A cause that is worth living for is worth dying for, and a cause that is worth dying for is worth fighting for." Conceive of your speech as a mosaic made up of five or six hundred words, each one of which has its function.

So, the express purpose of this organization per its own documentation was (among other things) the creation of slogans. To seek out pithy little lines, extract them, and repeat them ad-nauseum. That's not how news coverage was 100 years ago in the old publications. Media has come a long way in a century. Wheras today, it is common in to see or hear in any medium these short little clips, in the old media (with the exception of what was outright omitted) news coverage was long, drawn out, and informative.

The progressives hadn't had 100 years to design their own customer, so they had no choice but be more informative for a more informed audience.

Is it little wonder that the soundbite is the creation of government fiat?

Oh, and one other thing. Who were all the people within the Committee on Public Information? They were all journalists. George Creel was a journalist, Edward Bernays, Heber Blankenhorn, Charles Merz, Wallace and William Henry Irwin, Ernest Poole, Ray Stannard Baker, they were all journalists. Even Walter Lippmann, the Father of Modern Journalism was a member of the CPI briefly. Every last one of them were journalists. The Committee on Public Information was filled to the brim with journalistic "talent".

This is what journalism brought you. And they still bring it to you today. How many talking points do you see daily that start not with a person in one party or the other party, but the talking point starts right from a member of the esteemed media in the form of a soundbite?

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