For better or worse, the new year opens redolent with volatility and sense of déjà vu.
To appreciate the potential for change – of one dynamic day, month or year – we need only look back to 1644 and the turning point of the English Civil War, The Battle Of Marston Moor. This compelling documentary summarises the forces at play and reasons for great upheaval with historic conflict. As illustrated above, in this age of transition, powder energy overcame chivalrous armour, people power stalled the gilt horse.
Couched as inter-church battle in military garb, this was in fact media contest of the day. Professional dissemblers were staking their long-term claims. Communication power was steadily changing hands.
A unitary monopoly on truth and influence, Roman Catholicism had been checked by the Tudors – Henry VIII (1509-1547) and Elizabeth I (1558-1603) – giving birth to the English monarchs’ own publicity machine, the Anglican Church of England. Yet, semi-Catholic in style and ritual, this highly formal and hierarchical edifice lacked the democracy full Reformation presently demanded. New Protestant religion was diversifying fast and with a vengeance.
Covenanted Scottish Presbyterianism from the north – that had offed their Catholic Queen Mary by Elizabeth’s hand in 1587 – held great public and therefore parliamentary sway. They joined and swung the war in 1644.
Marston Moor proved who could muster the muscle and mien for the immediate future. The monarchs’ unitary power – by “divine right” – was under challenge towards its wane, with decapitation.
Church influence was utterly critical as informer of all communities on every minor and major event, shaping loyalties and therefore reality of the day. Out of this spreading contest of pulpit faiths came the pamphlet and newspaper revolution: the rise of the fourth estate with modern democratic forms eventually maturing.
So civil war was the result of unresolved conflicts of ‘truth’ – the situation social media has closely reproduced in the early twenty-first century.
How many new civil wars are this decade taking shape, from recent mass emergence of the fifth estate?
The global social disparities that drove the British 1640s revolution are only more attenuated now. The new age of propaganda looks a lot like the past. – t.b.c.
The birth of publishing for extended justice:
… and against:
“People having the power to express themselves at scale is a new kind of force in the world — a ‘Fifth Estate’ alongside the other power structures of society. People no longer have to rely on traditional gatekeepers in politics or media to make their voices heard, and that has important consequences. I understand the concerns about how tech platforms have centralized power, but I actually believe the much bigger story is how much these platforms have decentralized power by putting it directly into people’s hands.” – Mark Zuckerberg, 2019.