In its early days, radio was also as politically polarizing as Twitter is now (until television came)

In its beginnings, radio was also as politically polarizing as Twitter is now (until television arrived)

JBS Haldane said that "there is no great invention, from fire to flying, that has not been received as an insult to some god." We all tend to be a bit Luddite in the face of new technology. To attribute new evils that did not exist before. For example, with the advent of social media, we seem to have discovered ideological echo chambers, extreme political polarization, and even rudeness .

However, just as the arrival of the printing press raised suspicions and misgivings similar to those produced by the arrival of the internet, radio, in its beginnings, could be perfectly comparable to social networks such as Twitter.

Nazis and cheap radios

On Twitter, according to some, people with destructive ideologies proliferate. We are dedicated to blocking, reporting, canceling. However, the Nazis used radio on a massive scale to influence the Austrian population and the Germans themselves. To do this, they developed a very low-priced radio receiver . Volksempfänger (in German, literally ‘people’s receiver’) were a series of radio receivers developed by Otto Griessing for the Seibt company at the request of Joseph Goebbels.

Ve301w Volksempfänger, Type VE301W.

The first device introduced was the Model VE301 on August 18, 1933. All Volksempfängers were designed to pick up only local radio stations, to ensure that Nazi propaganda broadcasts could be easily heard, and not other media. Albert Speer , Hitler’s favorite architect and minister of armaments and war, said in his last speech at the Nuremberg trials:

Hitler’s dictatorship differed from that of all its predecessors in history on one fundamental point. His dictatorship was the first […] that took full advantage of all technical means for the domination of its own country. Through technical devices such as radio and loudspeaker, 80 million people were deprived of independent thought. In this way it was possible to subject them to the will of a man.

Bundesarchiv Bild 183 H14243 Berlin Verteilung Von 500 Radios Volksempfanger Distribution of 500 copies of the radio on the occasion of the birthday of Joseph Goebbels. (Berlin, 1938).

As Matt Ridley abounds in his book Keys to Innovation :

The influence of radio in polarizing the population was immense even in democracies, where Father Charles Coughlin used radio to promote hatred of bankers and Jews among his 30 million listeners, while Franklin Roosevelt used it to sell his music. policies (something reminiscent of what happened in more recent times with social networks). "Have I done the world good or have I added another threat?" Marconi wondered in 1934.

The arrival of television, for some reason, generated an effect contrary to that of radio, and returned to the citizens a certain social consensus. In fact, that consensus was at times stifling. There was no polarization, but there was uniformity. One of the key moments in which this effect occurred was in 1954, when Americans first saw Senator Joseph McCarthy on television .

They didn’t like what they saw and the MacCarthy bubble immediately burst. "The American people have seen you for six weeks. You are not fooling anyone anymore," Senator Stuart Symington said shortly thereafter. In my opinion, this centripetal effect has been reversed with the arrival of social networks, a force as polarizing as radio in its early days.

Now social networks, and the media in general, are full of politicians who intervene to express their opinion on each issue, however minimal or childish it may be, in order to generate two sides: those of their own and those of the other rope. It is not something new, it is just what we are living now.

If anything, given that political rhetoric is being simplified because there is more and more democracy, not less, dozens of logical fallacies are incurred , or the population is alarmed by twisting statistics or reality itself. As HL Mencken has already put it: "The sole aim of practical politics is to keep the population alarmed (and thus crying out to be led to safety) with an endless series of demons, most of them imaginary." HL Mencken . Or less dangerous, but equally vacuous, simple ideas are proposed but that one can easily adopt to express his virtuosity and his side, such as substituting "motherland" for "motherland":