The World Is Not As Flat as They Thought

Would-be White House photographers learn this the hard way:

The nation’s largest news organizations lodged a complaint Thursday against the White House for imposing unprecedented limitations on photojournalists covering President Barack Obama, which they say have harmed the public’s ability to monitor its own government.

The organizations accuse the White House of banning photojournalists from covering Obama at some events, and then later releasing its own photos and videos of the same events.

“Journalists are routinely being denied the right to photograph or videotape the president while he is performing his official duties,” according to a letter the organizations sent to the White House. “As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist’s camera lens, officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the executive branch of government.”

You’d think that, with most of the media in the tank for the Occupant the way they are, that same Occupant wouldn’t feel the need to control things the way he does.  And you’d think that, with all the “new media” and the ways people can supposedly get around traditional channels, that we’d have more ways to discover what’s going on, not fewer.

You’d be wrong.

One thing that people in countries with centralised power (I’ll avoid the pejorative adjective “totalitarian”) know is that information technology tends to further centralise power by giving rulers easier access to what the people are doing and saying and the people fewer options to hide it.  That works both ways; it gives such rulers more opportunities to feed their message to their masses.  They don’t have to put expensive statues in every public square or their picture on every wall to get their “divine” status across, although most don’t mind that either.

In our provincial naïvité, we thought it could never happen here.  The NSA/Snowden business shows that the powers that be can reach out and gather an enormous amount of information using technology.  Now the Obama White House shows that it can use social media to bypass even its beloved mainstream media and get its message out to the exclusion of other voices.

So the world is neither being flattened nor made more egalitarian with the Internet, appearances and hope notwithstanding.  It will take a more determined and clever populace to slow the trend, but looking at the one we’ve got I’m not holding my breath.

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