Technology, Civil War & Parallels

Telegraph KeyI’ve been really enjoying both the Civil War Day By Day Blog, as well as the Disunion series in the Opininator from the NY Times. Earlier this week Disunion had an article, Morse, The Telegraph & Civil War. The gist of the article is that the advent of the Telegraph allowed for quicker and faster communication, and coupled with advances of the printing press, allowed for more newspapers to take hold, each with their own partisan orientation.

This speed of communication allowed for the schism between North and South to broaden.

Instead, of course, national unity unraveled as antagonistic North-South stereotypes hardened during the 1850s. The dominant modern narrative of mid-19th century American history suggests that North and South began to see each other more clearly — and that each discovered how genuinely different the other had become. While a fast-changing North embraced progress and improvement, the South remained wedded to an archaic, retrogressive labor system. Under the circumstances, Northern and Southern outlooks and values necessarily diverged.

What struck me most though about this article is how it parallels today’s current events and how the advances in technology and the internet can be directly attributed to the uprising in the Middle East, as well as to some degree the political discourse in our own country. The 24 hour news cycle, and the fact that anyone can start a blog/website to argue their stance has really changed the way politics is done in the United States. We just had our first presidential candidate announce his candidacy via Twitter. A politician was run out of Washington due to his use of Craigslist and the ability of a website to get a hold of the email exchange and image to quickly get it out, being picked up by mainstream media, resulting in his resignation within days of the story hitting the web.

Guess it goes to prove the old adage, The more things change, the more they stay the same.