Martin Luther and trump: alook into ‘new media’ and how it has effected politics.
New media and as anagent of change (intro): Looking back at history can often help us betterunderstand the events of the present and perhaps even help us better predict what’sto come. One interesting thing is the role that the “new media” of the timeplays into the political and cultural shaping of our society. In 2016 America shocked the world and elected DonaldTrump as the 45th president of the united states. With the mediaoutlets predicting otherwise it would seem that his popularity came out of the blue,however it can be argued that his win would have been easier to predict hadforecasters paid more attention to the activity on social media. The arrival of the internet and social media has dramatically changed thepolitical climate all around the western world.
Trump is one of a few examplesof populist characters gaining power and threatening the already establishedpowers. Others include figures like Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and groupslike British First and Black Lives Matter have all gained a lot of influencethrough the use of the internet and social media. While this use of a ‘new media’ may seem radical and new it is howevereasily to draw parallels from the story of Donald trumps use of social media torise to power to that of Martin Luther’s use of the printing press during the protestantreformation. In this essay I will draw upon these similarities. I will firstly do this by briefly looking athow social media is being used in politics and how it was used during trumps presidentialcampaign I will then be taking a look at how the printing press was used in theprotestant reformation and how this technology changed the world. Trump; social media and fake news: Social media revolutionizedthe way in which politicians are expected to engage with the public. The publicis now about to have a direct interaction with politicians while sitting in theirown home.
People are now basically connected to the world 24/7 and are able toshare their views and ideas with each other whenever they want. In politicsmany populist anti establishment figures have gained a lot of influence online,people no longer trust traditional forms of media but instead get their newsonline. This is mainly due to the fact that the social media streem is live andunadulterated, so a lot of the time its on social media before its in the papersor on tv. However, this trust in social media can backfire from videos takenout of context a lot of what appears news online can be misleading to its audienceand isn’t necessarily even factual at all. One of the biggest talking points afterthe election was the “fake news” scandal. Many mainstream news networks andnews pappers blamed the results of the election on the public being manipulatedmy fake news that favored Donald Trump, many of them also called for facebook,twitter and other social media sites to block specific fake news websites.However many also felt that this was just the mainstream media lashing outbecause they had lost the control they once had. What was different about theseindependent online news websites manipulating people to the mainstream mediadoing it? Donald Trumps also spoke to the growing number of disgruntled rightleaning people online.
One reason why Donald Trumps win may have been soshocking to people is the fact that the right leaning voices online were oftennot noticed online influencers like blogger Milo Yiannopoulos or YouTubers likeSargon of Akon gained a lot of support during the run up to the election. DonaldTrump was also very good at connecting with his supporters on twitter, while Hillaryhad The printing press and the protestant reformation:In 1440 German goldsmithJohannes Gutenberg introduced the printing press to the western Europe. Gutenberg’sprinting press took ideas from the medieval paper press as well as other existingtechnologies such as the wine press to invent the printing press. He also usedhis expertise with metal to create a hand mould that allowed for largequantities of precise led movable type to be produce quickly.
Until now movabletype had been unheard of in Europe. The invention of these moulds combined withhis printing press made it possible for the quick and mass production of identicaltexts. This drastically reduced the the price of printing books and other documentsmaking them more accessible to the masses. By the 16th-century there were printingpresses operating throughout all of western Europe and over twelve million volumeshad been produced. The introduction of movable type printers created a new ageof mass communication, drastically changing the cultural and politicallandscape of renaissance Europe. This fairly unrestricted sharing ofinformation allowed for the circulation of (radical) doctrine and ideas that threatenedthe influence and power or religious and political authorities. The sudden risein literacy made the middle class stronger while also shattering the monopolythe literate elite once had on education and learning.
The protestantreformation of the 16th-centry was a cultural, political and spiritual upheavalthat divided catholic Europe. Before Christian Europe believed in the papalauthority over all things spiritual which gave the catholic church immensepower, land and wealth. The church owned over one third of all the land inEurope making it the most powerful, economic and political force in thecontinent.
Martin Luther, a monk anduniversity professor, noticed the corruption and greed of the catholic churchso in 1517 he composed his “95 theses” and. A document that specificallyattacked the sale of indulgences, this was done through exchanging acertificate pardoning you from your sins for money. Written in Latin Lutheroriginally intended for this document to be used only in scholarly debate, however his ideas were quickly translated and spread around Germany. “it’s amystery to me how my these, more than my other writings, indeed, those of otherprofessors were spread to so many places. They were meant exclusively for outacademic circle here…They were written in such a language that the commonpeople could hardly understand them they use academic categories…” (Luther, 1518).
The 95 theses kicked off theevent of the reformation and overtime Luther’s ideas became more and moreradicle. Going from him wanting reform from within the church to him denouncingthe church and outright calling the pope the antichrist. Reformers called for areligious and political redistribution of power from the papal church into thehands of Bible and pamphlet-reading pastors and princes. The disruptiontriggered wars, persecutions and the so-called Counter-Reformation, theCatholic Church’s delayed but forceful response to the Protestants. Martin Luther was not the first to challengethe authority of the catholic church. In fact, in the previous century both TheCathars and Jan Hus of Prague had both challenged the church and both beencrushed by its power. When the threat of Luther became apparent to the churchthe pop waged war on him excommunicating and declaring him a heretic.
However,unlike his predecessors the church was not able to suppress the spread of Luther’swritings and his growing support. This was due to the help of the printingpress. him and Many there had Speaking on the importance of Gutenberg’sprinting press in the protestant reformation Dickens states that without it”a revolution of this magnitude could scarcely have been consummated”(Dickens, 1966). This quote emphasizes the role played by the printing press indriving the reformation. It not only suggests that it was a tool used by thereformation but also draws focus to the idea that without it a movement thatradical and as widespread would not have been possible. This sentiment is also seen is more contemporarytexts, Luther himself described printing as “God’s highest and extremestact of grace, whereby the business of the gospel is driven forward” healso regarded it as “the last flame before the extinction of theworld”. This quote also almost puts the printing press on the samepedestal that one would put the bible or any other religious texts, the factthat it is a man made invention is undermined and instead it is spoken about asif its conception was a result of direct divine intervention. Here the printing press is seen as a toolthat’s only purpose* is to spread the word of god.
The high regard in which thetechnology was held at is further seen in Gabriel Plattes’s Famous Kingdome ofMacaria “the art of printing will so spread knowledge, that the common people,knowing their own rights and liberties will not be governed byway of oppression”(Plattes, 1641). Although from fiction this extract gives us insight into the epicenesof the printing press. Long after the reformation prodistants would still lookback on this time of enlightenment rather than look forward when trying toovercome a tiJohn foxe heralded “the excellent arte of printings mosthappily of the late found out…to the singular benefit of christe’s church”he was thinking about the restoration of “the lost light of knowledge tothe blynde times” and “the reneuing of holesome and auncient writerswhos doinges and teachings otherwise had lyen in oblivion” this shows thateven after Protestantism had been established the importance of the printingpress had not been forgotten, and its almost divine status in which it wasregarded still visible. We can see that the arrival of the priting press wastruly revolutionary at the time New Media:The internet and social media is often referred to as being ‘interactive’because of this much of the media that came before is automatically assumed tobe ridged and fixed (Manovich, 2001). Because of this when comparing socialmedia to the printing press it can be hard to see the similarities in how thesetwo technologies impacted the world upon their arrival however it can be arguedthat, to 15th-century Europe, the printing press is as interactive as socialmedia is to us. Manovich argues that using the phrase ‘interactive’ to describethe new media is pointless because he finds “the concept to be too broad to betruly useful.
” By this he means that “When we use the conceptof “interactive media” exclusively in relation to computer based media,there is the danger that we will interpret “interaction” literally,equating it with physical interaction between a user and a media object(pressing a button, choosing a link, moving the body), at the expense ofpsychological interaction.” (Manovich, 2001) Here Manovich raises aninteresting point, when talking about the interactivity of new media we areoften talking about the direct and physical interacting the audience has withthat media (in the case of social media this would be liking a tweet orfollowing a user), however this undermines the psychological interactivity youwould have with older media. With the printing press making books andliterature or readily available to the ordinary person, the bible was availableto more people in their own language. This allowed for them to be included in spiritualand theoretical discussion, wider group of people were able to actually engagein the bible and have more control over their spirituality rather than onlyever engaging with the church through their priests and the clergy.
The printingpresses hand in the rise in educated, literate people is just another exampleof how it can be seen as interactive. To conclude this essay we should consider how these two technologiesare similar, both drastically changed the way in which we communicate, bothmaking the world seem smaller through a unrestricted circulation of informationand (revolutionary) ideas that transcend borders. But what’s most similar aboutthese is the way in which they were used to gain power, influence through challengingthe establishment. Both Martin Luther and trump took advantages of thesetechnologies ability to directly send their views to masses of people to gaintheir support. In answering the question of what we can learn from studying thehistory of media communications is that with a new form of media what oftencomes is a dramatic shift in power, influence and politics. When looking backat the printing press questions arise on the “newness” of media.
We see that manyof the phrases used to describe new media such as “interactive” or it “makesthe world more connected” were also once used to describe its predecessor.While trump trumps election may not be as radical as the protestant reformationwas, he may just be the tip of the iceberg. Social media has allowed manygroups good or bad to continue to grow in global support and influence with theauthorities having little to no control over it. Maybe a movement as radicaland as powerful as the protestant reformation is yet to come?