But first, a story about Fake News.
In the run-up to the election of 1800, one of America’s first gossip journalists wrote that sitting president John Adams had a “hideous, hermaphroditical character” with “neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”
Not to be outdone, the other side published a story announcing the untimely death of Thomas Jefferson, Adams’ opponent. The Baltimore American carried an “alarming and melancholy report” that Jefferson was dead. The news, of course, was false.
Thomas Jefferson: the OG reports-of-my-death-are-greatly-exaggerated.
Information traveled slowly in 1800, and the news that Jefferson was still very much alive took several days to get around. The lie could fly up and down the East Coast before the truth had the time to get its boots on.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, if Trump fans had tried to claim that Clinton had died, it would have been disproved in minutes, not hours or days.
I love the Jefferson-is-dead story not just because it’s an example of ~fake news~ before the internet, but also because it shows how technology shapes society.
Technology shapes communication, culture, business, and politics, and so much more.
The technology available to you shapes what you can do and say. (None of this is my brilliant insight – media scholar Marshall McLuhan wrote entire books
about how communication mediums shape “the scale and form of human association.”)
Many shifts in technology bring wide-reaching consequences that are both unintended and impossible to immediately discern.
Technology changes too quickly for the average person to think through every implication of every new gizmo or feature.
Forget having the answers — most of the time, we don’t even know the right questions to ask yet. Collision Course is a space for me to try and make sense of these technological shifts: each week, I’ll write something on the news, and bring you an idea or angle or insight that I don’t see being talked about elsewhere. Expect a sort of chef’s salad of news, analysis, and contextualization — what I think, and what smart people are saying.
Expect the next issue of Collision Course to land in your inboxes sometime next week, asking the question: why is it so hard to make a law against revenge porn?
I’m eager for your feedback, and I’d love to hear your suggestions for what you’d like to see covered in this newsletter. I’m @tommycollison
on Twitter, or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
. Please get in touch! 📩📬