Holding back history

HearstThe New York Times  ran a great column by Timothy Egan on May 8th comparing ultra-conservatives today to newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst in the 1940s.

For a time, the press lord William Randolph Hearst did everything in his vast powers to keep the film “Citizen Kane” from finding an audience. He intimidated theater owners, refused to let ads run in his newspapers, and even pressured studio sycophants to destroy the negative.   

The point of Egan’s column was that the Koch brothers — those billionaire bozos — are pretty much trying the same thing with climate change, using their money

… to attack  the indisputable science on climate change, to buy junk scholars, to promote harmful legislation at the state level, to go after clean, renewable energy like solar, and to try to kill the greatest expansion of health care in decades. Money can’t buy love, but it certainly can cause a lot of havoc.

But they have already lost the larger fight against progress and modernity, Egan  says.  Just as Hearst couldn’t hold down Citizen Kane,  the Kochs cant hold down scientific facts and progressive ideas about renewable energy and health care.

It’s an old story:  Samuel Morse could not control the telegraph industry in the 1840s;  Western Union could not hold down Alexander  Graham Bell’s telephone in 1878;   Patent medicine manufacturers could not stop Samuel Hopkins Adams in 1905;  Thomas Edison could not hold back the silent film industry in 1915.

Similarly, the Soviets found they could not force Trofim Lysenko’s genetic pseudo-science in the 1930s.

History shows us that attempts to hold back progress and suppress the truth never win in the long run.  Books may be burned, films may be banned, writers may be jailed or exiled or killed — but it doesn’t matter in the long run.  The truth, as John Milton said the Areopagitica in 1644, will eventually win in the marketplace of ideas. And we now know that if the marketplace is rigged, an alternative marketplace of ideas will circumvent the old one.

Nor will history remember much about the Kochs and Hearsts of the world, except perhaps as object lessons in futility.   Those who stand up for the people, against greed and abuse of power, are the ones history tends to remember.


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