18th century in the news

The first daily newspaper printed in Britain was created by a woman named Elizabeth Mallet in 1702. She printed from Black Horse Alley (described by some contemporaries as “ordinary and nastily kept”) near the Fleet Bridge in London. Her publication was named The Daily Courant.

Mallet had been printing for 19 years prior to this. Before beginning The Daily Courant, she used to print the final testimonies of executed criminals amongst other things.

One of the most stark pieces of information printed in the newspaper was in a piece Mallet wrote on good journalistic practice. She writes “(This newspaper) will relate only Matters of Fact; supposing that others have sense enough to make Reflections for themselves.” How’s that for a 300 year old jab at the kind of fake news peddled by such rags as The Daily Mail, The Sun and Breitbart, eh?

Credit to Rebecca Rideal on Twitter for sharing some of this info with her followers.

@thelegendofeverything was nice enough to tell me about this and it’s AWESOME news: American Duchess made an Outlander collection of patterns for Simplicity and it will be available on april. So we can expect historical accuracy and a nice price for these patterns (you all know that we all need this!). 

Most of us by now understand that the Mainstream Media are not in the business of the reporting of facts but rather in the shaping of public opinion.
Across America, 24 hours a day, the media enters our homes and lives not to inform us…… but rather to tell us how we should think.
Whether the issue is Global Warming, marriage equality or civil unrest in American cities………..coverage is less determined by the facts than by what networks and reporters believe the story should be.
Journalism has become a profession peopled by social activists masquerading as impartial reporters of facts.

This however is not a new phenomena…………

In fact a study of papers and periodicals of the 18th and 19th century show wildly inflammatory and misleading opinion being presented as news.
The newspaper business of that day was a wild free for all, where anyone with the resources, could set up a newspaper or periodical and publish virtually anything that they liked.

Not much different from the internet of today.

However…..in the early part of the 20th century journalism took on the mantle of a profession. Reporters and the media were now accorded an increasing respect. Schools of journalism were set up, guidelines and codes of conduct outlined and the media took up its self-appointed role as the “fourth estate, the gate-keeper of western democracy assuring Americans that truth was their highest ideal.

Walter Cronkite changed all that.

Touted as the "most trusted man in America” Cronkite’s role as CBS’s news anchorman took him into American living rooms nightly, to tell the families gathered there, the events of the day, signing off with the assurance  "And that’s the way it is".

The public trust in Walter Cronkite cannot be underestimated.
Which is why his betrayal of that trust and its ongoing consequences is so particularly egregious.

In 1968 Cronkite traveled to Vietnam to report on the aftermath of the Tet Offensive.

America had already endured 7 years of involvement in the Vietnam War. Though Americans were tired of the conflict and there was rising concern about the initial decision to send armed forces, only 10% of those in public polls advocated for a withdrawal from the conflict.
American overwhelmingly wanted the United States to finish the job. The “anti-war movement” despite the modern day  presentation was still largely regarded as a fringe movement led by student activists and hippies. Not unlike the present day Occupy crowd.

Tet……. or rather the reporting of Tet, changed all that.

In the early morning hours of January 31, during the traditional Tet holiday truce, Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces launched a massive countrywide attack on the cities and towns of South Vietnam.

For the Viet Cong the Tet Offensive was a last roll of the dice.

Having sustained increasing casualties and loss of strategic areas over the last two years, General General No Nguyen Giap, the Supreme Commander of the NVA  and Hoàng Văn Thái leader of the Viet Cong, gambled everything on one last major offensive. They believed that the people of South Vietnam in the face of such overwhelming odds would rise up in and join the insurgent forces in defeating the Americans and the South Vietnamese government.

Their gamble not only failed……..but failed spectacularly.

Not only did the South Vietnamese fail to rise up but they fought ferociously in villages and towns to defeat them.
The North Vietnamese suffered horrific losses with an estimated 80,000 killed or wounded. American casualties by contrast were less than 2500.
Not one of the strategic objectives envisioned by Giap or Thai was achieved and in fact the massive loss of life proved a blow the Viet Cong never fully recovered from and to all intents they ceased to be an effective fighting force.

Into all this strode Walter Cronkite…………

Having commissioned himself to do a “special report” from Vietnam. Cronkite took his cameraman to one of the only areas significantly damaged during the offensive.
With the rubble smoking in the background Cronkite famously declared “It seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate.”.

This was a massive blow to the American psyche already reeling from the sheer magnitude of the attacks.
Here was the most trusted man in America, telling his fellow Americans that the war was basically lost.

Cronkite did this in full knowledge that Tet was a stunning defeat for the North Vietnamese. Cronkite had decided, perhaps over a period of time, that the facts by necessity must become subservient to his own belief and desire for an American withdrawal.

Whether or not the story of Lyndon B. Johnston’s response “If  I’ve lost Cronkite……..I’ve lost America” is true or not…….what is undeniable was the erosion of public confidence in the outcome of the war.

Cronkite’s straying from reportage into advocacy had repercussions far beyond the removal of American forces in South Vietnam.
The journalistic profession sat up and took notice. Here was one of their own not just reporting the news but actively remoulding public opinion.
No longer would they be just reporters of world events now they would be the active shapers of those events.

A role they gleefully embraced.

The legacy of Walter Cronkite continues to this day. The media once the collators and promulgators of facts have become in the space of one human lifetime…………The gatekeepers of inconvenient truths. Only allowing outside that which serves their beliefs and desires.

Thus is our democracy weakened and the public trust made poorer by the day.

Some very bad news

Hollywood’s making a movie about “Bonnie” Prince Charlie and Culloden. It’s billed as having the biggest fight scene ever filmed in Scotland. In the papers it’s shown alongside a still from Braveheart.

I’m really, really, really not looking forward to a brutal Hollywood mangling of the battlefield where I work over summer. I don’t want to have to re-explain things to thousands of people every week when there are already enough misconceptions about the battle floating around. 

This Easter Sunday, please, for the love of God, pray that the film either flops or, somehow, has amazing liaison historians that the writers and director actually listen to. My life can’t handle The Patriot crossbreeding with Braveheart. 

Ligota, Nowiny and Wola (and its variations) are names that were used to describe new settlements in the past. As it turns out, they were also subject to regional division. 

Ligota (or Lgota) comes from Czech Lhota and as such, it is most common in Silesia which has had strong ties to Poland’s southern neighbor. 

Wola (or Wólka) comes from the word will - in this context, the will of the lord. On contrary to Ligotas (which were spontaneously located), Wolas were set by a lord who ordered his peasants to settle down in a given place. 

Nowiny (and its variations) are the youngest of them as they come from the 18th or even 19th century. Nowiny means simply news in Polish now and in the past it probably meant something new