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Abraham Lincoln assasination
The three Booth brothers
The three Booth brothers
The three Booth brothers (from left-to-right: John Wilkes Booth, Edwin Booth, and Junius Brutus Booth Jr.) in their only performance together. | Photo: | John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln, Assassination,

How the Media Clothe Modern Emperors

Remember back in the presidential race of 1992 when Ross Perot made constant reference to us, the people, owning the public airwaves? Fast forward to this moment, this presidential race with its 'never sleep' circadian cycle, complete (and replete) with cable and other platforms including the internet and one realization storms into your bombarded cerebellum-Help!

Enter the interactive audience of today; whether you find yourself railing against some blow-dried pundit verbally or via some feed such as Twitter (whose contents, despite their telegraphic form, are rarely actually read... think of those feelgood come-ons: 'we may actually read or feature your comments'), they're not listening, you are.

And you don't have to be of British extraction to reflect that Twitter's aptly named as the domain of far too many twits.

Long before most of us were born into the golden age of television, with its three (yep, just three) broadcast channels, the New Deal era of public-interested legislation made its way onto the statute books; the relevant act was The Federal Communications Act of 1934 positing "that the airwaves are scarce public property, and that broadcasters hold their licenses only on condition that they serve the public interest. But the law provides no schedules, procedures or other specific means to enforce the obligations of public service upon broadcasters. In the years since, an enormous weight of judicial precedent, administrative law and more statues have been built up which in effect recognize license holders, not the public, as real owners of the broadcast airwaves, in stark contradiction to the provisions of the 1934 law.

To this day, more than seventy years later, no more than three successful challenges have ever been mounted to the renewal of broadcast licenses, despite scores or hundreds of attempts. And a radio or TV station licensee pays less for an extraordinarily lucrative radio or TV station license than a human citizen pays to license a used car. And the Clinton-Gore administration passed the Federal Communications Act of 1995, which permit almost unlimited consolidation of radio stations, cable TV networks, newspapers and broadcast TV stations nationwide and in individual markets." (more)

That last sentence above, citing the Clinton Administration's injection of steroid-style growth of the realm of what used to be nobly seen as 'The Fourth Estate' must give us pause, given the landscape extant wherein another Clinton stands to greatly benefit, albeit relatively innocently (ahem, that was charitable, given her, um, public record of unelected activism), from that accelerated growth and consolidation.

And whilst we so pause, lumps in throat, we may individually and, it's hoped, collectively ponder whether that giant of political intellect, Mr. Lincoln, would have found his own wisdom to have any consequence given that mestastisization-like unchecked burgeoning:

"On September 2, 1858, speaking in Clinton, Illinois, during the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates, Abraham Lincoln made one of his most famous statements: 'You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.' Or maybe he said it a couple years earlier, at the 1856 Republican Convention." (more)

Noteworthy on several levels, suffice it to say that even if it still has efficacy, all (or most) of the people may just awaken to having been fooled too late; it's also particularly poignant that this democratic formula was likely uttered at the very first Republican convention, and by the very first Republican. Oh, yes, in case you might have missed it, the alternate locus of his wise observation was at Clinton, Illinois-yes, her native state, and (in)famous surname. Spooky, huh?

What's a high-information voter to do, assuming his/her vote's not being directly or otherwise suppressed, much more likely, a low-information voter (given the above-described condition the media's condition is in... cue the 60's tune) who's 'just dropped in... ' sorry, couldn't resist, poetic privilege.

First, seek out nonprofit sources (in their early days, radio-before TV-stations were all run by not-for-profits, see cited link for this fascinating history);

Second, refer to such now easily accessible sources as The Congressional Record and Congressional Research Service, GAO, et.al., publicly-funded with real firewalls, unlike Wall Street and its ilk;

Third, and especially if you're a student, seek out the professor of your choice, asking him/her for their sources.

In the words of the last President whose (s)election was permitted if not encouraged, "Fool me once... [long pause, panicked look] shame on... don't fool me again!"

In the interim between now and the electoral charades to come, refer regularly to Lincolnian wisdom-it was, at great cost-what saved our Union once before.

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Updated Apr 24, 2017 7:34 AM EDT | More details

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