“Revolutions don’t occur because of logic. They require passion, and this emotional element was brought to the movement by a group of visionaries fully aware of the power of the press.”
In chapter 1 of Mightier Than the Sword, we are introduced to how American rebels used media as a way to start and create social change as early as the 1760s. In 1763, the French lost to the British which left them completely in charge of the fur trade even though Great Britain was left bankrupt after the war. Essentially this was the beginning of politics within the American Revolution even though it was not all economics that lead to the revolution but the press, too.
As Streitmatter notes, the media such as pamphlets, gazettes, magazines, and newspapers expressed rebel’s arguments through their own words without holding back. Sam Adams and Thomas Paine both became very prominent voices in the press during the American revolution.
Sam Adams wrote many news articles and essays arguing that the British parliament was imposing too many taxes on the colonists (3). Eventually, Adams became a precursor of todays associated press. It was named the “Journal of Occurrences” and was a way to communicate with other colonists and American leaders, along with spreading his anti-British rhetoric beliefs. He used this to spread the gruesome details of the Boston Massacre which ended up really grabbing readers attention.
Thomas Paine is the author of a pamphlet called “Common Sense”. This served as a central message that the issues colonists were facing were timeless and universal. The essays in this pamphlet were written with clarity, directness and force which is similar to journalism today (11). Common Sense became a huge success within three months spreading the word about breaking away from the British rule.
- “Journal of Occurrences” (1796-1769)
- Verbal response to the Boston Massacre (1770)
- Rebellion in the American Revolution
- “Common Sense”
- Sam Adams
- Thomas Paine
Do you think major events in the American Revolution such as The Boston Tea Party and The Boston massacre would have been as relevant or known without the influence of the press?
Did the press have a positive or negative effect?
Can you think of a modern day example of a tragic event that the press played a major roll in?