Tag Archives | Benjamin Franklin

The Fine Art of Hoaxing – An American Tradition

Ben Franklin (DbM 2010)

Allen Greenfield, recently announced that he had found in his archives a series of unreleased tapes of interviews that were made by Gray Barker, the UFOlogist and folklorist best known for his coverage of fortean events in West Virginia, including the Mothman, Flatwoods Monster, and for his, some say, invention of the contemporary mythos of the Men in Black. Credulous curmudgeons, and stuffy skeptics often lament Barker’s involvement in the field of Forteana, saying that he was nothing more than an ill intentioned prankster that muddied the waters of serious investigation, or worse, a profiteering culture pirate who took advantage of the gullible with articles for Fate Magazine, books like They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, The Silver Bridge, MIB: The Secret Terror Among Us, and the many publications he put out from others via his imprint Saucerian Press.

A proper hoax, however, has a cathartic value that can be missed if we’re too stuck on the dull task of debunking.… Read the rest

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The Leak That Made America

Well, no surprises in the Iowa caucus. Gingrich, Bachman and Perry beat themselves into irrelevance and the voters remain undecided whether their priority is to be impoverished by Wall Street wh*res like Mitt Romney or burned at the stake by puritanical simpletons like Rich Santorum. If the Democratic Party’s Achilles heel is a lack of conviction and willingness to fight for its stated beliefs, the Republican Party’s fatal flaw is its love of stupidity.

But that’s just us, the electorate. Supposedly the great education and ethical commitment of professional functionaries should mitigate against the creeping culture of mediocrity that’s overtaken American culture in the last 50 years. Does it really, though? For example, do the judges deciding the fate of Bradley Manning have clue # 1 that their nation’s very founding legal principle owes its existence to a state department leak in 1773? Do any of them remember the Hutchinson Letters Affair?

Benjamin Franklin
Bradley Manning
Complacency

On the face of it, the late 18th century should, by all rights, have represented a gratifying period of peace and contentment within the British Empire.  The vicious civil wars that marked the 17th century had finally been resolved with the decisive defeat of the Jacobite rebellion in 1745.  A remarkably stable political settlement had been achieved which conclusively destroyed the arbitrary power of absolute monarchy…

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Washington Vs. Jefferson — Winner: Franklin By TKO

Washington / Jefferson / FranklinIn the buildup to the 2012 elections, we can anticipate candidates attempting to appropriate inaccurate depictions of the legacies of the Founding Fathers. But when it comes to real history, pound for pound, and in any fight between Jefferson and Washington, I’d put my money on Ben Franklin.

In one recent article posted to disinfo.com, and the attendant readers’ comments particularly grabbed my imagination:  “Dancing at the Memorial of a Slave Owner“, an examination of the events following the arrest of five persons for dancing near the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Of course the real importance of the article bears upon the current state of civil rights and free speech in the United States, not on Mr. Jefferson’s personal stance on slavery. The impression the piece left with me was a reinforced sense of America as a declining cultural as well as economic and military power, clinging desperately onto past imagined glories in a viciously ironic way that presents a tragi-comic contrast with the soaring notions of liberty articulated by Jefferson himself.… Read the rest

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Would Benjamin Franklin Be A Blogger?

Benjamin_FranklinA biographer of Benjamin Franklin fielded an interesting question at a Smithsonian Institution symposium. If he were alive today, would Ben Franklin be a blogger?

Walter Isaacson, once Time magazine’s managing editor and the CEO of CNN, ultimately answered with an affirmation of today’s decentralized media. “All the way through [America's] life as a country, you have low barriers of entry to the technology of information… For a very brief period in our country’s history, approximately from 1940 to the year 2000, you have a concentration of media where it’s a higher barrier to entry… Then the internet blows all that away.” He notes that in New Orleans there’s one monopoly newspaper, but “there’s probably a thousand bloggers, all attacking the mayor of New Orleans at any given moment!”

He concludes that Franklin would have a very thoughtful web site – though the frugal founding father might also be tempted to put his content behind a pay wall!… Read the rest

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