Today’s Columnists Find Their Roots in Revolutionary War Era Pamphleteers

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On the afternoon of June 9, while chasing the fugitive sloop Hannah, the unthinkable happened. The HMS Gaspee ran aground in low waters off the Rhode Island shore on what was then called Namquit Point. Unnamed Sons of Liberty, once alerted, sprang into action. In the early morning hours of June 10, before high tide could rescue the British man-of-war, the rebels boarded it, shot its commander, and burned the ill-fated vessel to its waterline.

The year was 1772 and the newspaper industry was dying. Of the thirty-seven weekly broadsheets published in the thirteen colonies, only eleven reported on what came to be known as “The Gaspee Affair.” By 1783, primarily due to lack of revenue and the logistical problems caused by the Revolutionary War, the Colonies would be down to only about twenty newspapers.

Still, the story of the Gaspee Affair stirred the American patriots. Why? Because an itinerant Continue Reading “Today’s Columnists Find Their Roots in Revolutionary War Era Pamphleteers”

Are You an Instigator, a Skeptic, or Merely Somebody Else’s Tool?

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They say the world is made up of two types of people. They’re wrong. The world consists of three types of people, but two of those types get all the press.

Journalists like to frame issues in a binary fashion – one side against another. That’s simple. It’s black and white. It’s A versus B. Reporters don’t do this because they can’t handle the complexity of multiple opposing points of view. They structure their stories as a duel between competing interests because readers find those stories easiest to digest. The audience finds such pairings quite familiar. Literature is replete with examples: Ahab vs. Moby Dick, Sherlock Holmes vs. Professor Moriarty, and Bambi vs. Godzilla, to name a few.

It’s not just drama. Philosophy often has an attraction to complimentary combinations. We see this most markedly in the Taoist notion of “dualistic-monism” as expressed in the Continue Reading “Are You an Instigator, a Skeptic, or Merely Somebody Else’s Tool?”

Dave Snyder and The Alfred Sun Show How to Promote (Civil) Community Discussion

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german-tv-discussion-1251809The role of the media in society has been the subject of debate since before our country’s founding. Such was the oppression of the British government during the pre-Revolutionary era that our Founding Fathers, with great wisdom and foresight, codified “freedom of speech” directly on our Constitution via the first amendment. Through the years “polite society” has continually modified what was considered “proper decorum” when it came to public communication, it’s only been until very recently that our nation has forgotten the corollary of the First Amendment: “I may disagree with you but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” In modern times, it’s becoming increasingly accepted to wish death upon those that disagree with you.

The role of the press in maintaining the freedom of speech cannot be understated, and jolly old England appears front and center in this fight. It was Queen Elizabeth I who, in 1585, first created laws to limit the freedom of the press. Here’s the flavor of those laws: Continue Reading “Dave Snyder and The Alfred Sun Show How to Promote (Civil) Community Discussion”

The Heart of America Rests Peacefully Within the Heart of Greater Western New York

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(The following is an excerpt from the chapter “We’re Baaack”
in my 2012 book 50 Hidden Gems of Greater Western New York.)

The muddy road seemed to hardly merit the official route number New York State had assigned it. A “repaving” project had caused the traffic jam, and presumably most of the IMG_9916_daniel_shaysmud. The rain had stopped when we begin to climb the small slope that would lead us to Union Cemetery. Union Cemetery is closed to new burials now, but the grave I’m looking for is from 1825.

We pull into the gravel road that circles through the interior of the cemetery. I’m not sure where the grave is. My research indicates there’s a marker. I’m thinking it marks the actual grave. I see a marker by the roadside at the edge of the cemetery. Turning into the graveyard, I assume that’s where the grave is, but as I drive up the moist lane, I notice yet another sign – Continue Reading “The Heart of America Rests Peacefully Within the Heart of Greater Western New York”