Print, Even the new, bourgeois public sphere

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Print, Parades, Spheres of all sorts
So many definitions are there of the public sphere. One can
range from a scale as small as a township to a scale as large as a
national government. In the earlier post-revolutionary days of the
United States, just what the United States actually was and what it
meant were still being defined. Now that the revolution was over,
words such as nationalism and patriotism must be redefined. Many
politicians, political groups, and the general public all desired to have
a say in what they believed to be the true nature of this newly formed
country. The best way to do this, of course, is in a public format
where people could listen to the opinions of others, or retort and give
opinions of their own. Parades or processions were an effective way
of a public showing of opinion; they were highly publicized and very
visible. Now, however, they were newer, more advanced ways that
ones ideas could get around to many more people than before. The
printing press was perhaps the greatest manner in which ideas
spread. Events such as the aforementioned parades or processions
could now be reported on, as could public debates between candidates
standing for office, social dinners and the toasts which were proposed,
pamphlets could be printed, and an abundance of other social
happenings. The question of exactly how these parades and print
culture affect Americans views of nationalism yet remains. However,
what is for certain is that these two aspects of early,
post-revolutionary America greatly advanced the bringing forth of
political ideas into the public sphere.

What print actually accomplished was the spreading of ideas to
a greater number of people. This was also quite a benefit because the
amount of people who were taking interest in political issues was
growing as well. Now, politics was not an issue to be delt with solely
by the upper-class. David Waldstreicher in writing about the effect
that print had on public celebrations, such as parades, states
Through the new media of journalism, urban festival
reached an expanding audience. . . Even the new, bourgeois
public sphere can be seen as a locus for relating and debating
the deeds of a politically active populace (20).

Everybody was getting involved. While these people debated the new
meaning of nationalism, among other issues, just the fact that more
and more people were partaking in these events was part of that new
At a first glance, it may be difficult to see the importance of a
parade or other sort of celebration in political terms. However, they
were a phenomenal way to express a political idea, to try to get other
people to jump on ones political bandwagon, or most importantly, to
incite political action. Waldstreicher writes …celebration, which may
appear to us distanced, second-hand and unconnected to real life or
politics, seemed at the time to open up a greater sphere of action for
more and more citizens(111) Action is the key word in that sentence.
If a certain parade or any other kind of celebration draws forth a
particular political desire in an on-looker, then the parade has fulfilled
its purpose. The public display of any kind of political sentiment that
perhaps causes people to affiliate themselves with a certain political
group creates a healthy, nationalistic country. Nationalism doesnt
necessarily mean the agreement of all people, but that people are
actively participating, in some form, in the political arena. This is
essentially the role that parades and the like have in the formation of
early American nationalism; they got more people involved in politics.
It seems that parades and print seem to complement each other
in the most useful of ways. Before print, it is imaginable that it would
be very difficult for citizens to know of any kind of celebration that
happened elsewhere. With print, information that was taken down by
someone who was actually present can be distributed. People could
read about what went on in a certain celebration. Now people did not
need to be physically present to witness the events, or more
importantly, be influenced by political ideas; the parades affected
more people than just the spectators. If more information is available
to the general public, they will no doubt be more informed about what
is going on in their country. This also further develops good
nationalism. Before print, it is likely that people made political
choices while not knowing all the facts or happenings; people can now
make more accurate political choices, mainly when it comes to voting
Print could also have a very dramatic affect on parades and
celebrations. The majority of citizens learned about these
celebrations through the information printed by newspapers.
Waldstreicher states From the beginning, celebrants of the nation
took their cues from printed sources. This means that people relied
entirely on the reporters interpretation of the event. After witnessing
and event, if one asked ten people about what happened at the event
(i.e. rituals, ambiance), that person would get ten different stories.
When citizens are only reading one rendition of that story by their
local reporter, it could be very well different than that of the next
town over (i.e. the event could be celebrated in a different way,
different rituals might take place, etc.) Hence, the celebrations
themselves will slowly evolve over time. As mentioned before, many
celebrations, parades, processions, etc. helped to shape peoples
political ideas and affiliations. So as these celebrations slowly evolve,
so could peoples political thoughts and ideas as new generations
came through. It seems that there is a chain reaction taking place
here, one that stems from the fact that the parades, print,
nationalism, and the public sphere are all inter-related and greatly
How nationalism evolved over time is clearly a direct result of
the media in the form of print, and public celebrations. It is these two
things that widen the public sphere. Everything was now reported on.
People could now know what exactly went on at an election or who
was present, what was going on politically in different parts of the
country not just their own, or what was said at a toast. The rise of
print culture came at a time when the country truly needed it, at its
birth. Since the country was still in its infant stages, everything was
just being formed such as policy, laws, and governmental structure.
These are things that a citizen of a newly formed country needs to be
aware and well informed of and print helped make that possible.
However, it was only made possible because everything that
happened was now done is public. The subject of this very paper is
contesting for the public sphere. If people were to contest for this
public sphere, the only way to do so would be in public! That is
essentially how parades and print culture helped to advance American
nationalism, by bringing everything forth in the limelight for all to

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