September 13, 2004

The New Longbow

I love Wretchard's simile:

The real catastrophe for CBS is that Killian incident is probably not an isolated setback so much as proof that maneuvers which worked in the past can no longer be attempted with impunity. The equivalent of the longbow had arrived on the media scene. When the longbow was first deployed on the European battlefield, it was obviously a formidable weapon.
Such was the power of the Longbow, that contemporary accounts claim that at short range, an arrow fired from it could penetrate 4 inches of seasoned oak. The armored knight, considered at one time to be the leviathan of the battlefield, could now be felled at ranges up to 200 yards by a single arrow. One account recalls a knight being pinned to his horse by an arrow that passed through both armored thighs, with the horse and saddle between!
But it was long years before it was taken seriously. After all, mounted cavalry was the aristocratic weapon and the longbow that of the despised yeomen, the medieval equivalent of bloggers in their pajamas [The historian fails to note an analogue for the more serious blogger, the one who blogs from the basement in their underwear - Ed.]. It took Crecy, Poitiers and finally Agincourt to bring home the fact that the longbow threat was real. As the Christian Science Monitor remarked:
The English longbow plied by yeomen ended the military power and social reign of knights. "Shining" armor fell to a taut string, a cured piece of wood, and a tipped arrow. The military dynamic of the Middle Ages - knight, squire, and armorer - ceased.
It did not bring an end to history: a new dynamic replaced the old, but an era had passed.
And, it's worth remembering, the knight returned; while the armored noble on horseback vanished, his heirs returned centuries later, flying biplanes and driving tanks. The same basic idea held - the technology changed, but the notion of the elite super-soldier has endured.

The parallel? The mainstream dead-tree/big-stick media aren't dead. But the battlefield is changing. Will they adapt to the changes?

Posted by Mitch at September 13, 2004 05:55 AM | TrackBack

*disgruntled* People go on about the longbow as if it was the sole factor in the decline of the armored knight as the deciding force in medieval warfare, and totally skip the pike and crossbow, both of which outlived the longbow on the battlefield. The longbow took a lot of practice to use competently, whereas just about any peasant or city burgher with a little bit of training could wield a pike or crossbow...and it was with the pike alone that the Swiss gained such a reputation for battlefield ferocity that at the Congress of Vienna, nobody but the Pope was allowed to hire Swiss mercenaries.

The better analogy for the blogosphere is the pike and crossbow. Cheaply produced, requiring a minimum of training, and devastating to those who think themselves our betters.

Posted by: Kevin at September 13, 2004 12:25 PM