Does the printed word still have power?

We live in a world of pictures and memes.

Devin Foley | March 11, 2016

We live in a world of pictures and memes.
Does the printed word still have power?

Myles Connelly seems to have understood the future when he published Mr. Blue in 1926. In it, he reflects:

“No printed word shall wring the new masses as did the printed words in the past. They have not time for the printed word. The day when a pamphlet distributed at a street corner could start a revolution or a new religion is over. The printed word is too common to be any longer compelling and too slow to be any longer dynamic. If you want to reach the masses you can reach them through pictures. These new children can be bent and molded as they sit in the dark enrapt before the magic of the mobile screen. There, in the dark, they can be lifted out of their daily servitude. There, they can be raised high above their stone-and-steel environment. There, they can be brought to the high places and shown the deeps beyond the hard horizon. There, they can be taught to be superior to the great magnificent monsters that are their creations. There, they can be taught to love this terrible new civilization, because they can be taught to look upon it as their child and not as their master.”

 And here we are still writing.

Sadly, though, the data out there supports Connelly. The printed word is powerless in the face of pictures. As we’ve reported before:

  • 14% of adults can’t read.
  • Only 13% of adults can read at a proficient level.
  • 28% of adults didn’t read a book in the last year.
  • 50% of adults can’t read a book written at an 8th grade level.

Meanwhile we spend a lot of time watching videos: 

The printed word still has the power to move some people and to change lives, but that may no longer be the case for the public at large. What that means for the future of ideas, society, culture, and overall human progress, we don’t know.