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Mr. Ulmschneider's Forums > AP Government: Madison, Paine, and Politics
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Twas a Paineful life

posted Dec 17, 2012 02:05:54 by StephenDwyer
Woods poses an very interesting point when he notes that the time around the Revolution was "an Age of Paine" and yet questions why "Paine's qualifications as a founder have not impressed many Americans." Obviously, as the author points out, Paine was an extremely influential writer, selling over "150,000 copies" of his pamphlet "Common Sense" and using a "simple, direct" tone which "spoke out of a deep anger [that] shared in those years by many common people." Yet why, considering all these things, is Paine still regarded somewhat as an outkast?
Woods answers the question of why Paine is an outkast now (as compared to the normally considered founding fathers) by stating that Paine was an outkast then. Unlike other fouding fathers, Paine "was not a political leader; he was exclusively a writer." And on top of that, most political leaders of the age considered "their writings only [as] by-products of their careers as lawyers, palnters, or political leaders." In other words, most leaders of the time had a main career, and politics and writing were things they did on the side, but not as their full career. Paine, on the other hand, wrote and attempted politics as his full and only career. He was a "filthy little athiest" who appealed to the masses and whose fame, which at its peak was enormous, possibly more so then any other founding fathers', was relatively short lived.
I believe this extremely high amount of short lived fame is something which we find commonly in our society today. Nowadays, thanks to the mass audience which is reached by the ever expanding internet, people who are out of the norm or who "[speak] out of a deep anger," such as Paine did, receive relatively high amounts of fame but for a short period of time. We could compare Paine to coppercab, creator of the famous "Gingers do have souls" video on youtube, or received lots of fame for a short period of time and is not considered a gentleman. Or even someone like Stephanie Meyers, who may be influencial among the public for her writing but not so in politics.
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3 replies
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MargaretA.Rawls@gmail.com said Dec 17, 2012 02:51:51
Stephan, I think your comparison of Paine's celebrity in the 18th century to celebrity in the 21st century is very interesting. I do believe that Paine was well known among the masses but not respected by the founding fathers in the same way that Stephanie Meyers is a well known name but not respected in intellectual communities. I believe Paine took the ideas of the founding fathers, the gentlemen, and transposed them for the masses to appreciate. By doing this Paine distanced himself from the founding fathers and their community. That, essentially, was the problem with Paine: he did not want to be part of this world and that is why he is not a founding father. Thomas Paine appealed to the masses and for that reason he should be an important part of American history.
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StephenDwyer said Dec 17, 2012 03:10:36
Margaret, thank you for commenting :D! I would definitely agree, Paine seems just like the media in that sense by taking more complex messages written by Jefferson or even as far as Locke and transporting them to the simple folks of America. It's a little ironic that Paine was distanced farther from the founding fathers than instead closer since he seemed to be doing them a favor. Like you mentioned, he appealed to the masses and is therefore important. Why he is important simply is because without the support of the majority, a large scale revolution that followed Paine's pamphlet would never have happened. Why we don't appreciate the man more is quite a conundrum considering his effects on the future of our country, where most guns were owned privately and there was no strong standing army.
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Heather said Dec 17, 2012 03:50:42
I agree that similar to Paine, today's media tries to condense and simplify politician's messages to make news more accessible to every-day Americans and properly serve its function as a linkage institution. The effectiveness of the invective and angry tone of writing Paine used which Stephen described demonstrates the propensity for people to pay attention to negative news stories, as well as dramatic events. This can be seen in the modern-day phenomenon 'bad-news bias', where news stations focus on stories that while may not be particularly relevant, focus on sad or negative events that recently occurred because they know that people will be more interested which will increase ratings. However while this is very important and influential on the way government officials campaign and communicate with the public, I don't think it qualifies Paine to be considered a founding father.
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