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Proto-internet trolls: Struensee and press freedom in 18th century Denmark (blogs.bl.uk)
37 points by Pausanias on Jan 4, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 14 comments



The piece is interesting, but author's conclusions left very strange aftertaste. So there was a king with psychiatric problems, and his doctor who, abusing influence over his patient, usurped powers, and made a kid with the queen. And when aforementioned doctor decreed freedom of press, people of Denmark immediately started to express their dissatisfaction with the weird political situation. And the author calls it depressing, not constructive, and them proto-internet-trolls. Seriously?


I believe the subtle point is that Struensee did these actions for the good of the people, only for the people to then use these new tools against him.

I'm not sure we know of Struensee's motivations, but we can see that he advocated for and temporarily obtained some outcomes that can be seen as almost universally good for the people.

Regardless, maybe one takeaway can be, just because you have given your life towards something good for others, don't expect to be thanked.


It's generally well accepted that Struensee was an Enlightenment and liberal thinker. He believed in these values deeply, and when he saw an opportunity to impose them on a people, he took it. Plus, I'd imagine that Struensee was a man of Enlightened Absolutism, believing in a strong benevolent executive, preferably a King, and was possibly against a Republic.

The thing about Struensee is that he went way too far. The fact that he never spoke any Danish, speaking only German, did not make him a favourite among the populace. Additionally, to help his government reforms, he would often dismiss entire departments (without pension and compensation, no less!) with people of his own likening.

The fact that a German was running Denmark was a scandal of the highest order. And with the free press laws granted, they went out and wrote anti-Struensee pamphlets.

Just because you give them some favours, doesn't mean they will look the other way at your other less popular actions.


Giving the people freedom of the press was good for the people? Probably. Having a kid with the queen was good for the people? Probably not.

So, was the criticism for giving them freedom of the press? Or for having the kid with the queen? Or was it for using his position as a doctor to put himself in political power in the first place?


Having a kid with the queen seems neutral, especially if the alternative is for a severely mentally ill man to be the father.


The queen having kids that didn't come from the king is capable of setting off a civil war once the king dies and someone has to succeed him. That's not neutral for the people.


What was important at that time was that the child be a recognized heir to the king and queen. Actual birth father is mostly irrelevant.


> Soon, not only had the doctor risen to become the King’s most trusted advisor in the Danish court, he had also become Queen Caroline Matilda’s lover – which fast became common knowledge.

Perhaps if it had not become common knowledge it would have remained irrelevant. I think your argument has fallen flat and you should reconsider your opinion before further entrenching yourself.


No, it has not fallen flat. Something being common knowledge, and yet still held to be irrelevant was exactly my point. You are free to peruse information about Louis Auguste if you'd like

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Louise_Auguste_of_Den...

> Though officially regarded as the daughter of King Christian VII, it is widely accepted that her biological father was Johann Friedrich Struensee, the king’s royal physician and de facto regent of the country at the time of her birth.[1] She was referred to sometimes as "la petite Struensee"; this did not, however, have any effect on her position.[2]


The book referenced, Swedish title "Livläkarens besök", is one of the best I have read. Reviews do not seem to agree entirely through. On Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Royal-Physicians-Visit-Olov-Enquist/d...


Enquist is one of my favorite authors, and Royal Physician's Visit among the many reasons why. That said, I have almost stopped recommending his work to others, as it seems to be hit-and-miss.

Nobody I know hates his work, but nobody takes to him quite the way I have. Royal Physician is fairly conventional in structure and tone, but Enquist's more personal work -- the work that feels like it comes from his deep interior life, like Downfall, and Captain Nemo's Library -- seem even harder for a lot of people to get into.


These played a role during the Enlightment, American and European revolutions. A person of strong political views and middle class means could write, publish and distribute an anonymous political pamphlet. Establishment governments often didnt like this and hunt down and destroyed them.


This is, in part, why the USA constitution calls out freedom of the press (right after freedom of speech).


The printing press was subsidized by the Catholic Church as a way of reducing costs and increasing spread of their primary asset: the Bible.

They didn't realize this would drive down startup costs of presses by creating more press techniques and technicians looking to acquire new customers. With Church backing, the bar-to-entry for spreading information dropped until anyone could spread information, including anti-Church factions such as the Protestants. This did not end up well for the Church.

The same is true for America, their obsession with spreading democracy, and the transistor AKA the American Printing Press.

Once information propagation becomes cheap, noise floods everything, and trolling is the only effective way to create lasting context.




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