The power of knowledge

Despite the hype around the internet giving us unprecedented access to information, I would argue its societal good is indeed questionable when compared to Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1440.
This invention and its ability to print multiple copies was the turning point which led to democracy in time.
The local citizenry, with access to information, eventually defeated the control of the elites—churches, monarchs, hereditary aristocrats.
There is a reason why demagogues and dictators control or demean the legitimate press. Simply put, knowledge is more powerful than the strongest military in the world.
With the concentrated control of knowledge today in the hands of the new aristocracy, CEO’s of Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft, I would argue we are in the process of regressing to pre-1440.
A young lady recently told me that with news on-line she felt much better informed. She went on to say how the “system” brought up news items that interested her so it was quick and easy.
My thought, however, was she’s been profiled, and if “on-line” is her only source of information, she has become enslaved to a mathematical algorithm.
Because of the power of social media and cable channels many of us, including myself, can spend a disproportionate amount of time listening to and re-enforcing our own narrow viewpoints.
It’s what I call seductive tribalism—associating with or hearing only “likes” and justifying on-line personal attacks on those holding contrary views.
I believe tribalism is what best describes the United States today.
The history of the Middle East and Africa is a clear picture why democracies are virtually impossible to start or sustain. Tribalism over the centuries has led to an inherited hatred of all others from a different tribe or class.
Democracy requires civil public discourse and compromise.
Tribes don’t compromise, they hate, they demean, they fight their enemies in any way possible, including lies and propaganda.
There is no way to know what or who the source is behind so much of today’s screen news. It can be factual or fiction, human or Bot, Russian or Chinese, Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates.
But the evidence is clear, the United States is entrenched in dysfunctional discourse from top to bottom.
Indiscriminate indulgence of on-line “information” is aiding and abetting their democratic decay.
For over six centuries, ordinary citizens have had the power of knowledge under their control through the printed word. As more people use technology as their only source of information, the control of our minds is at risk. It is to our peril if we do not take the time and effort to seek off-line sources of information as well.
Newspapers, research papers and books have checks and balances and are held to account by authoritative bodies and peer reviewers.
False research papers are called out by peers and withdrawn. A newspaper that prints false stories or defames someone’s person, must print a correction and can be called to account by the Press Council or sued.
But even better, the authors of these types of publications are without question real people!

by B.P. Schimke


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