Digital Technologies vs. Truth Suppression
Reality Check (Sept. 21, 2012)
I am going to tell you some stories. To make it interesting, I will begin with one which could make one of my readers the deal of a lifetime. It ends on September 30. He who hesitates is lost.
I begin with the obvious: the falling cost of Internet communications is revolutionizing the spread of knowledge. In doing so, it is undermining every establishment. Every establishment rests much of its power on official views of the past. This is seen in the novel by George Orwell, “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” The tyrant who enforces the totalitarian state says this. “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
The cost of controlling the past has risen exponentially since 1995: the year that the graphics browser was introduced. Then came Google.
I know Orwell said this, because I just verified it on several websites. That took under one minute. There is some debate over punctuation: period, colon, or semicolon. I think I will not go to the trouble of looking it up in my library, which is in a special room miles away.
The cost of research is a tiny fraction of what it was in 1995. The Web has changed everything.
This leads me to my special offer. In the late nineteenth century, only those people who lived near Boston could research the history of American Puritanism. Only there were the primary sources available: Harvard University’s library and the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society. You had to go to Yale after you were finished in Boston. There were other collections that were scattered across the region. The main one was at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts. According to the AAS,
Clifford K. Shipton, who became librarian in 1940, improved access to primary sources through partnerships with technology companies. The Early American Imprints microprint edition provided scholars with images of pages of books and pamphlets printed in America before 1801. Researchers around the world were soon eagerly reading the contents of imprints housed in libraries miles away.
Understand what this means: everything printed in colonial America from 1639 to early 1801. Then a follow-up collection was published: 1801-1811. I wrote my PhD. Dissertation in Riverside, California, based mainly on that microcard collection. That was over 40 years ago. I do not know how much the University of California’s library paid for that set. I think it was a lot.
Then came microfiche. You could make crude photocopies of these microfiche. You could not with microcards. You had to take notes by hand. I still have mine in one long note card box. Historians never toss out their notes.
The price of the microcards fell to zero. A man I knew 20 years ago found out that the publishing firm was going to use the sets for land fill. They did not want competition for the microfiche edition. He made the company a deal. He would buy them. He would sell them only to research organizations and private high schools that would not buy the microfiche sets. The company agreed.
My Institute for Christian Economics bought the set for $10,000. It paid $8,000 for a complete set of all the newspapers, 1780-1800. I got five readers. In today’s money, that is at last $30,000. I overpaid.
Then came digitization and online searching. The microfiche are worth nothing.
ICE gave the microcard set to a private Christian day school. But it has run out of space in its library. It is going to give the set away. For the price of a trip to northwest Arkansas and renting a 16-foot truck, someone can own the set.
If no one wants it, it will return to land fill. Ashes to ashes, plastic to plastic.
With this set, you can train students to do primary source research. Or you can do such research yourself.
You have all the newspapers of the American Revolution. You can verify anyone’s footnotes.
You get a complete index. This is an ideal tool for any day school that focuses on America’s Christian history.
For a private high school that advertises itself as an academic institution for college-bound students. This set on the library’s walls says “this institution is serious.”
Deadline to apply: September 30, 2012. That is the email inquiry date deadline. If you are interested, send a note to Art Cunningham, art-sharon.
CRITICS WITH DIGITS
It is getting close to impossible for any establishment group to get its version of the past accepted. There are rival sites that provide links to evidence that undermines the establishment’s view.
In the good old days — pre-1995 — an establishment did not face a major challenge. It cost too much to research the facts. It cost too much to typeset a book, print it, store it, advertise it, and get distribution. The few that did this got a tiny market. It could be easily dismissed: “conspiracy theory.” The old tactic is still used: “conspiracy theory.” But it’s a hard sell, because so many documents are online disproving the establishment’s view. Too many people are not buying it.
The common man may not have an opinion about what did happen, but he has doubts about the official view. In the case of 9-11, people ask: “Where is the evidence that a plane crashed in one spot in Shanksville?” There was zero debris. There is video evidence of an empty hole. “Let’s roll!” is inspiring. A missile shot by an Air Force jet isn’t. But debris scattered over miles conveys a message: “This plane fell apart in the sky, not on the ground.”
Conspiracy theory? You bet!
If the official view is clearly impossible regarding 25% of 9-11, how about 50%? Where was the debris at the Pentagon? Why was the hole so small? How did anyone navigate the required turn?
If we get to 50%, what about New York City? Why did Building 7 come down so fast? Why did a tiny paper fire bring down this building? And so forth.
Conspiracy theories? You bet!
Doubts regarding the official stories lead to doubts regarding all official stories. Doubt undermines legitimacy. Without legitimacy, an establishment must substitute power for authority, external government for self-government. The cost of forcing people to behave is too great for any government. Without widespread self-government to enforce its demands, an establishment becomes just another competing interest group.
This is why the World Wide Web is the biggest threat in history to every government-supported special-interest group. They all know this. There is hardly anything they can do about it. They rail against conspiracy theories, but the mantra is not working any more. It worked when the average person did not have access to books. He did not have access to supporting evidence one click away. Now he does. There is nothing that the various establishments can do about this, other than invoke the mantra: “Conspiracy theory.”
It is a case of a government-subsidized pot calling a privately funded kettle black.
THE MISES INSTITUTE
The Ludwig von Mises Institute was the first comprehensive website to make available a comprehensive alternative to the Keynesian/monetarist establishment in the economics guild. It offers books, articles, and videos produced by scholars who reject this establishment view of economic cause and effect.
The department titled “Literature” offers hundreds of classic rejections of the Keynesian/monetarist outlook: in theory, in policy, and in economic history. Only the largest research libraries have even half of these books. These books are in PDF format and other e-book formats. The student can download all of them free of charge.
The student can also buy print-on-demand copies for about $20 each. This printing technology has broken the cartel of the book publishers. They never had to burn books. They only had to return the manuscripts to authors. This was so much more urbane than book-burning. Book-burning was so “National Socialist, 1936. “These days, any author can typeset his book with Microsoft Word $100) or Open Office Write (free). Or, if he wants to go big-time, he can buy a copy of inDesign and climb the learning curve. The point is, the barrier is merely a cheap software program and learning time. The barrier is no longer money.
“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” That was what radical activist A. J. Liebling said in the 1950s. Now anyone with an Internet connection who wants one can lease one free of charge. You can post anything on Scribd. It stays up, free of charge.
The Mises Institute has found that giving away PDFs of books sells lots of printed books. Book readers suffer from what I call Picard’s syndrome. They just have to hold a book to enjoy it. A PDF or a Kindle is not good enough. (http://www.lewrockwell.com/north/north228.html)
Even worse from the Keynesian/monetarist establishment’s outlook is the power of YouTube. The Mises Institute posts all lectures delivered at its meetings. Then the video manager uses the YouTube embed feature to post it on the Institute’s site. Somehow, I never see any ads. The videos begin at the beginning of the lecture session.
Videos are a good way for people to get a quick overview of any topic. The student can decide if it’s worth pursuing. If he thinks it is, he can use the Literature section of the site to get started.
People like videos. They watch lots of them. They can more easily and more rapidly pick up new information in a well-delivered speech than in a book. The speeches stay on the site permanently.
The traffic that the Mises.org site receives is greater than the traffic on the site of the American Economic Association, the most important academic organization in the field of economics. Its site is rated as 140,000 on Alexa. The Mises site is rated at 17,000. There is no comparison.
The strategy of the Mises Institute is to give everything away. This strategy is working.
The Internet has overcome the establishments’ distribution systems. Information delivery systems present numerous outlets to anyone with an Internet connection. Very skilled communicators can now overcome what would have been nearly impenetrable barriers to entry in 1995.
The quality of the broad mass of digits is low, but the quality at the top is very high. Open entry has produced outlets for people with very great skills in both research and expression.
This process will accelerate. Every establishment will come under fire intellectually and rhetorically. They will eventually suffer major reversals.
It is happening today. The ability of any establishment to manipulate the relevant climate of opinion among younger Web users is limited and shrinking. As these users get older, they will pay less heed to the opinions of the establishments.