How The Internet Has Changed More Than Science
Those of us who are familiar with this process and have seen it at work before (Rathergate) won’t be particularly surprised, but Richard Fernandez does a fascinating essay comparing the CRU scandal to differing civilization types, discussing the main difference between nomadic empires (Mongols) and more traditional ones (Rome) and how they are represented by the internet:
The story of these ancient empires acquires a renewed interest today because many of the conditions present in the vast, unsettled steppe superficially resemble the uncharted borders of the online world. In the 21st century just as in the 13th century, powerful ideological and economic forces move effortlessly across settled boundaries in ways that no single nation-state can easily control.
So, we have the Mongol Empire and the Roman Empire (a true “Barbarians At The Gate” scenario) opposing each other:
Whereas one side believes that government should be limited to tasks that the individual or local government cannot perform and that relationships between the parts are regulated by a distributed program expressed in the Constitution and Judaeo-Christian tradition, the other side believes that “government should be there for you”. It should be there for you in the bedroom, in the playground and recycle bin. It should be there when you are eating transfats or farting. It should even be your sexual mentor, where possible in school. Like every good imperative program, it should leave no room for anything but itself.
And, as Fernandez points out, the Romans almost won:
The endless proliferation of treaties, laws and regulations were the imperative rules; and their embodiment in a never-ending expanse of organs of governance from local governments to the UN — with NGOs and activist groups filling every conceivable gap — was the instrument by which the ungoverned were going to be fenced in. Even private life was brought under cultivation by slow degrees and a code of Political Correctness suffused every aspect of life. In time it would become impossible to even think a subversive thought; the language would be incapable of expressing it. The vast increase in government over the last sixty years brought the settlement of the world — some might call it the End of History — almost within reach.
But then Al Gore “invented” the internet, and the internet recreated the steppe on a virtual scale:
The “climate change” debate is almost a perfect example of intellectual combat between the two sides. It is a modernized re-enactment of a struggle between one side operating under distributed programming and another using a top-down paradigm. The construction of the “climate change” meme followed the traditional socialist pattern. The idea was built up with articles written about it in the press. Advocacy groups formed around it; authority from some academic source found to bolster it; celebrities were engaged to tout it. The UN was persuaded to give the whole its imprimatur. It had always worked before. Post after post was driven into the ground anchored around Kyoto, the UN and the EU. Strand after strand of wire was fastened to the timbers. And then, just as the gate was going to be closed, the nomads of the Internet charged the wire.
They have almost broken through. Led by individuals like Plimer, McIntyre and Lomborg and followed by a motely, a growing tide of discussion on the Internet has pushed in the wire so hard that it might actually collapse. The nomads looked at the data, the computer models. Someone may have hacked the CRU documents or leaked them. And once the data was out they knew where to look. The site Watts Up With That is a perfect example of the demolition of a staid University Department meme under the cut and thrust of the terrors of the intellectual steppes. Watts Up With That goes through one instance of the CRUs data fiddling in step-by-step detail and by the end it you have gone along for the ride. You have followed the process and find it impossible to simply say that “the CRU may have been naughty but the data is good”. The data itself may be bad or intentionally corrupted.
It is a fascinating spectacle. What the nomads have on their sides is reality. What the sown has on its part is manner and method. And the struggle between the two sides is one whose outcome, even in general, is still unknown.
The difference, of course, is the barbarians have been able to challenge the “method” and “manner” in which the statist side has used for seeming eons to get us to our present situation. To the swift, nimble and adaptable go the battles (assuming they also have the facts on their side as I believer the skeptics do in this climate scandal). The barbarians are able to mass at will, engage subject matter experts and tap their knowledge and erode the foundations of trust the empire has built up, falsely in many cases, over the years.
It is indeed a fascinating spectacle and one I feel thankful to both witness and participate in. I’ve always been the type that likes to question authority, and being an ad hoc member of this huge dissenting tribe has been most fulfilling and enjoyable. My question to you is, given what Fernandez puts forward here, do you think this may mark the high tide of this particular empire type or simply a pot hole in the road down which Leviathan continues to gather speed?