Free Markets, Free People

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?

~McQ

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32 Responses to How The Internet Has Changed More Than Science

  • 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.

    Somebody’s been reading Orwell!

    I suggest that what we’re seeing is less The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and more The 95 Theses.  The internet is, I think, not going to destroy the walls and fences being erected, much less wipe away the corrupt, totalitarian “regime” that has been working assiduously to put them up any more than Luther and the Reformation destroyed the Catholic Church.  As the Catholic Church adapted to the new world brought forth in large part by the advent of the printing press, so to will the forces of totalitarianism adapt to a world brought forth by the internet.  Indeed, the internet offers totalitarians TREMENDOUS opportunities for pushing their propaganda: imagine if every webpage had an ad for the government’s* position (Big Brother, anyone?); opened a window to a government-sponsored website; allows the government to track instantly what everybody reads or writes; or could allow the government to almost INSTANTLY respond to any criticism either with more propaganda or merely by shutting down an offending website.  Imagine if every post on QandO about climate change would IMMEDIATELY result in (at least) a response from the government chock full of THEIR “truth”… or if they simply shut down this blog and perhaps threw us all in the clink.

    Our ancestors had to rely on pamphlets and broadsides, or even books published in small batches and distributed by hand.  It was slower for them, but perhaps safer.

    It remains to be seen just how far the modern “church” will go to deal with their “protestants”.

    —–

    (*) I use the word “government” as it is convenient, but what we see is really a loose coalition of elites in government, media, academia, and business who are interested in asserting as much control over people as they can.  Their motivations are not necessarily the same, but the end result certainly is: they will do your thinking for you.  They will “take care of you”.

    • Analogizing the Catholic Church with modern totalitarianism is an unfortunate choice.

      • Without intending offense to Catholics, the Catholic Church as it existed in Luther’s time was quite totalitarian.  It didn’t have some of the trappings of modern totalitarianism (notably a secret police), but it was as brutal and intolerant as any totalitarian society that you care to name.  I suggest that this changed in no small part because of the Reformation.

        • I don’t know what you’re talking about. Do you?

          I can name the Soviet Union. The Church was never anything like it.

          I can name Maoist China, or even China today. The Church never bore any resemblence to it.

          I can name Nazi Germany. The Church never resembled it.

          The Church might have abused its spiritual authority. It has a very human side. Or it might have sold indulgences. Or cracked down on religious heretics. But all of this taken together does not present as the gulag or the gulag state or the concentration camps of modern totalitarianism.

          Whatever its ups and downs, the Church is the foundation and light of the West and the totalitarian political religions are its darkness and death. Insofar as the political religions tried to mimic the spiritual and moral authority of the Church, they were attempting to use something that the temporal reach cannot grasp.

          The Church is not innocent, but it was not guilty of being anything like a modern totalitarian society.

          • Oh, come now.

            Comparison of Pre-Reformation Catholic Church with modern totalitarian states:

            Secretive autocracy headed by a semi-divine leader?  Check

            Single accepted orthodoxy, ruthlessly and relentlessly indoctrinated into the people throughout their lives?  Check

            Criminalization of people who refuse to accept orthodoxy?  Check

            Control / suppression of dissidents?  Check

            Massacres?  Check

            Use of torture to coerce confessions during show trials?  Check

            Secret police?  No

            Economic control?  No

            You’re right: the old Catholic Church was NOTHING like a modern despotism! 

            / sarc

            Now, has the Catholic Church been ultimately a force for good, temporal as well as spiritual?  Certainly.  But I think that there is no question that the Church most certainly DID abuse its spiritual authority in ways that are indistinguishable from a modern totalitarian state.  The only differences are that the Church was committing its wrongs before the rise of the modern nation-state (which placed some limits on what evils it could commit), and more importantly that the Church was perverting the divine message of love and hope given to us by God (and so had the chance to find its way back the the light), while modern totalitarian states merely use the ravings of various crazed men, such as Marx or Hitler or Mao, to justify their horrors.

          • “Secretive autocracy headed by a semi-divine leader?  Check”

            Nonsense. And the rest of it, too.

            The Church is what has always stood between the West and barbarism and totalitarianism. It’s decline is directly proportional to to the rise of political religions and the mass murderers, starting right with the French Revolution. Your synopsis of the Church reminds me of Howard Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States” or, as I like to call it, “America with all the good parts left out.”

          • Clearly, we’re arguing past each other.

            I say that the Church has IN THE PAST behaved like a totalitarian state.

            You say that the Church has done a lot of good (something with which I agree).

            These two positions are not mutually exclusive.

            I understand why some people would be offended at the suggestion that there is ANY resemblence between the Catholic Church OF ANY ERA with stalinist Russia or nazi Germany.  All I can say is that I had no intent to offend, but I stand by my assertion.

    • The modern Catholic Church has pretty much surrendered on all the key points they were once killing over. Basically. Martin Luther won. Not a quick or total victory, it wasn’t a knockout, it was by decision based upon points. But he still won.

  • Heh, Leviathan swam….it’s Behemoth we’re talking about, and sadly, this is a pot hole.
    At least here in the US.  Perfect storm for idiocy in government, and they can close the border of the Internet steppe.   They’re working on it already.  I mean, if transfat will hurt you, think how all those unregulated ideas will hurt you.  Clearly the government will be forced to take a hand before it all goes too far you know.  For the children, or the economy, or the good of society at large.

    • The shutting down or drowning out of the alternative to the MSM is not going to be the final objective, no more than nationalized health care and control of carbon emissions are the final objective.

      • The objective is more control, some people have an idea what they plan to do with that control.  Most do not, but are aiding the others in gaining control (for the children…which…heh…well, read on….)
         
        Take the latest pronouncements that to stop global warming we need to restrict births.  So much for ‘choice’ eh?  Abortions, have all you want…children??!!!!!  Now now, don’t be hasty, there are too many people in the world as it is!  We need to save the planet for the…uh…I guess we’re saving it so squirrels can nest in the ruins of our former glory.
         
        Control who is having children and when, and you pretty much have it sewed up as far as control goes, the rest runs from there.
         
         

        • I think that you underestimate how far this generation of social hygienists will go when they have the means to get there in place, and they are so close to having those means in place that you can watch them drool over it.* I don’t think, for instance, that there’s going to be any smooth transition from the norms of our liberal democracy model to the brave new world.

          Just watch some of these people as they present in public. They are beyond parody. They are already in the dream state of utopian control which always, always turns into a waking nightmare of repression and mass homicide.

          * If you’ve paid attention to Harry Reid’s pronouncements at the microphones set up in the Senate gallery or outside the White House, you might have noted the preposterous Schumer hovering just in the background, looking the part of the corrupt burgomeister after a mutton dinner and a whore. Words fail me.

          • I’m not sure who DOES know what they plan to do, but Harry isn’t one of them, neither is Schmucky Chucky.
            Neither one of them could pour piss out of a boot with the instructions written on the heel.
             
            And it’s not ready yet, this is all still lead in.  Alas for them – “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, gang aft agley.”

          • Reid and Schumer will be greeters at the gate right up until they are both sucked into the evaporator of their own making. The unreality of these two is the theme I was trying to get at.

  • I fail to see the reason for broad brushing Science in the Title.  Especially when Science hasn’t been practiced.  As someone said, its more that AGW has been a case study in Anti-Science. 

  • Right now we are seeing an acceleration of history that is not dissimilar from that seen in the 1920s and 1930s. Things might be moving even faster now.

    Think of World War II as the deceleration of the 20s and 30s, where the political religions that had stepped into human life were slowed down or even stopped, but not really eliminated.

    I used to say, way back in my radical days, about certain things that I understood only poorly (without proper historical context, etc.) that while we had defeated Germany in WWII that Hitler had won the war.

    The place markers of socialist and fascist advance in our politics and society have been with us for a long time. (I need only point to the public schools, for instance.) Now they are being activated at full throttle.

    Note, if you will, how so many of the spokespeople in the media have been likewise activated and accelerated. Once the Obama talisman was held up and the signal began to pulse forth from it the comedy of these people could be funny if the end target were not so deadly.

    These are no longer interesting times. No more than the Ukraine in 1931-32 or Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” were interesting times.

    It was not for nothing that John Paul II coined the term “culture of death.” Ideas have consequences.

  • Martin McPhillipsThe place markers of socialist and fascist advance in our politics and society have been with us for a long time. (I need only point to the public schools, for instance.) Now they are being activated at full throttle.

    I haven’t thought this completely through, so bear with me…

    I suggest that what we are seeing is a reversion to the natural order of things for man.  The ideals of liberty, justice, and equality that flowed from the Enlightenment, and the democratic institutions that are a result, are effectively abberations.

    1.  The greatest imperative in man is to survive.  Society and government are evolutionary adaptations to enhance man’s chances of survival.

    2.  Man seems to be keenly aware (even over-aware) of threats to his survival.  Witness all the “end of the world” scares throughout history, or how easy it is to convince people that this or that will kill them.

    3.  Man does not need liberty to survive.  A slave with even a moderately benevolent master can live just as long as a free man.

    4.  Man, therefore, will willingly trade liberty for survival (or the appearance of survival, as in being “saved” from something that wasn’t a genuine threat to him in the first place). 

    5.  Unscrupulous people take advantage of this to gain power over their fellow man.

    In short, most people seem to WANT totalitarianism.  They WANT somebody to run their lives for them.  They may bicker a bit about the extent of it, but if you make a devil’s bargain of offering a man security in exchange for his liberty, most men will gladly take it.

    • Most Americans want to be left alone, is what I’m hearing.

      They’ve reached their limit for free stuff.

      There is this divide, carefully cultivated, between those who work for a living and those who vote for a living, but even those who vote for a living are having their doubts about what happens when the other side of that coin is brought to its knees.

      What you are watching right now is effectively a minority government that controls the White House and a majority in the Congress ready to shove a nationalized bureaucratization of the medical industry down the throats of a population that DOES NOT WANT IT. (Same thing with the Carbon control.)

      This is a government that, far from luring the unsuspecting masses into their free stuff dependency, are now openly defying the will of the majority of Americans about the most personal and intimate matters of their lives.

      We are still Americans and we are saying NO. And that is not stopping them.

    • Heh, sure, ask any sheep wandering alone in the woods away from the flock – Freedom is overrated.
      The average sheep is perfectly happy to live under protection of the dog and shepherd, and only has that one brief moment of discontent when he becomes dinner in exchange for the protection he’s long enjoyed.

      • I’m more inclined to think that this is going to go down like the removal of food supplies during the Ukrainian terror famine. Remember that that happened because the kulaks and peasants did not want to collectivize their farms. Stalin starved them to death.

        In the modern version you’ll be taxed into submission. And it will eventually turn into “we pretend to work and they pretend to pay us” and there will be nothing but mustard and vinegar on the grocery store shelves.

        It’s not an accident that Russians have a life expectancy about 20 years lower than Westerners. They were broken on the Soviet wheel. But the liberals and the “educators” in this country taught us that we were being phobic about the Commies and that the Soviets were our moral equivalents.

      • Well, so much for huddled masses yearning to breathe free.  Sounds rather more like huddled masses yearning to remain huddled masses (preferably in the center of the huddle because it’s warmer there and the wolf will most likely get one of those schmucks on the outside).

        • The huddled masses wanted to be left alone to do their thing.  America was the place to do that.   There were risks, but there were rewards!
          The rules were in place in the lands the huddled masses fled from, we had fewer rules, we had land, we had resources, the huddled masses could get a break.  .   They were entitled to what they could earn by their efforts.  They were as safe as they could make themselves.
          Fast forward -  We’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a bold frontier.  Having benefited from incredible risks our forefathers were willing to take we now want safety.  Safety from being hurt by man/nature/our own ignorance and stupidity, safety from being insulted, safety from being offended, safety from making poor choices, safety from life’s adversity.  We’re owed a house.  If a hurricane destroys it, a new car, a new TV.   We are owed generosity from others, and if they won’t be generous, we’ll force it from them by means of legislation.  Car companies are owed an existence, Newspapers are owed readers or subsidies to print even if they have none, people with bad credit from their own bad decisions are owed loans from lenders.
          We want the rewards, we don’t want the risks, and we’re taught to despise those who have more than we do, and taught it’s okay to legislatively rob them to be ‘fair’ to all.  We’re becoming a nation of children willing to turn to government to be the mom who will protect us, and be ‘fair’ to us and make sure everyone shares with us.  They tell us it’s mom they’re building, but really,  it’s the shepherd and his dog, and eventually they’ll want dinner.
           

      • The thing is, socialism doesn’t really protect.

        What protects is the economic might of the free market. Continuing to destroy our economy via Obamacare and cap and trade will only make us weaker. Real strength comes from economic strength, and from a culture able to adapt.

        What the Democrats seek will in the end make us weak, and less secure. Stupid people don’t grasp that, since they lock on to intent (social security protects old people) without grasping the real world results (social security is a pyramid scheme that will come crashing down at the worst moment).

        • DonThe thing is, socialism doesn’t really protect.

          It does protect, but not very well and not forever.  It’s sort of like using a sheepdog that feeds off the sheep: eventually, it consumes what it is supposed to protect.

          If I was a lefty, I would challenge the assertion that “[w]hat protects is the economic might of the free market”.  Whom does it protect?  Answer: nobody BY ITSELF.  What the free market does is allow a society to generate large amounts of surplus wealth so it can, through the agency of its government, afford protection.  However, that’s a balancing act: when the government, in the interest of increasing the scope of its “protection”, begins to consume more than the surplus, it bankrupts the society and destroys its ability to provide any protection at all.

    • Hi Martin.  You may find it interesting to look at the concept of the “Mind-Body Dichotomy”.
      I haven’t personally interviewed any slaves, but I suspect that they would not consider their situation as “ideal”, and in some cases, I doubt they’d even call themselves “safe”.
      The impulse to seek safety is an emotional whim, or perhaps an evolutionary instinct if you prefer.  But that does not mean that a man’s long-term safety is assured by blindly seeking out the safe alternative at every opportunity.
      Man distinguishes himself from other animals by the fact that he has a conceptual faculty, but he must volitionally put forth the effort to use it, and to use it properly.  The fact that he has a mind does not mean that he will always make the right choice (this applies both to individualists and to central planners and differs only in scale).

      • I think that you’re addressing points made by docjim, who bolded my name near the top of the comment by him (he briefly quoted me) that your comment sits under.

      • PhoenixThe impulse to seek safety is an emotional whim, or perhaps an evolutionary instinct if you prefer.  But that does not mean that a man’s long-term safety is assured by blindly seeking out the safe alternative at every opportunity… Man distinguishes himself from other animals by the fact that he has a conceptual faculty, but he must volitionally put forth the effort to use it, and to use it properly.

        I agree that long-term safety is not always assured by choosing the obvious safe alternative at every instance.  Further, there is competition between the individual’s safety and the society’s safety.  The obvious example is the soldier: he may die so that his unit / country (his “society”) may survive.  As for making the right choice, that is easier said that done because we can’t see the future.  I suggest that difference regarding this issue between libertarians and (to a lesser extent) conservatives on the one side and liberals on the other is where the emphasis should be placed:

        — Libertarians / conservatives believe that maximizing individual liberty – allowing the individual to make most if not all decisions concerning his safety – ultimately maximizes the survival probability of the society.  This is not only because a free market (implicit in allowing individual choice) maximizes the surplus wealth of the society, allowing it plenty of resources for security, but also because a nation of free men have a stake in ensuring their freedom through a vigorous defense.

        — Liberals, on the other hand, emphasize the society (state) over the individual in the belief that, left unchecked, some individuals will unfairly prey on others; that an “unfair” distribution of wealth is harmful to society; and that a strong society is the best shelter for the weak individual.  Individuals will fight to protect their collective “shelter”.  Don points out the fallacy in this belief.

    • 1. Yes.

      2. Yes.

      3 Yes and No.  No, because people want solutions tho their problems and liberty can provide.

      4. No.  Man shall willingly trade anything for survival – liberty, religious doctrine or totalitarian.  Both are there merely as means to a solution.  

      5. Yes.  Politics is about offering solutions.  Liberty could provide a better solution to climate change than totalitarianism, but the political faction that supports liberty is unconvinced climate change is occuring so is losing the political debate. 

  • <quote>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.</quote>
    No climate change is not a good example.
    On the roman side indeed are the socialists who propose a solution to the problem.  It won’t work, because it is socialist but the solution is: Do What You Are Told.
    On the other side, we have a bunch of indians sitting in circles, shouting “Its not happening! Its not happening!”.  No solution is offered because the philosophy of these indians is not about liberty or limited government.  Those indians are conservatives, and what they are conserving is the “vast increase in government over the last sixty years”.  They have no solution to climate change, because conservatism has no solution to anything new and so they try to pretend it away.
    Missing in action is the solution to climate change that is based on liberty.  Smaller government and greater freedom is the solution to climate change, but liberty as a course of action is more imediately painful than socialism or conservatism.  Liberty as a solution would require giving up endless borrow & spend politics, taxes would increase and government would decrease.  Liberty does not sell in the West  anymore, we have gotten rich and fat.   Nowdays the closest we come to liberty is conservative socialism as opposed to progressive socialism.

  • 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.

     
    No climate change is not a good example.
    On the roman side indeed are the socialists who propose a solution to the problem.  It won’t work, because it is socialist but the solution is: Do What You Are Told.
    On the other side, we have a bunch of indians sitting in circles, shouting “Its not happening! Its not happening!”.  No solution is offered because the philosophy of these indians is not about liberty or limited government.  Those indians are conservatives, and what they are conserving is the “vast increase in government over the last sixty years”.  They have no solution to climate change, because conservatism has no solution to anything new and so they try to pretend it away.
    Missing in action is the solution to climate change that is based on liberty.  Smaller government and greater freedom is the solution to climate change, but liberty as a course of action is more imediately painful than socialism or conservatism.  Liberty as a solution would require giving up endless borrow & spend politics, taxes would increase and government would decrease.  Liberty does not sell in the West  anymore, we have gotten rich and fat.   Nowdays the closest we come to liberty is conservative socialism as opposed to progressive socialism.