Politicians know a country needs an educated work force, but know educated people ask probing informed questions. Information is power, which, until the internet, was limited and controlled by few people. Now a story appears in a controlled media that has generally abandoned integrity but still think they can fool people. Within minutes it is studied and commented on by millions on the internet. Almost anyone can read a story, store the information for analysis, and access a plethora of sources to check facts and provide context.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) set up a process to control public perception of their work, essentially in the pre-internet era. Communication was a politically written and controlled Summary for Policymakers (SPM) presented to the mainstream media at an orchestrated press conference. As David Wojick noted a few years ago;
“The UN IPCC’s voice to the public, press and policy makers regarding climate science is through the WG1 SPM and the TS. These two documents have precisely the same 20 lead authors, many of whom are among the leading proponents of the theory of human climate interference.”
This worked in early IPCC Reports. If questions were raised, like exposure of the changes between what chapter 8 authors agreed and what chapter 8 lead author Santer put in the SPM, damage control was possible. That wouldn’t happen today because of the internet. Release of the leaked emails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) is a perfect illustration. Now the IPCC resort to spin doctors to distort and divert.
Canadian media guru, Marshall McLuhan, originated several phrases that typify the 20th century. Most famous was, “the global village” that appeared in his book The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man. He’s talking about rapid, extensive communications shrinking the world. He also praised the power of the written word. Daniel Boorstin, in his book The Creators noted the change in dominance of ideas and emphasis created by the written word. He reported that Socrates held to the belief in the power of the spoken word, but thankfully Plato recorded his words. Since we don’t have an oral tradition in western society his ideas would have disappeared. Once you write things down you don’t have to remember.
The written word has dominated since. People are given more credibility, usually unjustified, if they have published. Printing presses made production of the written word rapid and cheap, increasing access. Books provide an elaborated idea, but most people couldn’t afford or read them. If you teach reading you have control, as totalitarian societies know.
A critical change was advent of the pamphlet as quick, cheap, vehicles for dissemination of ideas during the Age of Enlightenment. People learned of revolutionary ideas circulating in England and they were invaluable in the American Revolution.
Pamphlets underscored the potential for dissemination of events and ideas. Originally newspapers were a single sheet produced with a frequency that required a constant flow of material. This became increasingly sensational as more newspapers competed. Then instead of reporting news they began editorializing. A measure of the loss of direction is the confusion between news and opinion today.
How shall I speak of thee or thy power address,
The God of our idolatry, the press?
By thee, religion, liberty and laws
Exert their influence and advance their cause;
By thee worse plagues than Pharaohs land befell,
Diffused, make Earth the vestibule of Hell:
Thou fountain, at which drink the good and wise;
Thou ever-bubbling spring of endless lies;
Like Eden’s dead probationary tree,
knowledge of good and evil is from thee!
Thomas Jefferson was contemporary with Cowper and of a similar mind.
“The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.”
More recently others summarized the alarmism component. Paul Valery said,
“If some great catastrophe is not announced every morning, we feel a certain void. ‘Nothing in the paper today,’ we sigh.”
That’s still the situation for garnering an audience, but another of McLuhan’s famous comments,
“The medium is the message”
came into play.
I learned the lesson when asked to provide examples for a TV program about climate change. I was told many were interesting but “didn’t lend themselves to television”. This created a dilemma. A picture is worth a thousand words, but if you don’t have one, you create one or distort the story.
Edward Ecclestone’s comment that, “Journalism is organized gossip” fits better with McLuhan’s global village.The most destructive people in a community are the gossips. The mainstream media are the gossips in the global village.
As technology changed from writing to printing, to radio and then television the message changed, as McLuhan identified. However, it also expanded access to information and the ability for more people to participate – a gradual expansion of democracy.
Now Internet technology combines all previous mediums and as a result the message is very different. It continues to expose IPCC climate science corruption to more people with more perspectives and expertise than ever before. Beware any attempt to limit the internet.