13 September 2004

HNN on Liberty, Power, and Knowledge

Steven Horwitz has a good long essay on History News Network about the evolving roles of bloggers and media and other contributors to "open source" knowledge.
It seems to me that this incident is a triumph of liberty over power. For years, we've heard from both Right and Left that the "Big Media" are a problem. Each group thinks they are the handmaiden of the other group. What both appear to agree on is that they are near-all powerful entities who are growing unchecked like some electromagnetic cancer upon the land. The Left has long had the small alternative press, which tried to counter the power of the Big Guys, but with limited success, and it had academia. The Right, since the 80s anyway, has had the think-tank world (which I've always viewed as the alternative university for libertarians and conservatives who perceived themselves, perhaps wrongly, as being closed out of academic by what they saw as leftist power). However it had no real media of its own (Jim and Tammy Faye don't count) until the advent of the Internet. There's a reason the earliest and most well-known blogs lean conservative or libertarian: there was a latent demand for their services.

The net finally reduced the cost of publishing to near zero, at least on the margin, and radically democratized the knowledge production industry, especially investigative reporting.
via Trent Telenko's compilation on Winds of Change headlined Mapping the Blogosphere's Group Mind, which observes:
This is a radically egalitarian cultural development that is highly subversive of elitist hierarchies everywhere.
However, a WoC commenter links to a New York Post column by Ralph Peters that provides a sharp counterbalance. Headlined Net of Hate: Terror's Tool:
In the 1990s, the Internet was destined to bring the world together, to the immeasurable benefit of humankind: Once we all were able to communicate cheaply and swiftly across borders and cultures, we would learn to understand and respect each other, to embrace and sing, if not "Kumbaya," at least the latest download of Senegalese pop.

Instead, the 'Net has become the most powerful tool for spreading hatred in history ...
And yet, in a place where the official media foment hatred, people can find love on the Internet. Hossein Derakshan (Hoder) reports:
Internet: Iran's Most Trusted Medium

Results of a recent interesting poll shows why hardline conservatives are so determined to shut down oppisition websites.

According to ISNA, the nation-wide poll shows that among various media, people have the most trust in the internet (45.5%), followed by Iranian TV and Radio (43.7%), satelite channels (25.2%), press (23%), and foreign-based radios (20%).

This could partly explain the recent aggresive crack down on reformist news websites.

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