Monday, June 25, 2007
Shock, horror ! Blogging threatens authority !
How entertaining to hear two journalists on the Today programme lamenting the influence of the internet. This was a producer perspective par excellence. They didn't seem to like the idea that anyone can post on the net. Clearly they thought that sort of broadcasting power should be confined to the elite of professional writers like themselves. I was reminded of T S Eliot's idea of a clerisy, a class of intellectuals who would take over the role of the clergy. Of course it was the Roman Catholic church in particular that disliked the spread of literacy at the end of the Middle Ages. After all, what would happen if everyone could read or, worse still, write. It would undermine the authority of the church.
Posted by David at 10:41 am
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The intellectuals did take over from the clergy, especially when it came to cementing state power.
We saw it with Hegel - a state appointed philosopher.
You see it today with Polly Toynbee and other journalists.
The Internet lets other points of view flourish, just as the printing press did and the removal of paper duties.
Clerisy precedes Eliot. ıt comes from the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge after he had moved into conservative social and political thought. Thought which deeply influenced Gladstone as a very conservative Christian young man, and strongly affected J.S Mill though more towards in interest in the importance of culture than an emulation of political ideas. And on Hegel, oh dear oh dear the same old myths from Karl Popper and Bertrand Russell refuted many times over. To be fair on Popper and Russell they were writing at times when the struggle against totalitarianism was very urgent and real. To be fair on Hegel, he was only a state appointed philosopher in the sense that he was a Professor in a state university. He was more of a constitutional conservative than a strong liberal or libertarian, nevertheless he certainly supported constitutional reform in a mildly liberal direction, emancipation of Jews, a free civil society, a law regulated market economy based on private property and a law governed constitutional state. He wasn't very interested in representative universal democracy, but most liberals of the time though voting should be restricted to property owners. The notable Victorian liberal political philosopher T.H. Green was a Hegelian. He is widely accepted as a precursor of communitarian forms of liberalism.
Speaking truth to power was never meant to happen this way. We are supposed to listen to a broadcast and accept its wisdom - and maybe get to have our say although authority has no ears for whingers and in any case it cannot comprehend the word hypocrisy since Authority is the architypal psychopath.
Now with blogs all and sundry regularly get to see the Emperor's privates, or at least clearly see that he is lying (all exposed within 24 hours).
However, authority has a new tool called data mining, combined with artificial intelligence and social network analysis. Authority wants to build predictive systems so that it can retain the upper hand in understanding what's going on in the world - wouldn't want any of us upstarts and malcontents challenging the authority of the state. That simply would not do.
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