December 24, 2003

The Anti-Totalitarian Net: Fantasist Debunker

In the network of today and the future, the great battle is, and will be, who owns what. If I own my own computer (in the sense of having control over what it does), if I generally have the right to put packets onto the network and have them delivered uncensored, there is a great future for the net as a moderating force in human interaction.

While it is true that any fool can stand up on a virtual soapbox and yell his head off, if you make statements of fact, you can count on people looking them up, checking you, and calling you on your mistakes and falsehoods if what you say isn't, strictly speaking, reality.

Extremists often carry along other people using a heady mix of emotional exhortation and a confident portrayal of reality that is often at odds with the objective truth of what is going on in the world. You can't do much about the histrionics and rhetoric but modern technology allows debunkers a critical advantage. By creating FAQ lists demonstrating how common distortions are used to mislead, extremists are forced into the same unatractive choices that spammers now have with the advent of bayesian filters. The old stuff is quickly debunked and nobody they debate is falling for it anymore. New stuff is quickly debunked at a pace that exceeds their ability to churn out believable, functional distortions of reality that serve their purpose.

Eventually, everybody, more or less, is forced to deal with the world as it is and not a fantasy world that does not exist. This is something that tyrants and their wannabes are, and should be, profoundly uncomfortable with. The extremists are dangerous mostly when they can peddle their theories faster than they can be debunked. Few will follow demonstrated false prophets and extremism will become less and less of a threat as long as we continue to take that threat seriously.

Posted by TMLutas at December 24, 2003 01:10 PM