Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Agnotology

Culturally constructed ignorance…perfect. An interesting article but anyone who has spent time debating politics online or anywhere else knows that facts are, at best, of secondary importance. That’s the beauty of the information age; you can find “facts” that support your position, no matter how ludicrous it may be. My point being, the argument made by the author isn’t exactly an earth shattering revelation.

I’m too young to remember a time when we could all agree on basic reality (earth round, 2 + 2 = 4, etc) but without that agreement, constructive discussion is impossible. Maybe there was never that basic agreement but one can imagine that without access to thousands of dubious but credible sounding websites and a 24 hour “news” cycle (the term is used oh so loosely) and hundreds of talk radio stations dedicated to constant propaganda and agitation, that it was more difficult for the obfuscators to obfuscate.

And let’s be clear on something. ‘Culturally constructed ignorance’ is a misnomer. It’s not the culture that facilitates and creates its own ignorance. It’s those elements in society that have the means to advocate their agenda in a highly visible way – basically, rich people. You have the right to be informed but only insofar as being informed doesn’t conflict with the preferences of the elites.

I do like the phrase “Disinformation Revolution”. Disinformation is far more profitable as people are more likely to tune in to information sources that confirm their own biases. And truth is generally bad for business anyway. Hard news certainly isn’t sexy. Emotion and hyperbole is sexy. Scaring the shit out of people on a regular basis keeps them coming back like hogs to a trough. Fear is sexy. I can’t quite understand that one but it’s impossible for me to watch more than half an hour of cable news or prime time television and come to any other conclusion.

The author and creator of the term agnotology, being apparently less jaded and cynical than I am, closes on an optimistic note, pointing out that the internet makes secrets harder to keep. Maybe that’s true, but it also makes completely fabricated bull$hit more easy to disseminate. But…with new players like Wiki-Leaks out there, his optimism may be not be unfounded. Censorship has certainly become more difficult if we consider the internet. The question is, is the internet enough to offset the self-censorship and corporate subservience of the tee vee? I’m iffy on that one, but hopeful.

On a closing note, it must be pointed out that ignorance is truly bliss. Who wants bad news? Who wants to confront the fact that driving their car or eating a hamburger might be significantly harming the live-ability of our planet? Who wants to admit that their country has slipped into a kind of corporate feudalism? These are things we’d rather not think about.

At this point you might be asking yourself: How can I know this is credible? How can I be sure this guy has any clue what he’s talking about? Allow me to alleviate your concern and assure you that I have your best interest at heart, and besides, this is the internet…so it must be true!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice article Ben and having read it I find my understanding of agnotology has begun.

My first reaction to the word was, well, befuddlement, mind you at my ripe old age I am to expect this at some time in the future, I would hope. So, without reading further I went to enlighten myself as to the etymology of befuddlement ...um, no, wait, you know... your word, agnotology, - agnot - ology.
O...K. Read on.

Mmm... the time has come... no wait, click on the link. Yes, read the link...

As you say too many people 'know it all' and interpret what is said, written and even seen according to their own experience/world view and literally skew the whole experience to suit.

A good enlightening read, thanks.

Tony
second time posted

Ben There said...

I don't know what the deal is Tony. Your comment appeared twice in my email but didn't make it into the blog until I posted it just now.

Anyway - Maybe the information age can be re-dubbed the disinformation age. The important thing is, we've got a word for it now. (Heh)

Kold_Kadavr_flatliner said...

You're just like me. A human being.