The Rise of Rational Media

Recently, I posted something on Facebook that I said to Vint Cerf 10 years ago. It was revolutionary then. Even more shocking to me today is that it probably still seems revolutionary.

Why? Why do so many people still appear so lacking in literacy skills? Perhaps even more importantly: Why do I remain so optimistic that more and more people will eventually acquire more and more literacy skills after all?

So far, I am sorry to say that I don’t know why. Maybe I simply prefer to have an optimistic outlook.

But I think almost anyone will have to admit that there are clear signs that a change is indeed presently happening here and now. The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations were clear signs that people are no longer willing to be duped and suckered by governments and corporations alike. The only failure Occupy experienced was a lack of power – in the end, the side with more and most of all more powerful guns won.

Is literacy more powerful than weaponry? The Enlightenment preached that the pen was mightier than the sword, but was that perhaps also simply a hoax?

Again: My optimism leads me to continue to believe in the power of literacy. What happened during the Occupy uprising was, after all, not a true test of literacy against weaponry – it was plain and simple stubborn power against stubborn power… and stronger stubborn power won.

The true test of literacy is when people decide „We won’t get fooled again“… and follow through on their own convictions.

This was one reason people stopped using Google and started using social media websites instead. They didn’t realize the new boss was more or less the same as the old boss. Do they realize this now? Time will tell.

What became quite clear during the Occupy uprising was that the government was not on the side of the 99%. This was perhaps a shock to many… but it is not the first time that a government has sided with commercial and industrial interests.

As I recently wrote: Government may indeed have very little or even no interest in promoting the literacy of its people if it believes it may be threatened by a more literate population. In order to win a following, governments and corporations alike employ propaganda and advertising rather than rational argumentation.

Rational media, instead, are built on a foundation of literacy. Still few and far between (mainly because propaganda and advertising were much more widespread throughout the 20th Century), rational media are not normally closely held by private interests. Indeed, because of the distributed nature of the Internet, it is very difficult to maintain monopoly power over rational media (versus, for example, retard media).

The first sign of a literate public is one which is willing and able to abstain from succumbing to monopoly powers. This was true when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses onto the front doors of a Catholic church cathedral 5 centuries ago, and it is equally true for anyone who is willing and able to refrain from using Google or Facebook.

Another sign of a more literate public is one which is willing and able to agree on terminology. This is perhaps easier said than done. Obviously, it is extremely difficult in situations where people speak completely different languages. Yet even when people speak more or less the same language, they may have different opinions about many things, and such differences of opinion may lead to differing terminology, and perhaps also significant misunderstandings.

One way to mitigate this problem of potential misunderstanding is to focus intensely on „common language“ terminology. It is possible to sacrifice precision without sacrificing accuracy, and it is a great feat to be content with a solution which is essentially on the mark despite spilling over into minor side effects.

There are many more aspects of a literate society that deserve to be enumerated, but this post is already quite long. So I will simply save them for another rainy day.

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