We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day – attempting to purge the Web of misinformation is a fool’s errand

However, in the real, non-ideal world of mediocre and shallow thinkers, cowards, selfish careerists, and the occasional scoundrel, political and scientific censorship never works out in the way envisaged by its public advocates. In the non-ideal world of imperfect knowledge and corruptible character, censorship is just as likely to frustrate the pursuit of truth as to facilitate it.

Nobody’s Wisdom or Knowledge is Infallible

Consider, first, the fact that nobody, not even the most educated or brilliant person, possesses perfect, infallible knowledge, whether on moral or scientific questions. Of course, some people may, as a matter of fact, be better informed or wiser than others on this or that issue. However, the notion that anyone could enjoy a form of knowledge or wisdom that is uniquely infallible or immune to challenge, is preposterous. Who but God alone could possibly redeem such a far-fetched claim, and on what basis?

The idea that there is a superior class of persons whose knowledge and insights automatically trump the knowledge and insights of others is inconsistent with ordinary experience, which confirms that people reputed to be highly knowledgeable and wise can make grave and even catastrophic errors. In addition, it is based on a deeply naïve and misguided view of the complex and messy process through which human knowledge is acquired.

David Thunder writing “Why attempting to purge the Web of misinformation is a fool’s errand”

… but frankly I think is a scoundrel’s errand.

17 comments to Samizdata quote of the day – attempting to purge the Web of misinformation is a fool’s errand

  • Kirk

    I’d agree on the “scoundrel”.

    There’s something telling, in the attempt to take control over anything. Unless you’re the co-pilot, and your pilot has suffered a heart attack…

    They’ve been steadily eroding what the general public “knows”, mostly through the misdirection of failing to report or “de-emphasizing” certain facts, certain stories. It’s lying by omission, and now they’re working to prevent anyone from even knowing what the omissions are. The ideal for these people is the same thing that the Soviets achieved with their “news media”, Pravda and Izvestia, which is to obscure things that are going on such that you can only guess at actual events via the spaces in between the words.

    I don’t think that it is going to work; what it is more likely to do is absolutely destroy the legacy media, and cause that to be replaced by something that we can only make out the shape of. At some point in the future, the term “Journalist” will no longer mean someone employed by a media outlet, but anyone conducting themselves as a journalist and doing journalist things.

    Regardless of whatever your fantasies are, there is always a free market on anything; the market is merely the abstract conceptualization. If you’re in a totalitarian state, and you need to know what is going on? You don’t go to the regime for information, you instead go by the grapevine, the Samizdat network. If the regime media don’t fulfill the market need, then the vacuum will necessarily fill itself. If the regime suppresses free flow of information, then the cumulative effects of bad decisions will eventually catch up with it.

    You can only tell so many lies, of whatever nature, before a system collapses under the inherent contradictions. You can see that with a lot of things here in the US, today. The legal system is losing its “mandate” from the general public because of those lies, and what comes after will likely be an interregnum of informal vigilante “justice” that will be incredibly ugly for a lot of people.

    The real problem here is that the idjit class that came up with all these ideas confused “control” with “works”. The system was what it was because… It worked. Taking control of it, and then changing all that, without paying the least attention to whether or not their changes actually worked properly, in the real world? That’s going to be the epitaph for the whole fiasco, when all the contradictions finally collapse inwards on themselves.

    You can only bullshit for so long, before you have to actually produce something effective and worthwhile. If you tear down a society, you’d better be damn sure you can put something back in place that functions, or you’re going to be the ones going up against the wall instead of the people you demonized.

  • JJM

    …but frankly I think is a scoundrel’s errand.

    In a nutshell.

  • Snorri Godhi

    “Why attempting to purge the Web of misinformation is a fool’s errand”

    … but frankly I think is a scoundrel’s errand.

    Embrace the healing power of “and”.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes – the people trying to purge the internet of “misinformation” are despicable creatures, working for governments and corporate bodies, who are really seeking to crush truth and replace it with lies.

  • bobby b

    I Learned this week that Elon Musk and Adolph Hitler are equally evil people. I would not have known this had I not been able to tap the minds of brilliant Google engineers and programmers.

    We’re moving backwards. The next crop of Timothy McVeighs are going to be looking at corporate headquarters instead of federal buildings.

  • Deep Lurker

    I would have said “knave,” but “scoundrel” works too.

  • Lynwood H. Wilson

    I highly recommend Tom Sowell’s ‘Intellectuals and Society’. I’m reading the second edition and it’s even better than the first. It pretty well demolishes the idea that some group of anointed experts know more about what is good for us than we do. And he inserts the knife so delicately and gracefully.

  • Kirk

    Coming back to this like a sore tooth…

    I don’t think it is at all necessary to “purge the internet of bad information”, any more than it is necessary to purge libraries of bad books. Indeed, the attempt to do such a thing tells me all that I really need to know about you and your cause: Neither you nor your cause are worth following in any way whatsoever.

    The virtue/truth of any given bit of information is proven out in the world, not inside your head. Does that information conform with reality? Does it help you survive? Does it afford insight into what you experience? These are the real questions, and it doesn’t matter what the illuminated ones tell you; their ideas either work, or they do not. Are they adding value to your life? Do they make your life more unpleasant, harder? Then, the case is that the reality of your experience either validates or renders meaningless that information. There are no other tests, no other criteria.

    The only people seeking to “purge” what they tell you is bad information are those who are trying to prevent you from making a choice; they’re cutting off options. Nowhere in history has there been a case where such people were looking out for you; they’re actually looking out for themselves, trying to attain and/or maintain power over you.

  • Y. Knott

    ” “purge the internet of bad information””

    – The obvious pay-out for “them”, is that “they” get to decide what information is “bad” – a task to which “they” are eminently suited, as “everybody” knows that “they” are far, far smarter than “we” are. Or at the very least, “they” do – and they feel overwhelming pity for we poor dears, along with “their” natural overpowering contempt. Prime example is a certain unnamed Canadian prime minister’s “fringe minority with unacceptable views”; indeed, the man is a cornucopia of examples of elitist thought in action. His contemptuous dismissal of anti-vaxxers as “quelquefois raciste, quelquefois minogyniste” – you understand of course that racism and misogyny go hand-in-hand with vax resistance, and all ‘right-thinking’ vax recipients, by their very act of accepting the vax, prove to (his, of course) complete satisfaction that they could never possibly be either. His skylarking at an international conference in Europe, where he, Macron and (? – Johnson?) stood-off to one side and not-so-covertly mocked Trump on-camera; what did he imagine the result of that would be, and what his actions might do to our relations with Canada’s largest trading partner? He doesn’t care, and neither did the others – we’ll thank them some day!

    Well, he’s still prime minister, and we’ve just tabled our on-line harms Bill; it’s sure to pass with Dogmeat’s support, and we’ve even had one of our MP’s table a Bill prescribing hefty fines and jail time for people who speak well of fossil fuels. The sanctity of The Narrative must be preserved; and yes, our Charter of Rights and Freedoms says “free speech” is one of them, but the elites know what we really need. So again, “mis/disinformation” must be countered with healthy, ‘agreed-on’ propaganda; it’s really rather disheartening.

  • Embrace the healing power of “and”.

    Nah, because fool implies doing something with a lack of wisdom rather than doing something with malice, and I think malice is almost always the driver behind censorship. Most people calling for this are not ‘fools’ because they know exactly what they are calling for & what its implications are.

  • Paul Marks

    The “misinformation” is the truth – and the people trying to “crush misinformation” are spreading lies to push the agenda of the international Corporate State.

  • jgh

    Isn’t there a saying: The USSR collapsed when the lies got too big.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Most people calling for this are not ‘fools’ because they know exactly what they are calling for & what its implications are.

    I don’t know and don’t much care whether people calling for a purge, know what they are calling for; actually i think that some of them know and some don’t.

    But i certainly do not believe that they know what the consequences are likely to be. See also the following post, by Natalie.

  • Snorri Godhi


    actually i think that some of them know and some don’t.

    … and some of them would know, if they applied their brains to it, but why bother?

    There is comfort in believing your own propaganda.

  • Paul Marks

    Good points Snorri.

  • A number of good essays on the whole ‘misinformation’ thing by Ruxandra Teslo. This one is especially good:


  • David Roberts

    When talking/writing and listening/reading I always try to follow the advice in Straight and Crooked Thinking by Robert H. Thouless.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>