Knowledge Takes the Sword Away

Not yet the wise of heart would cease    To hold his hope thro’ shame and guil
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  1. I couldn’t help but laugh uproariously when I re-read Ben’s screed from four years ago; particularly when he claimed: “I know how to resist Clinton.” Oh, sure you did, Ben! We the People spent the next 30+ months entangled in NYT, WP and CNN anonymously sourced reports on Russian pee tapes, et al, to include years of Presidential investigations we now know were falsely sourced directly from a woman who made the term Nixonian seem like a lukewarm bath by comparison. Today, we can all thank Twitter and Facebook for blocking on our behalf all those terrible fake news stories to keep us safe in their warm light at long last. Uff da. Hell hath no fury, Ben. Your resistance was a futile as mine.

  2. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    You read this article and your reaction is whatabout Clinton? C’mon, man.

  3. Avatar for 010101 010101 says:

    The phrase ‘fiat news’ has so easily entered our lexicon, who says Latin is a dead language. Time negative news is more objective a description, because it was a waste of my time reading or listening to it, maybe neg-news.

  4. Avatar for 010101 010101 says:

    However reading the article was a delight, somehow!

  5. Avatar for 010101 010101 says:

    Where I live, few people would know the Latin for let there be. My guess is the fiat descriptor comes from academia, a top down creation of vulgar language by the elite.

  6. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    Haha, well, you’re not wrong. I’m pretty sure Ben first coined the term to refer to news which “declares” the meaning of a thing, thereby devaluing true news and distinguishing it from “fake” news. And to be fair, Ben is both vulgar AND an academic.

  7. Ben a vulgademic? Enjoyed the piece. Thanks Rusty.

    When I want to get at an issue or news item I try and read at least 4 to 5 pieces with at least 1 dissenting view. What I am experiencing is that the “news” cycle transforms so fast that about the time I have been able to locate, read, think about and decide upon a research item it has been become obsolete as a current issue or the way it has morphed makes it almost unrecognizable and I can’t compare it to my previous sources.

    There is still personal value in building a foundational understanding of the issue and the ability to move forward knowing the homework was done, however, it feels that I am constantly behind the curve in having an informed opinion on the “news” of the day.

    My perception is that the velocity of the news is always increasing and the duration of most news items is constantly diminishing.

  8. Well, not quite, Ben. But Rusty did invite me to review your 2016 piece and I addressed the success of our resistance to the most significant political bag of tricks that ever came our way in our lifetime. Of course, I was then asked to listen while Rusty disinterestedly picked at the Hunter political scab and the gooey political scab of Trump’s taxes. I suppose his point is that we live in an era of brilliant yellow journalism and that trusting the news is futile. Naturally, I agree. Rusty ends with the call to BITFD; and when I follow his argument, I am led to a list of projection rackets. I don’t think I need to go beyond the first IT: Our two-party system. Having voted in every election in my 60+ year lifetime for an alternative party, I can easily say from experience that the two-party system is here to stay. Resistance is futile. Clearly, the call to BITFD will get us nowhere, as well, since IT has already BITFD. I prefer the strategy of BITFU, or build-it-the-fuck-up. I’m looking for a robust way to survive and perhaps even help my people thrive among the fires and ashes the rapidly growing number of BITFD people are blowing my way. I am still hoping for some help in that regard from you two guys.

  9. What I particularly like about these articles from Ben and Rusty is that they consistently “open my eyes” to the inherent biases I have.
    They often have me scurrying back to my well thumbed “Thinking Fast and Slow” Daniel Kahneman’s great book on how the mind works.

    Yet in the quietest moments ( where my most accurate thoughts tend to originate) I agree with some of “underyourhat “ .i too am in my 60+ year and I too have had a varied and anti-establishment voting past.
    He makes good points, I’d like Rusty and Ben to address them fairly ( like I know they can).
    Perhaps we can all learn from their rebuttal.

  10. Avatar for 010101 010101 says:

    But the vulgate {common language} might last a generation or more.
    Ancient roman latin/ old english hybrid phrases will probably not survive long on Twitter etc.

  11. Avatar for Zenzei Zenzei says:
    I suppose his point is that we live in an era of brilliant yellow journalism and that trusting the news is futile.
    That is all you took away from this piece? You have no comments on competition games vs cooperation games? You have no reflections to share on your own self-bias and what brand of “yellow journalism” gets you saying “amen!”?


  12. That we have come to accept the casual corruption and graft from the friends and families of politicians is perhaps the best evidence of a broken society. That we now have two distinct media monocultures who are more than happy to cover for these corrupt entities is evidence that we actually like being a broken society.

  13. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    I’m sorry if we haven’t been as helpful or tangible as you’d like on what we mean by BITFD and bottom-up work, but I assure you that we are trying! I DO think we’ve articulated specific actions around Make, Protect, Teach and we’ve tried to show examples of each. But we’re open to feedback on what tangible steps we’ve outlined you don’t find actionable in your area, if that’s the case.

    I think as you read the Projection Racket series you will find that BITFD as we mean it very much involves bottom-up building up. I am writing it to be very specific and tangible, but again, if there are ways we can make it more real for you, I hope you’ll let us know. Shoot us notes with the kind of thing you have in mind.

  14. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    I can tell you that in market world, we’ve seen the amount of time that narratives take to emerge and become common knowledge cut almost perfectly in half since the early 2000s.

  15. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    ‘Like’ is probably a fair shorthand, although I might go with ‘accept anything which will allow us to sustain ego integrity in the face of cognitive dissonance.’

  16. I say like because I lack the specific word needed. So yes, shorthand.

    It’s like this: you meet someone at a Christmas party. They’re charming, pleasant, etc. They ask you about New Years resolutions. Yours is to spend more time with your kids or whatever. Theirs is to lose weight. You see them over the Fourth of July and they’re the same size. “Weight loss is tough” you tell yourself. “They’ll get there”. Before you know it you’re at another Christmas party two years later and there they are, still overweight and still talking about how this is going to be the year to really get in shape. Now do they like being overweight or is it that they like not having to work out and the weight problem is the price they pay for that? I don’t know which it is, but it makes little difference to their cardiovascular system. Perhaps we don’t like corruption, but you’re dead-nuts on about being willing to accept it, lest we have to look ourselves in the mirror and ask why we act the way we do.

  17. Thanks, Rusty. Will do. The first thing I’m doing is writing something I’ve entitled “It’s All My Fault” in which I take responsibility for the fact that We the People have been offered two really old, really dumb men from which to select as our President. I should take the blame because I did not get involved in the process. While I might not be alone in that regard, the effort should help temper my temper. Let’s help BITFU, Brother.

  18. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    Amen! You may have a venue already, but if you’re interested in us taking a look at it to post here, I hope you’ll send it our way.

  19. With an expanding high-peaked bimodal electorate at each other’s throats, shouldn’t we expect to find news organizations that serve and amplify those sentiments? After all, they have always been in the business of selling newspapers (advertising). The question is, which came first, the sentiments or the selling? Maybe I’ll read Manufacturing Consent again.

  20. Actions speak louder than words, and the Epsilon rapid response to organize an ad hoc rescue mission to provide PPE to front line healthcare workers this past spring was a great example of bottom up action of Make, Protect, Teach. That’s as concrete as it gets. If everyone would look around them for concrete actions they can take in their community to Make, Teach, Protect, in aggregate, there would be tremendous “building up.” We are all intelligent, capable, experienced people of means. There is so much good we can be doing every day to make the world a better place. As we say at Alive & Free, “We save the world one life at a time.”

  21. This makes me wonder if it possible to have a singularity that is bad enough to reverse track and save the cooperation game down the road, maybe finally breaking the two party duality. I secretly hoped that things would get so bad that common sense would prevail or someone would eventually call an end to the madness. Literally disgust everyone enough to take a break. But it seems we are not there yet. So here we wait, stuck waiting between egos and civil war.

  22. I was thinking about going back and looking at the media portrayals of Jackson or Lincoln. I ask myself pretty often if it was always like this? Was it just more subtle and less frequent? Maybe people were just better at seeing the con.

  23. I am intrigued (and was when i first read it) with the concept that Trump’s election would break the system. I think the system had already been broken in Obama’s first term, with the passage of the affordable care act as a purely partisan action. Once that happened cooperation never came back, either in the political process or in the press. Maybe Trump’s election just pulled the scab off and made it more obvious, especially with the never-Trumpers, and Trump derangement syndrome (which is a real thing) but also from the political right which may or may not even like Trump, but has tried to use him as a cudgel to fight back against their disenfranchisement from the political left. This IS a widening gyre, and the TDS on the left has only made it more so, putting it straight into the partisanship corner, and even admitting it, rather than just reporting news.
    For what it’s worth, as a student of the press, I think that of the national media, the Wall Street Journal is probably the one remaining newspaper that while likely having a bent, does report the news relatively independently and does fact checking the way news outlets are supposed to do, and keeps opinion in the opinion pages. I have had to give up subscriptions to a few other papers that i used to read daily, like the NY TImes, and the WaPo. I have also followed some of those regional papers (Chicago Trib- i used to live there, and SF Chronicle- i have a lot of friends and relatives there) and not only do i agree with your take on them, but i might add the Seattle Times (the last vestige of sanity in an otherwise off the wall degeneration of a once great city) to your list as well.
    Finally, despite the commentary about how biased news reporting has become, the fact remains that it has always been about common knowledge, and if anyone reading this does not recognize that fact, please reference the Gell-Mann amnesia effect. (brilliantly mentioned in these annals here (

    Having said all of that, I cannot completely commit to BITFD yet, however i am not sure there is any other way. I keep thinking on it, and i am hoping i find another answer, because when you BITFD you have to have a plan to BITFU (Build it the F Up) and i am not sure we have that nailed down either.
    But i do completely agree with Clear Eyes, Full hearts, and i am hoping against hope that we cannot lose.

  24. Well, here’s a different angle on the “Obama broke us” narrative. Obama’s 2008 platform was profoundly progressive, dare I say audacious. Then once he got into office what did we actually get? Ronald Reagan in blackface.
    Yada yada yada, a lot of O voters said “F these crooks” and ended up pulling the lever for Trump as a misguided effort to BITFD.

  25. I keep hoping for that help too…

  26. Something occurs, gets reported ( in media), narratives emerge on that something, narratives are adopted by agents interested in a particular outcome and become predominate (in media) and then enter the world at large as common knowledge.

    I can see the acceleration between the narratives emerging and becoming common knowledge, at least in part, to increased connectivity.

    I can see the agents interested in a particular outcome using the technology of increased connectivity / acceleration to bring their narrative forward promptly with the hope it becomes predominate, displaces other emerging narratives and eventually is “recognized” as common knowledge.

    I don’t vilify media. Tools can be abused ( by tools).

    I went to market world for information figuring that information had become a commodity and that market investors needed the best information they could get their hands on. Money on the line.

    I wanted the best of that information I could afford on a very limited budget. Investing was a secondary interest for me. Its been about 12 years and the degree that the information I can access has been corrupted by narrative during that time is astounding. There are gems that have “held the fort” and do not parlay in the false currency of narrative but in a grand scale ( generalization alert!!) the shift is profound.

    The common knowledge factory is the biggest financial enterprise there is and it is working overtime. Both shifts.

  27. Note that I recognize that narratives have the opportunity to be created and launched by the eventual promoters but its not clear to me that this happens in all cases.

  28. While you’re at it, look at the media portrayals of Jefferson.

  29. Don’t “keep hoping for that help” - BE THE HELP YOURSELF,! Look around you. Help people in need. That’s how you build from the bottom up. It’s not an intellectual exercise. It’s what Ben and Rusty have been preaching for the past two years. They are not going to give us a PLAN… It is up to us to INNOVATE in our communities to Make, Teach, Protect.

  30. The Fed is here to make sure we don’t ever get to that point of reckoning!

  31. What do you mean “we?” Unless it refers to politicians simply becoming as greedy as corporate managements? Politicians don’t possess the elegant means of self enrichment of the managerial class, so they appear to be more corrupt. However, I can tell you from first hand, the managerial class is every bit as corrupt as ay politician. However, since the politician has ostensibly chosen “public service” as a career path (when it should be a calling), they should perhaps be held to a higher standard. But alas, they have merely allowed themselves to be corrupted by the money the oligarchs have dangled in front of them in order to accomplish the corporate coup of America. BITFD!

  32. The Oct 22 press conference by business partner Tony Bobulinski regarding Hunter’s attempt at a big payoff with a China company is an interesting bookend to the Ukraine denials. As someone else has said, none of this surprises me.

  33. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    And now, with the Greenwald resignation, another bookend. The media has been a decidedly bad actor in trying to manage what information the American people can be trusted with here. I maintain that it’s unsurprising, garden variety sleaze - but feel even more strongly that’s a determination a free press performing its true function should allow the people to make for themselves.

  34. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    The elephant in that discussion’s room, of course, is that most people didn’t have access to nearly as much. Even if the portrayals existed, their ability to shape common knowledge was very different. Much more local.

  35. Not a coincidence. @harperhunt is always prowling for good reasons to bring up relevant older notes we have published!

  36. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    One of my all-time fave Rusty notes, more relevant than ever as the NY Times rehabilitates the Hunter Biden laptop story. But do me a favor, before you chime in with your thoughts on HB … read the note first.

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