Information Wants To Be Free

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The phrase "knowledge is power" has a fundumental basis in fact owing to the general observation that the people with knowledge have power. But as with every rule there are exceptions and in this case we have George W. Bush.

This exception not withstanding, the aforementioned rule is widely accepted and is often combined with a fundamental human compulsion, namely greed, that results in behaviour aimed at restricting the general distribution of information. Human logic being what it is, people with power conclude that the only way to maintain power is to stop others from obtaining a share of theirs. After all, if everyone had an equal share, the people presently in power would lose the excuse to wollow in self-gratification.

This behaviour has produced many subtle and cunning devices that ultimatelly restrict the distribution of information. There are also many not-so-subtle devices, and they will be discussed in due course. The subtlety of these devices stems from their indirect effects on restricting information. There are many such in existance today, but as with most things we have today, their origins lay seeded far in the past.

Writen language being the most common way of transfering information accuratelly, historically speaking, has made it a focul point of information supression. So how does one supress the use of writen language? Well, a number of devices have been shown to be effective.

1. Writen language is taught, as no one is born with the ability to read and write. Preventing people from learning is therefore a good start. To this end, not spending money on education or teachers, and perhaps going as far as to close schools will bring about the desired results.

2. Storing the information if a form only accessible by the people who control it. In the deep, dark annals of history, the Latin and Greek languages have been used to store writen information. Not supprisingly, neither language was used by the majority of the population, but rather by the ruling class.

3. Preventing access to information. Locking information in large vaults, thus preventing access, works well. In the past these vaults were called libraries. Far from the institutions of the same name we have today, these great vaults were far from easily accessible by the general population. Apart from the language issues already mentioned, getting to a library was by no means trivial. Firstly these institutions were located only in the big cities, were as the majority of the people lived in rural areas (and still do, by the way). Secondly, you couldn't just walk off the street into a library and borrow a book. For one, borrowing was not a known concept, and two, you first had to get into the building. Dress codes and in some cases membership had to be by-passed, and not everyone could "afford" one and/or the other.

These are but some of the more subtle methods that have proven to be effective in the past. Present methods tend to fall into the not-so-subtle category, although some may argue that the true subtlety is found in the justification of these methods which, amongst others, include National Security, Corporate Ownership and Personal Privacy.

When National Security is given as a justification, no one seems to object. After all, what could be more important? Whether missguided nationalism, or the fear of being labeled unpatriotic, the justification of National Security proves to be quite effective simply because it is seldom questioned. One examplory case that keeps on poppoing up throughout history, right up to the present day, is the trafficing of information in weapons. In present times, neuclear weapon information is most popular, but we can trace this trend back to the good old stick1. In the United States recently, there was a great concern about the possible transfer of US neuclear weapon design information to China. The concern being that if China had obtained this information, and used it to build the same weapons the US already has, the world would be less safe. That is to say, the US having these weapons, and placing them in the hands of people like Goege Bush (with Dan Quayle), and now George W. Bush makes for a safer world.

1. Althoug the use of a humble stick as a weapon it may appear obvious to the present generation, it has not always been the case. Through exhaustive archeological reserach, we have traced the first use of the stick as a weapon to the neanderthal tribe in present day Spain. Illustrating the discovery are numerous cave painings in the region that depict one of the tribe members walking in a wooded forrest, stepping on a rake-type stick and being hit in the face. Amazed at the pain inflicted through impact of the tough timber on his soft, albeit hairy face, he proceeded to demonstate the same effect to his fellow tribe members, on the condition that it remain a secret within their tribe. All recognized the power of such knowledge, but failed to realize the fundamental flaw in their means to keep it hidden. They put forward a series of rules that prevented the disclosure of the secret under pain of being hit with the stick. And so it happenned that one of the tribe members was seen conversing with members of another tribe (through the usual series of grunts and moans). The remaining members of the tribe saw this a potential tratorous transgression and proceeded to impart the due punishment in full view of members of the other tribe, thus releaseing the sacred knowledge forever.

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