Occasionally a piece of writing succinctly captures some essential truths. Martin Gurri, author of the blog The Fifth Way, chronicles the ideology / world view / zeitgeist of what he quaintly terms the industrial elite in his Notes from a Nameless Conference.
The source of his musings was an either excruciating or amusing conference on “regaining trust”. It’s not a good idea to try to summarise a summary; you really need to read it in full. However, its impossible to resist a choice quotation:
“The same unmodulated whine about present conditions circled around and around, without even the ambition to achieve wit, depth, or originality:
The internet is the enemy: of rationality, of democracy, of truth. It must be regulated by enlightened minds.
The public resembles an eight-year-old who is always fooled by tricks and lies. For its own protection, it must be constrained by a Guardian class.
Populism is the spawn of lies. Even if it wins elections, it is never legitimate, and must be swept away by a higher authority.
Climate change is a scientific mandate for torturous economic and political experiments, implemented by experts. To deny this is worse than error – it’s a crime against humanity.
Hate speech, offensive words, fake news, deep fakes, privacy violations, information bubbles, bitcoin, Facebook, Silicon Valley, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Brexit: all must be controlled, criminalized, exploded, broken up, exposed, deposed, or repeated until the right answer is obtained.
None of this was up for discussion. None of it was uttered with the least semblance of self-awareness. In the same breath, a speaker called for the regulation of the web and the education of children in “tolerance.” If I had pointed out the contradiction, the speaker, I’m certain, would have denied it. Tolerance, for her, meant the obliteration of opinions she disliked.”
Readers may find a few echoes from episodes in their personal and professional lives in this description.
Of course the critique is more powerful than any suggested solution. Gurri calls for the re-establishment of trust in the institutions of representative democracy. Well it’s hard to think of other options, and none of them terribly attractive. But how to regain that trust? A little more diversity of views in our public institutions might help.