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64


THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 64, January 31, 2000
Stupor Bowel Hangover

The Three Levels of Knowledge in America Today

by Michael Kerner
m_kerner@compuserve.com

Special to TLE

           It is a truism of politics today that it is perceptions and not facts that count in our nation. This is very frustrating to someone with a logical mind like yours truly. I am an engineer by profession and, in my world, physical systems always follow the rules of physics, with no regard to my opinions of how I think or hope that they should behave.
           In political and justice matters, I always expected that the truth would eventually prevail. Clearly this is no longer true. Even though we are in the middle of an information revolution, the truth is still in short supply. It is almost as if there was a great divide in what knowledge is available to different groups. I refer to this as the three levels of knowledge. Here are my definitions of these phrases.
           The FIRST KNOWLEDGE is that body of news and recent history that is widely known. The major media apparently decide what is included here and items not "newsworthy" by their standard get no circulation. The expression used in the media to describe an issue that is not to be reported widely is that a story "has no legs" or has no "traction".
           The SECOND KNOWLEDGE consists of all those stories and recent history that failed the test of "newsworthiness" that would put them into the first knowledge. (This includes information that would clarify certain first-knowledge events.) They do not get wide circulation. These items are not secret. The information is available to a motivated citizen willing to do research or who is connected to the various news services that provide this information. This takes a lot of effort and only a small minority of the population is sufficiently motivated to go after this information on a regular basis and keep themselves informed to the level of the second knowledge. Probably no more than 10% of the people are included in this group.
           The THIRD KNOWLEDGE is information that is kept secret by the government, with or without justification. Secrecy might be justified on National Security grounds, but this is more often an excuse to bury information that is either embarrassing or provides evidence of official criminal activity.
           There is a vast amount of knowledge that falls into the second-knowledge category. People educated to this level will generally hold drastically different opinions about current affairs from those who are limited to the first knowledge. This in itself opens up opportunities for more false perceptions. When the better informed second-knowledge sub group expresses opinions that seem unjustified or extreme to a person limited to the first knowledge, the second-knowledge people are open to charges of "extremist", nut case, right-wing wacko or other derogatory designations.
           Such name-calling does not dissuade the second-knowledge people from their views. They are under no illusions and are firm in their opinions. They should be, since their opinions are well grounded in facts. They are just frustrated with the ignorance of the first-knowledge people who will be voting their ignorance.
           This situation has existed for a long time and has been an undercurrent of our system for most of my life, at least. It became apparent to me when, as a teenager living in New York City, I had the occasion to read both the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal for a time. It seemed as if these papers were published on different planets. News events were described in drastically different terms. The term of "spin" had not yet been invented, but I was seeing spin in all its glory way back then, in the early 60's.
           The derision of the knowledgeable has now risen to a new level. The FBI has put out a series of press releases on "Project Megiddo".(1) This purports to warn the public and most specifically local police agencies of dangers inherent in the millennium event. The details of the report to police agencies are being kept secret, but the public announcements give some evidence of the nature of the secret report. It appears that the concept of profiling (being used right now to turn our airports and interstate highways into third world police states for certain targeted minorities) is now to be extended to political minorities. Police are being warned of "dangerous people" who need to be watched and feared. This list includes:

  • Religious people that might want to home school their kids or believe that the Second Coming of Christ might be imminent.
  • Devout Christians in general, who make their faith manifest.
  • People who know that the federal government routinely violates the Constitution and complain publicly about this.
  • People who think that a private individual has a God-given and constitutional right to be armed and defend themselves against criminals, and exercise this right by stock piling weapons or ammunition.
  • People who feared the possible consequences of the Y2K computer problem and stockpiled food, cash or other items.
  • People who criticize the government for any number of reasons.
  • People who believe that the "War on Drugs" is doing far more damage than the drugs themselves would ever do and make such opinions public.
  • People who worry that the United Nations threatens the sovereignty of our nation and the freedom of our people. These people are aware that the UN "Declaration of the Rights of Man"(2) does not hold a candle to the Bill of Rights.

           If you read this list and decide that I am some sort of paranoid nut case(3), you must be a first-knowledge person. Second-knowledge people know that each of these categories of people has been vilified, investigated, or threatened at some time in the recent past. They have also read the FBI press releases on Project Megiddo. Have you?
           A nation of local police officers, who are mostly first-knowledge people like the rest of the population, are receiving official reports from the FBI about a risk of violence from people who fall into one of these categories. Do you think there might be some risk here? Is it possible that the police might get protective of their lives and trigger happy when confronted with one of the people who fall into this profile? This, independent of the fact that these people have never shown any propensity for violence but are doing just what they are supposed to do:

  • Working within the system to change it.
  • Exercising individual enumerated rights of people under our system of government.
  • Speaking their mind in public forums like letters to their newspapers and speaking on radio call-in talk shows.

- - - - - - - - - - -
Footnotes:

(1) Press release U.S. DOJ, FBI dated October 20, 1999 and the related article in USA Today of the same date titled "FBI: Militias a threat at millennium".

(2) The Declaration of the Rights of Man includes many more "positive" or entitlement rights that I would consider not legitimate functions of government such as a right to a job, a right to medical care, a right to food. It is missing two critically important rights that are included in our Bill of Rights, the right to trial by jury and the right to keep and bear arms. The rights to freedom of speech and press are severely limited to serve the purposes of the UN.

(3) I fall into 5 of the 8 categories listed above. How many apply to you?


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