The Three Levels of Knowledge in America Today
by Michael Kerner
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
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
- 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
- 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.
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
- Speaking their mind in public forums like letters to their
newspapers and speaking on radio call-in talk shows.
- - - - - - - - - - -
(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
to advance to the next article, or
to return to the previous article, or
Table of Contents
to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 64, January 31, 2000.