the Insiders Lose Control
by Gary North: Facebook,
Twitter, and the Arab Revolutions
January caught the world's experts in diplomacy and foreign policy
completely flat-footed. They did not forecast the fall of the Tunisian
dictator of 23 years. They did not forecast the riots in Egypt.
revolution began on December 17, when a Tunisian set fire to himself
as a political protest. He died on January 4. That
toppled the first domino. The dominoes are still falling.
This was made
possible by the new technologies of telecommunications. Facebook
and Twitter were part of this. I
have explained this in detail here.
was the Middle East's satellite TV network, Al Jazeera. The images
of thousands of people taking to the streets informed others that
the time was at long last ripe for public protests. The size of
the crowds lured thousands more protesters into the streets.
with which this took place indicates that the Middle East has entered
a new political era. The authorities were unable to respond fast
enough to this new digital technology. Messages went out so fast,
and multiplied through the social networks so fast, that the politicians
could not respond fast enough. The genie was out of the bottle.
MEN IN DAVOS
the world's Insiders were meeting at their annual confab in Davos,
Switzerland: the World Economic Forum. They were congratulating
each other that the economic recovery is on track. Yet. While their
meeting was taking place, Arab nations were either in riot phase
or were approaching it.
did not see this coming. They were congratulating each other for
the results of having successfully looted the West's taxpayers with
bailouts and fiat central bank money expansion, also saving their
largest banks and large insurance firms, not to mention the solvency
of Greece and Ireland's governments. Then . . . ka-pow! The Middle
East was in simultaneous turmoil on a scale never seen before.
began on January 25. It ended on January 30. In
the 50-page agenda, only on page 46 is there a session listed
devoted to Tunisia. That was on Friday the 28th. By then, Egypt
was in a full-scale revolution.
Tipping Point or Tsunami?
upheaval in Tunisia the most urbanized and educated country
in the Maghreb is widely reported as a harbinger of change
for the Middle East and North Africa.
the implications of the "Jasmine Revolution" and what will be
the broader impact on the region?
It is clear
that the Tunisia session was added late in the session-planning
process. The experts had to come up with something. So, they put
a question in the title. But note the options: tipping point or
tsunami. Both imply fundamental change.
who drew up the agenda filled it with the standard control slogans:
environmental sustainability, climate change, etc., etc. It was
13 months after the release of purloined documents from global-warming
central: the Climatic Research Unit of East Anglia. By
late November 2009 decades of propaganda had blown up. Within
weeks, public opinion turned against the entire campaign.
Then came the
long-planned December Copenhagen UN meeting that was to produce
a new treaty on carbon emissions. The meeting was a flop. The major
leaders who had been scheduled to speak all had to visit their sick
mothers. The few name-brand leaders who showed up spoke briefly,
issued some joint platitudes, and headed home. The leaks had sunk
the global-warming movement.
But the Insiders
who run the Davos meeting will not let go. They still want to control
the world's economies, and centralized bureaucratic controls on
emissions by international organizations was the obvious way to
do this. They want to reduce oil and coal use the heart of
the modern world's productivity one way or another. On page
22, we read this.
All that in a
one-hour session. What geniuses these people think they are!
to Low-carbon Growth
emerging economies embark on a low-carbon growth path and become
low-carbon role models?
dimensions will be addressed:
and reshaping consumer expectations
- Changing industry behaviour
- Financing national plans
All the while,
the Egyptian government was in riot-control mode.
If these people
were as smart as they think they are, they would have seen this
coming. But no one saw it coming, which is why it came.
The leak of
the emails sent by the propagandists at the Climatic Research Unit
revealed to the world that the people at the top had misused their
positions to suppress rival views. In one shot, they were discredited
forever. The light shone in, and the reading public abandoned them.
Nobody wanted to be associated with them. The hockey stick rhetorical
image that they had used to beat the backsides of their opponents
was used now to crush their skulls.
As the chief
scientific representatives of the global-warming movement, they
had exercised great power over the centralized mainstream media.
But that sank the movement within weeks of the day that the emails
got posted. What had seemed like a great advantage centralized
control over the spread of official ideas became a disadvantage
as soon as the controlling agency was exposed publicly as just another
group of academically scheming self-promoters.
taken this to a new level. Now a disgruntled former WikiLeaks' employee
is branching out on his own. He has started a new organization,
OpenLeaks. This is the kind of competition I love to see. A
Reuters story describes what is about to happen. "All across
Europe, from Brussels to the Balkans, a new generation of WikiLeaks-style
websites is sprouting."
proliferation of websites to encourage, facilitate and shelter leakers
is so anarchic that two aspiring anti-corporate leak sites are both
claiming rights to the rubric "GreenLeaks" and muttering about legal
consequences if the other side doesn't back down.
As the number
of these sites increases, it will become more difficult for governments
to contain the leaks. The desire of leakers to become important overnight
will grow. "Hey, I can beat that!"
WikiLeaks copycats, spinoffs and wannabes are germinating: activists
say they have learned of recent launches of leak-accepting websites
focused on specialized topics or regions from Russia and
the European Union bureaucracy to international trade and the pharmaceutical
Will the media
cooperate? To refuse is to get left behind. Think of the media as
the source of funding of the paparazzi.
news organizations are also moving to establish web-based mechanisms
for receiving leaks directly, such as electronic "drop boxes" which
would enable leakers to feed the media outlets directly, cutting
out middlemen like Assange.
Even the New
York Times is thinking about getting involved. The stodgy gray
lady does not want to be left out in the cold. She wants to be hip.
one prominent media outlet which has had a productive, though
tempestuous relationship with Assange and the original WikiLeaks,
is brainstorming whether it might be possible to cut out the middleman
entirely and establish a secure channel for leakers to feed stuff
to it directly. The New York Times, which is publishing
an e-book on its dealings with WikiLeaks and also has posted a
lengthy account by Executive Editor Bill Keller of his turbulent
dealings with Assange, is examining whether it could set up its
own Internet conduit for secure leaking.
This is going
to spread. The digital genie is out of the bottle. Governments will
have to spend more on leak control than ever before. The Web is
creating demand for these scandals. Scandal sells.
I cannot stop
thinking on Wilford Brimley's lines in Absence
of Malice (1981). As a good old boy Assistant U.S. Attorney
General, he confronts a local prosecutor who is out of control.
He asks: What has been going on? The local prosecutor says that
his organization had a leak. Brimley replies:
had a leak? You call what's goin' on around here a leak? Boy, the
last time there was a leak like this, Noah built hisself a boat.
CBS News' 60
Minutes on January 30 ran as its lead report an interview of
WikiLeak's Julian Assange. The interviewer, Steve Kroft, was outgunned
from the first question. Assange is a very cool character. He has
thought through what he is doing. He handled Kroft with ease. You
can read the interview here. The video is even better.
The media are
trapped. Individual outlets will either get bypassed by cooperating
media all over the world, or else they must become adversaries of
the Federal government. They are caught on the horns of a great
All of the
decades of media planning by the Insiders from the postWorld
War I era until today has been an attempt to create a universe of
discourse that stays within the parameters set by the Insiders.
They have bought up the media outlets. All of this investment is
now unraveling. The Web is gutting it.
media will be gone in a decade. They are only marginally profitable
of this train wreck is Warren Buffett. His outfit bought newspapers.
It owns a chunk of the Washington Post. He recently resigned
from the board of the Post. But he assured people that he
will never sell shares of the Post. A columnist on the Motley
Fool had some comments on this statement. He
quotes Buffett from two years ago.
to 40 years ago, [newspapers] were essential to customers and advertisers.
They had pricing power, but [it] essentiality has eroded. Erosion
accelerated dramatically, and it won't end based on anything on
the horizon. We do not see anything to reverse it. They are essential
to advertisers only as long as they're essential to readers. Ten
years ago, the head of The Buffalo News said that on an economic
basis, Berkshire should sell The Buffalo News. We could have
sold the business for hundreds of millions. Not so today.
The writer went
on to say that Buffett has always bought companies on this basis:
he will not break them up. He buys to hold. I can see the logic of
this. But that logic has trapped him. He owns big chunks of sinking
ships made of newsprint.
of the Insiders has always been to control the flow of information.
Because of the cost of entering the various fields, those without
a lot of capital could not get in. Mergers and acquisitions went
on for 50 years until the Insiders controlled the whole shebang.
Now that strategy
is dead in the water. It is self-defeating. The people who are committed
ideologically are tied in to their own sources. These sources are
free. They are not sitting on top of expensive real estate. They
are not unionized. They are lean and mean.
media are saddled with debt for real estate. They can sell the real
estate to buy time, just as Pan American Airways sold the PanAm
building. The company still went bust in an era of de-regulation.
It should have sold the airplanes and routes at a loss and kept
the real estate.
bought the papers and TV networks to control the terms of public
debate. They are now faced with competition. It is the most threatening
form of competition: competition for people's trust and allegiance.
Both are fading fast for the mainstream media. The social networks
are undermining both.
As trust and
allegiance continue to fade, people will narrow their focus of trust
and allegiance. They will no longer give trust and allegiance to
the conglomerates and the government. This means decentralization.
Decentralization is the single greatest threat to the Establishment.
you think "Establishment," think Hosni Mubarak. He held onto power
for almost 30 years. Then, in one week, it slipped away. The ex-ruler
in Tunisia held on for 23 years. Castro hangs on because there is
no Internet in Cuba. But Cuba's liberation will arrive.
Think of Mohammar
Gadaffi. WikiLeaks got him. It posted cables from diplomats about
his blonde companion. He also uses Botox. These were minor revelations,
but they embarrassed him. Then the tyrant next door was run out.
railed against WikiLeaks and the rebellion, but to no avail.
He had a free ride ever since 1969. It
looks like the ride will no longer be free.
of digital technology threatens the world's Establishments. The
final week of January 2011 made this clear to Mubarak. He will not
be the last to learn this lesson.
North [send him mail]
is the author of Mises
on Money. Visit http://www.garynorth.com.
He is also the author of a free 20-volume series, An
Economic Commentary on the Bible.
2011 Gary North
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