Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Other 1%

It's become fashionable to use the phrase "the 1%," and variations thereof, in discussions about income inequality.  And it makes sense; by one estimate, the financial assets of the top 1% have nearly doubled in the past 40 years.  In the process, the finances of the entire nation have been effectively immobilized by people who would rather hoard money than invest or spend it.

But there's another 1% we need to worry about, especially given the power of the financial 1%.  We can perhaps refer to it as the cyber-1%; the folks whose knowledge of the Internet gives them the power to use it for their own political ends.

I'm not talking about politicians like Howard Dean, Barack Obama, and Bernie Sanders, who have learned how to use the Web as a supplementary tool to organize otherwise conventional political campaigns.  I'm talking about groups like Anonymous and WikiLeaks, who have shown themselves capable of tearing down the few walls of privacy the Internet permits for their own unilateral ends.

You may sometimes like the results.  You may, in the case of Hillary Clinton and Congressional Democrats, may not.  But you cannot argue with this:  their technical sophistication makes them, in many ways, even harder to successfully oppose them if it is your wish to do so.  And they possess the ultimate resource:  knowledge.  If we look at the tools of political power--votes, money, and knowledge--as a kind of rock-paper-scissors triad--knowledge is the ultimate winner.  Knowledge can outwit both money and votes.

Which is why it matters who has the knowledge, and how it is used.  In the case of someone like Julian Assange, knowledge is not necessarily something that will be used in our best interests.  It's time to wake up to that fact, and find ways to fight back against the other 1%

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