December 31, 2005

The tip, 30 years on

Carl: Yo Ben, could ya come over here a sec? Me'n'Bob think we're onto something big.

Ben: Yeah? What's up, dudes?

Carl: Yeah well, it's like this. Know that seedy joint the Dems always use for their meetings, it's called Watergate? Well, we think the Republicans are bugging the place. Why, we don't know yet, but we have a source who left a tip as a comment on my blog. Doesn't want to be named.

Ben: Oh hey hey! That sounds promising. So when're you making a trip out there and check things out?

Bob: No need of that, boss, these days! C'mon, that stuff went out with the Palm Pilot! We do things differently now. The first thing we did was, we Googled "Watergate", and guess what? It didn't give us anything much. But we're fixing that fast. What we're doing is, we're mentioning "Republican" and "Watergate" and "bugging" on our blogs, and we're telling every other blogger we know to do the same, then we'll all link to each other's blogs like crazy. Pretty soon, when somebody Googles for Watergate, wham! The first hits they'll get will be ours, and they'll know that the Republicans bugged the place.

Ben: Hmm. But that doesn't prove anything.

Carl: Yeah yeah, but everyone will know the sneaky stuff they've been up to!

Ben: But what are you ... following a tip or insinuating stuff? Don't you think you should check out the tip you got?

Bob: Oh, we took care of that! He's got his own blog site,, and he says he'll post any more tips up there. Here, I'll show you ... here's his site. Pretty cool, huh?

Ben: Hey, I didn't know gave you an underground parking lot template!

Bob: Naah, think he got that off some template archive site.

Ben: OK, but again, shouldn't you check out the hotel at least?

Carl: Already did that, boss!

Ben: But you haven't stepped out of here!

Carl: Who needs that? Here's the Wikipedia entry!

Ben: Boy oh boy! What's it you guys call yourselves?

Bob: Investigative journalists, boss. The best in the biz.


wise donkey said...

and perhaps to be safer, one can send an email about it and forward to everyone in the addressbook, and ask them to forward it.
add something about it bringing good luck too as an incentive.
and soon it will be the truth.

of course one can sms about the blog or an mms of teh blog?

Pankaj said...

The tools have changed. Perhaps improved. The speed of working is phenomenal. Searches can be done in no time. The need to travel is much less. Dissemination of what is to be conveyed is instantaneous. Technology exists to facilitate all this.

But what about veracity of the "facts" being disseminated? Thirty years on from Watergate, veracity still requires hard work. Bravery. A commitment to ferret out the kernel.

False propaganda has always been a tool of the powerful. Technology helps magnify its power. And so you have the unedifying spectacle of the Secretary of State trying to convince the UN into acting on the basis of incorrect (doctored?) photographs. Despite the UN's own inspectors vouching that there were no WMDs.

The problem is that in such a scenario it is equally easy for propagandists to actually start believing some of their own propaganda. And when subsequent actions of the propagandists stem from such false beliefs hell can break loose for their own people.

What are ordinary bystanders to do in such a situation? I suppose a starting point could be to develop a healthy scepticism and doubt about what is thrown at us. To learn to see and verify facts before starting to form opinions and beliefs. As the banner on a certain blog says: "Ubi dubium ibi libertas". "Where there is doubt, there is freedom" :).

Yes, Panda Hippo Gnu Deer, to you Dilip.

Aaman said...

Good one, Dilip;

Of course, the source will probably be traced by a blogger to a fax machine in a Kinko's in Middletown, OH, with Rovian fingerprints.