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  • Bob Armstrong

    Originally : Serf_City_-_Volume_03_Issue_03 , 2007 .

    I discovered the Libertarian Party too late in 1996 to vote for the late great Harry Browne. By 2000 I was so disgusted with the “collegiality” displayed by the Senate in allowing a President to be more of a liar than lawyers allow among themselves (he was disbarred immediately upon leaving office) that I made a quixotic run as a Libertarian against Jerrold Nadler.

    One of my early observations about the Libertarians (other than that they had nothing to do with Lyndon LaRouche) was that this was the party for the Internet age.

    This potential is now coming to fruition with the Ron Paul revolution. A couple of months ago I posted on SerfCity.US :

    Ron Paul’s presidential campaign is the most historic of my [63 years]. It is a declaration of individual adulthood by the broadband class. The level of intellectual capital which has arisen in support is awesome. Broadband permits virtually all Paul’s own appearances and an array of remarkable independent creative work (including a video contribution by our own Serf City-Jim from which the image of industrial Liberty was abstracted for the Manhattan- Libertarians Yahoo group home page) to be available to anyone.
    As I write this a search for “Ron Paul” on YouTube returns 36,900 videos. While Dr Paul is exceptional in his decades of commitment to Liberty, the revolution is even greater and is irreversible.

    The Internet has changed the topology of knowledge. Topology analyzes objects in terms of neighborhoods — what is next to what. It studies the differences between objects in both continuous spaces— a sphere versus a donut, and discrete networks—a hub-andspoke versus a ring. Metric topologies have some measure of distance (time, Euclidian, cost, nodes, etc.) between points. When the country was founded, information flowed at the speed of a horse and communication from, say, Philadelphia to Boston was expensive in both time and money. In relativistic terms, the “interval of simultaneity,” to use Einstein’s term, between events at different places was on the order of several days. The coupling of events between one place and another was weak and the freedom which comes from decentralization almost inevitable. This was even more true in the wilds west of the Appalachians. The explosion of railroads starting in the 1830s was the first revolutionary change in speed and cost, followed in the 1840s and 1850s by the telegraph, which by the 1870s reached from the American West Coast to India. That the Civil War centralized Federal control over the states during this period is no accident. However, while the segments of these pipes were at light speed, many relays between them were at manual speed and the effective bandwidth measured in bits per minute. At population nodes, distribution of information was still by Gutenberg (1440s). The scarcity of the resource led to the rise of media empires tightly coupled to the state. With the rise of the radio broadcast of voice in the 1920s and 1930s came the age and the wars of the great orators, FDR, Hitler and Churchill. (The role of broadcast oratory in Stalin’s rise is less clear, though he was a poet and editor of Pravda early on.) No previous media had so intrinsically a hub-and-spoke topology. This allowed great orators with access to the megaphone’s microphone to lull, cajole, incite, seduce the masses (those without megaphones) to cede to varying degrees their individual choices, welfare and responsibilities to these powerful voices. Adding the images of television, which had been preceded by the movie newsreel, only nuanced this dynamic.

    The first inroads on this hegemony came from cable and more recently satellite technologies, which greatly increased the number of pipes (maybe “sprinklers” is a better analogy) available. This led to a smattering of “public access” and alternative media outlets offering a few small squeaks of alternative voices. The Manhattan and New York Libertarian Parties sponsor a couple of these, but they remain sparse, essentially unidirectional paths.

    The broadband World Wide Web has changed everything. Connections are peer to peer rather than center outward, with pipes fat enough to stream 100-kilobytes- per-second sound and video streams. The cost is about a loaf of bread a day and the distance between any points on the planet is essentially the same. The topology of human knowledge has changed. It is now an all-connect graph, a simplex, between all broadband nodes and whoever is sitting at them. Mainstream media pundits who have the courage to allow feedback now may face a hundred instant comments and rebuttals from their readers. The readers have become co-writers who can instantly fact-check using Google and Wikipedia.

    On YouTube the feedback can be brutal. People who post videos showing they “don’t get” Ron Paul are generally deluged with information and explanations, along with some insults, to try to get them to understand how vital it is that the pendulum be reversed. I propose that at the Libertarian Party national convention next summer, “Write in Ron Paul” be on the ballot in addition to the LP’s traditional “None of The Above,” regardless of the outcome of the Republican primaries.
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