Friday, April 12, 2013


By Filip Spagnoli

49: Obscurity and Manipulation

Secrecy, obscurity, lies, manipulation or confidentiality of information do not belong in a democracy, because otherwise, choice and judgment based on knowledge would become impossible. The often very harsh reactions of the people when covert actions of politicians or civil servants come to light do not only follow from the often criminal or immoral nature of these actions. They also follow from the fact that they make control, and therefore democracy, impossible.
Of course, publicity is not just a requirement for those actions that cause indignation when they become public. All actions of government, or better, most actions of government (see the remarks at the beginning of this section), must be public. This is shown by the case of the technocrat, who is rejected for the same reason as the corrupt politician. Although the technocrat does not lie and does not have any immoral secrets, his supposedly superior knowledge of things political – a knowledge he does not share with the people – creates a kind of obscurity that is incompatible with democratic control. Another threat to openness, control and democracy, is the presence of those extra-political and invisible decision-takers who, to a certain degree, escape political control (big business and labour unions are a few examples of this kind of privatization of politics).
Let me come back to technocracy for a minute. As I have said before, technocracy inhibits openness and control. An open technocracy is impossible because the knowledge of the technocrat is impenetrable for the ordinary citizen. There would be no need for technocracy, if this were not the case. A technocrat rules because of his specialist knowledge, knowledge he normally shares only with other technocrats. It is not easy for an ordinary citizen to control these technocrats, because he sees, but does not understand their actions. He might be able to judge on the basis of the consequences of their actions but who says he understands these consequences, and what about the long term consequences? Are these not the object of specialist knowledge as well? However, the fact that democracy and technocracy are incompatible does not mean that it is undemocratic for people to listen to experts before taking a decision.
Here again, the media have an important role to play. They have to enforce the publicity of power and to uncover and denounce lies, manipulation and misinformation. And here the word “power” must be understood in a broad sense. Not only the state, but also certain powerful groups and organizations in society can withhold or manipulate information.

Last update January 12, 2014:

James Lovelock on Technocracy:

*At the time of this interview Lovelock held the notion of an impending catastrophe (within the 21st century) that would reduce population numbers to under one billion people.

Min. 12.  Morton prompts Lovelock about if he holds any hope that we can 'short circuit the system' and get wise and thoughtful without the suffering:

J Lovelock- "it may be possible if by some exceeding illegal and amoral kind of set up you selected the best, or what you thought the best of humans and formed them into a small society somewhere, that you may be able to dream up ways to doing this things and doing it now..."

O Morton- "but with what little intelligence we have now we can look back on the planet and we can send people to look back on the planet up in spacecrafts up until their 90th birthdays"

From minute 12:00

Other readings:

A Curious Asymmetry: Social Science Expertise and Geoengineering
Clare Heyward and Steve Rayner
Climate Geoengineering Governance Working Paper Series: 007.
Published online 29 November 2013

Why Solar Radiation Management geoengineering and democracy won’t mix
by Bronislaw Szerszynski et al (October 2013)
In this paper we argue that recent policy treatments of solar radiation management (SRM) have insufficiently addressed its potential implications for contemporary political systems. Exploring the emerging ‘social constitution’ of SRM, we outline four reasons why this is likely to pose immense challenges to liberal democratic politics: that the unequal distribution of and uncertainties about SRM impacts will cause conflicts within existing institutions; that SRM will act at the planetary level and necessitate autocratic governance; that the motivations for SRM will always be plural and unstable; and that SRM will become conditioned by economic forces.

Other reading:

‘A Question of Intent’ – New piece in Nature Climate Change
by Jack Stilgoe September 14, 2011


Weekly on #Geoengineering #Climate Issues

Para una corta introducción sobre la Geoingeniería del clima visite:

Los invito a que lean también mi semanario en español:

GEOINGENIERIA DEL CLIMA - Temas sobre la Geoingeniería Climática - Modificación del Clima 

Y en inglés con algunos articulos en español: #Geoengineering #Climate Issues

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