Activists as Knowledge Workers

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Activists as Knowledge Workers


Donald E. Stahl

I: Types of Resistance

“Nothing strikes the student of public opinion and democracy more forcefully than the paucity of information most people possess about politics.”John A. Ferejohn (“Information and the Electoral Process,” in John A. Ferejohn and James H. Kuklinski, (edd.), Information and Democratic Processes, (U. of Illinois Press, 1990), p. 3) “…most political information is too costly and of too little use for most of us to bother to try to acquire it.” (p. 13). “Political institutions are an expression of the division of labor: they permit small numbers of officials to regulate and direct social processes without having to consult regularly with the rest of us. In this sense, political institutions economize on the distribution and processing of information. We elect officials to learn about things that might affect us and then to act on our behalf as we would if we had the same information.” (p. 6.)

“The two simplest truths I know about the distribution of political information in modern electorates are that the mean is low and the variance is high.” Phillip E. Converse, “Popular Representation and the Distribution of Information.” (op. cit., p. 372).

“In the Knowledge Society, it is imperative that we learn how to make sure that the right information gets to the right people at the right time in the right form.”Keith Devlin, Infosense: Turning Information into Knowledge, ( Freeman, 2001, p. 199).

“After spending the better part of the last five years treating these theories with utmost skepticism, I have devoted serious time to actually studying them in recent months, and have also carefully watched several videos that are available on the subject. I have come to believe that significant parts of the 9/11 theories are true, and that therefore significant parts of the ‘official story’ put out by the U.S. government and the 9/11 Commission are false.”Bill Christison, former Director of CIA's Office of Regional and Political Analysis, Dissident Voice, 14 August 2006.

As Converse says in the quote above, it is a truism of political science that not many people are interested in politics, but those who are tend to be very interested. That this has been so for a long time is indicated by the fact that Pericles found it necessary to issue his famous warning about politics not ignoring you. The interested ones are what Converse in a previous, seminal article called ideologues and near-ideologues.1 “The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics,” in David E. Apter (ed.), Ideology and Discontent. (Free Press of Glencoe, 1964). Now, as I shall use the word ‘activist’ in this article, not all ideologues and near-ideologues are activists; i.e., not everyone who is very interested in politics is an activist. As the term ‘ideologue’ suggests, some people who are very interested in politics are less interested in propagating that interest among the relatively uninterested than they are in seeing to it that their fellow ideologues get things right. The former are what I shall here call activists; the latter may be researchers or theorists or planners or organizers or political correctors or connectors. Insofar as one addresses oneself to the uninterested one is an activist. Insofar as one addresses oneself to one’s fellow ideologues, one isn’t. In writing this article, I am not engaging in activism, since I am addressing only fellow 9/11 Truthers. This is a worthwhile thing to do, since we need to form an identifiable community in order to do what needs to be done, and a community can only be formed through mutual discussion, but it is not what I am here calling activism.

1 “The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics,” in David E. Apter (ed.), Ideology and Discontent. (Free Press of Glencoe, 1964).


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