“It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.”
In its landmark ruling on the Pentagon Papers, the US Supreme Court said: “Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell.”
Our “free press” is clearly abdicating its responsibilities. Worse yet, mainstream media do much more to aid and abet government deception than to expose it. For example, The New York Times and The Washington Post functioned as cheerleaders to deceive the people in America’s disastrous, illegal invasion of Iraq. Enter WikiLeaks to take on a job shirked by our “free press”.
Our government fears WikiLeaks, not because it poses a national security threat, but because it exposes government deception. Deception is the currency of our political system. If our government couldn’t lie to the people, our present system of lobbyists transferring millions from special interests to our so-called “representatives” in return for taxpayer billions would disintegrate.
Democracy requires that the people know the truth. The truth is our government often lies to us. The truth is our government’s foreign policies make us less secure (we’re making enemies faster than we can kill them). The truth is government deception is used to justify spending trillions on endless, illegal wars and on an endless, bogus “war on terror”, which has killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of foreigners and tens of thousands of Americans.
The truth is our government fears WikiLeaks because our government wants us to remain blissfully ignorant of what it’s actually doing in our name with our tax dollars. The truth is…, an enemy of our government and WikiLeaks enables that enemy. Enter Wikiarguments.
Aspects of a Wikiarguments system
Wikiarguments is an Internet-based (wiki) system that would force congressional accountability and make government deception much more difficult. It would provide a secure mechanism for anonymous submissions to expose government deception, but, more importantly, it would also provide a simple system of forced accountability where our “representatives” could no longer evade giving us clear, rational justifications for their positions (instead of the evasive, specious claptrap they typically give us now).
We’d be able to visit an Internet site and view clear, rational arguments for all Congressional bills -pro and con – side by side for easy comparison. We wouldn’t need mainstream media pundits to interpret government policies for us; we’d be getting both sides right from the horse’s mouth. Evasions and flawed reasoning by either side would quickly become apparent. A search capability would allow us to find the current best arguments – pro and con – for any bill in Congress.
When a bill is introduced, those “representatives” initiating the bill would be required to post a clear, rational (wiki) argument explaining the merits of the bill. Those opposing the bill would then be required to post their corresponding clear, rational (wiki) argument explaining why the bill is unfair and shouldn’t pass.
What makes a wikiarguments system such a powerful weapon against government evasion and deception is this: the individual arguments are dynamic. As you will see, dynamic arguments prevent lots of mischief and tend to punish liars while rewarding truth-tellers. The individual wikiarguments would be managed much like Wikipedia entries except there would be multiple entries per subject (pro and con arguments) instead of the one entry per subject in Wikipedia.
Thus all members of Congress would be able to edit – update and improve – the wikiarguments they favor. Both sides of an issue would be free to update their respective wikiargument as new facts emerge, to correct mistakes, or to highlight flaws in the opposing wikiargument. In this manner, wikiarguments for both sides – pro and con – would evolve as collaborative efforts, which would converge toward a best (consensus) argument for each side of any given issue (bill).
A wikiarguments system would differ significantly from a forum-type venue – where people argue back and forth – because the emphasis is on an evolving, converging, end product: the current best argument(s) for each side of an issue. The emphasis would be on building a clear, concise, rational argument for a given position, which would then compete with its corresponding – opposing – argument openly on the Internet.
The American people would watch as wikiarguments for each side evolve and do battle on the Internet. Our “representatives” would not be able to fool us with deceptions because any evasions, flaws, speciousness, or other deceptions would be promptly emphasized in the corresponding opposing wikiarguments, which would be posted on the Internet for the entire world to see.
But unfair bills are often supported by both political parties because both are typically bribed by the same big money. How would a wikiarguments system force our “representatives” to post honest arguments against such unfair bills? By providing two additional – pro and con – “shadow” wikiarguments for each issue that could be edited anonymously by anyone on earth, like Wikipedia entries.
The American people would have direct input to legislation through these “shadow” wikiarguments. A visitor to the site would view two pairs of pro and con wikiarguments per issue (bill), one pair maintained by members of Congress and a corresponding pair maintained by the public at large. If our “representatives” were in cahoots, and not providing a cogent wikiargument against an unfair bill, the corresponding (con) public wikiargument would expose the disingenuous (con) government argument.
Cogent wikiarguments would stand out starkly from specious wikiarguments. Why? Because it’s relatively easy to construct clear, cogent arguments when truth is on your side. But when truth isn’t on your side, the best you can do is clever specious arguments.
But even clever specious arguments couldn’t possibly survive the vast inquiry an Internet-based wikiarguments system would subject them to—the whole world would be watching and someone would point out flaws and deceptions. Dishonest politicians would no longer be able to hide from us and shrink from inquiry.
The philosophy behind Wikiarguments; why it would revolutionize government
Our current political system, with crucial help from mainstream media, allows and even promotes blatant deception and evasion by our government “representatives”. They’re never forced to justify their positions with clear, rational arguments (written down so they can be scrutinized).
Currently, sponsors and supporters of unfair legislation typically offer shallow, specious justifications (eagerly and uncritically passed on by mainstream media) and then simply evade inquiry. Mainstream media do little to challenge these specious justifications and when they do, our “representatives” simply spout more specious nonsense until the clock runs out.
A wikiarguments system would prevent this evasion because it would require our “representatives” to not only justify their positions initially, but, more importantly, to defend them from ongoing inquiry using clear, rational written arguments. Unlike the ephemeral TV interviews, “debates”, and public statements of our “representatives”, their best wikiarguments would always be right there on the Internet subject to scrutiny and inquiry by the American people.
The sheer idiocy of our current political system is easily illustrated. Unlike our Congress, our Supreme Court does give us their best “wikiarguments” – pro and con – to justify their votes (and we can see both sides on the Internet). Imagine if Supreme Court Justices weren’t required to justify and defend their conclusions with clear, (written) rational arguments. Suppose they could just vote and evade inquiry. Would we not easily see the assault on truth under such a system? Would we not easily see the sheer idiocy of such a system?
Imagine if scientists weren’t required to justify and defend their positions with clear, (written) rational arguments. Suppose they could just present their conclusions and evade inquiry. Would we not easily see the assault on truth under such a system? Would we not easily see the sheer idiocy of such a system?
So why don’t we easily see the assault on truth and the sheer idiocy of a political system that allows our “representatives” to evade giving us their best rational arguments for their positions? Is the integrity of our Congressional conclusions somehow less important to our lives than the integrity of our Supreme Court conclusions or our scientists’ conclusions?
Is it not sheer idiocy to hold our Supreme Court and scientists to a high standard of truth, completely abandon that standard of truth for our “representatives”, and then expect anything other than the immense wake of human suffering – clearly caused by our corrupt government – here and throughout the world?
Our “representatives” won’t even discuss a health care system that costs half what Americans pay, provides superior health care, and covers every citizen! You won’t find a clear, rational argument justifying this position anywhere. Is this not sheer idiocy?
America manufactures and sells more weapons of mass destruction than any other nation by far. We spend more on our “defense” budget than all other nations on earth combined! You won’t find a clear, rational argument justifying this position anywhere. Is this not sheer idiocy?
Is it not sheer idiocy for us to allow our “representatives” to get away with feeding us lies – as they give billions of our tax dollars to special interests – while causing massive death and mayhem throughout the world?
We must demand a political system that seeks truth, instead of one that hides, manipulates, and even manufactures “truth.” We must demand a political system that creates policy using rational argument and open debate, instead of one that creates policy using wheeling and dealing, coercion, and deception.
A wikiarguments system would hold our “representatives” to a minimum standard of truth and enforce intellectual honesty in government. Surely that would be a revolution.
CARMEN YARRUSSO, a software engineer for 35 years, designed and modified computer operating systems (including Internet software). He has a BS in physics and studied game theory and formal logic during his years with the math department at Brookhaven National Lab. He lives in New Hampshire and often writes about uncomfortable truths.