Authority ain’t what it used to be


Cory Doctorow has written a really interesting comparison of Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica, and in the process, he’s made a great point about evolving notions of “authority” and “expertise”.

In a nutshell: we, as info connoisseurs, have become highly media savvy, and that’s given us a jaundiced of news anchors, journalists, bloggers, and even previously unimpeachable sources like Britannica. We’re wary of grand pronouncements, we understand that news outlets can have agendas, we’ve learned that following the money (e.g. all the way back to creepy-con Rupert Murdoch) can shed some very bright light on “objective truths”. And thus:

While the Britannica says, *These facts are true*, Wikipedia says, *It is true that these facts were reported by these sources*. The Britannica contains facts, Wikipedia contains facts about facts. [BB]

Of course, skepticism works both ways: liberals laugh at Fox “News” and conservatives vilify the MSM. (Frankly, I think the fact that cons equate “liberal” with “mainstream” should tell them something about their worldview — but then, navel-gazing is clearly liberal territory.) Still: critique is an awesome thing.

All of which begs a question that’s been repeated for centuries: is there such a thing as truth, and do we want to become so relativist as to throw up our hands and say that nothing is certain?

And more importantly: don’t I have less depressing, more helium-filled things to contemplate on Thanksgiving Day?

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