The Cult of Information (Theodore Roszak)

The Cult of Information – The Folklore of Computers and The True Art of Thinking
by Theodore Roszak

Pantheon Books – 1986

One might argue that if the public took advantage of all the information
the U.S. Post Office could deliver to its front door from public and private providers,
it would soon be awash in data. 

In some of the world’s totalitarian societies,
the great political problem may be an official censorship
that works to chose off the flow of information. 

In ours, the problem is just the opposite. 


If anything,
we suffer from a glut of unrefined,
undigested information flowing in from every medium around us. 

Here is a problem the Utilitarians never foresaw: that there can be too much information. 

So much that the forest gets lost among the trees. 

The result is then a new variety of politics
in which governments do not restrict the flow of information but flood the public with it. 


One is reminded of Orwell’s 1984, where Big Brother’s ubiquitous loud speakers steadily done on
with bewildering statistics of production and consumption. 

To be sure, in 1984, the information was monolithic; there was no critical competition. 

But where competing sources do exist, as in our society,
the strategy of government is not to censor but to counter fact with fact,
number with number, research with research. 

It even becomes advantageous to have lots of contention about fact and figures,
a statistical blizzard that numbs the attention.