A Gordian Knot of Information

The intelligence community has spoken:

The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle. They did it with purpose, they did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts and measures driven from the top of that government. There’s no fuzz on that.

James Comey (quote from politico.com)

…However, the average American can’t seem to understand what the intelligence community is saying:


The data is not fuzzy. There is no doubt that Russia interfered in our elections on the behalf of Donald Trump. The reader has only to accept the fact of this and not question it, because it is what happened as was firmly established by investigation. However, Americans just can’t seem to grasp just what it is the intelligence community is saying, even when it is stated in precise language.

There is a discernible shortening of attention spans as the information age progresses. It seems some people just can’t keep up with all the information that is constantly being thrown at them. The pundits call this information overload. Everyone will experience this if they haven’t already. Too many messages. Too many podcasts. Too many news feeds. Too many opinions that all make interesting if not actually valid points.

This reminds me of a frequent trope of Dan Carlin‘s on his various podcasts, the historical story of the Gordian knot in which the ruler of all Asia would be the man who could untie the knot. Alexander the Great, as legend has it, drew his sword and cut the knot, thereby convincing those in attendance that he would be the next ruler of all Asia. Modern man, faced with information overload, foolishly believes that he can cut the knot of too much information by simply declaring what he believes, devoid of any truth.

What the slicers in this allegory fail to understand is that Alexander the Great did not conquer all of Asia after cutting the knot, but was instead laid low by disease or poison and died with no clear heir to rule after him, his accumulated lands and treasure divided among his generals. Alexander the Great failed at the task that he had set for himself because he lacked the information he needed to simply survive the last challenge he would face.

There is no quick way to become informed, to solve the Gordian knot. Either you are informed or you must rely on the judgement of others who are, people trained in the areas where you lack proficiency. The Trumpist derided elites are essential, if we want to survive and thrive. If you don’t value their judgement, don’t include it in your calculations, then you are a fool marching into battle with no estimation of the force you will face, no idea of the terrain you must traverse, no assurance that your force will even survive to take up arms when battle calls.

Your fate is written in the texts you don’t read, the advice you don’t even take time to hear. You are already laid low and dying, and you simply don’t know it yet.

I believe. I believe. To hell with learning anything. To hell with putting five goddamned minutes into it. No, I believe. Like we haven’t learned anything in 20,000 years of history. Like a caveman staring fearfully at the approaching storm.