December 13th, 2010


woolly bully

Thus spake this year’s Nobel and Y2K’s Ig Nobel Prize laureate in Physics Andre Geim: “Instant information about everything and everyone often allows an individual opinion to compete with consensus and paranoia with evidence. It is a time when one blunt honest statement can finish a life-long political career, and one opinionated journalist can bully a government or a royal family. […] And we sink deeper and deeper from democracy into a state of mediocrity and even idiocracy.”

Geim is on record taking the side of the Chinese government against fellow Nobel Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, even as Russian president Dmitry Medvedev’s office has been heard from nominating Julian Assange for the next Nobel Peace Prize. It remains that one man’s valiant dissident is another man’s cyberbully. Perhaps at 52, bound to evidence by his profession in the natural sciences, the inventor of graphene should not be faulted for identifying with an oppressive consensus. But there is no shortage of reasons to prefer a digital conduit of individual paranoid discontent to the dagger of a François Ravaillac, the infernal machine of an Ignacy Hryniewiecki, the Browning of a Gavrilo Princip or the Carcano of a Lee Harvey Oswald. Our tutelary champion of a new kind of “scientific journalism”, Assange is the only Voltaire we need and deserve for the XXIst Century. We can only hope that neither our Maximilien Robespierre nor our Napoléon Bonaparte will be long in coming.