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The Net — Democratic Panacea Or Autocratic Tool?

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the or-tubular-googocracy dept.

The Internet 204

Alex writes "On April 6, 10,000 protesters organized in Moldova against the nation's Communist leadership by utilizing new media like Twitter and Facebook, demonstrating the ever-increasing potential of the Internet as a democratic and liberating tool. But in the current Boston Review, Evgeny Morozov critiques the view that the internet will inevitably democratize autocratic regimes like China, Russia and Iran. He argues that the Net's democratic effects are not inherent, and that autocratic regimes have been successful in controlling electronic media to disseminate their ideology. Will the net ultimately spread American democracy, or just American entertainment?"

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How about other democracies? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27540559)

Some of us have our own democratic systems not based on the US.

Re:How about other democracies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27540887)

Yes, but what you fail to realise is

TEAM AMERICA, FUCK YEAH!

Re:How about other democracies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27540973)

Yes, but what you fail to realise is

TEAM AMERICA, FUCK YOU!

Re:How about other democracies? (3, Insightful)

skrolle2 (844387) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540979)

I wish I could moderate the article "-1 flamebait". A better term is "Western Liberal Democracy", that's all the good things that we all agree on, and yet isn't exclusive to a single country.

Re:How about other democracies? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27541081)

Western Liberal Democracy ?

You mean cowboys in the far west ? Meeeh... far too much gay to me (don't want no bareback mountain involving me in any way); check.

Re:How about other democracies? (0, Redundant)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541423)

I wish I could moderate the article "-1 flamebait". A better term is "Western Liberal Democracy", that's all the good things that we all agree on, and yet isn't exclusive to a single country.

Doesn't the current state of the world challenge your faith that the things we've been agreeing on are good things even in the slightest?

If the things we believed in were actually good things, things would not be so incredibly fucked up. If western style democracy actually leads to good leadership and empowered people, how do you explain the psychopaths who currently wield power, the plummeting birth rates, the destruction of the family unit, the endless aggressive wars, the desperation in the population?

Maybe it's time to critically examine all these "good things" about our culture we take for granted. They sure do seem to have led us pretty fucking far astray...

Re:How about other democracies? (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541537)

I'm not sure we all "agree" nor and I sure who "we" are.

The "western liberal" in democracy is pretty much what seems to be taking rights away and making things less free either directly or indirectly. If you think everyone agrees to that, your crazy.

Re:How about other democracies? (2, Interesting)

skrolle2 (844387) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541749)

I'm not sure we all "agree" nor and I sure who "we" are.

The "we" would be the people who live in these democracies, and I think we all agree on which countries are such a democracy and which aren't.

The "western liberal" in democracy is pretty much what seems to be taking rights away and making things less free either directly or indirectly. If you think everyone agrees to that, your crazy.

Nice strawman. Yes, if you look at it from the very narrow perspective of the last seven years, and only in a certain north-american country, then yes, you could get that impression. I was kinda aiming for the larger picture, liberal democracies have been going strong for about 200 years now, and we are richer, happier, and much, much better off than the people living in countries that are dictatorships, oligarchies, theocracies or socialist republics. I'm not saying our system is perfect, but it sure as hell is the best we've seen so far.

Re:How about other democracies? (2, Funny)

eclectro (227083) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541101)

Like Elbonia? [wikia.com]

Re:How about other democracies? (2, Insightful)

Chemicalscum (525689) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541215)

Like Ghandi said about western civilization so too would American democracy be be a good thing.

Russia? (1)

noname444 (1182107) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540565)

Is Russia really considered autocratic? I don't know what the state of the democracy is there, but really, autocratic?
Any Russian people here who could comment on that?

Re:Russia? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27540575)

Though not from Russia, I travel there several times a year for fieldwork, from Saint Petersburg to western Siberia. Yes, the country can be fairly described autocratic. Voices for reform are regularly beaten under the unders of Kremlin-appointed governors, the late Soviet-era practice of putting dissidents in psychiatric hospitals has resumed, the national media is almost entirely under the control of Putin. Then there have been the killings of the greatest critics of Putin, such as Anna Politkovskaya. Every time I go there, the situation seems ever worse than before.

Re:Russia? (5, Insightful)

papabob (1211684) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540673)

You know, the most influential (and richest) industries of the country are controlled by families who had relations with Putin or KGB/army in the 90s. Putin designed his Deputy Prime Minister to become the presidential candidate , Putin left the presidence to become Prime Minister, the former Putin's Prime Minister now is Deputy Prime Minister...

Yes, it sounds like an autocracy.

Re:Russia? (4, Insightful)

Nephrite (82592) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540739)

You can consider it autocratic. Presidential and parlamentary elections are faked on regular basis, governors are installed from Kremlin (elections were abolished not so long ago), courts are funded from city budgets and judges are installed by the president and the parliament majority, so called "United Russia" has Putin as the leader. So there is no de facto separation of powers, the president and prime minister decide.
Oh, and journalists and bloggers are killed and imprisoned for their opinions. We also have the infamous "282 article" in criminal codex which de facto forbids any criticism of state. So yes, Russia may be considered autocratic if not "Soviet" again :-)

Re:Russia? (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541333)

the president and prime minister decide

And I assume that what you mean by that is, "whichever of these job titles that Putin holds is the one who decides."

Difference: (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27540569)

In Moldova, the web (Twitter, etc.) was outside the government's control, hence the citizens control the net. In China, Russia and Iran the net is well inside the government's control. Hence the net (and the government behind it) controls the citizens.

This is why the copyright debate is so important. Who gives a s**t about Mickey Mouse and who watches of doesn't watch him? The real game is who controls what gets seen, heard and written over the Internet. Copyright is just the government's cover and the RIAA-government relationship is a convenient symbiosis.

Re:Difference: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27541089)

3 years ago I wouldn't have agreed with you. But after working in econometrics and marketing for the past three years I can say that the 'fine-art' of creating and managing corporate/group identities in the digital world has become part of the standard toolset of every selfrespecting entity that needs to be online.

And key to that is on the one hand borrowing legitimacy from the state and on the other hand actively shaping the frame of reference that consumers have.

The strong undercurrent forming in the digital society is that digital 'accountability' in the western democracies is becomming more and more salonfÃhig, but it's definition is not constructed by society at large.

Just listen what Maurice Lévy [Publicis Groupe][one the big four advertisment groups] has to say in an episode of the `the leaders' with simon hobbs on cnbc regarding the difference of tv-advertising and online marketing.
It will give you shivversssss..

Cheers,..

Re:Difference: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27541683)

The real game is who controls what gets seen, heard and written over the Internet.

Amen.

This is so arrogant (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27540571)

I can't believe it.

You had and have Actors as heads of state, only two parties one can vote for, tolerate torture, infiltrate other countries ...

WTF is democratic about that. Please go away and do not spread ANYTHING in the world, thank you.

Re:This is so arrogant (2, Interesting)

Svippy (876087) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540689)

The American system may be less democratic than common European systems, as well as Canada's.

However, and most importantly, the American system is more fair than the European system.

In many European countries, small parties can often sit in a centre political position and change the outcome of who becomes Prime Minister, and what parties are going to rule the country for the next 3-4 years or so.

You think a party representing 4% of a nation's people should have the last say in who becomes Prime Minister? Do you think that's fair?

The American system's quirks comes from the fact that it is the world's first modern democracy, some things are bound to change.

Re:This is so arrogant (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27540843)

If a party represents 4% of the people, it should have a small effect on who becomes the prime minister. In no country does 4% alone decide that but if parties are otherwise in a tie, that 4% of the people not yet included in the tie will decide. I honestly see nothing unfair about that.

USA being the first modern democracy is arguable too. Correct me if I am wrong, but blacks were allowed to vote very, very late. It is a matter of definition of democracy whether you can be counted as having one when significant groups aren't allowed to vote. I hear that in some states, criminals aren't allowed to vote even now!

Where I live, being older than 18 and a citizen are only things on which your voting right depends on (and there is a lot of talk about lowering that age to 16). It has been like that nearly a century. I could make a point that we are older "modern democracy" than USA.

Re:This is so arrogant (2, Interesting)

Svippy (876087) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540899)

You would be wrong, on both accounts. A party representing 4% of the people can sit in the exact centre of politics, and all the other major parties may already have decided whom they are going to appoint for Prime Minister, and the only votes remaining to win the majority to win the Prime Minister position for each side of the spectrum lies with this small party.

That is the unfairness of actual democracy. Trust me, it has happened before here.

Just because everyone couldn't vote, it was still a democracy, albeit not a perfect one. But there is always room for perfection. But you should not forget that the American democracy has inspired several democracies around the world, which may be different in spirit than the American, but the principle is basically the same.

Re:This is so arrogant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27540955)

You would be wrong, on both accounts. A party representing 4% of the people can sit in the exact centre of politics, and all the other major parties may already have decided whom they are going to appoint for Prime Minister, and the only votes remaining to win the majority to win the Prime Minister position for each side of the spectrum lies with this small party.

That is the unfairness of actual democracy. Trust me, it has happened before here.

Didn't I just say that: If the situation would otherwise be a tie, the 4% may count as they should. But they can't choose anything just by themselves: Some other party must also support the candidate.

Or are you saying that a 4% party can choose a prime minister even if he is someone that all the rest 96% percent oppose? If so, you live in a fucked up system. I know I don't live in one like that and...

Trust me, multi party system can be made fair.

Just because everyone couldn't vote, it was still a democracy, albeit not a perfect one.

As I said, that it a matter of definition. But if not everyone needs to be able to vote for it to be democracy, there are numerous examples of democracies in the history.

Saying that USA was the first true modern democracy requires very specific definition of true modern democracy and I am sure that a very large proportion of people wouldn't agree to that.

Re:This is so arrogant (1)

alelade (905619) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541001)

That %4 party having a say in the matter is what seperates democracy from tyranny of majority.

Re:This is so arrogant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27541353)

Absolutely right!

Re:This is so arrogant (3, Insightful)

Vanders (110092) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540905)

The American system's quirks comes from the fact that it is the world's first modern democracy

That simply depends on how you define "modern" and "democracy". Great Britain had a functional democracy long before the United States of America.

Re:This is so arrogant (4, Interesting)

Svippy (876087) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540945)

Same democracy that granted the colonies taxation without representation? It might have been functioning, but apparently not very well.

But deep down, the United States of America is a republic rather than a democracy. Its federal levels shows exactly this. Notice how citizens do not vote directly for president?

Sure, that seems unfair, and at worst, 50% of a state's votes can be disregarded because the other half won, and winner takes all. But the electoral college is a method of protecting state's rights. If not, then all candidates should do was campaign in New York and California. I mean, the USA could easily disregard the states down to region level, but then they really won't be the USA any more.

I am no way saying that American democracy is perfect, but the most reason why two parties are the only actual choices is because of voters being stupid and not trying to vote for third parties, I mean, for real, voting for them.

But I will take back that America was the first modern democracy, but it was one of the first. And it is probably the only one with the formula the American system uses.

Re:This is so arrogant (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541347)

If not, then all candidates should do was campaign in New York and California.

As it is, they campaign in places like Iowa. Granted, I live in Iowa, and I enjoyed knowing I was a small reason for our current president being nominated, let alone elected.

But you're basically saying that it's OK for a Rhode Island vote to count more than a Californian vote. Why? Are the people who live in Rhode Island that much more capable of choosing a leader?

I mean, the USA could easily disregard the states down to region level, but then they really won't be the USA any more.

Unlikely. What many people seem to forget is that the President isn't supposed to have that much real power. State legislatures, and city legislatures, still do quite a lot on their own.

Re:This is so arrogant (1)

KarlIsNotMyName (1529477) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541343)

You think a party representing 4% of a nation's people should have the last say in who becomes Prime Minister? Do you think that's fair?

Certainly, when their vote is just the one that tips the scale to the one side.

You can't just have the biggest party make all the decisions. The smaller parties will have less power, so they're forced to cooperate with eachother to get their cases through. That way you have the democracy at work throughout the years, until the next election, and the voters again pick the party they think represent themselves the best.

Though there is a lower limit on how small a party can be, simply because there is a limited number of representatives in the parliament (and no 1/3rd of a person that can represent your party).

Re:This is so arrogant (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541389)

You think a party representing 4% of a nation's people should have the last say in who becomes Prime Minister? Do you think that's fair?

A party representing 4% of the people has 4% of the say, if that happens to tip the balance of a coalition over into a majority then so be it. They can only be part of a government that collectively has over 50% of the vote behind it.

Meanwhile, US elections can be decided by a few votes in crucial swing states.

Re:This is so arrogant (2, Interesting)

Svippy (876087) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541679)

Perhaps, but like with any system, someone will always be there to abuse it. One such abuse in this 4% example would be each side "bribing" their way to the these crucial votes.

Which means, that these 4% will have a lot more say in politics than represents 4% of the people, because they know they have to be satisfied, otherwise they may point to the opposition for the government.

In Denmark, for instance, the Danish People's Party (Dansk Folkeparti) controls about 22 seats in the parliament, they are important for the two governing parties to stay in power, however, this also mean, that despite representing about 15% in the population, they have a large say in what laws get through and how they are written.

Hear hear! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27540831)

Americans, take your Americentricity, your racist beliefs, your firearms, your religious intolerance, and your weapons of mass destruction, and just disappear. You will be doing us a favor. Trust us.

The world would be better off if the US were not running about here and there poking your nose in where you have no business being.

We (That means the rest of the world out here, you know, all the other people who vastly outnumber you?) are getting tired of your shenanigans. If America were my daughter I would give her a good spanking and stand her in the corner for a good while to think about her actions.

Re:Hear hear! (1, Informative)

JockTroll (996521) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541469)

By all means, if you so vastly outnumber us, do it. But you won't and you know why? Because you can't. Dream your useless dreams, little kid, the fact is that we can burn you, your family, your city, your whole nation without even flinching. We own the air you breathe. We can shit all over the world and there's nothing you can do about it. Got it, cockroach?

Re:This is so arrogant (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540921)

At least in America an actor can become a head of state. you don't have to be part of the elite political systems. the more I learned of parlimentary systems and how quickly they switch to autocratic (russia, most of the governments setup by the USA in their nation building stupidity) I am glad to be in the USA.

Our system takes forever to accomplish anything Including devolving into an orweillian society which the UK seems intent on doing almost as fast as Russia.

Re:This is so arrogant (0)

eclectro (227083) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541121)

Please go away and do not spread ANYTHING in the world, thank you.

Yes, but then you would not be able to eat at *our* McDonalds. Or smoke *our* fine cigarettes. And you would have to stop pirating all of our movies. The price is just to steep for you.

Re:This is so arrogant (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27541487)

> Yes, but then you would not be able to eat at *our* McDonalds. Or smoke *our* fine cigarettes

I haven't eaten at McDonalds in years, and I find the smell of cigarettes disgusting.

> And you would have to stop pirating all of our movies.

Oh god no! The horror!

> The price is just to steep for you.

What price? If all I have to worry about is the loss of fastfood I don't eat, cigarettes I don't smoke, and a few movies I might want to see but don't really need (besides, once hollywood is gone it will be replaced, supply and demand and all that), that is not that steep a price at all.

Re:This is so arrogant (2, Insightful)

laederkeps (976361) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541553)

Yes, but then you would not be able to eat at *our* McDonalds.

Really? Thanks!

Or smoke *our* fine cigarettes.

No problem.

And you would have to stop pirating all of our movies. The price is just to steep for you.

Did that a long time ago.


Now that that's all straightened out, will your country please stop meddling in my country's affairs?

Re:This is so arrogant (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541385)

Who said democracy was pretty? Political philosophers have long criticized democracy for being equivalent to the "tyranny of the masses", i.e. we're all at the mercy of whatever most people want to do rather than what's sensible or right.

Actors as heads of state is democratic. Consolidation into factions is democratic. Invading countries inhabited by "foreigners" and torturing those "foreigners" is democratic. All these things are democratic as long as 51% of the people thought they were a good idea at the time.

What, you think mob rule is going to always work out in the most idealistic and altruistic way because you've labelled it "democracy"?

Re:This is so arrogant (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541521)

This is funny. You could replace "The Net" in that headline with "Barack Obama" and it would still make sense.

The witch hunters are your answer. (4, Insightful)

IgnoramusMaximus (692000) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540583)

The net has the potential to be a near indestructible tool for democracy and free exchange of information if, and only if, full anonymity were possible.

And that is why this aspect of the net is seen as the ultimate danger to authoritarians, and so no effort is to be spared to destroy any attempts at fully anonymous net. And so enter the "save the children" crusaders and witch-hunters, who somehow, strangely, rather then focus on abused children seem to focus on thought crimes which, also incidentally, require wholesale removal of anonymity from the net to "stop" ...

Combine this with efforts at whipping up frothing-at-the-snout frenzy and moral panic amongst the general population and the author of the article is right: the net will slowly but surely become the tool of power holders.

Of course there are all sorts of other excuses (like libel etc) why the net has to become non-anonymous, all of them bogus in light of what is being lost versus what is being gained. But then again that is the point, as the "cost" to the ruling elites everywhere is frightening.

Re:The witch hunters are your answer. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27540821)

the "cost" to the ruling elites everywhere is frightening.

I agree but there's a difference between democracy and mob rule. If the days of the state being able to controlling the news media are over, what are the drooling masses going to have knee-jerk emotional reactions to now? I fear that the internet may lead to lone wolf behaivour in the cyber realms.

We don't want American Democracy... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27540585)

Sure, we want them to be democratic, but we don't want the American system, because your system is shit.

You need a system where minor parties have a greater say. The Australian method is much, much better in this regard.

Re:We don't want American Democracy... (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541681)

Miner parties have a greater say then you think they do. Their biggest problem is that they are run by idiots who have no clue to how the system was set up or why it was set up that way.

The federal government isn't supposed to be the supreme government of the land, it is supposed to be the governing body over a collections of states that united the states (read state as individual countries) that takes specific roles and tasks on as outlined by the constitution. The US federal government was never designed to have the same powers as the UK's parliament or any other country's government. Yet you have third parties and probably a lot of the people supporting them (like you) that have no real concept of where the power is or what the fucking purpose the the US government is. The US government is supposed to be a government of the states, not the people. The people had a say in how it operated because of the house of representatives but the senate and president was always selected by the states until they allowed the people to elect the senate in recent times.

The fact that you attempt to compare the US government to au's and claim the US system is shit just shows how little you actually know about it.

Colour-coded 'revolutions' are so last century (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27540587)

The US government sponsored this one too

American? (3, Informative)

ignavus (213578) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540591)

Perhaps they will import Australian democracy - after all, even America copied our practice of voting by secret ballot.

Re:American? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27541653)

Or how about French democracy - seeing as how the separation of power into executive, legislative and judicial branches was first come up with by Montesquieu in the mid-18th century (the US-American founding fathers then implemented this idea for the first time).

Or Graecoroman democracy: after all, it was the Greeks that first came up with the concept, and the Romans that later on ran with it.

Get Over It (5, Insightful)

okmijnuhb (575581) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540593)

America must get over the ideology of spreading American democracy around the world. While it's wonderful as a system, imposing it on other nations is often counterproductive, and nary worth the American blood and treasure used to achieve it.

Re:Get Over It (4, Insightful)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541437)

America must get over the ideology of spreading American democracy around the world. While it's wonderful as a system

As a citizen of a country that uses parliamentary proportional representation and has strong protections for workers and limitations on what companies can and cannot do in order to try to force their customers/employees to obey, I have to respectfully disagree.

Re:Get Over It (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541727)

While it's wonderful as a system, imposing it on other nations is often counterproductive

I think the real issue here is: you can't impose democracy on others. If you have a system of government imposed on you (esp. by external military force), then it is not chosen and therefore is not really democracy.

Is the US realy a democracy? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27540595)

Rigged voting machines, lying government, involved in wars all over the globe under false pretense, constant and flagrant erosion of our rights yada yada yada thank god for america.

Re:Is the US realy a democracy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27540825)

Being a democracy does not mean that bad things don't happen, nor does it mean that people will stop making mistakes.

America is a Democracy? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27540615)

I thought it was a Corporatocracy, based on the ample evidence that just about everyone in Washington is bought by one corporation or the other with campaign donations and backroom deals.

I know Americans get to vote every now and then, but a substantial portion of the results are suitably processed by unverifiable digital "voting systems" to ensure that the people won't accidentally vote wrong. Not that it matters much as both US parties are essentially the same.

The 'Net can do it all. (1)

eiMichael (1526385) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540621)

The Internet is nothing more than a worldwide infastructure that is capable of linking any 2 devices that can communicate over IP.

If someone wants to deliver media, simply setup a device that can serve it over IP. If someone wants to organize a group of people for some purpose, setup a device that uses IP to let people do that.

American Democracy (5, Insightful)

marx (113442) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540629)

America has just spent the last 5 years torturing people and invading a country against international law with American soldiers massacring its population with impunity. It's a terrible role model for democracy.

Re:American Democracy (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27540859)

Democracy is a process, it does not determine results. The wars America is involved in now were created by politicians who were fairly elected by the people and at the time they were started, the majority (although arguably slim) of people were behind them. The fact that people do not now like the results is not the fault of democracy.

Re:American Democracy (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27541065)

America has just spent the last 5 years torturing people and invading a country against international law with American soldiers massacring its population with impunity. It's a terrible role model for democracy.

Let's not get carried away here... Massacring its population with impuity?? I know that the Americans killed a large number of civilians in military screwups and I am no fan of the Bush administration or the variant of Republican political philosophy it represents in general but I find it hard to believe that the US military has a policy of wilfully slaughtering Iraqi or Afghani civilians. I am not old enough to have lived through WWII but I know several people who witnessed the US/UK bombing of Germany and I know people who lived through the Nazi death camps of WWII, now those were wilful, premeditated, genocidal massacres of civilians. War is never easy on civilians and neither is insurgency but to claim that the US is deliberately massacring civilians is an exaggeration.

Re:American Democracy (2, Insightful)

wumingzi (67100) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541559)

America has just spent the last 5 years torturing people and invading a country against international law with American soldiers massacring its population with impunity. It's a terrible role model for democracy.

There are several comments in this thread that would be good as a jumping-off point for the role of the Net in preventing authoritarian tendencies. Yours seemed good. Congratulations!

Let's look at a few things:

1) The US has, by law if not necessarily by practice, one of the freest flows of information in the world. There is no prior restraint (q.v. UK, Canada), there are no laws restricting hate speech (q.v. Germany), libel cases are notoriously hard to prosecute (lots of places), and judges have historically given a lot of protection to people who bring forth government "secrets" which expose wrongdoing by members of the government.

2) While I won't say there was no vote fraud anywhere, because I don't believe that, the democratic processes here work pretty well on the whole. Let's say that 99% of the voters in the US were able to get to the polls and voted for the candidate of their choice. The US is not Zimbabwe.

3) What was going on vis a vis torture, detentions, illegal declarations of war, etc. was not some big secret that you had to get from samizdat sold in a back alley. Pick up a major newspaper, tune into NPR, or even watch CNN, and what the Bush administration was doing was being lovingly documented, even if there was a lot more deference to state power than the situation deserved. And, of course, any one of a number of bloggers and alternative news sources dug in to their offenses with relish.

So, with all that access to information, Mr. Bush and his enablers won two Presidential elections and three (arguably more if you go back to 1994) congressional elections. While a lot of heat is made of potential vote fraud in Ohio and Florida, the fact is that most states were not very close. (FWIW Bush lost my state [wikipedia.org] by 5% the first time and 7% the second time).

The question this poses is, if so much chicanery can be done in plain sight, with the approval of we the people in a society with some of the best access to information on the planet, what difference can the Internet make in a country without this sort of infrastructure? I would argue that if you control the primary sources of information, what leaks out around it does not make much difference. This is unfortunately a human and not a technical problem.

Re:American Democracy (1)

Keebler71 (520908) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541573)

which also goes to show that even in democracy the people can still be lead to believe things that are simply not true. "torturing people", "invading a country against international law", "massacring its population with impunity"? Give me a break. Democracy is by no means perfect; the fact that you could believe such things despite a democratic society with essentially unrestricted access to information demonstrates an inherent weakness of democracy (note I said weakness, not a negative). And frankly the fact that you have just as much voting power as me terrifies me and is one of the reasons I believe pure democracy will always fail and precisely why I believe our founding fathers created the United States as a representative democracy.

Why American Democracy? (3, Insightful)

KarlIsNotMyName (1529477) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540641)

Is American the best kind of Democracy we can come up with? I'd at least hope for one where lobbying isn't a full time job, where how much money you doesn't matter when running for office, and where every vote counts. Not one where 51% is just as good as 100% (state level).

Re:Why American Democracy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27540677)

I hardy think a Democratic process which wastes energy on the party primaries without leaving energy for the actual election is good for everyone.

Your system isn't the only democratic one and you do not have a monopoly on freedom.

Re:Why American Democracy? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540815)

When America was created, freedom was the goal and democracy was one of the tools used to create it. Others included separation of powers, separation of church and state, and so on. Now, it seems, democracy has become the goal, and freedom is no longer important.

Re:Why American Democracy? (1)

Keebler71 (520908) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541599)

Well said.

Re:Why American Democracy? (1)

SupremoMan (912191) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541523)

You must have been asleep. 51% get's nothing done now a days. You need 60 votes in Senate to break filibuster. And even though one has not happen in a while, the threat of it leaves congress pretty paralyzed on any major reform. I would actually be happy if simple majority ruled again. Status quo is no good for anyone, and it's damn near impossible to change.

Also worth mentioning is the fact we have a 2 party system in the US. Imagine trying to get a simple majority in a country with 6 or 7 parties. You would never get anything done.

French did this for years.. (3, Interesting)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540655)

This is just to hype twitter.
The problem is the security forces are all over twitter, facebook.
Read up on the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minitel [wikipedia.org]
They where using 'online' to co ordinate national strikes back in the 1980's.

Re:French did this for years.. (1)

agravier (1411419) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540847)

And back in the siècle des Lumières (XVII), they were using an incredible tool called books, and more generally printed material, to spread critical and rational thinking, and salons to spread the word.
Generally, the latest mediumin date is where information war will be the hottest...

"american terrorism" is a more fitting label (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27540667)

I hope it does not spread terrorism labelled as "american democracy". Many more civilians were killed by american forces in the last few years in Iraq than on the 911 attacks.

Tom Lehrer said it best (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27540679)

"I say a bygone / Should be a bygone / We'll bring peace the way we did in Stanleyville and Saigon"

American democracy? Thanks, we'll pass.

American democracy? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27540685)

Ha! You mean the one we can witness in Iraq and Afghanistan at this very moment?

The Bush administration's rendition (torture) policy, and Obama's approval and continuation of it? The unconstitutional wiretapping of US citizens? Attack wars on sovereign nations for oil and political dominance? The notion of the executive branch being untouchable by any law?

Wow, I cerainly hope the net is not about spreading that ideology.

Sure, American "Democracy" (2, Insightful)

Secret Rabbit (914973) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540731)

Why is it that the US is a major target of Amnesty International again? What about your warrentless wire-tapping? Exceedingly low voter turn out. Etc, etc, etc.

Seriously, if you want to spread democracy, then the first step would be to actually have one.

Re:Sure, American "Democracy" (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540749)

Why is it that the US is a major target of Amnesty International again?

Because Amnesty International has jumped the shark. But that's natural. All NGOs tend to drift away from their original mission over time. Not a few early Amnesty activists think that it has been taken over by ferociously anti-American elements, who are willing to overlook even more heinous deeds in full-on dictatorships and focus more on criticizing the US.

Is Democracy possible? (2, Interesting)

MikeOtl67of (1503531) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540733)

Do you think democracy has ever been applied? If the Web was left uncontrolled do you think that it would grow democratically or maybe crowds always glue into tribes who delegate to a leader? Can that be called democracy? Are examples like Wikipedia or even Slashdot good products of democracy?

Re:Is Democracy possible? (1)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541401)

"Are examples like Wikipedia or even Slashdot good products of democracy?"

No and no.

Wikipedia is ruled by the admins since they have the final say in everything and Slashdot is ruled by CmdrTaco(who is himself a subject to his not so democratic overlords). Saying that they are products of democracy is only valid if you see democracy as "people can do some things(which are allowed by their overlords)".

What? (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540805)

The Printing Press - Democratic Panacea Or Autocratic Tool?

How about disruptive technology and useful tool? How it is used depends on the people, not the technology.

Re:What? (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541465)

Kind of what I came in here to say. I was heading towards something more like, "The interstate highway system: democratic panacea, autocratic tool, or entertainment device? You decide!"

Yes, people use the Internet to get music and porn. People use the Internet to organize in some very great and powerfully democratic ways. People use the Internet to disseminate propaganda.

People similarly used to use the roads to guy out and buy music and porn. They drove to meetings and events for various political and social causes. They used roads to deliver newspapers and pamphlets filled with propaganda. Nobody blamed the roads.

That's not to say it's an uninteresting question: how have various innovations in transportation and communication changes culture, politics, and society? I'm sure hundreds of books could be written on the subject. But the thing is, to describe the social/cultural/political impact of the Internet, you almost have to write a hundred books. You can't just boil it down to some sensationalistic and simple question.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27541699)

Slashdot news for
An (auto)/(demo)cratic
Series of Tubes

how about our freedom ? (1)

think_nix (1467471) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540839)

FTA "autocratic regimes like China, Russia and Iran"

they forgot to add Nazi 2.0, Germany, Norway, etc, or any other country that is currently filtering any kind of content available on the net.

the internet used to be a free enterprise, if we dont start standing up NOW that little bit of free enterprise as we still know it (or what is left of it) will be gone with the blink of an eye.

Re:how about our freedom ? (1)

KarlIsNotMyName (1529477) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541497)

I'm not sure about Germany's Internet censorship, I assume it at least has something to do with censoring nazism. But Norway, AFAIK, only censors child pornography. I can see the "no censorship whatsoever" argument, but I also don't see that it could ever be wrong to censor child porn.

It's not an opinion, an expression or an artform we disagree we or don't like. It's just wrong, in any way that you look at it. Though, worst case, they classify something that isn't child porn as child porn, and it goes under the filter. As long as the filter does what it says, that's one of the few types of censorship I don't mind.

The banana hath two edges (1)

straponego (521991) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540879)

It's obvious to intelligent people familiar with technology that tech advancements can generally-- perhaps always-- be used in pro-overdog/state (surveillance, intimidation, security, mass-murder) and pro-underdog/individual (whistleblowing, crypto, terrorism) ways. Note that even this dichotomy is not morally obvious-- techniques from both sides of the state/individual axis can be what used for good or ill. Some of the people I would trust most came from the military and are either still there, or work for weapons contractors. The more I learn, the more I doubt.

The question is, how universal and balanced is this fairly obvious trend? Lately, the state (I'm speaking in general, world-wide) seems to have more and more of an advantage. But it's quite possible that this is a short-term trend, that the authoritarian types will grab too much and lose their balance, tipping themselves over; this seems to be the case with monopoly businesses which crush their innovative competitors (think banks, telcos; even Microsoft would be probably be a footnote if it had succeeded in its impulse to smother the Internet in its crib). With greed-based personalities, it's not enough to win, everybody else must lose. But the biggest winners, in the long run, are on top of a pile of winners.

Okay, specifics: until a couple days ago, I have been an enthusiastic of peer to peer semantic web markup technologies. I daresay it's the next major leap beyond Google, the only thing I can see which could unseat Google from its throne. But the way things are going now-- Obama mostly kowtowing to Bush's interests (albeit perhaps more competently), most of the Western states heading in the same direction, NO state (outside of Scandinavia, a bit) resisting this tide much-- gives me pause. How much more control would states and business have if they could easily know/search/prove the *intent* behind every search? Hand in hand with semantic search would come a way of indicating your profile-- your identity, affinities, trusted sources, and preferences. It was one of my fondest dreams, but in today's context, it's too horrible to contemplate.

There aren't too many individuals, and probably no organizations, that I'd trust with that kind of power. In fact, I think that's the beauty of the U.S. Constitution-- flawed as it may be, as weird as I find it to trust almost religiously a document composed by wealthy white men who had never seen a light bulb-- most of it is written to *limit* the power of any entity. It was progressive for its time; it's impossibly radical for ours. A triumph of reason and compromise by the Schneiers, Stallmans, Pauls, and Torvalds of that age. In other words, by people willing, in principle, to be governed by the same standards as they ask of their neighbors.

I fear it will never happen again. Certainly not without a populace equipped with the tools of logic, statistics, empathy, courage, and doubt. Therefore-- I don't know. Do what you can, where you can. Anybody with more specific ideas, I'm listening.

Huh? (1, Troll)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540897)

Moldova is democratic. The Communist party won the popular vote. That's how democracy works. Don't like it? organise protests, that's how democracy works. The summary is pure flamebait.

Re:Huh? (1)

KarlIsNotMyName (1529477) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541271)

I could be better informed on the Moldova case, but slightly off-topic; I never understood the concept of Democracy vs. Communism. Shouldn't it be Capitalism vs. Communism only, and then Democracy vs. Theocracy vs. Dictatorship etc.?

I didn't think Marx said anything about how many political parties a state could have, or that Communism and Democracy couldn't coexist.

Re:Huh? (1)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541483)

Yes, they can and do coexist. The Communist party in Moldova was participating in a popularly elected democratic parliamentary system before this new vote, and will most likely continue to after this.

Going off-topic myself, I wasn't trying to troll before, I don't think the entire summary is flamebait just the leadin sentence. The party won almost half of the popular vote in a democratic election, the internet isn't being used as a 'democratic, liberating' force to fight the evils of totalitarianism or dictatorship but merely as a way to mobilise a protest against the most popular party in a democratic country. No liberation is necessary or wanted by the majority.

Net does have influence in China, but not enough (1)

xizhi.zhu (1499631) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540903)

As a Chinese, I would say the Internet does have influence in China, and it's becoming more and more important for Chinese people. We have cases that some corruptions are exposed first over the Internet.
However, now the government is trying its best to control everything online, because it's currently an obvious threat to them. They've setup Internet filtering mechanisms, known as Great Fire Wall, to filter all the traffic in and out China. Also, they have a strict rule for web-sites in China, and they've already shut down many web-sites, especially blog providers, like Bullog.

Moldavia -- organized by US intelligence agencies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27540943)

http://www.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/026241.html#more

Moldova's 'Twitter Revolution': Made in America? (1)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541063)

Here's an excerpt from that article. It's an interesting read, though a little tinfoilish. (lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/026241.html#more [lewrockwell.com] )

So what is fueling this revolution? A brief glance at the website [www.iatp.md] of one of the Moldovan NGOs leading the effort to overthrow the elected Moldovan government, that of the "Hyde Park Organization," reveals an interesting benefactor: at the bottom of the page, next to a seal of the United States, one can read that "This website is hosted free of charge through the Internet Access Training Program (IATP). IATP is a program of the Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs (ECA), US Department of State, funded under the Freedom Support Act (FSA)."

Digging a bit further, one can see on the website of the US Agency for International Development [usaid.gov] that the United States government, through cut-out organizations like the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, is funneling large sums of money to Moldova for programs with such fascinating titles as "Strengthening Democratic Political Activism in Moldova (SPA)." USAID boasts that this program is "cultivating new political activists who can formulate and pursue concrete political objectives..." No doubt.

Another program, titled the "Internet Access and Training Program" may hold a clue as to where all these Twitterers came from. According to the US government, this program "provides local communities with free access to the Internet and to extensive training in all aspects of information technology." Does the training come with iPhones?

The media, with story-line already inked out, mock the Moldovan president's claims that the protests were "well designed, well thought out, coordinated, planned and paid for," but isn't that what the USAID website has already claimed? After all, to what end does the US train and fund NGOs in projects such as the "Moldova Citizen Participation Program," whose goal is to "build... the capacity of citizens to create tangible and positive change in their own communities through civic activity and democratic practices...by providing training, mentoring, and funding for citizen-initiated projects and strengthening the capacity of NGOs and citizen groups to mobilize their community, advocate for change, and hold government accountable"? In the previous color revolutions we have seen the perversion of "democracy" to mean getting enough people getting to the street to overthrow an elected government.

American 'democracy' (2, Interesting)

dudeeh (877041) | more than 5 years ago | (#27540961)

I have always maintained that an essentially two-party system is NOT a democracy. You can see the results in the US, in England, in France to a degree... Political systems like the one in Belgium are more like a democracy, where there are a whole lot of independent parties and new ones can spring up at any time. (a party that is now like two years old already has about 15% of the votes here).

The flipside of course is that it takes longer to get things done, but then again, that is the price you pay for democracy. Either you go with a dictator who can solely decide everything, meaning it takes but a snap decision to change policies, or you go to the other end of the spectrum, a true democracy, where every possible opinion has to be weighed in and a satisfactory conclusion has to be reached. America leans much more towards the dictator regime then the democratic one, whilst most of Europe's political systems lean towards the democratic side.

Re:American 'democracy' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27541125)

England doesn't have a 2-party system.

Re:American 'democracy' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27541591)

What about when a truly satisfactory conclusion does not weigh absolutely everyone's opinion?

Ultimately only one decision has to be reached on any issue, which will involve most people compromising to some extent. The test of a voting system is how easy it is to foresee outcomes from votes cast. You cannot avoid compromise just by letting everyone form their own "party-of-1" (or "party-of-1-%")

First-past-the-post voting like in the US and UK tends to promote two-party systems. That means politicians have to compromise when deciding which to join, and voters have to compromise when voting. However this compromise is explicit.

In Proportional Representation systems, there is little disincentive from forming minority splinter parties. Now every politician and voter can have a party that fits them exactly.

The only problem is, when you have a coalition of small parties you end up with a compromise manifesto that combines elements from each party's platform. This compromise is not know until AFTER the election, and the resultant manifesto was not voted for by anybody.

If what you are concerned about is being able to point to someone on TV and say "that is the man/woman who represents my views" then PR tends to work better. However if you are more concerned with ensuring that disproportionate power does not end up with some minority party that was needed to form a coalition then the FPTP tends to be more reliable.

Re:American 'democracy' (2, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541601)

Yes feel free to spout off any nonsense you feel like.

The US has a long history of third parties springing up, or independents running for election. A recent example example is Ross Perot who won 19% of the vote in the 1992 presidential election. In 2000 it was the votes won by the Green Party (Ralph Nader) that were the difference between Bush or Gore winning.

The fact is that it isn't just two people on the ballot. The number is more usually 10 or so in a presidential election. You are free to vote for any one of them.

And that isn't counting the primary system where Americans vote for and choose who will run for the party in the upcoming elections. How do you think that Obama became president? By winning voters during the primary run. Often dozens of candidates are available to choose from across the various parties.

And at the local level it is even more pronounced. I've had neighbors get fed up with the current local officials, say on the school board and just up and run on their own. And get elected.

Also let's be clear about what democracy really is. I grew up in a town that is run as an Athenian style democracy where voters in the town voted on EVERY issue.

Also let us know when in Europe a person of mixed race like Obama is elected President of a MAJOR state like France or Germany. That is when you;ll know you have a strong, open democratic process.

Democracy and the net (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27540971)

Until people realise that democracy today is only a way of chosing your dictator, then the net will serve entertainment. Once proper democracy if found, then the internet could help build global communities

don't mistake idle chatter for political power (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541055)

Yes, the net lets everyone have their say (well, everyone who has access to a computer, electricity, networking and the ability to use it). However, there is no obligation for anyone to listen. In that respect it's a write-only medium. Further, there is absolutely no requirement for those in power to take notice and act on what the vocal few rattle on about on their (frequently) specialised single-issue, or campaign-of-the-day websites and forums.

If you want true democracy, then everyone must have equal access and opportunity. The views of each individual must be considered with equal vigour and there must be a mechanism for getting true numbers for those who hold views - thereby negating the possibility of one person having a hundred online personas.

What the internet gives us at present is a fair approximation of mob-rule. A tiny minority of a population make a suggestion that suits them and everyone else who stumbles across their view says "yeah, right" or "no way" or has opposing views crushed and deleted. If these views are picked up by the media (or even, started by them) they are given a weight far beyond what's due from the actual number of different voices heard. Any web 2.0 site where people vote (or moderate up/down) on the views of others, would be an extremely bad way to run a country. Would you really like to live in the People's Democratic Republic of Slashdot? I wouldn't.

A what? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541085)

Will the net ultimately spread American democracy, or just American entertainment?

What is this thing you are speaking of?
I always thought they were the same.
A theater to distract from what's really going on.

Re:A what? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541103)

By the way: This is not different here in Germany.

Oh, and I love the Daily Show. Does this mean I am out of the axis of evil? *hopes*

autocratic? (1)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541171)

What exactly is "autocratic" about American entertainment? Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wheel of Fortune, Crossfire, whatever? I don't think so.

Some oxymorons.. (2, Funny)

arcade (16638) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541187)

Military intelligence
Religious tolerance
Business Ethics .. and today:

American democracy

What american democracy? (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541193)

A one party system, right-wing capatalists, with the party machine (wall-street) fronting two men to choose from? A russian journalist commented on a past US election that it was almost like back in the days of the soviet empire and their "free" elections. Pick any guy, just as long as we support him.

US democracy where the number of voting irregularities would have any other election in the world condemend as invalid by the "free" world?

The US is far from the worsed exampel of democracy but holding it up as an example for the world to follow shows that slashdot editors REALLY need to start reading their own stories a bit more.

As for the internet helping democracy. Mmmm, we got plenty of democracies around the world, most far older then the internet. Exactly how many democracies have come about SINCE the internet? I think that is pretty much your answer right there.

American democracy. (1)

cowboy_small (114912) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541219)

"Will the net ultimately spread American democracy, or just American entertainment?"

Let's hope neither.

J.K.

irrelevant (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541223)

It's irrelevant about the way democracy is attacked. If it is attacked anywhere in the world then it is undermined. As long as we have lobbying dollars interfering with the democratic process democracy everywhere is attacked.

When the establishment in first world democracies attack third world democracies to protect their own "interests" they also attack their own citizens democratic interests. Now our economic influence is waning we find our own democratic constructs under attack by our own legislators intent on comforting us and making us feel secure.

Democracy is never safe, or pretty. It was paid for in blood. The internet is just like another democratic nation that also needs our protection lest it be used as a tool to suppress us all.

10,000 internet yobs overthrow democratic gov (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27541629)

There was a democratic election and one party won. Calling the winner 'communist' doesn't make it undemocratic.

The protesters - and by the way, many news channels claim far fewer than the 10,000 claimed here - didn't like the result and would like to overthrow the democratically elected government.

The hand of the rich and powerful in the US is in there somewhere, and they aren't fighting for democracy; they are fighting for that innocently named thing, the 'free' market. They want capitalism regardless of what the electorate want.

american democracy (0, Flamebait)

arnodf (1310501) | more than 5 years ago | (#27541701)

who wants 'american' democracy, if such a thing would exist anyway...
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