Is The Web Really An Engine Of Democracy?

Columnist and progressive convert Arianna Huffington has the
hots for powerbrokers — those who use the power of the Internet,
that is. As the mainstream media makes a habit of giving a worthy
story its 20-second sound bite before moving on to the next eye
catcher, Huffington touts the role of the news pariahs known as
bloggers. She writes, ‘Bloggers are armed with a far more effective
piece of access than a White House press credential: passion. When
bloggers decide that something matters, they chomp down hard and
refuse to let go. They’re the pit bulls of reporting.’

Bloggers like Atrios, Kos, Josh Micah Marshall, Kausfiles, Kevin
Drum, and Wonkette played an instrumental role in exposing former
Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott as a rabid racist and
eventually getting him canned by using their weblogs to draw
attention to controversial interviews he gave 20 years ago. Twenty
years ago means prehistoric, or irrelevant, to the mainstream news
media, by the way.

Unfortunately, as The New Republic‘s Joshua Kurlantzick
experienced in Laos, not everyone with access to the Internet can
use it for good causes. Despite the strikingly modern feel of some
cyber cafes in developing countries (new PCs, Madonna strutting her
stuff on a nearby television screen, kids logging on to
the freedom of expression that we’re accustomed to in the west
isn’t always an option. ‘When I attempted to access the Web pages
of exile groups opposed to the authoritarian Vientiane regime [in
Laos], I received an error message saying the pages were not
accessible,’ writes Kurlantzick, concluding that the Internet isn’t
necessarily the powerful force for democracy that we make it out to
be. Kurlantzick continues: ‘For years, a significant subset of the
democratization industry — that network of political scientists,
think tanks, and policymakers — has placed its bets (and, in many
cases, its money) on the Web’s potential to spread liberal ideas in
illiberal parts of the world.’ Not so, he says. ‘In fact, in some
repressive countries the spread of the Internet actually may be
helping dictatorships remain in power.’
Jacob Wheeler

Go there>>
Mash Note to the Blogosphere

Go there too>>
Web Won’t Topple Tyranny

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