Может ли Интернет нанести вред демократии? — страница 4

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creates electronically linked new types of community. But these are different from traditional communities. They have less of the averaging that characterizes physical communities–-throwing together the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. Instead, these new communities are more stratified along some common dimension, such as business, politics, or hobbies. These groups will therefore tend to be issue - driven, more narrow, more narrow-minded, and sometimes more extreme, as like-minded people reinforce each other’s views.   Furthermore, many of these communities will be owned by someone. They are like a shopping mall, a gated community, with private rights to expel, to promote, and to censor. The creation of community has been perhaps the main assets of Internet

portals such as AOL. It is unlikely that they will dilute the value of these assets by relinquishing control.   If it is easy to join such virtual communities, it also becomes easy to leave, in a civic sense, one’s physical community. Community becomes a browning experience.   •                     Information does not necessarily weaken the state.   Can Internet reduce totalitarianism? Of course. Tyranny and mind control becomes harder. But Internet romantics tend to underestimate the ability of governments to control the Internet, to restrict it, and to indeed use it as an instrument of surveillance. How quickly we forget. Only a few years ago, the image of

information technology was Big Brother and mind control. That was extreme, of course, but the surveillance potential clearly exists. Cookies can monitor usage. Wireless applications create locational fixes. Identification requirements permit the creation of composites of peoples’ public and private activities and interests. Newsgroups can (and are) monitored by those with stakes in an issue.   A free access to information is helpful to democracy. But the value of information to democracy tends to get overblown. It may be a necessary condition, but not a sufficient one. Civil war situations are not typically based on a lack of information. Yet there is an undying belief that if people “only knew”, eg. by logging online, they would become more tolerant of each other.

That is wishful and optimistic hope, but is it based on history? Hitler came to power in a republic where political information and communication were plentiful.   Democracy requires stability, and stability requires a bit of inertia. The most stable democracies are characterized by a certain slowness of change. Examples are Switzerland and England. The US operates on the basis of a 210-year old Constitution. Hence the acceleration of politics made the Internet is a two-edged sword.   The Internet and its tools accelerate information flows, no question about it. But same tools are also available to any other group, party, and coalition. Their equilibrium does not change, except temporarily in favor of early adopters. All it may accomplish in the aggregate is a more

hectic rather than a more thoughtful process.   •                     Electronic voting does not strengthen democracy   The Internet enables electronic voting and hence may increase voter turnout. But it also changes democracy from a representative model to one of direct democracy.   Direct democracy puts a premium on resources of mobilization, favoring money and organization. It disintermediates elected representatives. It favors sensationalized issues over “boring” ones. Almost by definition, it limits the ability to make unpopular decisions. It makes harder the building of political coalition (Noam, 1980, 1981). The arguments against direct democracy were

made perhaps most eloquently in the classic arguments for the adoption of the US Constitution, by James Madison in the Federalist Papers #10.   Electronic voting is not simply the same as traditional voting without the inconvenience of waiting in line. When voting becomes like channel clicking on remote, it is left with little of the civic engagement of voting. When voting becomes indistinguishable from a poll, polling and voting merge. With the greater ease and anonymity of voting, a market for votes is unavoidable. Participation declines if people know the expected result too early, or where the legitimacy of the entire election is in question.            Direct access to public officials will be phony   In 1997,