Может ли Интернет нанести вред демократии? — страница 5

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Wired magazine and Merrill Lynch commissioned a study of the political attitudes of the “digital connected”. The results showed them more participatory, more patriotic, more pro-diversity, and more voting-active. They were religious (56% say they pray daily); pro-death penalty (3/4); pro-Marijuana legalization (71%); pro-market (%) and pro-democracy (57%). But are they outliers or the pioneers of a new model? At the time of the survey (1997) the digitally connected counted for 9% of the population; they were better educated, richer (82% owned securities); whites; younger; and more Republican than the population as a whole. In the Wired/Merrill Lynch survey, none of the demographic variables were corrected for. Other studies do so, and reach far less enthusiastic results.

  One study of the political engagement of Internet users finds that they are only slightly less likely to vote, and are more likely to contact elected officials. The Internet is thus a substitute for such contacts, not their generator. Furthermore, only weak causality is found. (Bimber 1998) Another survey finds that Internet users access political information roughly in the same proportions as users of other media, about 5% of their overall information usage (Pew, 1998). Another study finds that users of the Internet for political purposes tend to already involved. Thus, the Internet reinforces political activity rather than mobilizes new one (Norris, Pippa, 1999)   Yes, anybody can fire off email messages to public officials and perhaps even get a reply, and this

provides an illusion of access. But the limited resource will still be scarce: the attention of those officials. By necessity, only a few messages will get through. Replies are canned, like answering machines. If anything, the greater flood of messages will make gatekeepers more important than ever: power brokers that can provide access to the official. As demand increases while the supply is static, the price of access goes up, as does the commission to the middle-man. This does not help the democratic process.   Indeed, public opinion can be manufactured. Email campaigns can substitute technology and organization for people. Instead of grass roots one can create what has been described as “Astroturf”,. i.e. manufactured expression of public opinion.   Ironically,

the most effective means of communication (outside of a bank check) becomes the lowest in tech: the handwritten letter (Blau, 1988)   If, in the words of a famous cartoon, on the Internet nobody knows that you are a dog, then everyone is likely to be treated as one.   •                     The Internet facilitates the International Manipulation of Domestic Politics.   Cross-border interference in national politics becomes easier with the Internet. Why negotiate with the US ambassador if one can target a key Congressional chairman by an e-mail campaign, chat group interventions, and misinformation, and intraceable donations. People have started to worry about

computer attacks by terrorists. They should worry more about state-sponsored interferences into other countries’ electronic politics.   Indeed, it is increasingly difficult to conduct national politics and policies in a globalized world, where distance and borders are less important than in the past, even if one does not share the hyperbole of the “evaporation” of the Nation State (Negroponte 1995). The difficulty of societies to control their own affairs leads, inevitably, to backlash and regulatory intervention.   Conclusion: It is easy to romanticize the past of democracy as Athenian debates in front of an involved citizenry, and to believe that its return by electronic means is neigh. A quick look to in the rear-view mirror, to radio and then TV, is sobering.

Here, too, the then new media were heralded as harbingers of a new and improved political dialogue. But the reality of those media has been is one of cacophony, fragmentation, increasing cost, and declining value of “hard” information.   The Internet makes it easier to gather and assemble information, to deliberate and to express oneself, and to organize and coordinate action. (Blau, 1998).   It would be simplistic to deny that the Internet can mobilize hard-to-reach groups, and that it has unleashed much energy and creativity. Obviously there will be some shining success stories. But it would be equally naïve to cling to the image of the early Internet - - nonprofit, cooperative, and free - - and ignore that it is becoming a commercial medium, like commercial