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Monday, May 02, 2005

The revolution will be blogged?

TCS: Tech Central Station - Why Now?:

However, the role of information and communication technology in these recent revolutions is one prominent factor that is utterly new, as the amount of attention this phenomenon has received suggests. Indeed, the Internet, blogs, cell phones, and satellite television have been prominent players in democratic movements from Egypt to Ukraine, and these technologies have served as both international and intra-national catalysts for political change. Since the beginning of the 'information revolution,' it has been frequently predicted that technology would free mankind from the shackles of authoritarian government. 'Technology will make it increasingly difficult for the state to control the information its people receive,' Ronald Reagan said way back in 1989. 'The Goliath of totalitarianism will be brought down by the David of the microchip.' While political scientists who have studied the issue in recent years are cautious about the liberating effects of the Internet and other so-called information and communication technologies (ICT in poli-sci jargon), the evidence of their role builds.
Generally I am pretty optomistic about things, and I do think that the new technologies can be very helpful in promoting democracy. I am however skeptical that they will do it on their own, or that these technologies make it inevitable. Technological advances HAVE tended to empower individuals and improve lives. They also have proved useful tools for totalitarians and dictators to control their subjects. Generally, I think the two balance out. In the end, to paraphase Kim Stanley Robinson, political power derives from a look in the eye, not the barrel of a gun. But the barrel of a gun can change way people look. I think America's role in aiding democratic change is two fold. First, we can help publicize the ideal of democracy, what it means and why it is important. Second, we can help to keep the thug's guns from aiming at their own people. In most cases, I think we can do this simply by being attentive and letting these dictators know that violent repression of their people could lead to military action by America. In a few cases, when needed, we can intervene more directly. Iraq was, in my mind, a case where our intervention was needed. Thankfully Lebanon and Ukraine were places where it was not.


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