Wednesday, February 22, 2006


It's the Internet, stupid!

A Danish newspaper publishes some political cartoons in September 2005. People respond to these cartoons with riots in 2006. What does it all mean? If you’re David Ignatius of the Washington Post, there can only be one conclusion: it’s the Internet! From 'Connectedness' to Conflict

His column asks if ‘ "connectedness" is a good thing”, then “why is an increasingly "connected" world such a mess?” He asks around, specifically about “the latest explosion of rage in our connected world -- namely the violent Islamic reaction to Danish cartoon images of the prophet Muhammad” He is particularly enamored with one theory: “…that the Internet is a "rage enabler." By providing instant, persistent, real-time stimuli, the new technology takes anger to a higher level. "Rage needs to be fed or stimulated continually to build or maintain it…”

This makes a lot of sense to Mr. Ignatius who, in agreeing with those sentiments, notes: “And you don't have to travel to Cairo to see how the Internet fuels rage and poisons reasoned debate. Just take a tour of the American blogosphere.”…..(and a consistent reader of Mr. Ignatius would probably not infer he was referring to the Daily Kos)

The Internet fuels rage and poisons reasoned debate? The Internet? Does David Ignatius seriously believe that the those rioters spontaneously took to the streets only after first signing into AOL, seeing the cartoons and then receiving an IM to take to the streets in riot clothing? How does he explain the time delay between publication of the cartoons and the “violent Islamic reaction”? Server downtime?

His conclusion:
“The connected world is inescapable, like the global economy itself. But if we can begin to understand how it undermines political stability -- how it can separate elites from masses, and how it can enhance rage rather than reason -- then perhaps we will have a better chance of restabilizing a very disorderly world.” (emphasis mine)
Separate elites from masses? Only someone who considers himself an “elite” could type such a statement without a hint of self-consciousness.  When the “elite” Dan Rather was on “elite” CBS broadcasting his bogus National Guard Memo story, it was the Internet that bridged the gap between these “elites” and the “masses” and helped get the story corrected.  
Still, he’s not totally wrong: I did find this recent example of “rage rather than reason” on the Internet: An Arrogance of Power. Fortunately, I don’t think anyone takes such sputterings too seriously so their impact on “political stability” is probably minimal.

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