The Late Great Bard wrote in April 1992:
Having now perfected the manipulative arts to global scale, it is in the process of extending its dominion to the entire world, actually disengaging from its territorial base in the nation-state and constructing a transnational apparatus of power by which nations and their populations, resources, and cultures can be managed. There is a good deal of talk about how computers and other post-industrial technologies will lead to a radical decentralization of organizations. Don’t bet on it. The technology works both ways. It can be used to promote decentralization, but it also lends itself to tighter control from the center. Human nature seems to prefer more power and less responsibility, and my own bet is that post-industrial technologies will accommodate that preference.
Sam would have applauded Evgeny Morozov. It’s a long read, but a Francisian read nonetheless.
If taken together, Morozov’s points and Sam’s points could lead to the following questions and conclusions:
(1) Why are we to assume that if you give everyone in China and everyone in Egypt broadband internet access that eventually both China and Egypt would become the archetypes of Jeffersonaian secular democratic republicanism? To put it another way, ubiquitous internet won’t change the antlike sociology of the Chinese or the ignorant religious fanaticism of the Egyptians. It might make their dictatorships worse in their respective regards.
The idea that the internet will ameliorate dictatorships and despots is based on the same progressive-left mindset that contends that American blacks tend toward the criminal because they are in bad environments, therefore move them to white suburbs and/or bus their children to white suburban schools, and they’ll start to behave. Likewise, everyone having internet in China and Egypt is that “better environment” in the minds of progressives. You see how well that worked with American blacks, it spread their folkways and sociology to the suburbs. In China and Egypt, the internet might well enhance the power of the central states and the radical Imams, respectively.
(2) Sam never made this point, but I’m sure he would have agreed with it. Morozov’s point about political self-selection and self-confederation is sort of the same point I read several years ago. Things other than the internet are going to make you right wing, left wing, or something in between, or something not even on the linear spectrum. All the internet does is give you an opportunity to congregate with your own kind. Many people will wind up being more extreme versions of their own selves as they spend all of their lives chatting with people of like mind, and rarely if ever with those of other mindsets, and what little time that happens, it devolves into arguing, name-calling and bromide parroting.
Also, the internet means that many people do not have to be in any one particular place to make a living. Therefore, they migrate to those of like political mind. This has resulted in places like Boulder, Colorado, which has always been a left wing town thanks to the University of Colorado. This attracted left wingers to move in, that made Boulder even more liberal. That attracted even crazier liberals, which made Boulder even crazier liberal, and that attracted crazier still liberals…you see where this is going.
(3) Barack Obama succeeded on the internet, but Howard Dean failed. The Ukrainian Orange Revolution of several years ago succeeded on the internet, but the democratization of China is failing. That Obama and the Orange Revolution succeeded on the internet isn’t to the internet’s credit, and that Dean and China failed isn’t the fault of the internet. Because the internet is just a tool, if you’re going to win or lose, you’re going to win or lose based on other, and more time honored factors. Any good movement needs an internet presence, but it alone won’t carry the day. And backing up to Sam’s point from 1992, if various nationalisms succeed (i.e. to resist the trend of globalization), it won’t be because or in spite of the internet, it will be due to the civilization-old call to blood and soil.