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Direct Democracy and the Internet

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Autor:   •  February 9, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,836 Words (8 Pages)  •  490 Views

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The spread of the Internet and all the latest developments in communication technology has led many political scientists to debate concepts of direct democracy, which could become realistic under the current circumstances. This essay argues that these revolutionary technological developments are new tools of freedom which can liberate citizens from the grip of the propaganda machines called conventional mass media, which have turned the public discourse into a carnival show of politicians, pop stars, priests, fortune-tellers, psychics, prostitutes - and whatever ugly thing there is in our society, keeping the intelligent and creative citizens hostages to the choices of the manipulated, ignorant masses. The Internet, in particular, with its anarchic structure and its ability to allow full public access to information, can, on one hand, inspire political participation and political creativity, and on the other provide the means for a new way of political organizing and thus lead to the replacement of the present inadequate political system of representative democracy by a new efficient system of governance.

Unlike conventional mass media -television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and films, where a small number of people have the power to determine which information should be made available to the mass audience, this new mass medium which has a potential worldwide reach, can make every member of the audience a potential publisher because of. its ability for interactive communication. This means that the new technology can enable the individual to stop being a part of the mass and become a person who has his own will and his own ability to shape the society he lives in. The existence of such a power may stimulate people's involvement in decision making and awaken their responsibility, so that they start thinking for themselves about finding a way out of the admittedly sick condition of the society we now live in, which is guided and takes direction not from its brain but from the lower instincts of the masses. The first step towards change would be the dissemination of information, which would make people turn their back to the bombardment with messages by the broadcast media monopolies, whose effect is to drive society into habits leading to environmental destruction as well as self-destruction. The only messages people get through conventional media are of the type: Buy garbage, then throw it away and fill the world with waste, and then get sedated, so that you won't feel the discomfort caused by sitting in it. I can't find a more fitting description for conventional media's content, when almost all of it is a direct or gray advertisement of fashion, alcohol, drugs, sick vanity, and porn-shows in the disguise of art. But then again, if a few people have control of who has a voice and who hasn't, and those people are the friends of the governing party who have been given licenses to make money by selling advertising, it is only natural that there can be nothing else on air but advertisements. This also explains why the anarchic nature of the Internet which keeps out this propaganda machine, made it the only channel for all kinds of information that never made it into the mass media. This kind of information by exposing the incompetence of nation-states in performing their duties and thus challenging their role, made it evident that the industrial-era model of representative democracy has eroded and that we need to build a new system of governance. "Democracy in its ideal sense is the notion that "the people" should have the right to rule themselves. This ideal is pursued by implementing a system of voting such that the majority of people rule, either directly or indirectly through elected representatives "(1) We can see from this statement that what we think of as American democracy has slipped from the highest standard of what we believe to be the best form of government.

"Athenian Democracy is generally seen as the earliest example of a system corresponding to some of the modern notions of democratic rule"(1) as well as being recognized as the most successful democratic revolution in history, the Athenian Democracy 2500 years ago, was made possible by a citizenry that was involved in their community and felt responsible for their community and society. That political system raised humanity to a higher level and even today we benefit from its achievements in art, philosophy, and politics. The fundamental basis of the ancient Greek political life was the absolute priority of the community, the polis, over the individual.(2) Citizens enjoyed freedom only in so far as they participated in the political life of their community and, through their actions, sustained its existence and furthered its welfare. However, membership to such a community was not granted to anyone, hence the distinction between Polites(=citizens) and Idiots(=privates). (3) Polites was the citizen who was well informed and could actively participate in all common affairs, while Idiots were those not qualified to participate in decision making and the political process in general. The word 'idiot' owes its current meaning to the fact that Greeks considered the Idiots uncivilized, primitive, apolitic beings. In that political community, all citizens had the right to attend an assembly held more than 40 times a year. The assembly made major decisions and every citizen could speak and vote. Therefore each citizen could directly affect the decision making process. The system also included councils, which drew up the agenda of the assemblies and were made up of citizens that were drawn by lots and served on each council for a year. This system established some principles, which later democracies have followed and for this reason political theorists generally see Ancient Athens as the birthplace of democracy. Those principles were: a) All qualified citizens should have the right to vote and hold office, b) The duty of all citizens is to actively participate in the political process, and c) Majority votes should make decisions. (4)

It is true that the concepts of equality, active participation, inclusive nature, majority rule, and informed opinion are now the basic principles of modern Constitutions all over the world. However, the modern states that now consider themselves to be democracies are run by the process generally known as representative democracy. As in Athenian democracy, the starting-point of modern democracy is the principle that every sane adult is entitled to an equal voice in deciding how they should be governed. "Direct democracy comprises a form of democracy and theory of civics wherein all citizens can directly participate in the political decision-making process. Some proposed systems would give people both judicial and legislative powers,


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