Saturday, January 31, 2009

What if we'd had the Internet in the 60s?

The recent rise in the use of the Internet by grassroots political organizations made me wonder what the 60s would have been like if we had all had Internet access. Would political discourse have been more reasoned and textual, rather than slogan-oriented and demonstration-based? Would the counter-culture have been more cerebral, and less laced with sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll? (I always thoughts that drugs and politics were a bad mix, because it gave the establishment the excuse to arrest you.)

These may seem like a frivolous questions, but I don't think they are. People can only express themselves using the media at their disposal, and we see extreme cases of this, where people sometimes resort to guns and bombs because they have no voice. (People resort to guns and bombs for other reasons, of course, e.g., because they can.) Even public demonstrations (I went on a few) are a rather blunt instrument when it comes to getting your point across.

If people feel they can make a difference without burning cars, occupying buildings, or simply shocking the bourgeoisie, then I suspect that many will choose less confrontation instead of more. Obviously, some folks enjoy taking to the streets, witness the WTO meetings of recent years, which have served as a magnet for protest groups of all kinds. But I like the fact that the new administration is leveraging technology to promote a more meaningful dialog than is possible across a police cordon.