Yes The Internet Enables Democracy


Leon Wieseltier’s favorite curmudgeon/sock-puppet, Evgeny Morozov, demanded a graph showing that web interaction undermines autocracy. Philip N. Howard obliges (see above). The bottom line:

There are still no good examples of countries with rapidly growing internet populations and increasingly authoritarian governments.

A thought experiment for what it’s worth. The core truth about the Internet is that, unlike previous media, it truly rewards non-zero-sum interaction.

When I ran a dead-tree magazine, I was always aware of the competition, feared it, tried to beat it, saw its interests and ours (The New Republic back in the day) as opposed. With the Dish, every other website is a way to find new interesting material, direct more eyeballs toward it, and thereby encourage readers to use the Dish as a hub for other material. And that, in turn, helps us.

It’s even more salient now we’re independent and not even reliant on a parent media company’s home-page. Our major sources of new readers? Today: search engines, reddit, Twitter, Facebook and Google are our top five referrers. We need them the way they need us. Linking to other sites is essential to making your own part of the conversation. It’s a little thing – but it has definitely shifted my own psyche to more non-zero-sum interactions. Which is a fancy way of saying generosity and sense of our interconnectedness. I can see why the spread of that mindset – remember how many hours a day we now spending existing and communicating virtually – might help democratic civic culture.