Twisting in the hand

Watching Aleks Krotoski ‘s excellent programme about the Internet last night, I was struck by the one thing she didn’t say:

We make our technology, as we make our gods, in our own image.

She considered the use of social networking for good and for ill and the nuances there are summed up most neatly in the irregular verb:

  • I am an activist
  • You are a freedom fighter
  • He is a terrorist

Every technology extends the reach of the individual and the most chilling part of last night’s episode was her interview with an arrogant little shit who claimed to have generated the denial of service attacks which effectively closed Estonia in 2007.  So the real question about the internet is not ‘is it a force for good or ill?’  The question we should be asking is ‘are we grown up enough as a supposedly intelligent species to be trusted with it?’  When we look at the devastation we’ve caused with every other technology we’ve devised, the answer quite clearly is ‘no’. (Says me. In my blog. Which I will announce via Twitter. And repost on Facebook. Before turning up the central heating because it’s cold here today).

I was however intrigued by the implications of how the internet is changing the dynamics of political power.  20thC democracy is clearly a busted flush. In the UK no-one can be bothered to vote because individuals feel disenfranchised and powerless.  (Was Thatcher’s emasculation of the unions in the 1980s co-incidence, or did it cause this de-politicisation of the workers, I wonder).  And we’ve all come to realise the truth of the old anarchist saying ‘no matter who you vote for, the government will get in’. Now it’s been clearly shown that that means a bunch of trough-snorting, house-flipping, expenses-fiddling, family-funding, John-Lewis-shopping scheisters who seek to use parliamentary privilege to evade the short arm of the law.  No wonder no-one votes.  (Me, I’m composing the limerick with which I’ll spoil my paper in June).  In the US, the stakes and therefore the turnout were higher and Obama clearly gets the internet and used it successfully to reach the voters other media don’t reach.  Even so, the corruption and ritualised posturing of the American political process make the only possible reaction one of disgust.

… and breathe…

I ought to delete that little rant because Krotoski did not mention party politics or the entrenched political processes at all, and it’s irrelevant to this post.  Instead Krotoski looked at the shapes that are coalescing to form the new political power-bases.  I am genuinely interested in concepts like ‘the virtual homeland’ and ‘self-radicalisation’ and I find it intriguing that this language is only used in negative contexts.

The way that the Internet enables individuals to engage with the world around them and the power-structures above them is certainly subversive, but when we consider the scum that has risen to the top of the 20thC political processes (see above) is it actually bad that individuals are becoming more engaged and more informed?

Interesting times, eh.

Right.  Time for packing more books into boxes.  When I sell the house I am going to buy a Kindle. Or an iPad.  Or both.

3 responses to “Twisting in the hand

  1. One thing occurred, reading this: if the workers were depoliticised in the 1980s, having been politicised before, how come it took until 2001 for a Labour government to get REelected?

    I don’t think the workers were depoliticised. I think they were de-workered. They stopped doing manual work in factories, making things, and started doing service industry jobs and buying their own council houses and convincing themselves, as a result, that they were no longer working class, and therefore should not be voting Labour. Result: 18 years of uninterrupted Tory power. And I think one of the geniuses of “New” Labour was to convince those people that it was OK to vote Labour because they were kind of right wing now and not the loony left. And while since 1997 they’ve done a lot that’s not what you’d expect of Michael Foot, they’ve actually, on the quiet, done a lot of good lefty-type stuff. The depressing thing is that they seem to want to keep a lot of that quiet in case it alienates the people who don’t think of themselves as working class.

    As an aside, I’ve yet to hear a good argument against compulsory voting.

    As for are we mature enough to be trusted with our technology, I’m not convinced we’re mature enough to be trusted with fire and the wheel, but we’ll muddle through. We’re really quite spectacularly clever, most of the time.

  2. My sister in law is a good arguemnt against compulsory voting…such questions as ‘who is tony blair anyway? and which ones are the tories…I’m all for the return of plural voting…

  3. Make voting compulsory, then, but make it *slightly* difficult.
    E.g. don’t put an “X” in the box, put the name of the current Prime Minister. Anyone getting it wrong only counts half, if at all.
    It’s always annoying being reminded that not everyone listens to the news on Radio 4 for an hour every day and therefore there are people for whom the words “Gordon Brown” probably mean a single by the Stranglers.

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