Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Internet Grassroots vs. the Machine

Here is an interesting article I read this week from the Personal Democracy Forum -- an online hub for news and insights regarding technology and its intersection with politics and democracy:

A striking fact about the current political environment is that despite the ground-breaking Democratic victory on November 4th - whose seeds were planted by progressive online activists - the new administration is dealing with an oddly familiar political brew: the "liberal media" mantra is rekindled, conservative talk radio (i.e. anti-liberal radio) is resurgent, Rush Limbaugh is more relevant than ever, Ann Coulter is once again doing the network rounds, and if online commentary over the past month is any indication, many progressives still feel disconnected from the levers of power.

The assumption that the new presidency would transform the political process, usher in an era of unprecedented citizen empowerment and decimate the old conventional wisdom-making machinery, has been undermined by the reality of entrenched power structures, deep-seated rivalries, die-hard habits and Beltway business as usual.

Read more at the Personal Democracy Forum.

I am currently reading the book "Taking on the System" by Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, the creator of the influential political blog the Daily Kos. I'll be writing a review when I am finished and publishing it here.

What strikes me about the Personal Democracy Forum posting and what I have been reading so far from the book is how all the giddiness about people-powered democracy primarily driven by the explosion of Internet technology and social media tools seems to be running into the brick wall of the reality of existing, entrenched power structures in politics and the media punditry.

The widespread expectation that the Internet was supposed to usher in an explosion of democracy via citizen-centered advocacy and participation in the democratic process seems to be much easier said than done.

I am not trying to be a wet blanket -- I am after all, a blogger and one of those who got on the "Internet as participatory democracy" train several years ago. But I am interested in how other people perceive the landscape of political participation in the Internet Age and how current challenges to democratic participation seems to look awfully like the challenges ordinary citizens faced BEFORE the Internet era.

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