Internet: The Death of Politics and Religion
Whatever Happened To The Internet Dream? (Part 2)
Something I almost never do in this blog is talk about politics and religion, and I am only going to talk about it in the most generic terms here. My thesis for today is that the wealth of information available through the internet is having unexpected consequences on what should be the most stalwart and unchangeable institutions of society. The consequences on politics is very different than the consequences on religion, but ultimately just as potentially fatal.
The Death of Religion
Full disclosure, I’m an Atheist, and so seeing religious institutions in decline does not bother me much. But, I have not always been. I grew up in a religious community, and why I no longer share the beliefs of the community, I still care about the people as they are pretty much lifelong friends. I don’t stand in the way of their practices, I congratulate them on their achievements in church, I just avoid all religious discussions with them, and they with me. So I am not really anti-religion, because I understand religious institutions can fulfill social needs of its members.
That said, religious institutions are seeing declining conversions, and participation across the board these days. The problem is the Internet. Religions have thousands of years of practice in controlling what information its members have access to: Embarrassing histories are expunged, scientific evidence is denied, and secret rites are kept secret. With the internet that has all gone away. Potential converts to your church can find all the dirt on your church in just a few clicks. Worse already converted members can find this info too, and they can also find support groups for ex-members ready to help them unconvert.
The Internet presents a world view where science is as full of awe and wonder as inspiring as any sermon, a world view where people are moral because it is in their nature to be and do not need threats of punishments and rewards to make them so. This world view is not really a threat to the true believers faith, but it seriously weakens the interest of the potential and wavering members. It is no surprise that “non-affiliated” is the fastest growing religious category in the Western world, especially among the young.
While the internet is a major threat to “religion”, it is not necessarily a threat to “belief”. In fact the internet is a source for a diversity of beliefs. People will be worshiping deities for millenia to come no doubt, but do they need organized religion to do it? I’m guessing, “no”.
The Death of Politics
While religious institutions struggle with their inability to keep secrets from the public, to the politicians its a long tradition of dealing with bad press via spin, denials, and rhetoric. Therefore, the Internet’s threat to politics is very different from its threat to religion. While religions shrivel up and blow away, political parties becomes stronger, more radicalized, and more stubborn.
What the Internet has done to politics is expose the backdoor deals, the necessary compromises needed to get things done. It has soured the public’s view of politicians to the point where much of the public seems OK with things not getting done, until they find out how it affects their lives.
What we have today is what one author accurately describes as “Attention Deficit Democracy“, which has basically numbed us to outrage except when it comes to our special interest causes. There in lies the thing that will kill politics: the cow towing to special interests, even when it is ultimately bad for the general public to pursue those interests. Politics is being increasingly dominated by what I call “Meme Politics”.
Meme politics is good for fundraising: 1. Propose a radical, unconstitutional bill that threatens the lives and welfare of a minority group. 2. The internet gets a gander at your outrageous proposal, posts it all over the web like a meme. 3. Radical political extremists who feel threatened by said minority group send you lots of campaign contributions.
Meme politics is almost normal these days. Politicians feel comfortable proposing stupid and outrageous legislation because it brings immediate fundraising results, and eventually the general public will forget about it come election time.
Why does America spend so much money on a shoddy health care system? Special Interest groups. Why does America spend so much on military? Special interest groups. Why does America’s tax system punish the poor and help the rich? Special Interest Groups. Why the war on drugs? Why are guns not better regulated? Why the overboard security at airports? Why do we still have pennys? All can be faulted by the involvement of special interests with deep pockets. Meanwhile, nothing is being done about global warming and peak oil, because there are concerted efforts by special interests to deny their existence. Poverty is a major problem in this country, but unfortunately there are no special interest groups to advocate for them.
The internet has brought us the politics of the outrageous, where actually getting things done is counter productive. From the politicians standpoint it is better to not do anything, and keep collecting money from those that want something done. Because if you actually do what they want, they will stop contributing and stop voting.
Society won’t last long without good governance. Deadlocked politics is not good for anybody. There are good substitutes to religion, there are no good substitutes to government. Can politics reinvent itself for the information age and become a functioning democracy again? Or are we destined to become a dictatorship?
Thanks to the internet, politics is becoming deadlocked, and religion is becoming irrelevant. I’ll let others decide if this is a good or bad thing.
Next Part 3: The Internet affect on tv and movies.
To me, one is mostly good and one is mostly bad.
1. Religion becoming irrelevant seems to be more in the short term than in the long term, because there always has been and will always be traditional views and non-traditional views.
These days, most people with traditional views just don’t want to officially take a side on religion to avoid hate comments online and offline. And most people that have non-traditional views not only don’t want to officially take a side on religion because of that, but also want to focus more on keeping themselves from becoming poor or from becoming like traditional people that they don’t want to become(who tend to be young).
Overall, religion in general has become much less radical than in the past, but this is mainly because of fear. The result by itself is good, but the means by which it is is not at all good.
2. The politics being deadlocked part seems to be because of minorities becoming the new majority against the traditional majority, which even when it comes to voting turns into deadlock. This is mostly because of minorities using the internet as a platform for their previously overlooked views, outrageous or not.
If the new majority wins at something for a particular minority, then the minorities with very differing views usually argue among themselves to the point of discouraging the winning minority from actually making a difference due to fear from very differing views online and offline. If the traditional majority wins at something against a particular minority, then a greater level of discouragement and fear from very differing views online and offline is put upon the same minority by the traditional majority(whether the new majority comes to this minority’s side or not in fear of their own views being next).
Overall, doing anything that might actually help anything gets put into a vicious cycle of dirty politics online and offline from all sides involved until nothing but small steps are left to help anything. The result and the means is not far off from World War II politics, and so is in almost no way a good thing. The only good thing about politics today is that maybe if this keeps up, countries of majorities will officially divide into countries made up of minorities that aren’t afraid to have official opinions. That might be in some ways worse than World War II, but it is certainly better in the long run towards liberty and justice for all than politics today.
You hit the nail right on the head wrt the deadlock in politics. I think that nothing will change as long as the money flows. I don’t know how to change it because the same AH’s who would have to vote a change also have their hands out on every issue (on BOTH SIDES of every issue sometimes!) and are raking it in. “We the People” are once again left out in the cold.
As the years go by, I start to look at Comic book series like DMZ or videogames like Deus Ex and find an intriguing parallel between that and how the United States handles its people. Minus the radical sattire and the one-world government crap, of course.
On topic: I strongly believe nothing will change in the U.S. because people are too well-controlled by the media, reality shows and diet coke. All that unreality serves only to dumb down people. The internet is slowly fixing this for the educated and the open-minded though.
People won’t stop buying gas or eating at McDonald’s just because they find out that their CEOs are buying out politicians, because they need the gas and McDonald’s food is cheap.
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