Alright, I feel like it’s time to stir things up a bit instead of just going with the flow. I like the internet. I think it’s fascinatingly complex and has a high potential for both good and bad to prevail. However, when it comes to “democracy” I’m just not so sure.

First off, let’s keep in mind that the U.S. is NOT a direct democracy. It could even be argued that it is a republic, but for the sake of keeping things on track we’ll settle with calling it a  democracy or a representational democracy – a democracy in which the people elect leaders to represent them.

So the internet comes along. Politicians tap into the fundraising, grass roots, constituent outreach capabilities and it’s good. The people start to blog, YouTube and spam email accounts about political issues…and it’s…rough to say the least. By rough I mean the citizens of this nation are becoming extremely polarized.

uncle sam youtube

One right wing nut posts up some crazy statement and a left winger completely destroys him through either a direct internet comment or a post about an equally absurd idea. The cycle grows. It involves more and more people. The sides entrench themselves further through brazen comments. Things heat up so much that it overcomes the masses of the middle. Anyone left standing either picks a side or leaves. They don’t participate which in turn, kills Democracy.

We are supposed to, as Americans, be able to come from both sides of the political spectrum and initiate as well as participate in civilized debates on issues in order to meet in the middle. That’s the America of old I learned about in my history classes. I don’t know what all of this vicious banter going on now is – people acting like chimps as opposed to educated human beings. Perhaps this is why we need politicians and not a mob rule by the people. The internet is not encouraging debate, it is encouraging polarization.

Here you can find an article by Chris Saccomanno that clearly argues that the internet is in no way bad for democracy. Despite my respectful disagreement with the piece, Saccomanno does speak some truth. He states that the internet allows even more free speech than before which is “key to a vibrant democracy.” Yes Chris, vibrant indeed – full of racial slurs, hate messages and unproductive debate. In order to achieve a “strengthened democracy” an assembly of maturer and wiser internet users will have to amass before we can see a serious change.