Most of us should have realised by now, especially after recent toppled governments and the coordination of protest in the middle-east; the internet has become a fast flowing conduit of public opinion. It has also given hitherto unwitnessed strength and credibility to that age-old revolutionary cry – “Power To The People!”
That’s ok in most respects, especially if it’s toppling a dictator or just a bit of innocent fun; such as a flashmob choir providing musical entertainment, or maybe a world event to highlight a charitable or worthwhile cause (see Playing for Change – One Love).
But, the power of the internet can also be dangerous to our social framework. It’s use by a minority can bolster mass criminality as seen in our recent riots, or subversive groups can drum up anarchical actions that in turn develop Ochlocracy. Conversely, this freely available power can (unfortunately) also play into the hands of extreme groups and religious sects, those who see the internet as the root of all evil.
With the power of social networks like Twitter, Facebook , and YouTube, everyone with little effort is now afforded their very own personal soapbox. One with a far wider audience than could ever have been achieved at Speaker’s Corner. The thoughts and views of some disturbed or misguided crank, usually with a personal agenda isn’t really a problem, they can actually be ignored, as with the historical soapbox system of yesteryear. The greater problem today arrises when their rhetoric is galvanised into tangible action by the airhead masses. What was once an audience of half a dozen or so can now (worryingly) be thousands or millions.
The greatest issue is that unfortunately, too many in society today have neither the intelligence or desire to check their facts, prior to leaping lemming like into the flow of mass hysteria. In addition, too many also fail to question or challenge anything they’re soaking up like a thirsting sponge. They are happy to simply accept any information at face value, then jump aboard the (often misinformed) bandwagon of perceived popularity.
Many of these contrived and/or controversial ’causes’ are often fuelled by our mainstream media machine. A system that has become far more opinionated over recent years and often, a lot less factual than was once the case. It’s the main reason why democratic and civilised societies have laws. The threat of “mob rule” to a democracy is usually restrained by ensuring a fair and proportional application of those laws; the rule of law is designed to protect minority groups and individuals against short-term social panic and Demagoguery.
The term Demagoguery relates to a strategy for gaining political power by appealing to the prejudices, emotions, fears, and expectations of the public—typically via impassioned rhetoric and propaganda, and often using nationalist, populist or religious themes.
Sometimes it’s suggested that there should be an element of control over internet use however; in a free (thinking) democratic society, that control must come from the morality and beliefs of a general consensus in the electorate, not the dystopian thought police. Pity so many are actually unable to formulate ‘informed’ opinion and care more about real issues, intolerance and injustice in our world, as opposed to the virtual or make-believe one they so often live in.
If only our society were better educated generally, possessed a more enquiring mind, and cared a great deal less about their peers or indeed, the mostly self-interested desires of the popularity stakes… I had a dream today but unfortunately, it’s hardly likely to come to fruition now is it?