Democracy requires active work. Every generation has to reclaim it. Educators have a critical function, at a moment when we live in filter bubbles and echo chambers, to create safe spaces and facilitate points of confrontation to break single identities. If we are serious about democracy, it is about how we teach. It is about living democracy in the classroom. It might be timely for teachers to consider whether they model authoritarian leaders, how they might support curricula disobedience and academic freedom, and what their professional code of ethics is.
It’s not speech per se that allows democracies to function, but the ability to agree—eventually, at least some of the time—on what is true, what is important and what serves the public good. This doesn’t mean everyone must agree on every fact, or that our priorities are necessarily uniform. But democracy can’t operate completely unmoored from a common ground, and certainly not in a sea of distractions.
Will journalists, due to hatred of Assange, unite behind the Trump DOJ in support of one of the gravest threats to press freedom in years?
These old-school writers were also very astute about the political science of demagoguery, which Weber defined as manipulation of the electorate through proffering of unrealistic promises. He thought the rise of demagogues was specific to Western political culture; it was a potentially dangerous side effect of democracy. Demagoguery appeared, according to Weber, first in the Mediterranean city-states and then spread to Western parliamentary systems through the role of party leaders.source
Wikipedia defines a demagogue as:
A leader in a democracy who gains popularity by exploiting prejudice and ignorance among the common people, whipping up the passions of the crowd and shutting down reasoned deliberation Demagogues overturn established customs of political conduct, or promise or threaten to do so.source
The ‘social media revolution’ gave us Donald Trump and Brexit—and is making politics impossible.
least reasonable parts of our minds, on which a democratic public sphere depends. It speaks instead to the emotional, reactive, quick-fix parts of us, that are satisfied by images and clicks that look pleasing, that feed our egos, and that make us think we are heroic. But too often these feelings come at the expense of the deep thinking, planning, and interaction that democratic politics are built from. This doesn’t mean reasoned debate can’t happen online; of course it can and does. It means that there is a strong tendency—what media and technology researchers call an “affordance”—away from dispassionate debate and toward strong emotions.
He argues that we have lost the ability to think slowly, therefore making us more susceptible to irrational decisions.
In 2007 and again in 2008, Kahneman gave a class in “Thinking, About Thinking” to a powerful group of executives from companies like Google, Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia Microsoft, and Amazon (he also gave another talk about “Thinking, Fast and Slow” at Google in 2011). Kahneman is well known for bringing public awareness to the distinction between so-called “System 1” and “System 2” thinking. System 2 is good old fashioned, actual, “slow” thinking, it’s “effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating, conscious.” System 2 is the kind of rational cogitation we like to imagine we do all the time. System 1 is “fast” thinking, fight or flight, “automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, subconscious.” Facebook and Twitter are built on System 1, as is most social media. That’s why so many tech executives were at those master classes. And that’s what they learned there: How to craft media that talks to System 1 and bypasses System 2.
Golumbia describes this as a ‘revolution’
Those who celebrated the Facebook revolution and the Twitter revolution were celebrating the replacement of (relatively) calm reflection with the politics of reactivity and passion. This domination of System 2 by System 1 thinking is the real social media “revolution.” The question that remains is whether democracies have both the will, and the means to bring considered thought back to politics, or, whether digital technology has made politics impossible.
Jordan Erica Webber looks at how our data is being used to push political ideologies
Discussing the democratic problems with YouTube and Facebook, Zeynep Tufekei argues that we can decide how we want to handle digital surveillance, attention-channeling, harassment, data collection, and algorithmic decisionmaking, we just need to start the discussion.
We don’t have to be resigned to the status quo. Facebook is only 13 years old, Twitter 11, and even Google is but 19. At this moment in the evolution of the auto industry, there were still no seat belts, airbags, emission controls, or mandatory crumple zones. The rules and incentive structures underlying how attention and surveillance work on the internet need to change. But in fairness to Facebook and Google and Twitter, while there’s a lot they could do better, the public outcry demanding that they fix all these problems is fundamentally mistaken. There are few solutions to the problems of digital discourse that don’t involve huge trade-offs—and those are not choices for Mark Zuckerberg alone to make. These are deeply political decisions. In the 20th century, the US passed laws that outlawed lead in paint and gasoline, that defined how much privacy a landlord needs to give his tenants, and that determined how much a phone company can surveil its customers. We can decide how we want to handle digital surveillance, attention-channeling, harassment, data collection, and algorithmic decisionmaking. We just need to start the discussion. Now.