How I tire of journalists asking whether and how technology is bad for society, forever starting with what could go wrong, hunting for blame.
Is technology hurting democracy? No. Can technology help save democracy? No.
These are the wrong questions. We, the people—and we, the media—are hurting democracy. It is in our hands to save it if we still can. Democracy’s enemies and saviors will use whatever tools and technologies are at hand.
The better question: What is wrong with our democracy? Until we know the problem, we cannot build the solution.
My diagnosis: I think we are allowing ourselves to be ruled—in every sense of the word—by emotion over rationality, fear over facts. That opens the door for the cynical and the ignorant, those greedy for power or money, to exploit our weakness, to play to some dark and empty hole in our souls, arguing that they alone are the solution.
The tool they use to degrade democracy is not Facebook or Twitter. Their weapon is the strange. To play to our fears, they must project the spectre of an enemy, an other who is to blame for our problems, who will take our jobs, addict our youth, bomb us in the mall, run us over on the street. That enemy is the stranger.