Political Forums and the Changing Face of Democracy
Unless you’ve been living the last decade under a very large and weighty rock, there’s no way you’ve failed to notice that in a thousand different ways, the internet has changed pretty much everything about the way we live, work, and communicate with each other.
The rise of political forums on the net has, and is continuing to change the face of, and in fact, the very nature of democracy itself.
Some of these changes are for good, and others for ill, but that fact that it’s happening is undeniable. We’ll take a look at a few of the ways things are changing, try to shed at least a ray of light on the subject of political forums in general, then invite you to participate in our own political forums, right here on the site.
On the plus side, the biggest gain that the ordinary citizen sees, courtesy of political forums he or she may frequent is that politics has become more accessible and more personal than it has been since the Greek Polis’ first experimented with the concept.
In those days of course, the immediacy, accessibility, and “personal-ness” of democracy stemmed from the fact that the city states tended to be relatively small, and the policy matters discussed often concerned matters of immediate survival for these relatively isolated political units (what neighboring city-states to ally with, which rivals to attack, matters of trade, military service, etc…all of these were much more transparent to, and bore a much more personal and immediate effect for the ancient Greeks than they do for us today, where many of these things exist in our minds only as abstract concepts).
All that to say that while there are some parallels between the political forums attended by the ancient Greeks, and the virtual political forums that the masses are flocking to today, there are also some fundamental differences.
It is all very well that politics in general are a lot more accessible to the common man now, than they ever were before, but unfortunately, this is (or can be) something of a two-edged sword, because a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
Through the ages, political forums of all types have, of course, been center stage for all manner of pundits and egoists, looking to sway the masses for their own ends, and this is certainly as true today as it was in our ancient past. One key difference here though, is that while the political forums of yesteryear saw their members all drawn from a relatively homogenous (and rather smallish) population, today’s popular political forums are massive things, and cater to a large, ever-changing, incredibly diverse population of participants. This being the case, of course it naturally follows that there’s a much broader spectrum of political belief to be found within the confines of one of our modern political forum than would have even been conceivable in the forums of old, and this, coupled with the anonymity that our modern political forums provide (ancient democracy was very much an “in-your-face” affair) opens the door for a great deal of verbal viciousness.
This is not to say that our forefathers did not have their fair share of vile, mud-slinging debates. They most certainly did, but these tended to be the exceptions, rather than the rule (and this is the reason they stand out so colorfully against the backdrop of the greater bulk of those ancient political debates). Contrast that with conversations in today’s political forums, where the battle lines are drawn going in (typically along Conservative vs. Liberal lines), and the debates get heated almost from the outset, and more often than not, quickly degenerate into mindless mud-slinging, with no one really remembering what the original debate topic actually was.
The second major negative to be found in today’s political forums is the fact that demagogues have access to a vast population of easily convinced, easily led people. This has literally launched a number of careers, and has led to some unfortunate consequences, with popular talk show hosts essentially supplanting the elected political leadership when it comes to creating policy planks and talking points. This is a danger to guard against not because the cult personalities are inherently bad people…the author makes no judgment either way. Simply that they’re not the elected representatives, and their undue influence over the masses is ANYTHING but democratic, but that is a whole different debate, and a topic for another time. Perhaps even a good topic for discussion on our own political forums, which you are cordially invited to join!