InfoShok: Cyberpolitics

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Last minute maneuvers in Congress can make a mockery of Presidential decrees.--Dan Rather (?)

Trying to leave a comment on the House of Representatives web server recently, I received the message:

Error 404
Not found - file doesn’t exist or is read protected [even tried multi]

Hardly shows that they take my views seriously, does it? I can’t blame them. The Internet threatens to throw them out in the cold. It threatens to throw a lot of people out. General access to electronic networks contains both threats and promises to the American elections process.

The threat is that it can turn the United States into a mere mob, in which a 51% majority can enforce their will on a 49% minority. This mob is called a democracy, and it is what our founding fathers were guarding against when they designed our federal government. They designed a system of parts, in which each of the parts are so busy fighting with each other that they don’t have time to make trouble for the rest of the country. They called this a system of “checks and balance”. The modern term is “gridlock”, and I believe, as they did, that gridlock is a good thing: it is the way our country was designed to operate. It keeps the government out of our hair.

When we don’t have gridlock, we have higher taxes, more red tape, and bigger bureaucracies. When politicians agree, that’s what they agree on: putting the screws to us. Gridlock is in our best interest. That’s why it was put into the system in the first place.

The Internet provides a means to add a new part to our system of checks and balances. Along with the legislative branch, the judicial branch, and the executive branch can be added the people themselves.

Imagine, when computers and net connections become as widespread as telephones and automobiles, that the public must then approve of all new laws once the president signs them. For any law to become a law, at least, say, two-thirds of the electorate must approve. Why two-thirds of the electorate, rather than two-thirds of those who vote? Because, if voting is as easy as reading your computer screen over a cup of coffee, voter apathy means something. It means a hell of a lot more than lack of time between picking the kids up at school and watching the Simpsons on television. The only thing left for it to mean is lack of support for the proposed laws in question.

Voting becomes more of a responsibility than it ever was. If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

Imagine, further, that anyone can register proposed laws, or repeal of laws, or even acquitals of prisoners. They can put forth their arguments on the net, create their own Internet site to display those arguments. And at the end of the day, the public may put those “bills” to the vote. Such a system today--when we must set up voting centers in accessible locations, hire people to staff those voting centers, and convince voters to show up--would be prohibitively expensive.

Once the net hooks into every home, a few Macintoshes in the basement of the White House could record the daily votes from the “popular” branch of government.

But there are dangers as well. I envisioned a system, above, in which the popular branch balances the other branches. I envisioned a system in which all of the electorate must take the responsibility to vote, or no new laws will be created.

But who am I? The net also holds the threat that all voting functions can be given to the majority. Who needs representatives to make and pass laws when the people can do so directly? Laws can be passed and repealed on a 51% majority of the electorate or simply 51% of those who took the time to vote.

Even trials could be held on the net, with a national “thumbs up/thumbs down” determining the fate of the defendants. We could then choose from a menu of televised punishments. We would have a true democracy, the democracy of sheep, (!) and the founders would be spinning in their graves.

From: [d--ci--o] at [] (William R. Discipio Jr)
Newsgroups: talk.politics.guns
Subject: Foley Quits NRA
Date: 22 May 1995 06:35:05 -0700

A Democrat named Tim Foley (I think) just yesterday cancelled his NRA membership. Although I have a tough time placing the name, the radio claimed he was once speaker of the house. If anybody remembers who this guy is, please let us know.


“Your problem is, there are 260 million Americans who think the way I do.” -- Lynn Wallace 4/23/95

The NRA’s Second Amendment is an empty cereal box in the marketplace of ideas. -- Charles “Cereal Killer” Schumer 4/5/95

Demagogues stand to lost the most: lies are exposed quickly on the net. Not surprisingly, Diane Feinstein is against the use of computers by representatives:

“I’m not against computers, but I think they have their place and it’s not everywhere. When you’re speaking on the Senate floor, you should be speaking from a lifetime of experience, not from what you punch up on a computer.”

In other words, you shouldn’t let the facts get in the way of a good speech. Like the hypothetical computer that just makes up answers because humans can never check the result, this kind of politician lives off the big lie: lies so big that no one dares oppose them off the cuff. But with the Internet at their disposal, other politicians can quickly find the facts about most any subject. And the big lie deflates.

Computers may well soon be contraband on Capitol Hill.

  1. Dan Rather, CBS Evening News, March 3, 1995.
  2. What is a democracy? A democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner. The American republican system is supposed to protect the sheep.
  1. Pushing the Envelope
  2. InfoShok
  3. The InfoPoor