New found Power

One of my favourite news releases last week came from the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, in which she complained that it’d be ever harder to get political messages and issues to people because especially the younger generation would not get their overall news coverage from the traditional media, but instead selectively from their favourite channels on the internet. Her final conclusion was that things used to be easier years back, because when people met in the workplace, they’d all talk about the same topics (note: this was back in the days when there were only three channels on TV, and people got their paper every morning).

This is all true, except she elegantly left out the part that’s worst for her and all the others that made a profit from the way things used to be. Not only do the established channels keep on losing their influence, but it is ever easier for people to practise real democracy. Because if you really care about something, you just have to connect to people who do as well. Then you can start an online petition, and all it takes is 50,000 subscribers within 3 weeks. And if there’s one thing we can learn from a pretzel, it’s quite easy to gather 50,000 people — if they care. Because if they don’t, they won’t go through all hassle with registering on the parliament’s web site just to click a button. That’s the only obstacle. Other than that, there’s nothing that could stop anyone from using their democratic power.

And that’s scary for polticians, because not only will their flaws and misbehaviour be spread faster than ever, but also people can now make them go away, or the rules they’re trying to establish. Who loses? Everyone who profited from the old system: Lobbies, who still spend millions to buy votes help MPs reconsider their opinion. Politicians who are now exposed more than ever and thus have to deal with the consequences. Some years ago these “minor issues” would go by the board in favour of “important news” in the general news coverage. Yet the traditional media are losing power and influence in both directions. And if they can’t control the public, they don’t help to maintain civil order, and then they’re losing value to the ones in power, who in return won’t see a lot of use in supporting a system that doesn’t support them. This top-down system was built in the fact that there was no other choice, no politician or similar folk needed to build an asset of permission to talk to the people directly — because this taken care of by the media, mostly public broadcast. The situation has flipped over (to be honest, it did so slow enough that anyone could have easily figured where this was going), and no matter how much anyone who seemed to have a voice that mattered now doesn’t.

There used to be a small number of players on the political field — now everyone can have their license to play too. This is a great opportunity which can change our lives dramatically, only if we make use of it.


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