HAIR on Computers: Uploading American Politics

By Raul Fernandez | Saturday, December 9, 2006 | The Washington Post

This is a very important essay about the many ways the Internet, including political blogs like MB-CIVIC and MB-HAIR, has evolved to empower individuals to become actively engaged, vocal and highly influential participants in democracy, instead of passive consumers of campaign rhetoric. Only the coming of television in the last century compares to it in terms of sheer impact on the American psyche and the American political system.

Internet politics promises to improve the long-term health of our democracy. It does so in a way that differs fundamentally from television:

“…while TV emphasizes perception, control and centralization, Internet-driven politics is about transparency, distribution of effort and, most important, empowerment and participation — at whatever level of engagement the consumer wants…”.

Think back to the way we all thought computers would affect us when HAIR was written: at that point, ‘Electronic Data Processing’ was mentioned as one of the sinister and remorseless tools of war, mass violence and dictatorial Government Power. The emotionless, mechanical Computer (note the implied singular – a concentration of central computing power) was a dark threat to individual freedom and peace. It is miraculous to me how different the reality is: each of us has one, and it brings the world’s great libraries to our very own desks. The Personal Computer (distributed to the people, not centralized in some dark fortress) has evolved into a powerful communications machine that links us to others around the world. Joining billions of them together in a network rich with content is sheer empowerment, letting ordinary citizens publish as if we each had our own printing press and broadcasting tower.

It is, I think, the only one of HAIR’s dark predictions about the future – along with the spread of future Vietnam-like quagmire wars, global pollution, and mass-market government deception – that did not come true, and this Hairy Citizen is deeply grateful for that…BSÂ



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4 Responses to “HAIR on Computers: Uploading American Politics”

  1. Lyle said:

    “…12 short years the Internet has grown to include more than a billion users worldwide and has empowered ordinary citizens to become engaged, active and highly influential participants in democracy, instead of passive consumers of campaign rhetoric.” Raul Fernandez

    Can’t refute that. In fact the whole of the article speaks of the power that we as ordinary citizens enjoy.

    One caveat that surfaces is the pronouncement that we are definetly empowered to make changes in our political domains. On the surface if we are truly in fact, given the true right-of-way we are an empowered people.

    Unfortunaley, we are not free and had we not witnessed the power of slime in 2000, we still hold truth to HAIR’s message and must fear the tactical dimensions of misguided Electronic Data Processing. LK

  2. JooleeWMcKay said:

    I beg to differ, Raul.

    …”Electronic Data Processing” has the potential to be “sinister” — very sinister, indeed.

    What we, the disciples of the HAIR message , were saying/singing/preaching ‘back in the day’ was that technology is likely to have the power to take away our freedoms. And it has done so — just as predicted.

    Each time you make a credit card purchase, use grocery store’saving’ card, when you log onto the internet and leave a cookie behind — and a myriad other ways — you become ever more vulnerable and visible.

    Face it, you ARE being tracked. Big Brother IS watching.

    Raul, I suspect that you are young; that you grew up accepting the fact that technology was everywhere you were — and you have no problem with it.

    Well, take it from a woman, nearly 60, (not old, by any means) who HAS been tracked and watched. I know what it’s like to be followed and vilified, put on government lists of ‘undesirables’. Also, I grew up in a show business family in a post McCarthy-era Hollywood, when memories of government snooping and accusations were still fresh.

    Had ‘Electronic Data Processing’ been with during that era, just magine how many more lives would have been destroyed because of government meddling?

    Bill Gates, during a recent television interview, said technology is only a tool; one that can work for us in whichever way we choose to use it. (And he has obviously used it to HIS advantage.)

    You say “The emotionless, mechanical Computer . . . (was a dark threat to individual freedom and peace. It is miraculous to me how different the reality is: each of us has one, and it brings the world’s great libraries to our very own desks. The Personal Computer (distributed to the people, not centralized in some dark fortress)..” and you have a point.

    But you are sorely wrong when you say HAIR’s “dark predictions” about “Electronic Data Processing” were off base. Look around you.
    Be careful.

    Julie Winn McKay
    Former Paka’lolo Tribe Member
    Las Vegas

  3. JohnZ said:

    True, “Electronic Data Processing” has enabled the “common man” to have communication and publishing powers that were seldom even envisioned in the science fiction of the past. We can certainly rejoice in this new world, even though it is probably just an unexpected and unwanted (by the “Powers Elite”) “side effect” of the data processing revolution.

    But, HAiR was not far off the mark when it cautioned us about the dangers.
    1) The “Internet,” which allows us such unfettered mass communication also serves the Government/Private Industry as the most powerful tool they have in spying on us. When the East Germans created their “Stazi” spy apparatus, they had to recruit large segments of their population to spy on their fellow citizens and then they were saddled with room-after-room of “files” which had marginal accuracy at best and were totally unwieldy from the aspect of searching out data. Now adays, whenevert you go on the Internet – or use a Credit Card, or present a store’s Discount ‘
    Card, or buy an item with a RFID chip embedded in it, etc – you, yourself, are creating the file entries that describe your life. You, yourself, have accurately transcribed this data, and presented it in a form that is easily searchable and indexable. On-line “search” services apparently consider your use of their websites as your granting them permission to use your data in any way they wish. I understand that even the “private” e-mails you send to a friend or business are considered the property of some e-mail services that they may read, disclose to others, and use for any purpose that they choose.

    2) The wonderful Cell Phone that allows you to keep in touch with anyone from most anywhere, is now required by law to track your position by using the Global Positioning System ostensibly to allow emergency personnel to reach you if you dial 911. Does anyone doubt that these phones have a “back door” that allows someone to trigger a download of your positioning information even when you have not dialed 911 if they know the proper “code”? Already there have been reports of people targeted for automatic assassination by missiles guided by Cell Phone data!

    3) “Electronic Data Processing” allows the identification of your car whenever it is in view of a video camera. England is openly logging in all vehicles entering or leaving London, and the United States and other countries are probably doing so more clandestinely.

    So, as I post this e-mail on the HAiR Blog, and add a few more kilobytes to my “permanent record,” I suggest that we all consider doing all of our public business in the nude (weather permitting, of course) as a public acknowledgement that “Electronic Data Processing” has already stripped us of most of our privacy!

    🙂 JZ

  4. JooleeWMcKay said:

    Right on John Z. I fear another invasion, now. The Lojack system on my car — like the GPS —
    I fear is tracking my every move. It’s damn scary.

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