By Harley Austin | United States
Throughout all of history, new technology has always brought changes to politics and public opinions. From printing presses to televisions, technology has aided the spreading of ideas through the ages. Recently, the dawn of the Information Age has brought a method of sharing ideas that surpasses all methods of the past: the internet.
The political impacts of the internet’s technology have already been massive in recent years. They will only grow further in the years to come. From sharing opinions and ideologies to full online agorism, the internet has helped the common person understand the political realm.
Sharing Ideas and Ideologies
In older times, politics was never a major interest to the common person. Such issues were mainly the concern of aristocrats, the wealthy, and the select few who chose to be politically conscious. Even when the politics spread rapidly during the rise of televised news, the general public cared little. However, the internet has spread politics to the average person. The ability to have a multitude of ideas, ideologies, and news only a click away has finally brought politics into the eyes of the masses.
The most prominent method of sharing politics in recent years is social media. Sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit allow users to easily share political thought with millions. The use of social media has also caused the major growth of political interest among the modern youth because of how popular social media is among younger people. This spike of interest is completely unprecedented.
Many political figures have used the internet to spread their messages. Politicians and parties have used the internet for campaigning purposes and as a means of easily communicating directly to their supporters. The most famous example of this is Donald Trump and his Twitter account, which has allowed him to instantly communicate with millions of people. Other politicians have used this tactic as a means of communication and appeal.
Social media has also created entire online political figureheads that dedicate themselves to spreading politics online. These include YouTube channels, Twitter accounts, and internet meme pages with millions of followers to spread views to. Their content can range from simple memes to entire podcasts, all of which spread thought in a way that appeals to youth.
Ever since the creation of the printing press, spreading news among the masses has been essential for politics. The American Revolution is a major example of how a free press is vital for swaying the masses and defeating tyranny. However, in the 1990s, control over the news shifted from small, local publications to large multimedia corporations, such as CNN, FOX, and MSNBC, who many call “corporate news.” Since then, corporate news has shown biased and distorted news. Thus, demand has risen for alternative media.
Thankfully, the internet has made publishing and sharing news easily accessible to small, entirely online, publications who are the “alternative news”. The use of online articles, podcasts, and websites has made alternative news very popular in recent years. Some even rival their corporate counterparts. While some alternative news publications have used their small size and internet anonymity to become literal propaganda, most have used the internet to provide people with what they desire: honest news that’s easy to access. Thanks to the internet and alternative news, control of the press is now back in public control. This is a necessity for challenging the powers in place.
Activism and Hacktivism
While the internet has provided people with numerous methods of obtaining political ideas, it has also granted numerous ways of applying those ideas. The most popular form of advocating change in recent years has been activism and its cyber counterpart: Hacktivism.
Through massive communication capabilities, the internet has made organizing and assembling groups of people extremely easy. Before the internet, protests and other forms of activism were usually small and more local. However, now that the internet has made instant, long-distance sharing a reality, modern protests and marches can gain vast support from all across the nation or the world. This has allowed recent protests to attract thousands of attendees.
Widespread communication has also made a more direct form of government resistance possible: leaking. Through the use of the internet, leakers and whistleblowers can share the government’s closely guarded secrets and conspiracies to the general public with ease. The most prominent example of this has been the website WikiLeaks, which has been sharing all kinds of classified material and secrets to the public since 2006. In our modern age of extreme government surveillance, secrets, and conspiracies, internet leaking has been a vital part of making the government’s tyranny known to the people.
While traditional activism is now easier, Hacktivism has recently emerged as a newer, more technological, means of active resistance against tyrannical government. Online hackers and programmers, known as Hacktivists, have used the anonymity of the internet to subvert the state since the late 1990s. Online groups, notably the group Anonymous, have been using hacking and online messaging as a means of counteracting government controls over information. From DDOS’ing government agencies to leaking secrets, Hacktivists have taken the cyber-fight directly to the government. Online anonymity has allowed these groups to act in complete secrecy, creating a large interconnected web of members and associates.
The creation of online marketplaces have been a major benefit for counter-economics. Through the internet, people can now buy and sell products without the government’s unjust taxes, laws, and regulations, which is essential for the black/grey markets and agorism. The ability to completely circumvent the state through trade has always been the goal of agorists, and the internet has finally provided an easy means of doing so.
One less illicit form of independent trade has been cryptocurrency. Because of the Federal Reserve, its disastrous inflation policies, the government’s monopoly on currency, and the fiat status of the US dollar, people have wanted a decentralized form of currency for decades. Luckily, the internet has allowed for decentralized, online cryptocurrencies that are completely independent from the state and its Federal Reserve.
Online Bitcoin Platforms
Starting with Bitcoin, then growing to include numerous other Altcoins, cryptocurrencies have now become a new medium of exchange and a popular investment. Now, many online stores now accept Bitcoin as payment, thousands of Bitcoin ATMs are available across the globe, and Bitcoin mining has become easier than ever before. Missouri Senate Candidate Austin Petersen and 2020 Presidential Candidate Adam Kokesh have also started accepting Bitcoin as campaign donations, a practice that many liberty candidates may adopt in the future.
The internet has also been beneficial to the black and gray markets by creating anonymous and secret marketplaces through the dark web. These forms of markets allow goods, both those banned and not banned by the government, to be traded easily. One less illicit example of this was Defense Distributed’s DEFCAD, which used the internet to freely exchange 3D-printed firearms designs.
Another, more illicit, example is Ross Ulbricht’s dark web site, the Silk Road, which used the internet to sell illegal drugs. Ross Ulbricht, who was directly inspired by the father of agorism, Samuel Konkin III, was later arrested, given a life sentence, and lost his website. Clearly, internet anonymity is not entirely foolproof.
Technology in the Years to Come
While the internet has completely revolutionized the sharing of information and communication, which has resulted in major political impacts, the Information Age is not even close to reaching its end. As technology continues to develop, new ways of engaging in politics, activism, and resistance will be made possible. Whether new technology will finally liberate the people and destroy tyranny or lead the world into an Orwellian dystopia, only time will tell.
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