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``But whereas power is power because it transforms categories, analysis is analysis because it keeps them apart.''


In a pamphlet made available on the ``Democracy Workshop'' Paul Treanor had assembled an extensiveve catalogue of democracy's faults: It blocks transition to a post-democratic world. It is the same thing as nationalism and destroys ethics. Minorities are systematically humiliated by it. ``For every principled minority, for every oppressed minority, for all who suffer injustice, democracy is a nightmare without end, and every year more intense. Democracy destroys hope. Above all, it destroys the hope of change.'' (Paul Treanor, April 15, 1996) Opening the discussion on these propositions Paul Treanor repeated his opposition to the pro-liberal, pro-Net attitudes widely held by scholars and activists in the electronic community. ``The volume of pro-Net texts is overwhelming, and depressing.'' (May 23, 1996) The relationship between Europe and the US, moreover, cannot be one of peaceful co-operation as long as thousands of nuclear warheads are targeted at Europe. ``A `transatlantic civil war' is probably the best short approximation of the situation.'' (May 23, 1996) From ``mii-dem'' participants he expected questions on issues that were not covered in his submitted texts.

According to this approach democracy is certainly not a fanciful, idealistic construction completely detached from actual life. It is the most pervasive (pernicious) influence on politics in the Western hemisphere, nothing a unicorn could ever be. How to react to such a challenge within a dialogue that pledges itself to the rules of a liberal exchange of ideas? One option is to continue business more or less as usual.

Paul Treanor has provided three texts which are available from the ``democracy-workshop.'' An admission first: I find the two smaller pieces painfully shrill and merely provocative. His ``Internet as Hyper-Liberalism,'' on the other hand, seems thought-provoking to me.

``No one is free to stay outside the free market.'' This is, indeed, a worrying proposition. And I agree with Paul Treanor that there is a lot of self-serving, self-aggrandizing rhetoric to be found in mainstream political theory. These claims are, to make it very explicit, quite often pronouncements of the winners, designed to block people from even thinking about alternatives. (Fukuyama comes to mind here.) Ironically, at this point counter-revolutionaries and revolutionaries share certain intuitions - against the established liberal order.

(Herbert Hrachovec, May 27, 1996)

The last sentence does not make sense outside of a germanophone context, Paul Treanor replied (May 29, 1996):
The liberalism you see, is partly a product of the liberalism in your national political culture.

To be more concrete: the present Net is characterised by obvious racism, inequality, and discrimination. However, its supporters justify it by the future Net, which is a liberal ideal. And that would be even worse.

(May 29, 1996)

Herbert Hrachovec, in answer to this, complained about a puzzling turn-around on Treanor's part. For where he used to defend the particular against bottomless abstraction, Treanor now suddenly comes up with (amongst others) ``feminist communitarian liberalism'' to make a point when Herbert Hrachovec is writing from his own historical perspective. ``Since the US has a different history the whole issue will probably look different from across the Atlantic. But hey, who is linking me to the US here?'' (Herbert Hrachovec, May 30, 1996)

Another thread that had developed from an earlier observation by Stuart Broz superimposed itself on this exchange. Multiple accounts on computers connected to the Internet offer the possibility of electronically implemented personality-splits. Combine this to the rule ``one person, one vote'' and you get another disturbing and/or exciting aspect of the topic under discussion. Paul Treanor was categorical:

Multiple personae on the Net is typically a theme which excites Net gurus. It is one of the features used to claim the Net is different.

Just like MPS across cultures, it is non-existent. Your alternate personae will be limited to the same 0.1% of the world languages as you, have the same knowledge, and the same views.

Unless you lived in another language region for five years, you cannot even begin to fake someone from there. ``Shibboleth'' is the usual term for the inability of people to pass simple tests if they try to fake a culture. If you cannot fake another culture, you are stuck in your own. Your possible alternate personae are from the same national, regional, ethnic, educational and class background as yourself. In other words, they are not alternate.

The Net may be different from the telegraph in several ways, but this is not one of them. Multiple net personae are a non-issue

(May 29, 1996)

Stuart Broz, Fiona Steinkamp and Herbert Hrachovec tried, to no avail, to find some ground on which to base a discussion after that pronouncement. ``Why should I accept the rule of my enemies merely because they give me voice in their decisions? Why should I accept the Net of my enemies, merely because I may use it?'' (Paul Treanor, June 3, 1996) There had been no ``meeting of minds'' here. Paul Treanor did not fit into the overall pattern implicitly defined by the majority of the active participants of this group. His suspicions about democratic procedures had been validated. ``It is obvious that there are incompatible beliefs concerning democracy, which are beyond any debate or discussion. Because of this, as I said before, it even seems impossible to understand the statements made by others.'' (June 3, 1996) He withdrew from the discussion.

next up previous
Next: ``...reconstruct the moral point Up: Lines of Thought Previous: ``If there is something

Fri Jul 25 22:00:35 MEST 1997