Saturday, January 19, 2019
This was the situation in Egypt before the uprising of January 25, 2011. This is the situation in China today. The wealth and brute strength of the modern state are counterbalanced by the vast communicative powers of the public. Filters are placed on web access, police agents monitor suspect websites, foreign newscasters are blocked, domestic bloggers are harassed and thrown in jail—but every incident which tears away at the legitimacy of the regime is seized on by a rebellious public, and is then broadcast and magnified unto criticism goes viral.
The tug of war pits hierarchy against network, power against persuasion, government against the governed: under such conditions of alienation, every inch of political space is contested, and turbulence becomes a permanent feature of political life. . . .
But the rise of Homo informaticus places governments on a razor's edge, where any mistake, any untoward event, can draw a networked public into the streets, calling for blood. This is the situation today for authoritarian governments and liberal democracies alike. The crisis in the world that I seek to depict concerns loss of trust in government, writ large. The mass extinction of stories of legitimacy leaves no margin for error, no residual store of public good will. Any spark can blow up any political system at any time, anywhere.
-Martin Gurri, The Revolt of the Public