The Danger of Facebook Democracy
By Sir James R. Mancham
Over recent times I have been giving much thought to the influence which Facebook has played in the modification of public opinion with respect to different aspects of governance and/or the profile of personalities as the Facebook political chess game is being played. For example, somebody who actively plays Facebook can easily destroy the reputation of others who make it a point not to get involved in the Facebook game.
The reputation of a respected personality in society can be destroyed on Facebook without the victim even knowing about it, if he/she is one who shuns and avoids the Facebook game. There is a well recognized legal jargon to the effect that what is not denied is deemed admitted. Well, if you are not engaged with Facebook, you are not aware what is being written about you, and therefore, you do not proceed to deny what is being said. Hence, someone who could be seen as a “Statesman” in the eyes of the general public opinion could go down in the eyes of a certain section of the same society as being a traitor.
I have been particularly worried about the Facebook game following the Presidential Election in Seychelles in December 2015, and now of course after the Clinton/Trump campaign which has resulted into Trump’s victory. On my way back from Paris to Seychelles two days ago, I have been impacted by an article I read which has been written by Nathan Heller in a recent issue of the New Yorker which I feel should be read by all people in Seychelles who are in a questioning mood about the state of democracy today and in the future.
Mr. Editor, please allow me to quote the article in its entirety. Attempting to make a paraphrase of it could risk minimizing the status of the seriousness of the article appropriately entitled “The Failure of Facebook Democracy.”
In December of 2007, the legal theorist Cass R. Sunstein wrote in The Chronicle of Higher Education about the filtering effects that frequently attend the spread of information on the Web. “As a result of the Internet, we live increasingly in an era of enclaves and niches—much of it voluntary, much of it produced by those who think they know, and often do know, what we’re likely to like,” Sunstein noted. In the piece, “The Polarization of Extremes,” Sunstein argued that the trend promised ill effects for the direction—or, more precisely, the misdirection—of public opinion. “If people are sorted into enclaves and niches, what will happen to their views?” he wondered. “What are the eventual effects on democracy?”
Sir James R. Mancham, KBE, Founding President of the Republic of Seychelles.