"Who knows, if the Internet had existed at the time, perhaps Hitler's criminal plot would not have succeeded—ridicule might have prevented it from ever seeing the light of day."
An interesting counter-factual statement from the award speech of Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio (The Nobel Prize Laurear for Literature - 2008). The title of his speech is "In the Forest of Paradoxes". Try to dedicate 20-30 minutes. It is an interesting text: http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/2008/clezio-lecture_en.html
Back to Hitler and the Internet.... Let me argue (continuation of our IGF-Debate) that the Internet could not have stopped the Hitler (and "likes").
- In 1930s, when Hitler started emerging as the politician, Germany was one of the most liberal societies (probably the most liberal society in 20th century). There was completely free press (not even controlled by big businesses). There was no censorship. Technology was also available - widespread use of telegraph, press, radio. Public space was a very vibrant with open debates and criticisms. People could express themselves freely.
- Hitler managed to camouflage himself very well. I am currently reading an interesting book - "The Orientalist" by Tom Reisse. Reisse explains 1930s in Germany. It was confusing time. Quite a few Jews supported Hitler, because of his anti-bolshevism. Hitler was criticised like other politicians. Moreover Hitler's rhetoric was not completely out of sync with predominant discourse at that time (perverted form of social darvnism).
Back to our time...
- How to detect "Hitlers"? How to fight bad decisions? I am not sure that the answer is easy. The fact that we can communicate (blog, social network, e-mail) does not provide "automatic" solution. In some cases it confuses things. Similar to financial inflation.... inflation of information/text reduces the value of information/text.
- what is the "tipping point" that helps us to identify danger?
Current evaluation of the Internet....
- The Internet is a powerful enabling technology. Sometimes we take it for granted. From time to time we should step back and think "What could have happened if there had not been the Internet".
- The Internet helped many causes which could have been forgotten with the Net.
- But the Internet did not stop some bad decisions such as the war in Iraq.
We are approaching extremely turbulent time in the world history. Many people feel betrayed by political and economic elites. This frustration is moving from the head to stomach (financial crisis). The risk is incresing. People will become more open for "quick and simple" solutions. Unlike in the past when there were similar crisises, today, millions are connected. How is the Internet going to be used? Is it going to help us to find proper, fair and sustainable solutions? Is it going to help us to detect a potential "Hitlers"? Is it..... . One thing is definitely certain. The Internet will be used in completely different context. It won't be just "fun/business" medium. It is very likely to become THE communication medium that will facilitate shapping of the future of mankind (much more than traditional press or TV).