[FoRK] Is Balkanization really a problem?

Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> on Mon May 28 11:54:52 PDT 2007

On May 28, 2007, at 1:32 PM, Albert S. wrote:

> Polarization is a problem,


> balkanization is the
> solution.

Yeah, that worked really well for the *actual* Balkans, didn't it? ;-)

Understand that my problem isn't small interest groups;  it's the  
creation and maintenance of insular, *growing* islands that differ  
radically on their ideas of what the objective facts might be, and  
the ideological and methodological membranes that protect these  
little islands from ever coming into contact with facts, opinions,  
etc. that might contradict and thus challenge their accepted dogmas.   
This pathology creates a fertile culture media for manipulation.   
Couple that with actual, obvious, willful and skillful manipulation  
by a particular far-right radical sect, and you have serious problems.

> The Internet in particular with it's niche mailing
> lists and discussion groups, provides a forum for a
> diversity of dissenting opinions.

Rare is the mailing list that doesn't over time boot or otherwise  
lose its dissidents, dissenting opinions, heretics, pot-stirrers, etc.

> The balkanizing
> force of the Internet is an antidote to polarization.

That prima facie doesn't make sense.  If it were true, we'd have seen  
American society growing *less* polarized over the last 15 years or  
so.  In fact what we see is the exact opposite.  That's simply  
incontrovertible;  it's the reality on the ground, so to speak.

I'm not saying the Internet is *the* or even *a* problem.  Indeed, I  
would even agree that it is the means of a solution --- though only  
if we make some effort to counter the current assault on reason and  
restore *a* certain respect for objectivity and actual rational  
debate public discourse.  But couple the Internet and its social  
microworlds with massive manipulation and an increasingly animosity  
to reasoned debate among diverse viewpoints, and you see exactly what  
we've got today.


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