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Making Political Myths: The Fate of Democracy in the Age of Information

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Making Political Myths The Fate of Democracy in the Age of Information
Making Political Myths The Fate of Democracy in the Age of Information

Democracy is the most powerful political idea in the late twentieth century. The collapse of the socialist model organization represented by Uni Soviet was the impetus why the leading political thinker optimistically state that democracy was the only option to lead global history.

Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History stand to celebrate the winning liberal-capitalistic model as a new norm of the global political economy. This thing, then, is followed by several occasions that pundits called democratization, civil society building, globalization, and neoliberal project. However, in Western counties, some scholars worry about something that can be a trouble in the process of strengthening the domination of liberal norms. Clash of Civilization is a term coined by Michael Huntington to identify the potential threat that comes from non-Western political cultures. More precisely he pointed out that Islam and China’s political culture, on some level, contrasted with liberal democracy. It is forceful claims that attract the debate about whether Islam and Muslim societies have or enable to build democratic values.

The most obvious sign of democratic values is the existence of public discourses. In modern society, the duty to manage public discourse is the press. But we must realize that press is not the sole social infrastructure to enable public discourse. Jurgen Habermas found that social institution that brought modern West cultures into democracy is the salon and café because it is a site where the bourgeois class discuss freely public issues. He stresses that beyond political parties, a non-formal democratic process is also conducted by public associations. However, this idea assumes intersubjective deliberative communication as an ideal norm that is supposed to be accepted by the most population. This direct public participation is well known as democratization.

At the end of millennium, the discussion about democratization and Islam or Muslim society reach a positive conclusion. Robert W Hefner’s study about the civil movements in Indonesia brought evidence that Islamic associations not only accept but also promote democratic values. But the other scholars tend to treat this argument as a mere exceptional case when we see the whole Islamic world dominated by totalitarian regimes. I think this critic mislead because what Hefner wants to point out is the possibility of transforming Islam to be democratic within a particular context. One of the interesting things from this discussion is how the principles of democracy—mostly in the liberal version—have been encouraged to be the norm in the political sphere in the Muslim majority counties.

The emergence of global terrorism was a nightmare of established political order. Within the Islamic world alone these extremist political movements thus complicate the problems faced by Muslims. Maybe one argues that Islam politics can be treated as an alternative to the secularized world. I am not sure and indeed tend to doubt that kind of political platform they bring would accommodate democratic values. Taliban’s regime who imposes Islamic values coercively in the public arrangement is a good example of this.

In the first decade of the new millennium, we witnessed ICT Revolution spread out globally. In this era, the cost of information transmission decreases and the effective model of communication flourish enormously. The easy access to the internet and the invention of communication devices such as smartphone thus drove unprecedented social transformation from politics to culture and business to religious piety. In this vein, democracy becomes stronger because each individual has an opportunity to participate in cyberspace.

While this information and communication technology is possessed and used largely by people who live in the authoritarian regime, it become effective tools to disseminate alternative ideas and mobilize the mass. What we call ‘Arab Spring’—a term to refer revolutionary political movement in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)—is the manifestation of the power of ICT to wipe out authoritarianism and set out democratization. But we can make a point that democratization in these countries is quite different from democratization before ICT Revolution take place. In the other words, democratization in cyberspace tends to be juvenile discourse with complex and fragmented features. This is contrasted with the core values of public sphere discourse that is rational argumentations and mature attitudes.

Then, we must interrogate the impact of cyber discourses on democracy. It is the main point of this article, to elucidate the cyber political myths.

The abundance of information in cyberspace brings down the difficulty to select valuable information. And people have a tendency when he surfing digital media without clear goals, or at least they just want satisfaction. It is can be said that cyberspace is fit for all modus of communications. This is the reason why communications in digital media usually lie misleading and misunderstood. Sometimes, little things can be problematic and become controversial.

When we are regularly active in cyberspace, we found that the most attractive theme or issues to be a source of debate is political and moral issues. But we have known that the debate in the cyber media is not always organic—that means come from person-to-person aspirations. In the other words, the debate can be manipulated according to partial-specific interests. The algorithm of the cyber platform also tends to provide information that conforms to personal preferences. The combination of these two characters bears framing techniques powerful.

In the last decade, a set of manipulation techniques become popular. One of them is framing discourse. This technique is crucial because it can be used to swift political preference, especially during the electoral campaign period. Recent research identifies some types of framing discourse. For instance hate spin, hoaxes, and alternative facts. The goal of these techniques is to gain more supporters and to reduce the political influence of the opponent through information technology. This has a consequence that electoral process as a manifestation of formal democracy thus seems become the competition about whose possesses a heroic persona in the eyes of the citizen.

Making Political Myths The Fate of Democracy in the Age of Information 2
Making Political Myths The Fate of Democracy in the Age of Information 2

That is what I call the necessary condition for the production of political myths. In such conditions, political actors are urged to make their image beyond factual accuracy. Then, they identify themselves as a heroic figure who believe can save all miserable people and hold power to solve a broad range of social problems. When this image is put in emotive effects or narrative framing, it is political myths in making. With an algorithm, having the map of audience preference, this heroic persona images and words are transmitted effectively and become the political myths because those who believe it tend to refuse factual verification. That is the recent conditions of our democracy.

Pewarta: Agus S. EfendiEditor: Moh. Sobakhul Mubarok
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